Tag Archives: Julian Assange

A quick word about #Assange

Julian Assange… is he a narcissist? No, it’s a serious question. He is getting an awful attention but does he thrive on it? I’m sure he does. By the way, the hashtag in the title is deliberate (No! Really?), because Assange, the man, has been replaced with Assange the trending topic.

I’ve tried to steer clear of Assange (does that need a hashtag?) ever since he had international fame thrust upon him… or was it the other way around?  But after a long internal dialogue, I wrote this blog about him, but I did so through gritted teeth. Even as I write this, my teeth are clenched tight.

Let’s be blunt, Assange is no friend of the left as The Mambo points out. Assange describes himself as libertarian or market libertarian. Well, which one is he? Personally, I think Assange is ideologically confused or playing dumb but either way I think it is pretty safe to say that he is neither a socialist, an anarcho-communist or a Spartacist. The word “libertarian” only means one thing to me these days and it’s usually associated with notions about night-watchman states and Ayn Rand.

But what about free speech? Well, what about it? No one really truly has free speech, especially in Britain, which has some of the most stringent defamation laws in the world. There isn’t even a law on the statute books that enshrines free speech. But did Assange and co really tell us things we didn’t already know? No and the information that was leaked was old; too old to be of any real value to an, erm, terrorist or übervillain.

Now to the allegations of rape, I don’t understand why the Swedish public prosecutor can’t drag his/her carcass across the North Sea to interview Assange. Indeed, they’ve already interviewed him once and subsequently released him. Only recently,  a prosecutor interviewed a Serb murder suspect in his home country.

Rape often goes unreported or is otherwise not taken seriously by the police. Should the case get as far as the courtroom, defence barristers will work to discredit the testimony of the victim. That is not justice.

Given these factors, the allegations against Assange must be taken seriously, even if they seem to be eerily coincidental.

Finally, Assange’s former colleague at Wikileaks, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, set up OpenLeaks.net last year to make,

whistleblowing safer and more widespread. This will be done by providing dedicated and generally free services to whistleblowers and organizations interested in transparency. We will also create a Knowledge Base aiming to provide a comprehensive reference to all areas surrounding whistleblowing.

The site has been dormant since January 2011. In the meantime Domscheit-Berg has sold copies of his  bestseller,  Inside WikiLeaks: my time with Julian Assange at the world’s most dangerous website. 

I will say no more.

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Filed under Media, Whistleblowers

Life on Gilligan’s Island (Part 23)

Today Gilly takes a break from Muslim-bashing and returns to his other favourite hate topic: Ken Livingstone.  Gilligan is on familiar ground here. He spent most of Livingstone’s mayoralty writing a series of smear stories for the Evening Standard. Today, he tells us that “Ken Livingstone loses a few thousand more votes”. Why? Well, Gilly says,

…I couldn’t have been more thrilled to read Ken’s piece in today’s Standard, blaming last week’s student riots on – you guessed it – the mop-headed Mayor Of Evil. Did I miss something on Thursday? Was it a group led by Boris who broke away from the route agreed with the police? Was it Boris who came along to the march armed with fireworks, snooker balls and clearly intent on a ruck? Was it Boris who issued that group of “peaceful students” with identical green hard-hats and metal poles for hitting the police?

Gilligoon has missed something here. His idol, Boris Johnson actually called for the police to kettle protesters. Kettling or “containment” as the police euphemism goes, contravenes human rights. Gilligan isn’t concerned about this. Human rights are for those who have earned them.

Today’s blog, while the headline screams Ken, is a strange hotchpotch of things. A couple of paragraphs later he has a dig at Julian Assange and Wikileaks, opining,

What else are we to make of the demand by Women Against Rape, no less, that the rape allegations against Mr Assange must not be investigated and the great hero immediately freed? And what else are we to make of the quite hopeless argument that the students were only violent because the police were nasty to them?

Er, does the name Scott Ritter mean anything to you, Gilly? Probably not, Gilly is too busy slinging mud and sexing things up to pay any attention to the facts.

He turns his attention back to those horrible protesters,

At the first big London student demo, the Met in fact played it very softly-softly – and was rewarded with having Tory HQ smashed up. Last week, the kettling did not start until after the students started throwing things. I’ve no doubt innocent people got caught up in it – and some police behaved disgracefully. Indeed, a friend of mine, an entirely peaceful and inoffensive journalist, was beaten up by the Met.

Here he takes the Met’s version of events as gospel. Was he at the demo? No, he wasn’t. I was and I can tell him that the police tactics were designed to wind up the protesters. The screens that had been placed along Parliament Square provided both a tempting target and were used to make the space as tight and as uncomfortable as possible.. The kettling actually began as soon as we had arrived in the square. Nothing had been thrown.

