Something’s rotten in the state of a bank

By Saul Landau

Fish rots. Bacteria work their way down from the head and produce the stench that provoked Marcellus: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” He and Horatio had followed Hamlet, beckoned by the ghost of his father, the former King. The ghost verified what Hamlet calls “things rank and gross in nature” among those who rule Denmark, which he also calls an “unweeded garden.” At the play’s end, invaders advance. Hamlet’s assessment proved correct, but he procrastinated.

The modern ghost(s) delivered similar messages to Julian Assange, who used twenty-first century theater — cyberspace — to reveal the stench emanating from the head of the large rotting fish, located in Washington, D.C.

WikiLeaks a trove of evidence governments and big banks had kept secret. Some documents show dubious activity and plotting. U.S. embassy cables from Tegucigalpa proved Washington knew the 2009 Honduras coup lacked legitimacy, as did its new “democratic” government. Nevertheless, Obama provided the regime’s thugs with the thin veneer of respectability because they served U.S. interests. Honduran killer squads who “pacified” the country after the military goons had arrested and deported the elected President (Zelaya) continue to assassinate opponents, including journalists and union leaders.

Secretary of State Clinton not only supports this façade of democracy, but urges Latin American countries, often unsuccessfully, to recognize America’s bloody bastard child. Should Assange’s baring of diplomatic messages receive the blame for such hypocrisy?

Cables from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana provided Congress with information vital to allocating money to “dissidents,” assuming Members evaluate evidence before affirming support for “money grubbing” and “fractious” Cubans who remain unknown in their own country. The cables acknowledge U.S. torture, illegal detention and criminal activities in several countries – secret because the enemy might learn of such actions? –concerning dumping toxic waste in Africa, mal-treatment of prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay, and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The most recent target of Assange’s ghostly behavior – truth-telling as major media accepts the thin tissue of lies that cover crimes of state – is Bank of America, which last month joined MasterCard and PayPal, and stopped processing payments for WikiLeaks. BoA justified its action by citing WikiLeaks’ possible illegal activities. In 2009, Assange told Computer World he had revealing documents from Bank of America. In 2010, these documents might “take the bastards [big banks]down,” he added. (blogs.forbes.com/…/wikileaks-julian-assange-wants-to-spill-your-corporate-secrets/ and http://www.prwatch.org/node/9845)

One BoA executive “lost” a hard drive with many gigabytes. The Bank engaged in dubious foreclosure procedures on homes previously financed by Countrywide Financial, bought by BoA in 2008. The Bank’s stock plummeted right after the WikiLeaks rumor surfaced. Wall St. suspected Countrywide, the subprime mortgage king, had engaged in “unscrupulous or fraudulent lending practices.”

If Wikileaks published incriminating documents they “would not only reignite political pressure on Bank of America and other top mortgage servicers, but… also strengthen the case of investors pressuring the big banks to buy back tens of billions in soured mortgages. “ (NYT, Jan 2, 2011)

Mighty bank executives and U.S. government bureaucrats trembled when they thought their deeds and words might become public. Bullies who circumvented law and morality to achieve their ends now righteously demand “legal processes” against Julian Assange. One leaker – Assange has not admitted contact with him — Private Bradley Manning, is held in solitary confinement at the Marine Corps Brig, Quantico, Virginia, and faces court-martial in 2011.

Although Assange’s case gets much media attention, few journalists have asked the obvious question: since Sweden wants him for questioning regarding accusations of sexual offenses, why doesn’t Sweden send investigators to question him in England rather than issue an INTERPOL alert to 188 nations – and thus generate maximum publicity around the idea that he’s a dangerous criminal? Swedish officials knew Assange’s British address where a judge’s order confined him. Assange’s possibly unscrupulous sexual relationships with two women hardly merit full-scale extradition. He rightfully suspects, if England extradites him, the Swedish government would send him to Washington where he might face charges under the 1917 Espionage Act.

Some fellow journalists stand in the front line of his firing squad. Judy (once Judith) Miller called Assange “a bad journalist.” She told her FOX public that “he didn’t care at all about attempting to verify the information that he was putting out or determine whether or not it would hurt anyone.” Miller’s unverified New York Times stories about Iraqi accumulation of weapons of mass destruction helped rally support for the invasion of Iraq, and the subsequent deaths of countless Iraqis and 4,430 American soldiers.

Without fourth estate protection, the U.S. public has few advocates. Ralph Nader argues for praising Assange and others who leaked information to him. “All over the country people are pissed off. They hate Wall Street. They know they are being gouged. They know they are slipping behind. They know their kids will not be as well off as they were, and they were not that well off. But no one is putting it together.” (http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_left_has_nowhere_to_go_20110102/)

Unlike Hamlet, Assange didn’t procrastinate. I also applaud him.

Saul Landau’s new film WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP premiered in December at the Havana Film Festival.

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