These long summer days are good for forest walks or swimming; in the evenings, I read classics with my 10 year old son who otherwise spends too much time at video games. This time, it happens to be the Odyssey, the poem I translated some 25 years ago, and yesterday I came to read Book IV on Menelaus bewailing his comrades who fell at Troy or on the perilous way home.
And for me it was the time to beweep my dear comrades-in-arms who have suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. So many of you, who went fighting the beast, are dead, or exiled, or imprisoned, like my Spanish publisher Don Pedro Varela and the American researcher Barrett Brown. Or fired from a university like Julio Pino, professor of Kent State.
And then Menelaus said: Much as I weep for all my men, for none of all these comrades do I grieve as much as for this one. The one is Ulysses who has been detained for years on the island of Ogygia by Calypso the Nymph.
It brought to my mind the fate of Julian Assange, this modern Odysseus, who has been held in his luxurious Knightsbridge prison for years. Actually, for full six years, as today, as I write it, is the anniversary of his incarceration in the Ecuador Embassy.
So many epithets used by Homer for the King of Ithaca fit Julian to a tee! He is wise and noble, resourceful and cunning, wily and crafty, brilliant and steadfast, but also evil-starred man of woe.
His name still scares the enemy, and cheers a friend. Though an Antipode by birth, Julian became famous in the North of Europe, where this tall slim handsome youthful silver-haired man came to raise the banner of his revolt. Eight years ago, I comparedhim to Neo of the Matrix, the man destined to break the matrix of lies and set us free.
The Amazing Adventures of Captain Neo in Blonde-Land, as no doubt the story of Julian Assange’s escapades in Sweden will be known once it inevitably makes its way into the hands of one of the goofier Hollywood directors – say Robert Zemeckis or Mel Brooks, or perhaps Stephen Herek of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. It would do better in the hands of Andy Wachowski, where he might do for Julian Assange what he once did for Keanu Reeves.
Who could ask for a more beautiful set-up? It’s a story fit for a tabloid, yet it might be transformed into something an intellectual could read without embarrassment. This latest adventure is the stuff of pulp fiction, and chock full of Langley spies, computer hackers, crazy feminists, flatfooted cops and sleazy rags in the female kingdom of Sweden!
Julian Assange is a character that might have been ripped from the celluloid frames of the Matrix: flaxen and lanky, he moves through cyberspace like a superman. When, on those rare occasions that he does emerge into the real world, it is to perform Kung Fu exercises. He hardly ever eats or drinks. His corporeal body can normally be found sitting in front of a MacPro or two, while his digital alter ego commutes and computes, battling the odds and the system in fantastic virtual combat. Like Neo, he is a natural-born hacker who hacked just for the heck of it until he discovered the Matrix. He had hundreds of remarkable hacking achievements to his name when in 1992 he pleaded guilty to twenty-two of them. I like to think that someday, after he has passed on in the fullness of time, he will become a kind of guardian angel for hackers, or perhaps the Greek God of Cyberspace with His Golden Board, forever surfing the web.
Recently this comparison had been repeated by brave Jonathan Cook, the man from Nazareth, but it is suitable for Jonathan himself, and for many of us, including the American Pravda writer, Ron Unz, for we all fight for liberation of mind and discourse.
In the beginning of his political activity, Julian was lionised by media and society. His Wikileaks was considered the most fashionable thing in the known universe. He floated from a party to reception, admired by the Scandinavians from Reykjavik to Stockholm.
But the enemy prepared its snares. A CIA-friendly feminist got to his bed by a dirty trick: she offered him her small flat saying she was leaving the city for a few days, and when he accepted and moved in, she suddenly returned and offered to share the only bed. He didn’t know she had carried out a CIA mission in Cuba, otherwise he would have been more cautious. Or not: a full-blooded man, he was easy to tempt. The next day she Tweeted friends about her success, about sharing the limelight with this celebrity. And a few days later she complained to police that he possessed her without protection; this is an offence of second-degree rape in feminised Sweden. Her accusation has been seconded by another girl, who was unhappy that Julian didn’t call her the next day after their loving tryst. A man-hating Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny took over the job of hunting Julian, and Swedish newspapers displayed headlines “Rapist At Large.” Immediately Julian lost all his admiring entourage. The Empire knew the vulnerability of his crowd.
However, in a few days his case was closed down, and Julian was free to leave Sweden. He went to England, and there he prepared the great publication of Cablegate, that is the vast collection of the State Department and the US Embassies’ cables from around the world. Stolen by Manning, these cables opened to us the full picture of the Empire dealings with the nations. I wrote:
One quarter of a million secret and confidential US Embassy cables sit like so many digital wasps waiting to be released into cyberspace. They will strike at the tender underbelly of the empire, the flattering self-delusions that maintain the imperial armies. It just might be enough to turn the tide in the battle to recover our evaporating freedoms.
These dirty little cables throw a bright light upon the murky policies of the American Imperium, on their methods of collecting information, of delivering orders, of subverting politicians and robbing nations. Yet before we lapse into a comfortable and reflexive anti-Americanism, let us never forget that this, arguably the greatest revelation of criminal wrongdoing in history, was only made possible because brave and honest Americans were willing to risk life and limb to leak the truth.
Tensions run high when you dare oppose the awesome power of the Matrix. It is impossible not to admire Julian Assange. He is forever kind, quiet, gentle, and even meek; like the Tao, he leads without leading, directs without commanding. He never raises his voice; he hardly needs to speak and the way becomes clear. Our Neo is guided by the ideal of social transparency. Bright light is the best weapon against conspiracies.
