To Laugh or Weep: The Crazy Assange Case
by Eric Margolis: Syria
and the Invisible Hand of Foreign Intervention
season is upon us. First, three girls from the Russian punk band
Pussy Riot are on trial in Moscow for the heresy of mocking Vlad
Putin and the Orthodox Church.
Second, a Swedish
public relations firm dropped teddy bears over Belarus, making fun
of its humorless dictator, Alexander Lukashenko. He ordered Belarussian
air defenses on high alert.
Now comes the
uproar in London over provocateur and bad boy Julian Assange. It’s
hard to know whether to laugh or cry.
of Wikileaks, sought political asylum two months ago in Ecuador’s
London Embassy to escape Britain’s attempts to deport him to Sweden.
wanted for questioning by Swedish police over seemingly flimsy charges
by two dubious female friends of his of "sexual misbehavior,"
whatever that is. So far, Assange has not been charged with any
But if Assange
returns to Sweden, he risks being extradited to the United States
where his massive revelations of US government diplomatic and military
emails infuriated Washington and led to demands he be charged with
treason and espionage, both of which carry the death penalty. Sending
Assange to the US and the risk of execution would probably violate
the European Union’s laws and human rights conventions.
Assange would get a fair trial in the US which is gripped by national
security mania. At best, he would likely face a long sentence in
solitary confinement in one of America’s dreaded ‘supermax’ prisons
under conditions human rights groups call torture.
In a clear
violation of the Vienna Convention, Britain threatens to arrest
Assange by invading Ecuador’s London Embassy, provoking a major
diplomatic crisis that would threaten its own diplomatic posts around
the world to invasion.
Why, one asks,
is Britain stirring up such a storm when Assange was only a visitor?
Australia has ducked this issue, preferring to throw its citizen
to the wolves. Sweden and Britain have come across as being rather
too compliant with US demands.
everyone knows that Washington is behind efforts to corral Assange
and ship him to America for trial though his alleged misdeeds were
all done outside the US.
We are seeing
the relentless extension of US law abroad: under this new doctrine,
those who commit acts deemed hostile to the US can be arrested or
kidnapped overseas – even if they had never visited the United States.
defying a very angry Uncle Sam by sheltering Assange. A storm of
Yankee fury will fall on this small Latin American leftist republic
that is friendly to Venezuela, Cuba and, gasp, Iran.
may rally behind plucky Ecuador as traditional anti-Americanism
and claims of Yankee bullying are aroused.
president, Rafael Correa, is likely to emerge as a new Latin American
hero. EU critics will lambaste Britain as a human rights violator
and American toady.
over the whole Wikileaks business, it’s difficult to conclude that
the US was seriously damaged or endangered by the emails released
by edited Wikileaks. There was nothing life-threatening or earth-shaking
in them. But the leaks were terribly embarrassing for Washington,
revealing to the public its often muscular exercise of power, strong-arming
other nations, and often dim opinions of so-called allies – nothing
we professional journalists didn’t already know.
was a crusading journalist who succeeded in exposing the dirty underwear
of big government. His Wikileaks showed that the US-led war in Afghanistan
was truly lost, contrary to Washington’s cheery spin – just a much
as the famed "Pentagon Papers" of the 1970’s revealed
and debunked official the lies about the Vietnam War. At the time,
Daniel Ellsberg, the patriotic official who released the "Pentagon
Papers," was also denounced as a traitor.
that Assange is annoyingly arrogant and a relentless publicity-seeker.
But Assange’s real crime is "lese majeste," a French offense
of annoying or embarrassing the monarch. Washington is reacting
like Putin or Lukashenko.
We now wait
with baited breathe to see if those naughty Pussy Riot girls are
locked away in one of Russia’s ghastly prisons; if Lukashenko’s
air force bombs Sweden’s teddy bear factory; and if Uncle Sam moves
heaven and earth to squash the annoying pest, Julian Assange.
him mail] is the author of War
at the Top of the World and the new book, American
Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the
West and the Muslim World. See his
© 2012 Eric Margolis
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