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The Oz Martyrs Brigade, Julian Assange and Jennifer Robinson
by zed Thursday, Mar 1 2012, 10:44pm
international / injustice/law / commentary

One wonders at times whether it's insularity, dissociative narcissism or just plain martyr complexes induced by adolescent naivety, idealism and perhaps one too many ‘martinis’ or bottles of ‘gushing’ red wine that place people in circumstances destined to fail tragically.

Naive idealist, Jennifer Robinson
Naive idealist, Jennifer Robinson

A curious and revealing article about Assange’s Australian lawyer/adviser Jennifer Robinson, appeared in The Australian today titled, “Julian Assange's homegrown hardnosed lawyer Jennifer Robinson” written by one Adam ‘Cretin,’ apparently an old uni associate of Ms Robinson’s. Whether Robinson approved or vetted this unflattering piece (below) is unknown but it reeks of female adolescent ‘save the world’ syndrome and enormous amounts of naivety, which is unusual for a "hardnosed" lawyer, one would think, Mr ‘Cretin?’

Surely, a bright young thing like Jennifer Robinson is aware that openly – as opposed to surreptitiously or anonymously -- taking on a global criminal empire comes with a very hefty price tag. Assange’s ongoing and deteriorating predicament is no surprise to anyone that is engaged in opposing and subverting criminal organisations.

From the time that Octavian murdered Cleopatra and engineered the crime to look like suicide, to today, where the corrupt and partial ICC and UN seem blind to the NUMEROUS crimes against humanity committed by the US and NATO, an unsavoury but enduring REALITY persists, the criminal machinations of State and its unjust (heinous) political methods.

Surely Ms Robinson is aware of the new indefinite detention law recently passed in the USA – does she or Assange expect JUSTICE from a State that imposes such a ‘LAW’ on the population? Give your next bottle of red a break and don’t drink it, Ms Robinson! Glamour boy Assange requires hard-nosed realists that are able to turn the tables on ruling criminal elites with means not usually spoken about in good company, Ms Robinson -- which legal fairy tale are we reading today?

Taking on criminal States is something they don’t teach you in law school, do they Ms Robinson, better you learn that type of thing in military academies, associated agencies or as a victim of torture and violent State crime? Sure-fire methods and formulas exist that topple State governments and regimes, Ms Robinson but neither you, your previous employers, nor Mr Assange seem to have an iota of knowledge in that regard.

Indeed, the West Papuan people, like all humanity deserve better but the largest gold mine in the world owned by US interests and other corporations plundering West Papua may have something to ’say’ about granting ‘Liberty, Freedom and Democracy’ to native cultures when zillions of dollars in resources are at stake, geesh, academic fuckin’ lawyers!

Where is the brave leader of the West Papuan independence movement today, Ms Robinson? Dead of course, assassinated by agents of the corporations and other vested interests, but we’ll get ‘em with a point of ‘law,’ won’t we? On second thoughts I better have a drink before I explode!

The sad reality is Assange is fucked, pure and simple, especially if he persists on his present naïve course. Do you seriously believe that the current Australian government would assist Assange in opposition to their Washington overlords, did you not hear that nauseating speech delivered by Juliar Gillard to a joint sitting of Congress? Any Aussie with a modicum of self-respect listened to that nauseating speech in total disgust; I was in a public bar when excerpts of her speech appeared on the TV and the reaction, I am happy to say, was overwhelmingly negative! Do you REALLY expect that slag, Gillard, to defend or assist Assange when she is on record for (unjustly) labelling our white-haired anti-hero, a “criminal?” Come to think of it, you had better pop the cork on that bottle of red, now!

The past decade has seen the civilian killing USA and its NATO allies embark on the most brazen CRIMINAL military interventions since the Nazi interventions of the Second World War, but prior to pursuing their nefarious plans the USA also had its Reichstag (9/11) fire and corrupted the local and international (ICC) judiciary to ensure that criminal forces would not be held accountable for future crimes and that everything they did was ‘legal!’

