How to fight against war disinformation? Julian Assange shows a way.
January 1st of each year is the time for formulating resolutions to keep or break (usually the latter) during the 365 days ahead. So Martina, an ex-pacifist who now is no longer “ex”, has decided to make only one resolution for 2023. “That way,” she says, “I’m sure to keep it.”
Her Christmas letter explaining her resolution is of particular interest given the ongoing war in Ukraine and judicial persecution of journalist/editor Julian Assange, charged with using classified documents to expose war crimes. Here’s what Martina wrote.
I want to share with you my one and only New Year’s Resolution:
“I will no longer let myself be fooled by TV and social media about what is happening in the world!” You see, I have been fooled way too often – like so many other people, for that matter. Now I want to put an end to it. Let me explain what I mean.
In 2001, when I was just 18 years old, almost all mass media outlets repeated in unison that invading and occupying Afghanistan, a sovereign state, was necessary: first, to capture bin Laden, responsible for the attacks on the Twin Towers, and, secondly, to eliminate his al Qaeda terrorist group, whose base was in the East of the country. And I believed the line. After all, practically no one was demonstrating against the invasion; everyone seemed to feel it was right.
Then Julian Assange, on his site WikiLeaks, and investigative journalists like Seymour Hersh for the New York Times, made a series of revelations that opened my eyes.
Putting the various pieces of the puzzle together, I realized that the U.S. knew perfectly well that bin Laden was no longer in Afghanistan: the Taliban had already sent him to Pakistan (where he was indeed discovered). The U.S. also knew that the terrorists of al Qaeda in Afghanistan had been evicted by the Taliban who were gunning them down. So anti-terrorism couldn’t be the real reason for a full scale invasion and occupation of the entire country, lasting 12 years! Something else was the real reason. For example, Afghan mineral resources, such as coltan (a rare earth essential for electronics), which the U.S. desperately needs. Or the strategic location of Afghanistan: occupying it enabled the U.S. to hinder the growth of China, a rival, by preventing it from constructing pipelines to import oil from the Caspian region. With the added bonus of enabling the U.S. to “contain” China by encircling it with yet another military base.
“So, in the end, the so-called ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan was a fake,” I thought to myself; “it had nothing to do with anti-terrorism or with keeping Americans safe; it was all about gaining economic and geopolitical advantages by violently taking over another country and systematically killing off any armed resistance. But that’s what despotic invaders do!” And so I vowed I would oppose all wars and never let myself be fooled again.
Then, in 2003, almost every media outlet told me that we had to invade Iraq; a “preventive war” was necessary, even without UN endorsement, because the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, was building weapons of mass destruction to be used against us. Initially I protested, as did a lot of people: in fact, on February 15, 2003, the biggest peace demonstration in history took place worldwide to oppose the U.S. invasion of Iraq. But the Pentagon paid no attention, and, as the years went on, I gradually accepted the lie of a “necessary preventive war” and stopped demonstrating. I also accepted the other narrative, the one used to justify our return to Iraq, namely the need to eliminate ISIS, a new terrorist group active there. How could I possibly not want to stop terrorism?
But then, again thanks to Julian Assange on WikiLeaks and investigative journalists like John Greenewald in non-mainstream media, I learned that the US and the UK knew full well that Saddam did not have and was not manufacturing the dreaded weapons. The occupation served only as a pretext for occupying the country and robbing its oil. And also for destroying it as a regional power at Israel’s behest, since Iraq opposed Israeli expansion. Moreover, thanks to access to Hillary Clinton’s secret correspondence, made possible by a DNC whistleblower, Assange was able to inform us that it was our allies the Gulf states (and most likely we Americans, too) that sponsored the creation of ISIS. We all wanted the terrorist group to overthrow the government of Iraq (too friendly with Iran) and the government of Syria (too friendly with Russia). “What duplicity!”, I repeated to myself, “My own government is responsible for the deaths of thousands of U.S. servicemen along with 200,000 Iraqi civilians, plus all the horrors inflicted on ethnic minorities by ISIS, just to grab more oil and play geopolitics! I’ve had it!!!” And I vowed never to be fooled again.
But in 2011, almost all the media, many celebrities and even the International Federation for Human Rights, all repeated, over and over, that we had to invade Libya “to save the people there from a cruel dictator, Gaddafi, who was out to massacre them.” And so, despite my (at that point faltering) pacifism, I did nothing to oppose the bombing of Libya. In fact I was hoping they would finally get rid of that male chauvinist bully Gaddafi.
