AUKUS, Assange, and the “seething pathologies” of the American Security State

May 12, 2023
Julian Assange digital art

We are permitting ourselves no character of our own under the architecture of the Alliance. It means we’ve accepted the status of a kind of client state, or American territory. I won’t say the 51st state. It means we’ve got even less independence than a US governor would have, former Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr says in conversation with ABC LNL host Phillip Adams.

Phillip Adams: There is a simple question that I want to put to you: Why is Julian Assange still there [Belmarsh prison]? Why is the US so determined to hold him?

Bob Carr: It’s almost a self-loathing in one corner of the American security state. At a time when American dominance, leadership, primacy is challenged, not least because of their own seething pathologies, and… America with the manifestations of a failed state. Assange getting away with exposing an American war crime. An undoubted American war crime. You can see it on video by typing in Collateral Murder. American serviceman from an Apache helicopter killing civilians, shooting twelve civilians on the ground during the appalling war in Iraq. It’s a challenge to the American psychology. And Pompeo, who was Trump’s second secretary of state, was activated to raise this and to pursue it. And there’s a pathology in one part of the American character that wants to see this to the end. And the end is a very grim one, it means someone receiving a sentence of 175 years and dying in a very isolated prison on the plains of Oklahoma.

The whistleblower who gave the material to Assange. The very brave, altogether admirable Chelsea Manning, walks free today because of a commutation extended, to his very great credit, by President Barak Obama. So the American who gave the information to the Australian walks free. But the Australian who published the information continues to be pursued with all the vengeful fury of the American security state. And that is the argument that enables an Australian Prime Minister to say to his American counterpart – ‘Listen, I can’t defend this before the public opinion of my own country’. And that’s a pretty powerful argument. That’s the ultimate, killer argument you use with the Americans. Your guy’s gone free, you’re still pursuing ours…

Think of this analogy. Think of an Australian based in Oxford who’s exposed the mistreatment of Muslims in Kashmir by the Indian government, or of the Uyghur minority, the Uyghurs, in Xinjiang province, by the Chinese state.

And imagine if India or China, in these cases, said ‘hang on’ you’ve published online our state secrets. Discussion notes of the politburo or of the Indian Cabinet. We’ve got an extradition arrangement with London and we’re going to bring you back to Beijing, or Delhi, to go on trial, because you’ve offended the national security laws of India, or in the other case study, of China. Now we would see that at once as entirely intolerable. Yet that is precisely the analogy that applies to Assange – not a US citizen – but being plucked out of London to be put on trial in Virginia. No one imagines that he is a spy. But being put on trial under the US espionage act. And that is a threat, if you think about it, to anyone, anywhere in the world, who publishes anything the US state brands secret. They can be prosecuted under the 1917 US espionage act and offered up to the mores of America’s notoriously cruel justice system.

There are arguments about America that resonate. About freedom of the media, every bit as important as what you’ve explored on your program several times, the principles enshrined in the US Supreme Court – a decision by a very different US Supreme Court – about Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. I put it this way Phillip: No one could argue that the American people and the world weren’t entitled to all that information compiled by the US defence department about the history of American involvement in Vietnam.

Could anyone say [now] that the world was not entitled to know? That American troops in an Apache helicopter murdered people on the ground?

Phillip Adams: And exulted in it!

Bob Carr: And exulted in it. The were quite jocose as they laughed about what they were doing. The recording that you can reach through Collateral Murder in your search engine, they are sitting behind the gun sight camera, circling a Baghdad street, and chirping merrily to one another as they picked their victim and punched bullets into twelve unarmed civilians, including a wounded man lying in the gutter.

Now, the world is entitled to know about that.

This was a war crime. We know about it because Chelsea Manning, now walking free, gave the information to an Australian who published it.

Phillip Adams: Bob, this talks to the very nature of our Alliance, doesn’t it?

Bob Carr: It does. If we don’t have the confidence and maturity to say to our partners, the Americans, this is – “Mr President, I don’t think you appreciate how important it is to Australian opinion”, then we are permitting ourselves no character of our own under the architecture of the Alliance. It means we’ve accepted the status of a kind of client state, or American territory. I won’t say the 51st state. It means we’ve got even less independence than a US governor would have.

Really we’re like Puerto Rico or Guam, up against the power of Washington. … We’ve got out of the habit of having fruitful arguments with the Americans. We’re now too cowed to think about that. We are loyal to the Alliance obligation to the extent of giddy excess. Even to the point where, under AUKUS, we’re making, we’re giving effect to the biggest transfer of wealth outside this country, that has ever taken place in our history.

And in that context of that massive subsidy to US shipbuilding, if we haven’t got the confidence to say “Mr President, I am returning to this matter, I’m not going to let it go, the Australian public want me to say to you, if I can put it candidly, as friends, as buddies, as mates: just drop the Assange matter and do it now, because I’m afraid of what will happen to his health in Belmarsh prison.”

Phillip Adams: I’m glad you raised AUKUS. Because in this context, Julian looks like a very, very small chess piece.

Bob Carr: In this context, it’s worth less than 5 minutes of the President’s time. Here you’ve got an American ally that makes itself a nuclear target by hosting several American communication facilities. We’ve committed ourselves it seems implicitly, if this is the real meaning of AUKUS, to entering war against China on day 1 of any conflict. We better pray, pray, fervently to the goddess of fortune that that conflict, that war does not come about. It would be a disaster for us, we’d be a surrogate target. In that context, if we haven’t got the confident character that enables us to say to the Yanks, ‘You’ve got to trust our judgement on this. You must, you must drop this’.

Then, what confidence are we going to have in talking to the Americans should a conflict with China come about?


This is an edited extract of Bob Carr’s interview with Philip Adams on Late Night Live, ‘Bob Carr on the case to free Julian Assange’, May 8, 2023 and transcribed from audio by Pearls and Irritations.

Listen to the full interview here:


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