Julian Assange And Rule Britannia
Julian Assange should be credited with presenting the mercenary nature of the major world powers including plunging their respective citizenries into financial misery, but Britain is unlikely to do the needful. Because its interests will be best served if the WikiLeaks founder is holed up in an American jail for the unforeseeable future, writes Miranda Husain
London is enjoying a Rule Britannia moment of sorts. And it has one man to thank for a return to ruling the waves; drowning out the never-ending Brexit cacophony.
Enter Julian Assange. Having lost the protection of the new Ecuad Jorian government, he is now serving time at Her Majesty’s pleasure for skipping a bail hearing back in 2012. In reality, this ought to signal the end of British involvement.
Both Sweden and the US are once more vying for extradition rights over the world’s most famous whistleblower; with Stockholm re-investigating a rape allegation. More than 70 British MPs across the political divide have petitioned the Home Secretary to ensure due process is upheld in this regard. Though in such an eventuality it would be London — not Stockholm — that must guarantee no hand-over to a third country. Similarly, Sajid Javid will have the last word on whether sexual violence trumps American national security concerns.
This is a risky game. Not least because, as a contender to the prime ministerial crown, the Home Secretary has shown scant regard for the rights of the British girl child; as the case of ISIS bride Shamima Begum underscores. Thus there is little to suggest that justice for an (alleged) adult rape victim who happens to be a foreign national will be accorded rightful attention.
Though failure on this front would be a gross misstep. Particularly, as Assange supporters are wont to talk of a desire to return to Sweden to clear his name. In somewhat sharp contrast to Laura Poitras’ documentary — Julian Assange: Risk — which highlights how its namesake dismisses the sexual allegations as a “tawdry radical feminist political position”. Before proceeding to lament that these accusations didn’t come from a single source; thereby nullifying the ‘bad woman’ card. Thus these claims must be answered.
But what mustn’t happen is ‘rendition’ to the US. Regardless of how great the dividend from doing America’s bidding; including the recently concluded mutual recognition pact that is set to govern bilateral trade in the post-Brexit era. For while Washington is carefully limiting its indictment to unlawful computer hacking — the issue remains one of freedom of information and expression. In the national interest. However, the fact that former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning is heading back to prison for contempt of court over refusing to testify against WikiLeaks hints that, if extradited to Washington, Assange may well be slapped with espionage charges.
This is quite an orchestrated fall from grace for a man once feted by global power elites as the poster boy for (un)redacted truths. Indeed, everything was cushty as long as the focus remained on the traditional and authoritarian baddies of the Cold War narrative: Russia, China and the Eurasian states, among others. Simply because this neatly fed into US imperialist hubris and geo-strategic ambition.
Yet the game- changer came in 2010, when WikiLeaks dared to publish the Afghan and Iraq War logs, the American diplomatic cables and the Guantánamo Bay files. Thereby spotlighting Washington’s code of misconduct in its foreign wars; while circumventing the Geneva Conventions to hold ‘enemy combatants’ in legal limbo. Especially chilling was aerial footage of US soldiers’ open-firing on unarmed Iraqi civilians that left 18 dead, including two Reuters journalists. All of which promptly led to Assange being recast overnight as a hostile entity in this new age of information warfare. Accused of fuelling anti-US propaganda that resulted in Al Qaeda leaders accessing data dumps as a rallying call to jihad.
Of course, absent from this contrived rhetoric is the lack of accountability that warmongering nations such as the US, Britain and their NATO allies have encountered. No one has ever stood trial for the war of aggression in Iraq; the supreme crime as per the Nuremberg principles. The international focus is now fixed on putting ISIS in the dock in that country. Elsewhere, Washington is firmly off the hook as the ICC (International Criminal Court) has decided against probing US troops as well as the CIA for alleged war crimes in Afghanistan. And while the serious charges of WikiLeaks operating in cahoots with Russian intelligence to manipulate the 2016 American elections must be resolved — so, too, must past and current US endeavours to topple regimes around the world by military force while arming certain factions in one side of uncivil wars of its own making. Washington has had he last word on proxy wars for far too long.
By lifting the lid on such atrocities committed under the false banner of humanitarian intervention and the spread of democracy — WikiLeaks aimed to redress the culpability deficit. And for this it must be applauded. For in these most modern wars, those whose lands have been targeted by the usual suspects — losing life and limb and loved ones in the process — are effectively erased from the picture. As if such deliberate and collateral damage renders them un-sentient beings unworthy of justice.
Similarly, Assange ought to be credited with presenting in meticulous and bloody detail the mercenary nature of the major world powers. Including plunging their respective citizenries into ever deeper financial misery as the state apparatus continues to profit from the lucrative business of war.
That Britain will do the needful seems unlikely. Sadly. Indeed, its interests will be best served if the WikiLeaks founder is holed up in an American jail for the unforeseeable future. After all, this is a nation no longer known for championing the underdog. And while good news for a certain Embassy Cat — who has been savouring life on the outside for the last six months — it bodes ill for his erstwhile owner. And everyone else.