The law is not an ass, Ms Robinson, it’s a Turd. Dream on while others better able, wage an EFFECTIVE war against the evil powers and I trust you delivered my personal message to Julian -- none of this is “personal,” not even this piece, but we have a REAL fight on our hands and we MUST maintain discipline, adhere to certain codes/principles and remain focused at ALL times.

I wish you well for the future, however, a little more hard reality and less red wine, perhaps? "I can't believe the injustices... etc," I assure you, Ms Robinson, you will learn to believe and then hopefully learn to fight where it hurts the opponent, which is NOT in courts the criminally corrupt State controls!

Apparently Murdoch's 'pay-to-read' links are now in force; for readers' convenience Adam Creighton's story follows:

AS we approached the group of Oxford graduates milling outside the ersatz grandeur of St Paul's college dining hall, the chatter subsided a little.

All eyes were on my companion, Jennifer Robinson. She always had a habit of making an impact. But from our days at Balliol College I never expected her to attain international legal stardom, at least not so quickly.

Robinson, 31, became a legal adviser to Julian Assange in October 2010, a month before he burst into global consciousness. The "world's first stateless media organisation", as Robinson terms WikiLeaks, had released thousands of classified American diplomatic cables into the public domain, embarrassing and infuriating the US government.

"Julian Assange should be feted as Australia's most decorated contributor to journalism," Robinson says, "yet he is vilified for uncovering gross abuses of state power." My friend has traipsed the globe advocating for Assange's rights both at law and in principle, in the process becoming one of the most recognisable faces of WikiLeaks.

This week leaked emails from a US private intelligence firm suggested Assange might soon face further charges in the US, possibly under the Espionage Act. "We have long been concerned about the risk of US extradition," Robinson says. "I expect they are waiting for the outcome of the Swedish extradition."

Assange has been stuck in Britain fighting extradition to Sweden for alleged sexual assault, which the Supreme Court is due to resolve any day now.

Robinson is passionate about human rights, free speech and journalistic freedom, as well as the need for greater transparency in government.

Now full-time with the Bertha Foundation, a South African NGO that sponsors individuals uniquely placed to prompt social and economic change, Robinson has returned to Sydney for a few months to take up an adjunct lectureship in public interest law at the University of Sydney.

At the annual Oxford alumni dinner in Sydney this month we swapped some memories from our time at the university and after the main course the event organiser convinced her to make an impromptu speech.

I've always found remarkable Robinson's ability to switch from an effervescent companion on the social circuit to hardnosed interlocutor.

"May you be involved in a lawsuit in which you are right," she said, opening her speech with the old legal proverb.

Given what is ahead it was apt. Robinson fears Assange will be detained for years as a result of US charges, whatever happens with the Swedish case.

"I'm confident a challenge under the first amendment of the US constitution will ultimately see Assange walk free, but we need only look to the treatment of Bradley Manning to know what Julian will suffer in the meantime," she says.

Certainly the plight of Manning, the hapless American soldier on trial, provides a foreboding example. Arrested in May 2010 for allegedly disclosing information to WikiLeaks, he is still incarcerated.

In the week before Christmas Robinson was in Maryland observing the criminal proceedings.

"I can't believe the media's relative lack of interest in the Manning trial," she says. "Here is a man who's been locked up for about 600 days in solitary confinement and conditions amounting to torture, and he's still waiting to be put on trial."

For Robinson , the pursuit of Assange, an Australian citizen, reflects poorly on the federal government too. "Quite aside from wrongfully accusing Assange of illegal conduct, the Australian government's response to WikiLeaks has been incredibly disappointing; what is the point of the US alliance if we can't find out what they are planning to do with one of our own citizens?"

Until Robinson became embroiled in WikiLeaks she was known among her peers for her advocacy for West Papuans. A visit to Indonesia in 2002 while a student at the Australian National University entrenched her interest in human rights.

