"We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was 'legal.'"
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Did you read Bonfire of the Vanities?" George asked me. I nodded, and he continued: "Do you remember that scene where he's getting out of the car, and there are all these people screaming his name, women throwing themselves at him? I mean, here's this guy who's in a terrible situation, but he's like a big celebrity."
Aussie publisher and Assange family acquaintance George Hirst had met me at the law school's cafe, so we could confer on ideas for helping the WikiLeaks leader. George and I both worried about Assange's potential extradition to the U.S., where harpy Hillary Clinton and other government vengefuls could use the EU's lax extradition laws to prosecute Assange, torture him, or worse. Now, months later, on the eve of the UK Supreme Court's final decision, we are all about to learn whether or not the embattled publisher will be extradited to Sweden, and then perhaps to the United States.
But the truth is that some of us already know how this will probably turn out. The Obama administration likely aims to ultimately extradite Assange to the U.S., derail the Australian's promising Senate run, deflate his surge in popularity, and generally suppress this youngish upstart who dared challenge the established power structure. By prosecuting the 40-year-old publisher under trumped-up espionage and conspiracy charges, the administration would love to make of Assange an example for the rest of us about what will happen if we step out of line.
In the process, however, the administration would work its own undoing. Any attempt to crucify the brilliant, handsome, famous, media-savvy rebel carries the risk of immediately making of Assange a martyr -- a sort of cyber-messiah for a mostly-mute younger generation oppressed by a government whose leaders no longer appear to believe themselves bound by the rule of law.
Certainly, Assange's detractors might say his own vanities helped fuel the media and legal firestorm that has engulfed him since the November 2010 release of the Cablegate files. That receiving attention from young women on all continents must have gone to the head of the newly-renowned wunderkind, who then made the mistake of bedding two females who reported him to the police (in what Assange believes to be a politically-motivated investigation). Nevertheless, a public airing of the government's grievances against the WikiLeaks founder can only cast into stark relief the far less forgivable sins of the "world leaders" who will have conspired to put Julian Assange behind bars. Because:
when you place a man under house arrest, and you force him into shackles and under constant video surveillance for more than a year, all without charging him with any crime;
when you find a person whose name you have placed on a list, and you kidnap him from a daylit crowded street, and you beat him and force him to swallow drugs, and you shove a suppository in his rectum, and you force him to strip naked and you put him in a diaper and chains, and then you make him board a plane but refuse to tell him where the plane is going, and then that plane arrives in a foreign country where the person you have kidnapped is jailed, beaten, tortured, and "disappeared" for as long as your whim dictates;
when you have repeatedly tortured adult men and women by raping them and forcing them to wear chains like animals;
when you have placed the names of "undesirable" Americans on secret lists and marked them for assassination;
when you have used unpiloted drones to murder targeted American citizens and their children abroad, and you have then deployed armed surveillance drones into the skies above our homes;
when you have relied on secret courts to issue secret orders for secret wiretaps and searches of the homes of law-abiding citizens;
when you have assembled secret grand juries to secretly review evidence in secret hearings against those who challenge your authority;
when you have forced this generation's rising stars into crushing poverty by circulating secret financial blacklists that police and intelligence agencies use to bankrupt and destroy the futures of selected citizens;
when you have destabilized and corrupted the global economy with deregulation that you knew would benefit no one except the boards and officers of major corporations;
when you have used secret experimentation programs as a pretext for genocide, injecting syphilis into unsuspecting children and adults;
when you have spent a century secretly sterilizing women in hospitals, while telling them that they were undergoing some other treatment, and when you have used this technique to wipe out entire Indian nations;
when you have physically debilitated younger generations by force-feeding us genetically-modified organisms and other known toxins, and have refused to tell us what you were doing or to regulate these chemicals that cause cancer, obesity, and infertility;
when you have tested dangerous drugs on us without our permission;
when you have hunted and murdered black children and families for no justifiable reason;
when you willfully flout the law by hiring private contractors to commit murder, torture, and other violations for which they will never be held accountable;
when you have passed laws that permit you to imprison your own citizens indefinitely, without charge and without due process of law;
when you introduce laws that would strip dissident Americans of their U.S. citizenship;
when you have allowed our legislators to sell themselves to the highest-bidding lobbyists;
when you have permitted police forces to use tear gas and pepper spray to assault peaceful protesters;
when you have allowed police officers to secretly attach tracking devices to our cars, clothes, and identification papers;
when you defy the letter of the U.S. Constitution and the spirit of the Declaration of Independence by secretly intercepting and storing all of the communications and other personal data of every law-abiding citizen;
when your intelligence agencies have conspired with foreign governments to attack your own citizens at home;
when you have repeatedly pledged your allegiance to a foreign terrorist state that has killed millions of civilians and repeatedly betrayed the interests of your citizens;
when you have used poverty, poor education, pepper spray, toxic food, and military weaponry to intimidate us;
when you have terrorized us day and night,
when we have asked for leadership, and instead you have given us narcissistic sociopaths willing to cooperate in mass murder;
when you have promised us "change," and when we have seen that this meant a change for the worse;
when you have done all of these things, and more,
and all because you could,
only because you could --
then how can you not foresee that your own vanity must also soon go up in flames?