The Empire responded by having Sweden re-open the case and issue an arrest warrant. England picked it up, and Julian had lost his freedom. For a long while he stayed in East Anglia, in the house of a friend, and then he moved to London, with an electronic bracelet on his arm and under constant police supervision. When he was perilously close to deportation to Sweden, and to a long stretch of solitary confinement in a jail cell to be followed by extradition to the US and to its Guantanamo tropical paradise, he jumped the boat and asked for asylum in the Ecuador Embassy in London, after he received the then President of Ecuador Rafael Correa’s promise. That was in June 2012, and since that time, Assange has been immured within the walls of the Embassy.
Meanwhile, Sweden closed his case completely, but English authorities still will not allow him to leave. The UN deemed him a victim of arbitrary imprisonment, but even that didn’t help the unlucky man. Ecuador gave him its citizenship and diplomatic passport, but England refused to honour it. Recently the US began to court the new president of Ecuador, Mr Lenin Moreno, and he cut off all the means of communication between Julian and the world. He is no longer permitted to receive guests, he can’t make calls, he is barred from the internet. If he were deported to a far-away island of the sea he would not be more isolated than he is now.
Looking back, Julian did a lot of great things since the Cablegate.
* He saved Edward Snowden, by navigating him from Hong Kong to Moscow. He had sent the wonderful Sarah Harrison to operate this miraculous escape. I supported him in this and in other enterprises, and I wrote that Russia is the only safe place for a fugitive and a whistle blower of such a calibre. Snowden thought to find a safe refuge in Cuba or Venezuela, but none of these Latin American countries is strong enough to withstand American pressure. Indeed, Cuba refused to let him in, and Venezuela could not accept Snowden for other reasons. Even mighty China refused to give Snowden asylum, and intended to ship him to the US. Iran was not keen on accepting him. Russia, with all its faults, is still the only state fully independent of the Empire on earth.
It is said that Assange was in cahoots with the Russians, that they guided him and provided with the stuff they hacked and even that “Wikileaks is a Front for Russian Intelligence”. As a matter of fact, Russians were extremely hesitant to have anything to do with Assange. They could not believe he was for real. Are you so naïve, they told me, that you do not understand he is a CIA trap? Such people do not exist.
It is a problem of the Russian mind: as a rule, they do not understand and do not trust Western dissidents of Assange’s ilk. They want their western sympathisers to be bought and paid for. Free agents are suspicious in their eyes. God knows there are many people in the West whose opinions roughly coincide with those of the Russians; but the Russians would prefer to buy a journalist off the peg. That’s why RT has had more than its fair share of defectors, that is of broadcasters who denounced RT and went to the Western mass media.
A few times I have defended Julian on Russian TV shows. Usually my opponents would say: he is a tool of Western intelligence services. Wait, he will soon publish something really nasty about Russia. With years, this mistrust didn’t diminish. So for good or for bad, mighty Russia does not and did not stand by Julian, who was and remained his own master.
On the other hand, Julian has no special feelings for Russia. Geopolitically, he is very much a man of the West. Even in his ostensible defence of Russia, he is always doing it from the Western point of view. He was against expulsion of Russian diplomats during the Skripal Affair, because it would “help the Kremlin further a narrative that it is under conspiratorial siege led by the US,” in other words, it was damaging the West and entrenching Russian suspicions of a hostile Western agenda.
* Assange published the DNC documents, Podesta emails, Hillary Clinton email thus helping the US voter to make up his mind for whom to vote in these last fateful elections. In my view, President Trump is heavily indebted to Assange.
* His Wikileaks published expose of hackers’ tools used by CIA and NSA, their surveillance programs, their interference in foreign elections, i.e. in recent French elections;
*He allowed us to have a look at the secret correspondence of the Saudis and Syrians, of the Russians and French, of Turks, of the IMF and what not;
*He disclosed the conspiracy of Labour MPs against Jeremy Corbyn.
*His own opinions expressed in his Tweets were very valuable. In the midst of the Skripal campaign, Assange reminded that us “while it is reasonable for Theresa May to view the Russian state as the leading suspect, so far the evidence is circumstantial & the OCPW has not yet made any independent confirmation, permitting the Kremlin push the view domestically that Russia is persecuted.”
He and his organisation provided opinions and expertise on North Korea at the time of Kim-Trump summit, publishing Clinton’s confidential disclosure that the US does not want unification of Korean peninsula, and hundreds of confidential and secret documents on NK nuclear tests.
I would love to see him free, as I admire him. He is not a spent force, and he still will be able to contribute a lot for mankind’s wellbeing. And good people, our comrades-in-arms, understand that and struggle for his freedom.
Roger Waters, of Pink Floyd fame, life-long supporter of Palestinian struggle, displayed a banner in support of Julian Assange at a concert in Berlin. Many journalists of the Disobedient Media are organizing an online vigil under the banner of #ReconnectJulian. Yes, reconnect, by all means, but let him go! This is more important and more urgent. Six years of imprisonment is too much for this guiltless man.
Let Hermes, the Messenger of Zeus, in whatever guise, be that a Trump’s associate or Corbyn’s assistant, come to Theresa May and tell her, as he said to Calypso: “You keep a most unlucky man, but it is not his fate to die here, release him at once!”
Israel Shamir can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was first published at The Unz Review.