This is maybe not the best title, as I’m in reasonably good company: Tony Benn, Michael Moore, Oliver Stone, Naomi Wolf, Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, and Julian Assange’s fellow countryman John Pilger. (I should also mention George Galloway and Craig Murray, although the issue was never going to make this their finest hour! Sunny Hundal points out).
This article is a good summary of the attacks by the common media on Assange and with an important commentary on this and the detail, added. Although anonymous, the details can be verified easily enough.
Much of the controversy has been boiled down to: he’s accused of rape, he should go back and face his accusers. Sounds fair enough! But. It does not actually reflect the detail of the case. It especially avoids the context, and glosses over the likelihood of Assange ending up somewhere else for a very long time indeed.
In the intelligence world, if you can’t attack someone’s message then you attack their credibility. Sexual compromising has long been such a tool. Look at the huge range of debate on Assange here. It certainly makes a change from debating the pros and cons of the US military… The latter won’t mind the distraction…
As for the alleged rape, it really does matter if the women concerned are pursuing charges. Not the position, to the best of my knowledge. There are no charges. Rather it’s the state, which had ample time to pursue it previously, and which is still being offered opportunity to pursue its questioning here (something it has done before but declines in this case, for some reason). All this gives ample impetus to Assange to suspect a different fate awaits. Billy Bragg (via Facebook) is wrong to reduce it to avoiding allegations in Sweden. Even Ecuador gets the point!
In Britain, where rape is often poorly dealt with by the police, under-prosecuted and underreported, and where 9 rape crisis centres have closed since 2003 with many more facing that possibility, reinforces the position, widely shared by many who have thought about the subject, that Assange should simply return to face the music. (Update: remarkably, the UK rape conviction rate is 58%, a lot higher than many think).
Our rape statistics remain shocking with 80,000 women suffering rape every year, and with 85% of rapists known to their victims. But, pursuing Assange, in all these particular circumstances, will do nothing for our national rape problem nor the victims. Naomi Wolf has been quite scathing over the apparent zeal that international police have suddenly adopted over these allegations, unknown in her years of working with rape victims. Naomi Klein points out that “Rape is being used in the Assange prosecution in the same way that women’s freedom was used to invade Afghanistan.”
Surely it is unfair of us to judge his guilt in the first place? Many are already calling him a rapist, just from details in the press. Others are calling the case trumped-up, looking at other details. Despite this, the large variety of detail already available implies no real case, as far as I can see. So what do people want? An arrest, a deportation, a trial? Which then collapses?
This means, rather, that this is foremostly and transparently an attempt at a political prosecution, the result of which could mean Assange is locked up for life for doing the world a great public service, spilling the beans on the American miltary.
The facts matter, as does the context, as do the likely consequences of what we support.
Seamus Milne writes more persuasively than I in the Guardian today.
Lindsey German too makes a valuable contribution.