By Wendell P. Simpson
LONDON, When Wikileaks honcho Julian Assange walked out of an English jail last week, where he was being detained in connection with sexual misconduct charges lodged by a Swedish court, a prison guard he’d befriended while in lockdown slipped him a hastily scrawled handwritten note that said: “I have two heroes in this world—Martin Luther King and you.”
The irony of the juxtaposition was certainly not lost on this writer. Nor has it been lost on Assange supporters on this side of the big water. It crystallizes for me the divide between America and it’s European counterparts in matters of ideology and principle.
In America, Assange has been universally vilified, cast in standard ‘Palin-ist’ malaprop-speak—and repeated by some of my own friends back home who ought to know better—as ‘treasonous’ (Duh. Treason only applies to one who betrays his own country. Assange’s an Aussie.).
Here in Europe, where taking potshots at haughty America hardly earns one a censure—and where a cadre of well-heeled English supporters posted the 200,000 UK pound sterling (roughly $310,000 US) bond that sprung Assange on the basis that they wanted to ensure that “his human rights are not violated.”—Assange has been elevated to the level of saint—martyrdom, really—for having the balls to publish the contents of some 200,000 so-called ‘secret’ US State Department which the Americans say constitutes “a serious breach of national security.”
The scuttlebutt circulating around in pubs and coffee shops of London paints the impeccably timed sexual misconduct charges leveled by a Swedish court as a politically motivated attempt to divert attention onto aspects of Assange’s character and away from the communiqués that spell out the details of a duplicitous, clandestine and reckless American foreign policy agenda. It’s a charge that lives with some merit in that European newspapers are reporting that the arrest warrant was re-issued by a Swedish court that originally dropped the charges back in September for lack of evidence.
In an interview with the BBC, Assange’s British attorney, Mark Stephens, said:” It’s quite bizarre because the prosecutor in Sweden had already dropped the entire case against him—and then a few weeks later, after the intervention of a Swedish politician, a brand new prosecutor, began a new case which has resulted in warrants being issued and the Interpol Red Notice being put out.”
And while activists here have been crashing the websites of companies that divested of association with Wikileak.org—Mastercard, Visa, PayPal and Amazon, among others— and handing out ‘Cliff Notes’ versions at the Tube stations around central London, a grand jury in America is scrambling it’s brain in vain to try to find a way that would allow vexed US officials to charge him with a crime.
Sitting here as I am, separated by 3,600 nautical miles of ocean and inundated by a European paradigm of ideologies, principles and sensibilities, I have to ask several key questions :
First, where should any condemnation regarding the leaks be placed; at the feet of a journalist who was only doing his job? Or on the head of an American intelligence community so inept and it’s vetting process so bereft of efficacy that it put so-called sensitive documents in the hands of a PFC, an admitted misfit who said publicly, he aspired to be a whistle blower?
Second, where is the national security issue? The leaks contained no essential information at all regarding troop movements; military strategy and/or military strike capabilities and plans or security contingents germane to safeguarding the country.
Third, what did the leaks reveal that most people who are paying attention didn’t already know? That America has been acting as the proxy military arm of the Saudis for decades? That we support the dubious activities of allies like Britain, Saudi Arabia—and even China; or that the thought of an Islamism nuclear bomb scares the hell out the United States; or that despite our cozy economic and political relationship with China, we watch its excursions in the Third World with a weary eye; or that we resort to high-level espionage, prop up puppet dictatorships, and utilize a strategy of economic bullying toward countries that refuse to adopt the kind of free market policies advantageous only to the West; or that we’ve trashed human rights in pursuit of our sophist foreign agenda?
And finally, I’m wondering what has happened in America to the notion of an unfettered press as essential to the protection of democracy. Have we scrapped the First Amendment provision that obliges journalists to tell the truth even when that truth threatens power? Has the Fox News paradigm been so good at undermining the idea of objective journalism as independent of ideology that we Americans have become what Orwell so presciently inveighed against as “…a nation of warriors and fanatics, marching forward in perfect unity, all thinking the same thoughts and shouting the same slogans, perpetually working, fighting, triumphing, persecuting—three hundred million people all with the same face.”
I find myself in concurrence with these Europeans, amongst whom I now live—that if Assange is guilty of a crime, it is the crime of throwing up his middle finger to power and acting on the dictates of his conscience—and his profession.
Wendell P. Simpson is an American freelance journalist and writer living and working in the United Kingdom.