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Monday, 27 August 2012

My enemy’s enemy is my friend

Granted asylum by Ecuador, Julian Assange remains a house guest -albeit one with very limited options- at their embassy in London. As the arguments continue about the rights and wrongs of his case, one is tempted to paraphrase that Norwegian football commentator: “John Pilger, George Galloway, Tony Benn, Michael Moore, Oliver Stone … your boy took a hell of a beating.”
Only, to these prominent leftists, their boy hasn’t, shouldn’t and -if they get their way- won’t take a beating. Rather than accept the obvious truth that serious allegations have been made and that there is a case to answer, they are hiding behind insinuations of dark conspiracies to ‘get’ Julian Assange. The folk who are out to get him include the American, British and Swedish governments, various secret services and god knows who else.

Let’s make one thing clear: I don’t know if Julian Assange is a rapist and neither do you. But neither do George Galloway, John Pilger and Naomi Klein, all of whom have weighed in with their own brands of idiocy and hypocrisy. Among the most unfortunate of a number of unfortunate contributions to the debate was this remark from Tony Benn, who said: “The charges are that it was a non-consensual relationship. Well, that’s very different from rape.” I can’t be alone in being intrigued by Tony’s ability to draw what he clearly thinks is a distinct line between the second thing (which, presumably, he thinks is quite serious) and the first thing (which, presumably, he thinks is not).

One of the most nauseating aspects of this tawdry show of solidarity is that we know that had the allegations against Assange been levelled at a premiership footballer or a Tory MP or (best of all) a rich banker, Galloway et al would have wanted the alleged miscreant hung, drawn and quartered. The sad truth is that their visceral hatred of the United States has blinded them to the faults of a fellow traveller, to the extent that their judgement is seriously impaired; they think that Assange’s strike rate against the Great Satan puts him somehow above the law.
What makes it worse is that their belief in the Wikileaks cause allows them to be comfortable with the notion of belittling the rape allegations, which in turn belittles the crime of rape itself and –effectively- smears the two women who have made the allegations. The result is a defence that has been, at times, about as sophisticated as saying: Who cares about a couple of chicks out to make a ‘kiss-and-tell’ buck? They are probably on the CIA payroll, anyway.

There are those who would argue that Julian Assange is a special case and it is certainly true that his political activities tell us a lot about him. Wikileaks wields significant power without having to worry about anything as tedious as democratic accountability. It has also broken various national laws on espionage; had these laws been broken by you or I, we would have been put in jail for a very long time. Assange has made a big name for himself as the self-appointed arbiter of when to disclose classified information in ‘the public interest’. In disclosing this information, he has taken no consideration of the possibility of dangerous repercussions, no consideration of any possible sensitivity with respect to national and international security issues.

The request for his extradition has been passed by three independent UK courts. Assange may be an unusually significant person, but if you believe that every person, significant or insignificant, is equally answerable to the rule of law, there is no convincing argument against him being compelled to go to Sweden to defend himself. There is, of course, some irony in the fact that the extradition request comes from a country that is generally held up as an exemplar by so-called political ‘progressives’.

I know, from his actions, that Julian Assange is a hypocrite who believes that the rule of law should not apply to him in the same way that it applies to ordinary people. But I don’t know whether or not he is a rapist. The only people who know that are Assange himself and the two women making the allegations.

This matter is for the Swedish authorities and, if necessary, a Swedish court to decide.

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