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AUSMIN and Assange: The Great Vassal Smackdown

It was there for all to see. Embarrassing, cloying, and bound make you cough up the remnants of your summit lunch, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III stopped by one of the vassal states to make sure that the meal and military service was orderly, the troops well behaved, and the weapons working as they should. On the occasion of 2023 AUSMIN meetings, the questions asked were mild and generally unprovocative; answers were naturally tailored.

Seeing that Australia is now rapidly moving into the US orbit of client status – its minerals will be designated a US domestic resource in due course – and given that its land, sea and air are to be more available than ever for the US armed forces, nuclear and conventional, nothing will interrupt this inexorable extinguishing of sovereignty.

One vestige of Australian sovereignty might have evinced itself, notably in how Canberra might push for the release, or at the very least better terms, for the Australian national and founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange. The publisher faces 18 counts, all but one of them pertaining to the Espionage Act of 1917, an archaic, wartime act with a dark record of punishing free speech and contrarians. The Albanese government, eschewing “the hailer” approach in favour of “quiet diplomacy” and not offending Washington, has conspicuously failed to make any impression.

In April, an open letter to the US Attorney General, Merrick Garland, featuring 48 Australian MPs and Senators, including 13 from the governing Labor Party, argued that the Assange prosecution “would set a dangerous precedent for all global citizens, journalists, publishers, media organizations and the freedom of the press. It would also be needlessly damaging for the US as a world leader on freedom of expression and the rule of law.”

Despite such concerns bubbling away in Parliament, Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong was in no danger of upsetting their guests. “[W]e have made clear our view that Mr Assange’s case has dragged for too long, and our desire it be brought to a conclusion, and we’ve said that publicly and you would anticipate that that reflects also the positive we articulate in private.” But, as ever, “there are limits until Mr. Assange’s legal processes have concluded.” The assumption, laid bare, is that Australia will only push for terms once the US secures its treasured quarry.

Blinken parroted staged, withered lines, politely dismissing Wong’s statements while pouring acid on the Assange plea. “I really do understand and certainly confirm what Penny said about the fact that this matter was raised with us, as it has been in the past, and I understand the sensitivities, I understand the concerns and view of Australians.” He thought it “important”, as if it mattered “that our friends here understand our concerns about this matter.”

Those friends were made to understand that matter in no uncertain terms. Assange had been “charged with very serious criminal conduct in the United States in connection with his alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of our country. The actions that he has alleged to have committed risked very serious harm to our national security, to the benefit of our adversaries, and put named sources at grave risk – grave risk – of physical harm, and grave risk of detention.”

Such excremental, false reasoning was galling, and went unchallenged by the all too pliant Senator Wong and the Australian Defence Minister, Richard Marles. This, despite the cool findings by Blinken’s own colleagues at the Pentagon that the WikiLeaks disclosures never posed a risk to any valued source in the service of the US imperium, and the fact that other outlets have also published these purportedly “named sources” without having their collars fingered by the US Department of Justice. The double standard is gold in Washington.

The same babbling nonsense was evident during the extradition trial proceedings of Assange that were held at London’s Central Criminal Court in 2020. There, the prosecution, representing a number of clumsy, clownish and impressively ignorant representatives from Freedom Land, proved unable to produce a single instance of actual compromise or harm to a single informant of the US imperium. They also showed, with idiotic facility, an ignorance of the court martial that the US military had subjected Chelsea Manning to when she faced charges for revealing classified national security information to WikiLeaks.

Wong, as part of her buttoned-up brief dictated by Washington’s suits, either did not know nor care to correct Blinken who, for all we know, is equally ignorant of his brief on the subject. If the prosecutors in London in 2020 had no idea, why should the US secretary of state, let alone the Australian foreign minister?

As a terrible omen for the Australians, four defence personnel seem to have perished in waters near Hamilton Island through an accident with their MRH-90 Taipan helicopter as part of the Talisman Sabre war games. The US overlords were paternal and benevolent; their Australian counterparts were grateful for the interest. Blinken soppily suggested how the sacrifice was appreciated. “They have been on our minds throughout today; they remain very much on our minds right now.” But the message was clear: Australia, you are now less a state than a protectorate, territory to exploit, a resource basket to appropriate. Why not just make it official?


