U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, left, and Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno exchange looks during the delivery of a final statement at the government palace in Quito, Ecuador, Thursday, June 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
The US has been planning to have Julian Assange handed over for a longtime, that much is obvious. Mike Pence, the Vice President, was visiting Ecuador last year, notionally to discuss the Venezuela situation, and trade. But it was fairly obvious at the time, and even more so now, that they were discussing the details of Assange being handed over to UK authorities, and eventually extradited to the US.
In terms of quid pro quo, the situation is clear-cut - In February, Ecuador got a $4.2 BILLION loan approved by the International Monetary Fund (amongst other pay-outs). Reuters reported on February 19th of this year:
Ecuador has reached a $4.2 billion staff-level financing deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), President Lenin Moreno said on Wednesday, as the Andean country grapples with a large fiscal deficit and heavy external debt.
The country will also receive $6 billion in loans from multilateral institutions including the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the CAF Andean development bank...
So, less than 2 months ago, it was announced Ecuador was going to receive over 10 billion dollars of loans. Where all that money will eventually end up is anyone's guess, it certainly isn'tbeing spent on infrastructure or state enterprise:
Moreno has begun to implement an austerity plan that includes layoffs of workers at state-owned companies and cuts to gasoline subsidies, also plans to find a private operator for state-run telecoms company CNT and other state-owned firms.
President Moreno has already been the subject of numerous corruption accusations. So these "loans", nominally for "[creating] work opportunities for those who have not yet found something stable", could more realistically be described as "a pay-off".
More than just money, Lenin Moreno has been gifted something all insecure third-world leaders crave: Western approval.
The Economist ran a story on April 12th, the day after Assange was arrested, praising Lenin Moreno's economic policies, and blaming the previous administration for the "mess" that Moreno has to clear ups. (Of course, the idea that Moreno is handling the economy brilliantly, but somehow also needs over $10 billion dollars in loans is never addressed. A tiny logical contradiction compared with the nonsense the MSM dish-up on a daily basis).
The basic structure of the give-and-take of this situation is fairly obvious.
Less on the nose, but still definitely present, is the slow-burn media-based campaign of defamation and smears directed at Assange. A campaign designed to weaken public support for him and lessen the potential outcry if/when the UK handed him to US authorities, who famously use "enhanced interrogation" on suspects.
Last October, just three months after Pence's Ecuador visit, an Ecuadorian government memo was "leaked" claiming that Assange had bad personal hygiene habits, was hacking people's electrical devices, and neglecting his cat. These charges, cynically designed to make Assange a figure of ridicule, got massive play in the media. The Guardian, ever at the vanguard of sticking the boot in on Assange, ran a gleeful opinion piece mocking him. As did many other publications.
Assange, who had his internet access shut-off in March of last year, was unable to defend himself.
To this day we have no way of knowing if there is any veracity to this "leaked" memo, but real or not, it served both to belittle Assange in the public mind, and provide Ecuador with an excuse to get rid of him (they set up "rules", claim Assange wasn't following them and THAT's why they kicked him out - not the 10 billion dollars they got from international financial institutions).
The media are, of course, complicit in this lie.
Various outlets, from the Guardian, to CNN to the Australian have written "explainer" articles with headlines such as: ‘Rude, ungrateful and meddling': why Ecuador turned on Assange.
Because - you know - ‘rude and ‘ungrateful' people don't deserve to have their human rights respected. There's probably a clause in the UN charter to that effect.
Every step of this ignoble process, so far, has been based on lies. Let's list them.
Lie #1: Assange hs been and is attacked as a "Russian agent" and "Putin's stooge". A "breaking news" story for the Guardian, written by an erstwhile plagiarist and a convicted forger, claimed Assange had worked with Paul Manafort to swing the US election for Trump.
No evidence for these claims has been supplied. It remains to date nothing more than a baseless allegation, and WikiLeaks is in the process of suing the Guardian over it. This lie paints Assange as an "enemy combatant", and will be used to justify whatever happens to him.
Lie #2: Let's all recall that, for months, we were told the US didn't want Assange, that "the only barrier to him leaving the embassy was pride". WikiLeaks claims that US had sealed indictments waiting for Assange were dismissed as "conspiracy theories".
Not true. Not any of it. The secret indictments were leaked, proving WikiLeaks correct. (Ecuador is - shocking - claiming that they weren't aware there any extradition orders for Mr Assange before they released him to the UK police. This risible assertion has gone totally unchallenged in the mainstream media.)
Lie #3: Just one week ago, the Ecuadorian government claimed they had NO plans to kick Assange out, and that WikiLeaks lied when they claimed as much.
They released Assange to UK police just six days later.
Equally obnoxious and dishonest is the ‘corporate concern trolling' that allows faux-liberals to take up the craven position of "qualified support", such as:
"You can think Assange is a liar, fascist and misogynist, but still think he shouldn't be extradited"
This is the stance adopted by folks like Owen Jones in the Guardian, a position which claims to support one course of action, but is actually covertly arguing for the opposite. Damning Assange with the pretence of faint praise.
And ‘identity politics' is also playing its part here - displaying its usefulness in clogging up public debate with shallow finger-pointing and Crucible-esque accusations of moral impurity. (Jones labels anyone who doesn't believe the accusations against Assange "a misogynist").
Suzanne Moore, the epitome of the liberal hypocrite, wrote a column for the New Statesmentalking quite a lot about totally unproven accusations of "molestation", but breezing over the very-much-proven crimes against humanity.
Meanwhile seventy UK MPs, including "people's champion" Jess Philips, and John Woodcock (who quit Labour over accusations of sexually inappropriate behaviour), signed a letter to Sajid Javiddemanding Assange be handed over to Sweden to face "justice". A position marred only by the fact that Sweden haven't actually asked for him yet. (This was aimed at Corbyn and Diane Abbott, whose support for Assange will be turned against them, and used to label Labour as being "soft on sexual predators" or "not supporting women" etc).
But this is all distraction and obfuscation - keeping the totally discredited accusations in the headlines, whilst avoiding the actual truth, which is:
Julian Assange was arrested for publishing evidence of US war crimes, after the US government bribed the Ecuadorian government to break international law.
That is what happened. And anyone who uses lies and distraction to deny this truth is on the wrong side of history.
Kit Knightly is co-editor of OffGuardian. The Guardian banned him from commenting. Twice. He used to write for fun, but now he's forced to out of a near-permanent sense of outrage.