Then Julian Assange, on WikiLeaks, and investigative journalists like Daniel Kovalik in the independent press, furnished a series of revelations that, put all together, completely turned the Official Narrative on its head. It was the U.S. and France (the even greater chauvinist bullies) who had instigated the armed uprisings in Libya knowing full well Gaddafi would try to stop them using violence. That would give them the excuse to intervene and topple the regime. Which they did, devastating the entire country in the process and turning it into a failed State. And they did so, not only in order to get their hands more easily on Libyan oil, but also because Gaddafi had begun to convince the other oil-producing countries to abandon the dollar as their exchange currency, something that would have greatly diminished the value of the U.S. currency. Today Libya is destroyed and its once rich population is in misery, while the dollar is flourishing. “What depravity!” I said to myself, “50,000 Libyans killed and the country wrecked just to prop up the dollar and the French oil industry. I’ve had enough of economic wars disguised as humanitarian wars, I’ll be wary the next time.”
Then a year later, almost all the media, countless celebrities, various Human Rights activists and liberals (or self-styled liberals) all started proclaiming the need to arm the “rebels” in Syria and destroy Assad’s army, “to save the Syrian people from their cruel dictator who was even bombing them in the cities where they lived.” In addition, ISIS, which had also sprung up in Syria, had to be eliminated. And although I had become skeptical of the “cruel dictator” line, I nonetheless went along since mainstream TV and newspapers told me nothing about what WE were actually doing in Syria, i.e., the fact that our bombing of cities was far worse than Assad’s, who targeted only the rebel districts. Just look at the total destruction we wrought on the city of Raqqa; neither the Syrian nor the Russian air force ever came near the place so this is entirely our work. It is even worse than our criminal bombing of Mosul in Iraq seven months earlier:
Photo Amnesty International
Then came Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks revelations, along with the work of investigative journalists like Hersh, once again. They showed me what was really behind the war and also how the fearsome ISIS came into being. As I mentioned earlier, it seems that the U.S. (along with the Saudis, the Qataris, and the Turks) had created the terrorist group because they wanted it to overthrow the pro-Iran and pro-Russia governments of Iraq and Syria; but then their creature got out of hand and began carrying out attacks in Europe as well; so the U.S. decided to eliminate it, using carpet bombings like those in the picture of Raqqa. “My God, this just gets worse and worse!” I said to myself. “Come on, Martina, stop listening to the lies, wake up and take a stand! No more weapons to rebels, no more support for so-called ‘good jihadists’! No more violence to achieve democracy, whether in Syria or anywhere! No more war! I will no longer silently accept this criminal behavior by my government, not now nor in the future!”
Which brings us to today. Today, almost all the media, lots of celebrities and progressive associations and, not only the conservative politicians, but almost every single liberal in Congress are all telling us that we must arm the Ukrainians because they are defending their country against Russian aggression, carried out “without provocation, without justification, without necessity” (those are President Biden’s words). In other words, according he Official Narrative as voiced by Biden, Russian President Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, not because he was forced into it, but out of a vile quest for World Dominion – just like Hitler tried to do.
But is this really what is happening today in Ukraine? Or is there perhaps more going on behind the scenes than what appears in the simplistic, black and white descriptions given by our political leaders and the mass media? Shouldn’t we be wary about listening to them, since they have lied so often in the past to get us to accept their wars (see the examples above)? Yes, of course we should!
This means, then, with regard to the conflict in Ukraine, that we can be fairly sure of only what did NOT happen. That is to say, Putin most likely did NOT act as he did “without provocation, without justification, without necessity,” I.e., out of some insatiable desire for dominion, like Hitler. And we can be fairly sure that this is so because our politicians and mass media, i.e. those discredited megaphones for the Pentagon and the Arms Industry, insist so much on this Marvel Comics version of the facts.
But then the question remains: why DID Putin so foolhardily and cruelly invade Ukraine? A subsequent article will indicate five facts to keep in mind when searching for an answer.
Of course, the task of discovering what really led to the conflict in Ukraine would be much easier if we had Julian Assange alongside to reveal to us, on his WikiLeaks site, whatever our leaders may unjustifiably be withholding from us. But that, alas, is not possible.
The UK has thrown Julian into jail, without trial or conviction (isn’t that what authoritarian regimes do?), and, for the past four years, has confined him to a tiny cell in total isolation, in order to shut him up completely. Now he is to be shipped off to the United States where he will surely receive even worse treatment for the rest of his life.
What did he do to deserve all this?