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  1. Phil Pryor

    Blinken and Austin, bench players for third grade ludo, are not independent, intelligent, intellectual, cerebral, free; if old Kissinger is still around, incontinent or not, he would not waste a lifesaving squirt on these below dud niche fillers. The big agencies, CIA, Pentagon, real state dept. analysts and strategists, send these types out to skirmish, report, die, whatever. Long queues exist for a USA government cabinet type job; prestige, a future, (hah) money, (perhaps, one day), book deals, talk shows, memoirs, “speaking,” all money engendering offshoots. Could this pair spell Metternich or Talleyrand? Meanwhile, Australia can rub its itchy date on the kindy stool awaiting…Bismarck, Metternich or Palmerston? No, just the latest telegram boy from Uncle Sam. One day, with our sparkling irradiating subs tethered to the Opera House rails, we’ll be so proud.

  2. Douglas Pritchard

    All this is so sad, and so true.
    Watching Blinkin on Assange, and these are our friends.
    Albo, Marles and Wong are in another world from the rest of us.
    But did you spot the Rockingham by-election result? Just up the road from me.
    Labours safest seat had a massive swing against it.
    They know they are in line to be trashed by the US defence machine, and are looking to shift their allegiance elsewhere.
    Historically you build the by-pass through the community that can least protest, but this is a move that should not go unnoticed.

  3. Harry Lime

    As the Cocky so often,and correctly reminds us..”with friends like Uncle Sam,who needs enemies?” Lead us out to the next war,so that we can once again demonstrate our ability to be stupid.Governor Albanese is proving to be a very handy puppet for our ‘great and powerful friend’ Ironic really that Presidents are traditionally puppets of the wealthy.Capitalism,what’s not to like?

  4. Terence Mills

    At least the Labor government constantly raise the Assange issue and that’s a lot more tean the coalition ever did.

    The US are finding it hard to justify their stance on Assange particularly after Obama pardoned Chelsea Manning, the one who actually released the information.

    They want to try Assange in the US but paradoxically they won’t extend to Assange the protections of the right to freedom of the press as guaranteed in the first amendment of the US Constitution because he is not a US citizen.

    It stinks !

  5. David Baird

    We really are a pathetic state. It’s about time we demanded SOMETHING in exchange for our craven obsequiousness over a l-o-n-g time. The ALP’s raising of the matter as compared with the Lib/Nats’ utter refusal to say a word doesn’t cut the mustard. It’s embarrassing and infuriating in equal measure.

  6. Caz

    Waiting for Paul Keating to savage this timid cowardly government which promised us a new beginning and has delivered eff all. Come on Paul, give em both barrels. That will make me feel a bit better for a day at least.

  7. Clakka

    Oz has thrived on obsequiousness, before, within and after the importation of its useless toadying rag of a Constitution and relying on a judiciary engorged with self-aggrandising besotted slaves to olde worlde ideologies and a brutal system of adversary vs truth. That is if it calls thriving, wrecking the ecology, exporting its resources without appropriate reservation and compensation for its citizens, ceding the control of land to a foreign country, seeking to exterminate its First Nations folk, embedding slavery, oppression and blaming of the less fortunate, providing canon fodder for foreign wars, perpetuating lies via its education system, embedding corruption in politics and civil society and transferring wealth to the elite.

    Oh, and it seems to love it. Persistently and increasingly failing to mature, being seduced by bling and convenience, lazily opting out of thinking, caring and responsibility, whilst preferring an indulgence in opportunism, usury and corruption, spouting a gutless exoneration that decision and control will always be by others, sufficing instead for a designer ignorance or cringing cynicism. Squeaky clean, no blood on its hands.

    Oh no, no change for Oz. No modernising of its franchise, anything but self-reliance when it can dissemble and deconstruct for the benefit of others and for toadying. It’s got plenty to beef about, it can’t read and learn, can’t open its eyes as it’s pulled the wool over them. And besides, it’s too busy digging ditches, so it can bury its head in the sand.

    Oz can blame whoever it likes or doesn’t like, it’s largely irrelevant as via its national sport it has thoroughly wedged itself between a rock and a hard place.

    Labor is having a go, whilst weaving its way between Oz’s same old sport of relegation of responsibility, misdirection, blame and cynicism, and it’s utterly incorrect to say they have done ‘eff all’. As the world hurtles toward hell in a handbasket, they have done much to tackle the immediate threats to Oz wellbeing, whilst at the same time trying to balance the slippery books left concealed by the previous government along with bringing to light and seeking to repeal the decades of wanton destruction and in the most recent decade, as if it was their religion, the guile, incompetence and corruption of the LNP.