"I couldn't believe the injustices and violence suffered by the West Papuans under Indonesian rule, only 300km north of our shores, and no one in Australia seems to know what happens there," she says.

"West Papuans have as much right to self-determination as the East Timorese."

"She tempers her idealism with a healthy does of pragmatism," longtime Oxford friend Albert Alla says. At Oxford, Robinson fostered a mix of admiration and envy. "She's is a hard pill to swallow for potential competitors, casting a shadow on most of them," Alla adds.

Robinson 's achievements are bolstered by an impressive resume. But her academic achievements -- university medallist at ANU in law, and a Master of Philosophy in law from Balliol College on a Rhodes Scholarship -- are more interesting in light of her background.

She grew up in Berry on the NSW south coast and attended Bomaderry High School. "From memory about two out of 50 Rhodes scholars at Oxford came from non-selective state schools," she recalls.

"I started a DPhil at Oxford but I'm more of a doer and wanted to get my hands dirty in real cutting-edge legal work."

Part-time work for Geoffrey Robertson throughout her Oxford studies led in 2008 to full-time work at a boutique law firm defending journalists and media organisations -- and also to an introduction to Assange. She became Robertson's instructing solicitor, and worked for clients such as Bloomberg and The New York Times. She intervened on behalf of media defence organisations in the Max Mosley case before the European Court of Human Rights.

"I am patriotically Australian, proud of our country and want to contribute to defending the progressive and reformist political history that has made our country so great," Robinson says.

Like many expatriates, Robinson is torn about whether to return permanently or stay abroad. A glint in her eye suggested to me one vocation would bring her back for sure. When pressed she won't rule out an Australian political career.

© 2012 News Limited


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Drone-Strike Survivors Ask, "What Kind of Democracy Is America?"
by Kathy Kelly via sal - Truthout Friday, Mar 2 2012, 8:25am

Fazillah, age 25, lives in Maidan Shar, the central city of Afghanistan’s Wardak province. She married about six years ago, and gave birth to a son, Aymal, who just turned five without a father. Fazillah tells her son, Aymal, that his father was killed by an American bomber plane, remote-controlled by computer.

That July, in 2007, Aymal’s father was sitting in a garden with four other men. A weaponized drone, what we used to call an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAV, was flying, unseen, overhead, and fired missiles into the garden, killing all five men.

Now Fazillah and Aymal share a small dwelling with the deceased man’s mother. According to the tradition, a husband’s relatives are responsible to look after a widow with no breadwinner remaining in her immediate family. She and her son have no regular source of bread or income, but Fazillah says that her small family is better off than it might have been: one of the men killed alongside her husband left behind a wife and child but no other living relatives that could provide them with any source of support, at all.

Aymal’s grandmother becomes agitated and distraught speaking about her son’s death, and that of his four friends. “All of us ask, ‘Why?’” she says, raising her voice. “They kill people with computers and they can’t tell us why. When we ask why this happened, they say they had doubts, they had suspicions. But they didn’t take time to ask ‘Who is this person?’ or ‘Who was that person?’ There is no proof, no accountability. Now, there is no reliable person in the home to bring us bread. I am old, and I do not have a peaceful life.”

Listening to them, I recall an earlier conversation I had with a Pakistani social worker and with Safdar Dawar, a journalist, both of whom had survived drone attacks in the area of Miran Shah, in Pakistan’s Waziristan province. Exasperated at the increasingly common experience which they had survived and which too many others have not, they began firing questions at us.

“Who has given the license to kill and in what court? Who has declared that they can hit anyone they like?”

“How many ‘high level targets’ could there possibly be?”

“What kind of democracy is America,” Safdar asks, “where people do not ask these questions?”