Julian Assange not only revealed secret documents proving U.S. and U.K. war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, the official charge against him, but also and most importantly – brace yourselves! – he revealed the real, unavowed reasons behind each one of the wars that have taken place in recent history. In other words, he is to be punished for life for having spoken truth to power, for having shown the lies that power uses to sell its wars, the repugnant duplicity it practices, resulting in bloodshed and destruction. Horrors that make you instinctively turn away in disgust from ANY war, no matter how hard fought it is – at least, on the surface – for lofty principles such as human rights or democracy. Because you just KNOW that, if you scratch the surface, the real sordid nature of these wars will come out. You realize that you can count the “justifiable wars” on a single hand and none of them are in our lifetime.
Thus Julian’s real crime was to spoil the ultra-billion-dollar game played by our military-industrial complex and their cronies (the energy industries, the neocon politicians…), a game consisting of creating all those apparently convincing illusions I listed above, to “sell” as “just” and “necessary” a series of wars that are nothing short of criminal.
Unfortunately, today we have to do without Julian and his WikiLeaks site, when we endeavor to understand what has lead up to the conflict in Ukraine. And equally unfortunately, we have to do without the help of many once-active and independent investigative journalists. Today, alas, they know that if they reveal sensitive documents that the United States government wants to keep hidden or simply if they reject outright the Official “Marvel Comic” Narrative about the Ukrainian conflict, they can be persecuted like Julian has been or at least be censored and put on a blacklist, as happened to the distinguished investigative journalist Manlio Dinucci.
In other words, this means that we have to find things out pretty much by ourselves. How is this possible? Assange gave us the answer in a speech that has become famous: his 2012 Christmas address made from the balcony of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London where he told us to: “Learn, challenge, act…now.”
Learn, i.e. get fresh information: we need to break the habit of getting our information the easy way, I.e. from social media and TV, and find the time to consult serious alternative sources. These may even include the news outlets of our so-called adversaries: Press TV (Iran), RT (Russia), CGTN (Cina), Telesur (Venezuela) – all have a channel for English-speaking audiences. But aren’t they full of propaganda? Of course they are! Just like ALL mass media! Just like our mass media! We saw THAT above.
So the point is to stop listening to just one propaganda outlet and start listening to several ones, in order to compare them and discover the constants. There’s another reason, too. Learning to understand the views of other peoples, however questionable, may come in handy if, one day, we need to deal with them. For to achieve one’s goals, one needs to truly understand one’s adversaries just as much as one needs to truly understand one’s friends.
Challenge, i.e. start asking ‘What if…?”: Assange, and other investigative journalists, have shown us how the Official Narratives about past conflicts have been regularly false; but, if we had wanted to, we could have seen through many of the lies even before they were revealed as such. It would have required taking the time to doubt the Official Truths systematically. That’s what scientists do with respect to each one of their colleagues’ discoveries or claims. Assange told us that “virtually every war that has taken place in the last 50 years has been the result of lies perpetrated by the media” and that is our starting point; but instead of discovering the lies, say regarding Ukraine, 10 years from now when it is too late, let us learn to discover them today. How? Certanly NOT by always being skeptical (disbelieving everything). That’s a cop out. But, rather, by using the methodical doubt of scientists: wondering “what if…?” and then verifying the leads that this generates.
Act…Now: i.e., become activists now! In Italy, the PeaceLink Association, with its calendar of activities carried out by pacifists throughout Italy, could serve as a springboard. To meet pacifists in person from all over Italy, there will be Eirenefest May 26-28 in Rome, as well as periodic peace marches. Those who are particularly interested in the issue of press freedom and thus Julian Assange’s freedom, can contact the group FREE ASSANGE Italia whose activities are described in Italian here.
In the United States, you can check out Democracy Now – it’s an in-depth, alternative, web TV news source – as well as the Code Pink web site listing their peace activities throughout the U.S. To learn about pro Assange activities, you can check out Assange Defense in the U.S. and, in the U.K., Don’t Extradite Assange!
This, in any case, will be MY 3-step program for the new year, to defend my #RightToKnow. A right which is continuously violated by those who govern us and which Assange tried to restore by revealing secret documents that that the public has a right to know. That right, recognized by the Supreme Court in 1971, is essential to democracy for it makes us knowledgeable and informed citizens, said the Chief Justices. And as Julian said, “you cannot build an equitable civilization from ignorance and lies.”
Therefore, my New Year’s Resolution for 2023 – only one, so I will be sure to keep it – will be this: “I will no longer let myself be fooled by TV and social media about what is happening in the world! I want to be a knowledgeable and informed citizen. I want to put an end my ignorance. I want to stop living a lie.”
I hope that will also be your New Year’s resolution. Happy 2023!