    If it wasn’t for the likes of the honest and gutsy Julian Assange drawing the veil from Oz eyes, and his support by the good people of the world, would Oz even have remembered him and his plight? It seemed, as part of the Oz national sport, cosseting in its self-imposed psychological tyranny of distance, for many years Oz was prepared to let him take the rap for its wanton indifference.

    Now only partially awake it seems Oz is beginning to understand all is not tickety-boo. Being between the rock and the hard place its cowardice and complacency has left it exposed and inextricably dependent. Where to turn? Seems to be the devil’s alternative wrought by Oz itself, an alternative that affords it no leverage for Julian.

    Same old, same old.

  8. Caz

    Oh Clakka I wish I had your gift of expression. As an octogenarian, with plenty of time to observe, I have come to realise the average Australian just does not care. Like it or not , we are just as ignorant as the Americans while feeling superior to them. ” I’m all right Jack” should be on our coat of arms.

  9. Indu Abeysekara

    I agree with Caz – we join you in waiting for Paul Keating to give us some satisfaction that at least there are a few wise heads still left in Australia. Never thought that a Labor government will bring us to vassal-hood.

  10. Fred

    Democracy and sovereignty where the hell are they,they for sure dont exist in Australia,i have reached the point now where i understand that nothing is going to change in this country,in fact its only going to get worse,this nutter Albasleazy rages on about the voice,what about a voice for the rest of of us,i for sure did not vote for the country to be filled with Yanks with all their weapons of mass destruction,and now we hear their is a good possibility they will be testing their missiles here,how about a referendum on this bull shyt

  11. Claudio Pompili

    Wong is apparently intellectually acute but ultimately a fool and thus incompetent. I distinctly remember her performance in the Rudd government where her primary sole job was to convince the populace’s ‘hearts and minds’ of the merit of the Ross Garnaut-led Emissions Trading Scheme. She delivered as a true technocrat. Intellectual acuity on display, like a true virtuoso apparachtik, but ‘no skin in the game’ and thus a fool and incompetent. As Keating said in 2023, Wong is ‘risk averse’. He was being diplomatic but had her ‘number’ from way back. Albo and Marles display adroitness to varying degrees but are simply stupid. Wong is dangerous because she allegedly is full of herself and a bully. Blinken, for all his ‘intellectual’ capacity, like Keating, called Wong out and let her know what-is-what in no uncertain terms.

  12. Douglas Pritchard

    I like it.” Blinken, for all his ‘intellectual’ capacity, like Keating, called Wong out and let her know what-is-what in no uncertain terms”.
    You would think this was our moment of realisation, the moment at which we collectively said its time to review this relationship.
    But, no, sadly it passed and we reverted to the humble servant.
    Our sovereignty in tatters, yet one more time.

  13. Teiresias

    Claudio Pompili,

    Do you work for Rupert Murdoch? You have the style. Let me quote so much of what you have written.

    “Wong is apparently intellectually acute but ultimately a fool and thus incompetent….

    “Albo and Marles display adroitness to varying degrees but are simply stupid.

    “Wong is dangerous because she allegedly is full of herself and a bully.”

    “Alledgedly”? Is that you alledging, Claudio?

    What are the Mililtary solutions? Nuclear submarines? There is still time to pull out of Morrison’s half baked military plot. Besides that, there is one possible weakness in submarines: they can hide deep in the ocean until they can be detected – and they will be detected, eventually. Goodbye, submarines. And we could use the money for something else.

    But Murdoch writers love nuclear submarines and war with China by Christmas.

    So the third rung of reduced taxes is still to come. We could use that money to help everybody not coping well with tough times.

    As for China’s military build-up since 1945, China has used the military to employ people – as has the USA.

    Wong’s diplomacy in the Pacific is correct because the Pacific has been neglected in the last decade, it needs monetary support, military support and social support because it is in danger of being sunk as as the Arctics and other ice melts

    Conroy, minister for international development and the Pacific knows this. So does Penny Wong.

  14. Denis Bright

    Completely support your interpretation, Binoy and your support for Julian Assange and Bradley Manning.

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