So apparently the purpose of Julian Assange’s extradition to Sweden for alleged sex crimes is really part of a US “witch hunt against WikiLeaks“. Apparently the end-game is for the US to have the Swede’s extradite him to the US to face alleged unspecified charges relating to Wikileaks. Anyone else sick of this bullshit?
First, if the US has something against Wikileaks (and I’m sure they do), it’s not a witch hunt. Witches, or at least the sorts of witch that are subject to witch hunts, don’t exist. That’s what makes a witch hunt a witch hunt. On the other hand Wikileaks DID leak (amongst other things) secret US documents. That’s something of a problem. One can question whether Assange’s activities were actually illegal (and I don’t know). If they are, one can certainly suggest they shouldn’t be (although there are compelling arguments why they should be). But surely to hell it wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that leaking secret military and diplomatic documents might create legal difficulties for all concerned – what did Assange think would happen? Sure, Assange’s Wikileaks activities might have been part of his political agenda, fair enough, but having a political agenda doesn’t make a crime (if that’s what it was) less of a crime.
Second, the “martyr for free speech routine” is getting old fast. In his screed, Assange accused the US of “dragging us all into a dark, repressive world in which journalists live under fear of prosecution”. You mean, like Ecuador? Which country, after all, recently convicted a journalist and three newspaper directors for “insulting” President Correa (you know, the blow-hard who’s now preening on about Julian Assange and human rights), and sentenced them to prison terms varying from 3 to 4 years (and I’m sure Ecuadorian prisons are “charming”) AND imposed $40 million in fine. Since 2008, 6 Ecuadorian journalists have been convicted of similar “crimes” and 10 others are facing criminal prosecution. The “persecuted journalist” story takes a bit of a beating when you’re seeking refuge in (and serving as a propaganda tool for) a country notorious for…um… persecuting journalists. If the UK does let him go, Assange might want to check that Wikileaks didn’t say anything mean about President Correa! Just saying…
As an aside, reading the list of world leaders who supports the guy, kinda makes me want to hate him on general principle. I’ve discussed President Correa. In 2010, after Julian Assange was arrested, Vladimir Putin condemned his arrest as an assault on democracy – well Putin would know an assault on democracy when he sees one (see, for example, the recent prosecution of the punk bank Pussy Riot). And listening to the government of Venezuela, which makes a habit of harassing and prosecuting journalists critical of the government, backing Assange makes me want to wretch. Sure, he has no control over who his “supporters” are, but with friends like that…
Third, let’s drop the pretence that Ecuador is standing up for human rights. Last I heard, there wasn’t an international human right to skip bail to avoid sexual assault charges. If there were, I’m sure Roman Polanski would have invoked it by now. Even if you believe that Assange is a secular saint, being a political activist doesn’t give one immunity from being held accountable for allegations of committing real crimes (as opposed to “insulting the president” or whatever passes for a crime in Ecuador, Venezuala or Russia). Of course, now that Ecuador has gone down this road, maybe the UK should start granting amnesty to Ecuadorian journalist – surely they have a better claim.
Finally, the entire conspiracy theory is ridiculous. If the US wanted to extradite Assange (and I’m sure they do), they could just as easily get him extradited from the UK as from Sweden. In fact, Sweden adds an unnecessary complication, since it involves getting Assange extradited from TWO countries, rather than one (first from the UK on a rape charge, than from Sweden on an espionage/hacking/whatever charge). Sure, this story would make sense if Sweden had an extradition treaty with the US, and the UK didn’t, but that isn’t the case. It would make sense if, in a theory propounded by Assange’s lawyer, the UK wouldn’t extradite Assange if he faced the death penalty in the US, while Sweden would. Except that theory is inconsistent with both the Swedish government’s long-standing opposition to the death penalty and the provisions of the US-Sweden Extradition Treaty (and specifically Article VIII thereof). It would make sense if Sweden were a banana republic, without an independent judiciary and not covered by the same EU-wide conventions on human rights as the UK except, well, it isn’t a banana republic, it has an independent judiciary, and it’s a member of the EU. In short, it makes no sense.
Of course, for the true believers, the fact that the conspiracy theory is ridiculous is a sign of the brilliance of the conspiracy (although given the genuine incompetence of the US government and its intelligence services, any suggestion of brilliance on their part is further indication that the conspiracy theory doesn’t hold water). For everyone else, the fact that the conspiracy theory is ridiculous is a sign that the conspiracy theory is ridiculous.
Set the conspiracy against the alternative narrative, namely that, (i) the US is probably eager to get their hands on Assange, and (ii) independent of his Wikileaks activities, Assange might have run afoul of Sweden’s decidedly post-modern sexual assault statute, and the Swedes, who apparently take sex crimes quite seriously, want to get their hands on him. Is that so hard to believe? Sweden is, after all, is a country that takes gender equality serious (consider the story of the Swedish politician who wanted men to pee sitting down in the name of equality), is it any surprise that the Swedes take allegations of sexual assault seriously (that, after all, has been a key plank of feminist activism in the West for decades). Note, this doesn’t require you to doubt that the US wants to get their hands on Assange, or that they will do everything in their power to do so. It only requires you to accept that Sweden might be doing something that is entirely Swedish. Mind you, once you accept that narrative, you’re struck by the fact that, for some reason (awareness of guilt, maybe?), rather than confront charges that he insists are groundless, Assange is doing everything possible (including blowing the quarter million quid his celebrity friends posted as his bail. Michael Moore’s posted some of that money and will likely lose it – hey, I never said Assange was all bad) to avoid facing charges in a socially democratic EU member with a well-regarded legal system… well… you draw your own conclusions.