The Wikileaks/arrest of Julian Assange saga rumbles on. Assange has now been granted bail after well-wishers stumped up £250,000 surety and on condition that he lives at the house of one well-wisher and doesn’t leave. Although I am less than convinced by all the claims that Wikileaks is striking a blow for freedom, I still suspect that somehow Assange is being stitched up, or is in the initial stages of being stitched up by the U.S., which never takes too kindly to being made to look stupid. But having said that, just how they want to do it is not very straightforward. All the ingredients are there, but it somehow doesn’t quite hang together.
The ingredients: Assange is accused of rape and sexual assault in Sweden, but the charges are later dropped. He had reportedly asked to see the evidence against him, but none was provided. He reportedly asked the Swedish authorities whether he could
leave the country for Britain and they agreed. One alleged rape claim is being made by a campaigning feminist who had previously published on the web polemics urging women to ‘get even’ with men. She was the first woman Assange slept with in Sweden on a trip there. A few days later, Assange slept with another, who then contacted the first, and I must admit that the thought has crossed my mind that the first, the campaigning feminist was rather angry that Assange should have turned to a second woman so quickly. As to the rape allegations, here is an interesting article:
The new round of rape and sexual assault claims followed one Assange was in Britain, and Sweden then applied for his extradition and issued a warrant for his arrest. He has, I don’t think, yet been formally charged, but then I don’t think he can be until he is in the custody of the Swedes. Then, so the conspiracy theory would go, Assagne is extradited to the U.S. for a severe judicial bollocking before he is locked away forever.
There are reports from the U.S. that some congressmen are urging for the drafting of a law under which Assange can be charged. This seems to me rather arse-about-tip: it strikes me that revenge would be the prime motivation for doing that, which is understandly. However, revenge was never a principle in law.
Now for how it doesn’t really hand together: if the U.S. feels Assange has a case to answer, why not applied to have him extradited directly from Britain? They are seeking, in a ludicrous case, the extradition of a Gary McKinnon, another chap who upset them by hacking into the Pentagon website and thus demonstrating how poor its cyber defence was. In fact, hurt pride seems to play a major part in both cases, and it might easily be possible to show that America’s dented ego more or less drives its foreign policy.
Then there is also the fact that of all the European countries which might, in some theoretical conspiracy, be amenable to doing the U.S.’s bidding, Sweden, a liberal-democratic country with tendencies to left-of-centrism, comes rather low on the list. It is also quite unlikely that a campaigning feminist in that liberal-democratic country would feel inclined to help out the U.S. All in all, Sweden and the U.S. are unlikely bedfellows, and it does seem rather unlikely that they have entered into some unholy alliance.
Other aspects about the whole affair which strike me as rather odd are that Assange was held in solitary confinement while he was in custody in Wandsworth prison. Why exactly? Then there is also the angle that a certain Bradley Manning, the chap suspected of having provided Wikileaks with almost all of the batch of confidential cables, is in deep shit, far deeper at the moment than la Assange, but rather fewer people are getting their knickers in a twists about him.
On Radio 4’s Today this morning we had John Pilger, a prominent left-wing commentator of this parish and cheerleader of all things left, and Janet Daley, a prominent right-wing commentator and cheerleader of all things right. I’ve always thought of Pilger as something of a self-seeking prat who rather enjoys his status as journalism’s lefty. But on this occasion I am inclined with some of the points he made. But, damn it, I also feel obliged, in all honesty, to agree with some of the points Janet Daley made, although the piece on Today and the joint interview with both was rather spoiled in that two issues — Assange’s arrest and possible extradition to Sweden and then possibly the U.S., and the whole Wikileaks leaking were conflated, which didn’t lead to much clarity. For example, Daley made the point, one which on the face of it is quite reasonable, that just as journalists such as herself and Pilger are entitled to keep their sources confidential — and (although she didn’t say so this morning) just as Wikileaks is entitled to keep its sources confidential — so the assorted diplomats whose candid comments were published by Wikileaks are also entitled to some confidentiality.
I must admit that I have a gut feeling that Assange is being stitched up, although exactly how I really couldn’t tell you. And to put that feeling into perspective, I regard the guy as something of a pillock and Wikileaks, as far as some of its claims are concerned to be fighting the good fight, as a little more dodgy than they angels they profess to be should be. This one will run and run.
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And what of Bradley Manning? Well, apart from knowing the guy’s name, I have just had to search the net for more details about him — apparently he is something of a computer whizz — which must speak volumes about the relative importance these two characters, Assange and Manning, have. One is ‘sexy news’,
the other isn’t. Why not? Perhaps Manning is better covered in the States — one report I found says that the ‘city of Berkeley (would that be the same Berkeley which has the famous university?) wants to proclaim him a war hero. Manning’s problem is that the U.S. really is the country where 99 year sentences for laughing at the president are commonplace — well, you know what I mean — so the future looks very bleak for him indeed. There was an interesting item on Radio 4’ PM programme last night claiming that a substantial amount of money Wikileaks had promised to donate to Manning’s defence fund had still not been paid. That, if true, only goes to show how much they value him.
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I had included two pictures with this entry, one of Assange and one of Manning. From the picture I have found, Assange looks rather like an unpleasant sleazeball, and Manning looks like a naive idealist. We all know how photos such as these can be horribly misleading — there is any number of pictures of Adolf Hitler being nice to his Alsation dogs — so I merely make those comments in passing. But I know who I would prefer to spend a night in the pub with and it ain’t Assange. I really wish I didn’t feel he is being stitched up. But . . .
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Finally, it is with a great deal of sadness that I have to report that Britain is back where it was last year, in snow hell, also ‘dubbed’ ‘by the nation’ Snowmageddon. But, do not despair, the world is heeding us in our hour of need: there have been food parcels from Siberia, several tons of socks from the good folk of Switzerland, the Austrians are saying special Masses and as I write there are very reliable reports that womenfolk the length and breadth of Scandanavia have formed knitskalga, the traditional knitting groups so beloved by the Swedes, Finns and Norwegians (though not, apparently, by the Dane who are far more concerned with writing petitions to the Vatican pleading for the immediate canonisation of Julian Assange), to turn out around-the-clock woolly sweaters in a variety of colours and sizes which will then be flown into Britain by the Red Cross (the Red Crescent will be making the deliveries of special halal sweaters to Bradford, Blackburn, Leicester and other towns where our Muslims brothers have taken up residence). It’s at moments like this that it is a joy to be alive.