The West as a political order

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By TARIK CYRIL AMAR*

There are chilling parallels between the suffering of Julian Assange and that of civilians in Gaza

Recently, two of the most striking injustices in the contemporary West have been the subject of legal proceedings. And although one involves mass murder and the other involves torture if not the murder of a single victim (at least for now), there are good reasons to systematically juxtapose the two. The suffering involved is different, but the forces that cause it are intrinsically linked and, as we will see, reveal much about the nature of the West as a political order.

In The Hague, the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) – also known as the International Court – carried out extensive audiences (involving 52 States and three international organizations) on the occupation – or de facto annexation – of the post-1967 Palestinian territories by Israel. Although they are not the same thing, these hearings are related to the genocide process against Israel, also currently underway at the International Court of Justice.

All this occurs in a context of relentless genocide of Palestinians by Israel, through bombings, shootings (including allegedly young children, in the head), blockage and starvation. To date, the count of victims, constantly growing and conservatively, is around 30.000 dead, 70.000 injured, 7.000 missing and at least two million displaced, often more than once, always in horrific conditions .

In London, the Royal Courts of Justice have been the stage for Julian Assange's fight for an appeal against Washington's demand to extradite him to the US. Julian Assange, an activist and investigative journalism editor, has been in lockdown – in one form or another – for more than a decade. Since 2019, he has been detained at Belmarsh high security prison. In fact, what has already happened to him is the modern equivalent of being locked in the Bastille by a “cachet letter” real in absolutist, pre-revolutionary, Old Regime France. Several observers, including a UN special rapporteur, have argued convincingly that the treatment of Julian Assange amounts to torture.

The essence of his political persecution – in fact, there is no bona fide legal case – is simple: through his platform WikiLeaks, Julian Assange published information leaks that exposed the brutality, criminality and lies of the US wars. USA and UK (and, more generally, the West) after 11/XNUMX. Although leaking state secrets is not legal – although it can be morally obligatory and even heroic, as in the case of Chelsea Manning, who was one of the main sources of the WikiLeaks – publishing the results of these leaks is legal.

Indeed, this principle is a recognized pillar of media freedom and independence. Without it, the media cannot perform any kind of surveillance function. Yet Washington is stubbornly and absurdly trying to treat Assange like a spy. If you achieve this, the “global media freedom” (for what it’s worth…) is fried. This is what makes Julian Assange, objectively, the most important political prisoner in the world.

If he is extradited to the United States, whose highest officials have already planned his murdered, the founder of WikiLeaks he will definitely not get a fair trial and will die in prison. If so, his fate will irreversibly transform into what Washington and London have been working towards for more than a decade, namely, making an example of him by dealing the most devastating blow imaginable against freedom of expression and a truly open society.

The fact that Gaza and Julian Assange have something in common has already been noted by more than one observer. Both represent a plethora of political pathologies, including merciless cruelty, politicized “justice,” mass media misinformation, and, last but not least, the old Western “garden” specialty, ultimate hypocrisy.

There is also the grotesquely arrogant American sense of global entitlement: Palestinians' rights or, indeed, their humanity are worthless if Israel, Washington's closest and lawless ally, wants their land and their lives. Julian Assange, of course, is an Australian citizen.

Julian Assange and Gaza are also related in a concrete way: although there is a subplot of Russian Fury (also known as “Russiagate") in Washington's revenge campaign against the founder of WikiLeaks, he is most hated for the fact that he dared to show the world the extent to which the US and its allies have been cruel and bloodthirsty in their wars in the Middle East, the same region in which Washington is now at least an indispensable accomplice, or even a co-author of the genocide of a population that is majority (although not exclusively) Muslim and “brown”.

However, there is another aspect of the Gaza-Assange complex that we must not lose sight of. Taken together, these two major state crimes reveal a pattern, a syndrome that points to the kind of real political order now being developed in the West.

Some things are obvious: firstly, although always more an aspiration than a reality, the rule of law (national and international) is compromised in a particularly egregious way. It's as if the West wanted Let us know you don't give a damn about the law.

Just consider two facts: even after the International Court of Justice gave instructions (hereinafter referred to as “preliminary measures”) to Israel that would, in fact, have put an end to most of its genocidal attack if they had been obeyed, Israel simply did not comply with them. . And his partners in the West have demonstratively joined him in this challenge by, among other things, helping Israel dismantle UNRWA, thereby making the starvation blockade of Gaza even worse. As for Julian Assange, his wife Stella, who is a lawyer, put it best by noting that all the egregious abuses towards her husband are “on public record and yet they continue.”

Secondly, the West is not, in fact, an orderly “garden” but rather a ferocious “jungle” of groups and establishments of cooperation, and also of rival interests. It is rhetorically obsessed with celebrating not only its so-called “values” but also its unity. However, in reality, this is an indication of how precarious this unit really is. The same happens with the West's increasing use of fear campaigns, massively exaggerating or even inventing threats from abroad (Russia and China are the main targets of this technique) and, at the same time, denying even the possibility of diplomacy and compromise.

At the same time, this is the same West whose members have now reached the stage of explode the vital infrastructure of each other and cannibalize each other's savings. Not to mention the mutual espionage and, certainly, mutual blackmail with the compromising information produced by this espionage.

Thirdly, the West, while disrespecting and breaking its own laws – not to mention the “values” and “rules” it professes – is somehow still capable of acting and causing harm like a vast machine. , even if not always well coordinated, when it asserts its voracious – and often ill-conceived – interests.

What kind of political order é it is? I think our best bet for assessing this wild but collaborative, lawless but institution-based West is to go far back in time, to the key concepts of two of the first brilliant analysts of Nazi Germany, Franz Neumann and Ernst Fraenkel. Franz Neumann's key to understanding the violent mess that was the Third Reich was to imagine it as a Behemoth, in the sense of the English political philosopher and born pessimist Thomas Hobbes. Unlike the Leviathan almost perfectly authoritative approach to Hobbes, his Behemoth, explained Franz Neumann, represented a State that was, in reality, a “non-State, a situation characterized by the complete absence of law”. Ernst Fraenkel suggested a different model. For him, Nazi Germany could function, despite its inner chaos, because it was at the same time a state that still had laws (albeit often unjust ones) and a state that imposed measures, free from legal restrictions.

Of course, today's West is not literally the equivalent of the Nazi Reich. Although, if we consider that he is complicit in Israel's ongoing genocide, we realize that not matching the Nazis is a very fine line to walk – and little consolation to a Palestinian parent whose child has just been deliberately and slowly led to death by hunger, for example. In another detail, Franz Neumann rejected Ernst Fraenkel's theory for essentially equating the German monster state with a system. But academics are academics.

The most important point is that it is impossible not to see notable and disturbing trends in the contemporary West that resonate so much in the Behemoth of Franz Neumann as in Ernst Fraenkel's state of laws and measures, or, if we want, of rules and arbitrariness. Shocking? Of course. Exaggerated? Those who keep saying this to themselves are in for a rude awakening if they find themselves where the Palestinians and Julian Assange are, in their different forms: on the same dark side of what is probably the most dishonest and untrustworthy political order in the world right now.

*Tarik Cyril Amar, PhD in history from Princeton University, is a professor at Koç University (Istanbul). Author, among other books, of The Paradox of Ukrainian Lviv (Cornell University Press).

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves

Originally published on the portal RT.


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