Events over the past few weeks have illustrated a not so astonishing parallel between certain elements in US politics and the elements of nations and factions that they usually so readily denounce and vilify.
I am, of course, talking about the Wikileaks fiasco. Or to use the cringe-worthy media analogy, ‘Cablegate’ and other ensuing leaks.
But, to add to America’s international image woes, the ex-Alaska governor and possible presidential candidate for 2012 was not the only US politician bandying fire and brimstone about in the media. Mike Huckabee, another Republican 2012 election candidate, has called for Julian Assange to be executed if caught, stating that he felt “anything less than execution is too kind a penalty”.
This was underlined by a former US political adviser to the Canadian Prime Minister, Tom Flanagan, stating on CBC that Julian Assange should be assassinated, advising Barak Obama to “put out a contract or use a drone or something”. If that was the kind of advice he gave the Canadian PM, it’s not surprising that he no longer occupies the position. The legal, logistical or moral dilemmas of such a move seem anathema to Mr Flanagan, which he has subsequently attempted to laugh off as a joke.
Since the events surrounding the latest round of the Wikigates (it’s fun, try it), prominent American political figures have levelled charges ranging from cyber-terrorism to treason at Assange and Manning. Given that Julian Assange is Australian, I’m not quite sure what Sarah Palin thinks the definition of treason is. Obviously anything that makes America look bad. That’s a long list….upon which, a not insignificant item, would be fatuous remarks made by public figures.
More recently, Republican congressman Peter King (are we seeing an ideological trend here?) has proposed that Wikileaks should be placed on a list of terrorist websites. The incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, claimed that the data breach was “worse than a military attack. I am calling on the attorney general and supporting his efforts to fully prosecute WikiLeaks and its founder for violating the Espionage Act”. The Democrats have seemed less vocal on the issue. Perhaps they are allowing their Republican colleagues enough rhetorical rope to hang themselves with?
If one casts one’s mind back, there have been a number of incidences of ‘state enemies’, ‘dissidents’ or ‘apostates’ having threats made on their lives, any number of death warrants issued for them and in some cases have been murdered by states that the US has always had such holier-than-thou attitudes to in the morality department.
Salman Rushdie’s fatwa, issued by Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeinl, called for all good Muslims to seize any opportunity to kill him or his publishers of The Satanic Verses. Slightly fewer than 40 people are known to have died in various incidents as a result of this fatwa, in what would be termed ‘collateral damage’ by the US.
Marxist theorist and high-critic of Joseph Stalin’s regime, Leon Trotsky, was assassinated by a Soviet agent while in exile in Mexico. Trotsky wrote many works in critique of the Soviet bureaucracy suggesting that it would end in failure through political revolution. Prior to his murder he had survived a number of assassination attempts by Stalin.
Both of these incidences seem reprehensible to a progressive democratic society. The right to freedom and free speech is a principle that the United States never ceases to expound. The ‘Tea Party’ political movement, of which Sarah Palin is a member, claims to be an American constitutional fundamentalist movement. A document which, through its Bill of Rights amendments, is intended to protect the right to free speech, life and liberty. And yet there are public figures from the most powerful nation on the planet calling for the execution or assassination of a man that had, at that point, merely published a few embarrassing notes that they wrote, on the internet.
These vitriolic rantings are in addition to the cyber-attacks on Wikileaks servers and rape allegations against Julian Assange in suspicious timeliness, leads one to surmise that they are a smear campaign. A disproportionate reaction to getting a smattering of diplomatic egg on their already significantly eggy international face? A touch.
Perhaps Julian Assange was as unsurprised at the reaction to the initial leak as I was? After all, the allegations of rape by Swedish former colleague began long before the more recent and sensitive Wikileaks. They may well prove to be his undoing yet, in light of the arrest warrant issued by Interpol this week. Should he be extradited to Sweden to face the charges, he could possibly be extradited to the US under a1963 treaty between the two nations to “further the fight against international crime”.
The disparate extradition treaty that exists between Britain and the United States is the subject of much criticism. Just why Assange has chosen to subsequently publish the far more sensitive list of infrastructure and facilities in foreign countries crucial to U.S. interests is less clear. The list seems to serve no real useful purpose and will more than likely only serve to justify hyperbole and smite from Washington.
Perhaps in the face of death threats, character assassination and dirty tricks Assange simply thought: “F*ck it, in for a penny”