One question Fazillah cannot answer for her son is whether anyone asked the question at all of whether to kill his father. Forbes Magazine reports that the Air Force has sixty-five to seventy thousand analysts processing drone video surveillance; a Rand review states they actually need half again that number to properly handle the data. Asked to point to the human who actually made the decision to kill her husband, she can only point to another machine.

In June 2010, Philip G. Alston, then the UN’s Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, appeared before the UN Human Rights Council and testified that “targeted killings pose a rapidly growing challenge to the international rule of law … In a situation in which there is no disclosure of who has been killed, for what reason, and whether innocent civilians have died, the legal principle of international accountability is, by definition, comprehensively violated.”

“Such an expanded and open-ended interpretation of the right to self defense comes close to destroying the prohibition on the use of armed force contained in the United Nations Charter. If invoked by other states in pursuit of those they deemed to be terrorists and to have attacked them, it would cause chaos.”

This past week, on February 23, the legal action charity” Reprieve” spoke up on behalf of more than a dozen Pakistani families who had lost loved ones in drone strikes, and asked the UN Human Rights Council to condemn the attacks as illegal human rights violations.

“In Pakistan, the CIA is creating desolation and calling it peace,” said Reprieve’s Director Clive Stafford Smith. “The illegal programme of drone strikes has murdered hundreds of civilians in Pakistan. The UN must put a stop to it before any more children are killed. Not only is it causing untold suffering to the people of North West Pakistan – it is also the most effective recruiting sergeant yet for the very ‘militants’ the US claims to be targeting.”

The lawyer representing the families, Shahzad Akbar of Pakistan’s “Foundation for Fundamental Rights”, said:

“If President Obama really believes the drone strikes have ‘pinpoint’ accuracy, it has to be asked where the deaths of kids like Maezol Khan’s eight-year-old son fit into the CIA’s plan. If the US is not prepared to face up to the reality of the suffering the strikes are causing, then the UN must step in. The international community can no longer afford to ignore the human rights catastrophe which is taking place in North West Pakistan in the name of the ‘War on Terror’.”

Drone warfare, ever more widely used from month to month from the Bush through the Obama administrations, has seen very little meaningful public debate. We don’t ask questions – our minds straying no nearer these battlefields than in the coming decades the bodies of our young people will – that is, if the chaos our war making engenders doesn’t bring the battlefields to us. An expanding network of devastatingly lethal covert actions spreading throughout the developing world passes with minimal concern or comment.

So who does Fazillah blame? Who does one blame when confronted with the actions of a machine? Our Pakistani friend asks, “What kind of a democracy is America where people do not ask these questions?” Becoming an actual democracy, with an actual choice at election-time between war and peace rather than between political machines vying for the chance to bring us war, seems to many Americans, if some of the less-reported polls are to be believed, a near-unachievable goal. The U.S. has become a process that churns out war – today Afghanistan and (in any real sense) Iraq; tomorrow Iran and Pakistan, with China securely, however distantly, on the horizon - and for those of us with any concern for peace, a principled opposition to war ultimately requires a determination to make the U.S. at long last into a democracy, striving as Dr. King enjoined us, in “molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.”

It must begin with compassion - powerless compassion perhaps, perhaps only the ghost of dissent, but compassion for people like Fazillah and Aymal, - and with deciding to be human, maybe only the ghost of a human, but alive in some way and alive to what our assent, and perhaps especially our silence are accomplishing in the world. Humanity is the first thing to be won back - and then, if we have the strength, relentlessly defended - against indifference, complacency, and, above all, inaction. If enough of us refuse to be machines, if enough of us refuse enough, can democracy, and even peace, not be at last achieved? But first comes the refusal.

Fazillah wants a peaceful life. She doesn’t want to see any more people killed, any more ghosts like that of her husband. Any more bodies, burned (as she recalls) so charred that they are almost unrecognizable one from another.

“I don’t want this to happen to anyone,” says Fazillah. I don’t want any children to be left without parents.”

And,” she adds, “I want the U.S. troops to leave.”

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