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Wednesday, August 22, 2012 

And so the Assange circus continues.

Sigh. This Julian Assange thing's still going on then? Am I really going to have write another post on it? Certainly seems like it.

It's all a bit depressing really, as what everyone's fighting over is so arcane. What's more, two of those I respect and admire have, if not let themselves down, then certainly damaged their reputations. Glenn Greenwald and Craig Murray, both so right on so many other occasions, have not exactly covered themselves in glory.

Let's start with Craig first. On one of the very few evenings I didn't bother to watch Newsnight, he appears, names one of the women who has accused Assange of sexually assaulting her, and a minor shitstorm commences. On this, in my view, Craig is in the clear. It may well be that the UK media hasn't named the woman in question (who I'm also not going to name out of personal preference), but she has spoken to the Swedish media openly herself. I don't think there's any need whatsoever to name her, but if an individual wants to that's up to them.

Where I think Craig has badly erred is in casting doubt on as he puts it, the woman's "behaviour". There are as I noted before anomalies in the ways in which the allegations against Assange were first investigated and have been pursued, but as we've seen, these have not affected the decision of our courts that Assange can be sent back to Sweden. We simply should not be second guessing what either of the women who have made the claims against Assange did either before or after the alleged assaults took place. If the Swedish police believed that there was any possibility that Assange had been "fitted up", as the interviewer in the Australian documentary asked of the Swedish prosecutor, or that the allegations were not in any way credible then they simply would not have pursued him this far. This is not to say that Assange inevitably faces charges, although he does, as David Allen Green says, face arrest and probable indictment. Should he be charged, then the best place for these questions to be raised is in a court. Craig understandably feels that allegations of sexual offences are one of the best ways to smear someone, having faced similar claims against himself when he was ambassador in Uzbekistan, but is it really credible that this is all an American-inspired put up job?

Glenn Greenwald, by contrast, seems to just be striking out at all and sundry in defence of Julian Assange. He starts off badly in his latest piece for the Graun, indulging in hyperbole by all but claiming Assange is the most hated man in the Western world, and only slightly redeems himself by pointing out a few incontestable facts: that the Americans have always loathed Wikileaks, and that indirectly, Assange "has given the public more scoops than most journalists can imagine". The obvious point to make is that we now have to separate Assange from Wikileaks; without those journalists, the war logs and diplomatic cables would never have been written up in the way they have. The Guardian's editorial attitude towards Assange is undoubtedly dictated by the way in which the paper and the man spectacularly fell out. This though is perfectly understandable when you consider the way in which Assange reacted when they ran the last batch of cables without his express permission, threatening to sue the paper. For someone who believes in total freedom of information, and who has distracted attention from the suffering of the man who allegedly provided them to him, this speaks of volumes of the contradictions within Julian Assange.

Pointing out that Assange perhaps isn't the freedom fighter his most devoted supporters make him out to be isn't to smear the man, or to make him out to be Saddam Hussein, although some of the criticism and personal attacks have indeed gone beyond what ought to be acceptable. Equally, Greenwald could at least acknowledge that by signing up to present a show on Russia Today, the English-language news channel directly funded by the Kremlin, some of his loss of credibility is self-inflicted. Where Greenwald really falls down is in his supposed refutation of David Allen Green's post on Monday, where attempted to correct what he regards as the myths surrounding the Assange case. Greenwald, apparently unable to contradict Green, relies instead on a previous post by Green when it's apparent he's since charged his opinion due to court judgements, a transparent conceit. Greenwald then continues to claim that due to Sweden's relatively secret judicial system, he's more likely to be extradited to America from there than from our septic isle; even if true, which is extremely doubtful considering our direct treaty with the US, then Assange would certainly appeal to the ECHR. The chances of his being deported to the US this side of 2015 were he to leave for Sweden tomorrow are almost negligible. Greenwald will just not accept that any guarantee that they would not extradite is not Sweden's to give, and would be worthless in any case.

Saddest of all is that this entire squabble is academic. Julian Assange isn't going anywhere, unless he's somehow spirited out of the Ecuador embassy once public interest dies down. Those of us who'd rather like him to return to Sweden but most certainly not fall into the clutches of the United States, despite being the majority, have been somewhat silenced by this whole affair.

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