Thursday, August 16, 2012

If I never hear of Julian Assange again will still be too soon, especially as young Bradley Manning is getting a far rougher deal. And Pussy Riot will get to know their fate today

So that stupid little prick Julian Assange has managed to get himself in the headlines again. It’s a shame that Bradley Manning, the source of all the embarrassing stuff Assange published under the guise of striking a blow for freedom and democracy, isn’t getting an equal amount of publicity to highlight his plight. I suspect it is because, whatever else might be the case, Assange is essentially a publicity-seeker whereas Manning is a rather naive idealist. And in the great scheme of things that means the score so far is Assange 1-0 Manning.

I’m prepared to accept the truth of Britain’s claim that they have not struck a deal with the U.S. to get Assange into the Yankee clutch, although it will no be lost on them that once Assange is in Swedish custody - make that if Assange ever gets into Swedish custody, because that is by no means certain - the U.S. will exert enormous pressure on Sweden to extradite him further into their hands. I should imagine that as far as Britain is concerned, Assange is just an irritating problem they want to see the back of.

It will not help his case when it is discussed over sherry and Bath Olivers at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office that Britain was one of the many countries he made a fool of by publishing confidential memos and emails. But unlike the U.S., the Brits aren’t particularly vindictive and all they want is to see the back of them. It would also seem they are on solid ground when they plead that all we are doing, squire, is our duty under various extradition laws. I honestly don’t think the Government give a flying fuck what happens to Assange as long as they can get him out of their hair.
Another intriguing aspect is whether Assange is all that innocent as far as the sexual assault charges which the Swedes are bringing against him.

We all assume that all his shenanigans in holing up with the Ecuadorians to escape extradition is all to do with his fear that the sexual assault charges are just a front to get him into U.S. hands in the long term. That, it seems to me, is to do the Swedes something of a disfavour. Any suggestion that Sweden is in some way the handmaiden of the U.S. really does not square up with its past as a refuge for U.S. soldiers either escaping the draft during the Vietnam War or deserting and heading for the country believing it to be a safe haven. Nor can I think of any ‘hold’ the U.S. might have over Sweden or any leverage it might have.

Then there’s the rather obvious point that as the Swedes have brought charges of sexual assault against Assange, they sincerely believe that he has at the very least a case to answer. That, of course, present all right-thinking lefties with a dilemma: could it really be true that one of their more recent heroes is quite possibly a male chauvinist pig. Well, yes it could, actually.

What Assange chose Ecuador and what might be in it for the country is also something of a puzzle. William Hague, the British foreign minister, has already made clear that Britain - and few other countries for that matter - accept that there is a concept of ‘diplomatic immunity’ and that despite Ecuador granting Assange ‘political asylum’, they will arrest him at the earliest opportunity and that the chances of him getting out of the country are pretty slim.

And Bradley Manning? Well, let me say it again: the poor chap seems to be getting to raw end of the deal whichever way you look at it, irrespective of what he might or might not have done. I would be a lot happier if more agitation were being done on his behalf. From what I have read, he is something of a mixed-up kid, but the crucial detail as far as I am concerned is that he doesn’t strike me as a publicity-seeker. Actually, when Julian Assange is around there doesn’t really seem any room for another. So spare a thought for young Bradley.

. . .

It would be rather disingenuous to describe Russia’s Pussy Riot trio as publicity-seekers because that’s exactly what they are but in a rather more, comparatively, admirable sense the Jules Assange. The essential point is that the publicity they were seeking was not for themselves but for the ‘cause’ they want to highlight, whether or not you agree with it.

But their case, too, is perhaps a little less straightforward than many would have us believe, for we must, in all honesty, accept that for many church-going Russians what the trio did was blasphemous, irrespective of their cause. They might argue: OK, we accept you have a legitimate right to express your view, but doing so on an altar and on what we regard as sacred ground is really not the way to go about it. (In fact, it is worth asking the question here why, apparently, atheism likes to be seen as going hand in glove with ‘right-thinking’ and that ‘believers’ are automatically thought be ‘right-thinkers’ as being something of a sandwich short of a picnic. Certainly, that’s a generalisation, but it does seem to be one which holds to a great extent.)

I mention Pussy Riot because the world and Woking will know their fate tomorrow. Will the go to jail for several years or will the get a suspended sentence?

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