Coalition of the willing targets messenger Assange


Julian Assange effectively conducted an inquiry into the quality of western democracy and found it wanting, if not a sham. It is well known how he did this through the WikiLeaks organisation, which published often confidential information that impugned US and allied war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and much more.

The world was shocked, and it was up to the US to choose how to react. They could opt for contrition, or they could discredit and shoot the messenger. 

Contrition would be humiliating but could save democracy by giving it a fresh start. On the other hand, pursuing Assange — as they did bin Laden — would play well at home, but elsewhere might make the US seem like an international thug that uses human rights as a smokescreen for its totalitarian behaviour and its disregard for the lives of the ordinary citizens of Afghanistan and Iraq. 

There is little doubt that they have chosen the latter. They are confident they will get Assange in the end as they got bin Laden, and they are waiting patiently for the pieces to fall into place.

The US pursuit of Assange is being played out with what is largely the cooperation of other western democracies. Last week the legal system in the UK rejected his appeal against extradition to Sweden.

Guardian columnist Amy Goodman pointed out that the UK government could overrule the court if it wanted to. It did this when it intervened in the 1998 Pinochet extradition case when it allowed the former dictator to return home to Chile. It looks as if they did a favour for Pinochet that they won't for Assange. Are crimes against humanity more forgivable than the allegations without charges that Assange is facing in Sweden?

Meanwhile US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is enjoying a warm welcome in Sweden for what is coincidentally the first such visit from a US official for years. Not surprisingly, Assange is not listed on her website among the topics for discussion. Do we need to wait for WikiLeaks to reveal the actual content of discussions, and the likelihood that Assange ranks high on the list of topics? Or have we not learned the lessons of WikiLeaks?

Rightfully Australia should have no small part to play in the fate of one of its own. But do we ourselves care whether Assange ends up with a lengthy jail sentence or possibly the death penalty for his whistle blowing? 

Some do. Last December former prime minister Malcolm Fraser and several dozen public figures called on then Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd to ensure Assange is protected from 'rendition' to the US. The signers expressed concern that 'the chances of Mr Assange receiving a fair trial in the United States appear remote'. 

Unfortunately Rudd's initial support for Assange was not sustained, and on Thursday his successor Bob Carr almost laughably reduced the issue to quantifying the support Assange has received, insisting that 'there's been no Australian who's received more consular support in a comparable period than Mr Assange'.

As if Carr, as a self-professed man of letters, cannot see the broader implications of Assange's plight for the future of democracy.

Michael MullinsMichael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street.


Topic tags: Michael Mullins, Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, Amy Goodman, Hillary Clinton, Bob Carr, Kevin Rudd



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Existing comments

Few nations other than the US would nurture people of high moral principle such as Bradley Manning, or even the moral judgements of such professional tongue-biters as the US's diplomatic service. Through Wikileaks, Manning has allowed the dictators of the world know what US diplomats really think of their shabby brutality. The pursuit of Julian Assange, however, shows that even the US is not beyond shooting messengers.
David Arthur | 04 June 2012

i appreciated this article, to the point and balanced. refreshing after reading some MSM garbage today that caters to its precious government and elitist 1%.
HelenIncarp | 04 June 2012

I doubt if there is any politician in Australia or if there has ever been an Australian Foreign Minister who knows more about US politics and US foreign policy than Bob Carr. The shenanigans in the NSW ALP are nothing compared to the Tamanay Hall politics that went on in the Democratic Party in New York. They continue to this day in a more subtle fashion. Those ruthless tactics have spread throughout the whole body politic in America. Of course America's political leaders can perform uplifting and upright moral flourishes in the public arena but in the backrooms (rarely smoke-filled these days - smoking is a health hazard!)deals are done and the ordinary citizens have no idea what has happened. Until they hear on the news that the President has ordered an air strike on some pesky irritating nation like Grenada (1983). That's realpolitik - US style. Why negotiate, if you can obliterate?
Uncle Pat | 04 June 2012

Bob Carr? Failed state premier? Rightwing ALP Toadie? Man of Letters? Gifted waffler? Overflowing with self confidence and self importance? Take your pick. What a shock to read something here that was not in support of the status quo! Well done author and editor. It hardly comes as a shock though, does it? The court system shoring up corrupt governments. Look at Egypt and the latest court toadie outcomes of a gang of state sanctioned killers. Carr is probably just as happy as Gillard is to see the back of Assange, into US jails for the rest of his life. Like the Pope's whistleblower, another exposure of corruption in high places, and it's hard to get higher than God's Vicar after all, unless, of course, we indict The Man At The Top?
Andy Fitzharry | 04 June 2012

A good and timely article Michael. I simply and firmly believe that the messenger is being shot at. One can try to dress this up in different ways, but it appears that in the main, the US interests in Assange's demise prefer lies over truth - not a wise and long term nation building ploy. I think the wiser reaction can only be reform!
John Whitehead | 04 June 2012

It seems that the greatest nation has problems with the truth. Torture, guns , drones and invasion of other countries - yes , but the truth NO!.
David | 04 June 2012

Can't our politicians even just play along with the Hollywood dream for the sake of the opinion polls?
Assange is the typical character of Hollywood blockbusters - the courageous underdog who defies the powers that be in a quest for what's right.
And our politicians are playing the stereotypical role of the power-hunger villain not wanting to be made fools of.
Never could there be such a black and white sage in the eyes of the public - but luckily for our politicians, we can't vote on it, because left and right have joined forces.
Instead they keep us voters focussed on distraction issues like gay marriage and climate change.
AURELIUS | 04 June 2012

That one video alone of U.S. army shooting civilians and children from a helicopter like it was a video game is enough for me to want Assange free, now, and compensated.
Julie | 04 June 2012

Interesting. It's good to get some balance. Good to record who gets the favours and who doesn't.
Malcolm Campbell | 04 June 2012

I think Hicks and Habib can testify quite eloquently on the value of Australian citizenship if the US wants you.
Marilyn | 04 June 2012

Fine article. I deep concerns that a major miscarriage of justice is in play as your article and comments set out. Certain statement from the US Australian ambassador claiming his government is not interested in Assange seems disingenuous given the remark's alluding to treason by US politicians. It also ask the question whether a US diplomat working for the US is under any obliged to state the actual facts to Australians? The Australian foreign minister Bob Carr could sort this matter by asking the US Ambassador to address our elected Parliament and State the "same non interest" in extradition on the public record. Mean while the Australian Public are waiting for some back bone and leadership on settling this matter to standards Australian expect..
Andrew Macpherson | 04 June 2012

Here is a petition calling for action for Julian Assange:
SuzyLeC | 05 June 2012

It is obvious that Julian Assange is being set up and the US is using its usual tactics to try to get hold of him. The week government in Australia is going along with this as it does with anything concerning the US
Burleigh | 06 June 2012

Absolutely! For sheer humbug, the US administration is unrivalled. And meanwhile the helicopter gunship murderers walk free.
Gordon Rowland | 09 June 2012


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