greenwald + women against rape = what you should know about the julian assange case

I've been avidly following the strange tale of Julian Assange, Ecuador, Sweden, extradition, the lying UK media, and people who suddenly care so much about prosecuting sexual offenders. (This has been an excellent use of Tala's Twitter account.) One of the biggest takeaways has been the constant lies, distortion, and misrepresentation of the facts of this story by the mainstream media. The other is how little this has to do with protecting women from sexual assault.

On the latter, I highly recommend reading a piece in the Guardian written by Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff, of the group Women Against Rape. I urge you to read the whole thing. For me, it answers every question about what's really going on.
We are Women Against Rape but we do not want Julian Assange extradited

When Julian Assange was first arrested, we were struck by the unusual zeal with which he was being pursued for rape allegations.

It seems even clearer now, that the allegations against him are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder and destruction.

Justice for an accused rapist does not deny justice for his accusers. But in this case justice is being denied both to accusers and accused.

The judicial process has been corrupted. On the one hand, the names of the women have been circulated on the internet; they have been trashed, accused of setting a "honey trap", and seen their allegations dismissed as "not real rape". On the other hand, Assange is dealt with by much of the media as if he were guilty, though he has not even been charged. It is not for us to decide whether or not the allegations are true and whether what happened amounts to rape or sexual violence – we don't have all the facts and what has been said so far has not been tested. But we do know that rape victims' right to anonymity and defendants' right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty are both crucial to a just judicial process.

Swedish and British courts are responsible for how the women's allegations have been handled. As with every rape case, the women are not in charge of the case, the state is.

Whether or not Assange is guilty of sexual violence, we do not believe that is why he is being pursued. Once again women's fury and frustration at the prevalence of rape and other violence, is being used by politicians to advance their own purposes. The authorities care so little about violence against women that they manipulate rape allegations at will, usually to increase their powers, this time to facilitate Assange's extradition or even rendition to the US. That the US has not presented a demand for his extradition at this stage is no guarantee that they won't do so once he is in Sweden, and that he will not be tortured as Bradley Manning and many others, women and men, have. Women Against Rape cannot ignore this threat.

In over 30 years working with thousands of rape victims who are seeking asylum from rape and other forms of torture, we have met nothing but obstruction from British governments. Time after time, they have accused women of lying and deported them with no concern for their safety. We are currently working with three women who were raped again after having been deported – one of them is now destitute, struggling to survive with the child she conceived from the rape; the other managed to return to Britain and won the right to stay, and one of them won compensation.

Assange has made it clear for months that he is available for questioning by the Swedish authorities, in Britain or via Skype. Why are they refusing this essential step to their investigation? What are they afraid of?

In 1998 Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London following an extradition request from Spain. His responsibility for the murder and disappearance of at least 3,000 people, and the torture of 30,000 people, including the rape and sexual abuse of more than 3,000 women often with the use of dogs, was never in doubt. Despite a lengthy legal action and a daily picket outside parliament called by Chilean refugees, including women who had been tortured under Pinochet, the British government reneged on its obligation to Spain's criminal justice system and Pinochet was allowed to return to Chile. Assange has not even been charged; yet the determination to have him extradited is much greater than ever it was with Pinochet. (Baltasar Garzón, whose request for extradition of Pinochet was denied, is representing Assange.) And there is a history of Sweden (and Britain) rendering asylum seekers at risk of torture at the behest of the US.

Like women in Sweden and everywhere, we want rapists caught, charged and convicted. We have campaigned for that for more than 35 years, with limited success. We are even having to campaign to prevent rape victims being accused of making false allegations and imprisoned for it. Two women who reported visibly violent attacks by strangers were given two and three year prison sentences.

But does anyone really believe that extraditing Julian Assange will strengthen women against rape? And do those supporting his extradition to Sweden care if he is then extradited to the US and tortured for telling the public what we need to know about those who govern us?
On the media's gross and purposeful distortion and outright lies about the Wikileaks-Assange case, we can turn first to Glenn Greenwald, now also writing in the Guardian.
The bizarre, unhealthy, blinding media contempt for Julian Assange

It is possible to protect the rights of the complainants in Sweden and Assange's rights against political persecution, but a vindictive thirst for vengeance is preventing that

Earlier this week, British lawyer and legal correspondent for the New Statesman David Allen Green generated a fair amount of attention by announcing that he would use his objective legal expertise to bust what he called "legal myths about the Assange extradition." These myths, he said, are being irresponsibly spread by Assange defenders and "are like 'zombie facts' which stagger on even when shot down."