Gilly parrots a by now familiar line here,

Last Thursday, the students didn’t just lose the vote in the Commons. They lost the sympathy of a lot of middle-of-the-road people – and most importantly, they lost control of the agenda. We should be talking about the injustice of some of the cuts, and the hopeless mess the Lib Dems found themselves in. Instead, we’re talking about the violence of the students.

Who are these “middle-of-the-road people” he talks about? The proprietors of The Daily Telegraph? The readership of the Rothermere Press? Rupert Murdoch?  We already know what they think.  I hate to rain on your parade, Gilly, but the students still have support from a lot of people.  He talks about the “violence of the students” but ignores the violence of the government’s spending cuts. He mentions the fact that a “journalist friend” was beaten by police then he produces this volte face in order to make a cheap point at Ken Livingstone’s expense.

Ken’s played a blinder. He’s got on side with the students, many of whom will now vote for him in the next mayoral election. Those students will rightly see Boris Johnson as an authoritarian and a pompous windbag. As for Gilligan, who cares what he thinks? He’s yellow journalist who writes for a Tory-supporting paper. With any luck, he’ll be out of a job by then.

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Filed under Media, Yellow journalism

Is Julian Assange being smeared?

You have to admit, it is rather convenient that Julian Assange was accused of rape after the release of Wikileaks first tranche of classified material. In comedy, timing is everything and the timing of this curious allegation is interesting.  Suspicious, in fact. The way in which these allegations have appeared reminds me of the many smear campaigns in history that were instigated by nation-states or powerful persons (William Randolph Hearst, for example) because they didn’t like what they’d heard. The truth hurts.

There’s certainly a whiff of COINTELPRO about this. It’s their modus operandi.  Here is a trailer for a documentary called COINTELPRO 101

Political Film Blog has a review here.

To be perfectly honest, the latest batch of leaked documents doesn’t surprise me at all. But the way in which governments have reacted to these leaked documents has revealed them all to be pathological liars.  They even try using emotional blackmail by saying “These leaks will put lives at risk”. How did they arrive at that conclusion? What is the evidence for such an assertion?

None that I can see.

UPDATE 7/12/10: Julian Assange appeared before Westminster Magistrates Court and was refused bail. It is transparently obvious that this is a stitch up.

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Filed under Human rights, Media, World

Wikileaks, Iraq and the Salvador Option

Hats off to Julian Assange and Wikileaks for their assiduous work in uncovering yet more shocking and shameful stories of torture, murder, arbitrary violence and wanton brutality carried out in the name of [enduring] freedom and democracy. While the British media have focussed on examples of US and Iraqi brutality, The Guardian advises us that,

“Some have been killed by indiscriminate attacks on civilians or the unjustified use of lethal force. Others have been killed in custody by UK forces and no one knows how many Iraqis lost their lives while held in British detention facilities”.

Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers,

…cited one case in which he claimed a British rifleman had shot dead an eight-year-old girl who was playing in the street in Basra. “For some reason the tank stopped at the end of the street, she’s there in her yellow dress, a rifleman pops up and blows her away.

Years ago, this kind of information would have taken ages to assemble, let alone gather. When John Negroponte was chosen as US Ambassador to Iraq in 2004, I immediately suspected that he would employ the same tactics that he did in Honduras and El Salvador; namely, that he employed death squads to roam the country looking for ‘insurgents’ to murder (the so-called Salvador Option). For examplewhile Negroponte was Ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985 he met the leader of the notorious death squad Battalion 3-16, General Gustavo Alvarez Martínez on many occasions. My suspicions were realized when I saw this,

THE Pentagon is considering forming hit squads of Kurdish and Shia fighters to target leaders of the Iraqi insurgency in a strategic shift borrowed from the American struggle against left-wing guerrillas in Central America 20 years ago.

Under the so-called “El Salvador option”, Iraqi and American forces would be sent to kill or kidnap insurgency leaders, even in Syria, where some are thought to shelter.

For all the talk of bringing ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ to Iraq, it was clear from the outset that the Iraq invasion was about oil.  We were told how Saddam Hussein killed ‘his own people’ and why it was necessary to topple him – it was a smokescreen. The end was used to justify the means: go in, secure the oilfields and make up the defence later.

UPDATE 18/4/11 @ 14.55

Yes, it was all about oil. From the Independent.

Five months before the March 2003 invasion, Baroness Symons, then the Trade Minister, told BP that the Government believed British energy firms should be given a share of Iraq’s enormous oil and gas reserves as a reward for Tony Blair’s military commitment to US plans for regime change.

The papers show that Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush administration on BP’s behalf because the oil giant feared it was being “locked out” of deals that Washington was quietly striking with US, French and Russian governments and their energy firms.

Minutes of a meeting with BP, Shell and BG (formerly British Gas) on 31 October 2002 read: “Baroness Symons agreed that it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq in that way if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis.”

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Filed under Iraq, Middle East