In addition to his other credentials, Green – like virtually the entire British press – is a long-time and deeply devoted Assange-basher , and his purported myth-busting was predictably regurgitated by those who reflexively grasp onto anything that reflects poorly on western establishmentarians' public enemy No1. It's really worth examining what Green argued to understand the behavior in which Assange detractors engage to advance this collective vendetta, and also to see how frequently blatant ideological agendas masquerade as high-minded, objective legal expertise.

But before getting to that, let us pause to reflect on a truly amazing and revealing fact, one that calls for formal study in several academic fields of discipline. Is it not remarkable that one of the very few individuals over the past decade to risk his welfare, liberty and even life to meaningfully challenge the secrecy regime on which the American national security state (and those of its obedient allies ) depends just so happens to have become – long before he sought asylum from Ecuador – the most intensely and personally despised figure among the American and British media class and the British "liberal" intelligentsia?

In 2008 – two years before the release of the "collateral murder" video, the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, and the diplomatic cables – the Pentagon prepared a secret report which proclaimed WikiLeaks to be an enemy of the state and plotted ways to destroy its credibility and reputation. But in a stroke of amazing luck, Pentagon operatives never needed to do any of that, because the establishment media in the US and Britain harbor at least as much intense personal loathing for the group's founder as the US government does, and eagerly took the lead in targeting him. Many people like to posit the US national security state and western media outlets as adversarial forces, but here – as is so often the case – they have so harmoniously joined in common cause.
And finally, also from the Guardian, what lies beneath.
Don't lose sight of why the US is out to get Julian Assange

Considering he made his name with the biggest leak of secret government documents in history, you might imagine there would be at least some residual concern for Julian Assange among those trading in the freedom of information business. But the virulence of British media hostility towards the WikiLeaks founder is now unrelenting.

This is a man, after all, who has yet to be charged, let alone convicted, of anything. But as far as the bulk of the press is concerned, Assange is nothing but a "monstrous narcissist", a bail-jumping "sex pest" and an exhibitionist maniac. After Ecuador granted him political asylum and Assange delivered a "tirade" from its London embassy's balcony, fire was turned on the country's progressive president, Rafael Correa, ludicrously branded a corrupt "dictator" with an "iron grip" on a benighted land.

The ostensible reason for this venom is of course Assange's attempt to resist extradition to Sweden (and onward extradition to the US) over sexual assault allegations – including from newspapers whose record on covering rape and violence against women is shaky, to put it politely. But as the row over his embassy refuge has escalated into a major diplomatic stand-off, with the whole of South America piling in behind Ecuador, such posturing looks increasingly specious.

Can anyone seriously believe the dispute would have gone global, or that the British government would have made its asinine threat to suspend the Ecuadorean embassy's diplomatic status and enter it by force, or that scores of police would have surrounded the building, swarming up and down the fire escape and guarding every window, if it was all about one man wanted for questioning over sex crime allegations in Stockholm?

To get a grip on what is actually going on, rewind to WikiLeaks' explosive release of secret US military reports and hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables two years ago. They disgorged devastating evidence of US war crimes and collusion with death squads in Iraq on an industrial scale, the machinations and lies of America's wars and allies, its illegal US spying on UN officials – as well as a compendium of official corruption and deceit across the world.

WikiLeaks provided fuel for the Arab uprisings. It didn't just deliver information for citizens to hold governments everywhere to account, but crucially opened up the exercise of US global power to democratic scrutiny. Not surprisingly, the US government made clear it regarded WikiLeaks as a serious threat to its interests from the start, denouncing the release of confidential US cables as a "criminal act".

Vice-president Joe Biden has compared Assange to a "hi-tech terrorist". Shock jocks and neocons have called for him to be hunted down and killed. Bradley Manning, the 24-year-old soldier accused of passing the largest trove of US documents to WikiLeaks, who has been held in conditions described as "cruel and inhuman" by the UN special rapporteur on torture, faces up to 52 years in prison. [Read more here.]

No comments: