Another Assange-o-rama saga: Run, run, run away

It was a rather depressing start to what should have been a festive day.


Sunday kicked off at the office with deadly blasts in Libya, a plane down in Sudan, an attack on a policeman’s funeral in Ingushetia and deadly assaults during Eid prayers across Afghanistan. “Eid Mubarak,” I muttered, since it was the Muslim feast. Things couldn’t get worse.


But we hadn’t yet struck the low point of the news day.


That came, as promised, when tirelessly self-promoting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange got his Eva Peron moment on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.



“He’s spinning us, goddamit,” I grumbled as I was forced into breaking news mode, unable to ignore another scripted story. In this business, you may disagree with the news, but sometimes news is news – even if it’s scripted - and you have to cover it.


And scripted it was, from start to finish.


Days in advance, we were told that Assange would make a statement Sunday at around 1400 GMT. It was just enough notice for news organizations to dredge out the “will he be arrested if he puts his pinkie out of the embassy?” story.

So, after a morning of “Julian Assange to make public statement” stories, the appointed hour arrived and the latest Assange-o-rama saga unfurled, live, before the TV cameras.


The much-awaited statement bore all the self-absorbed, delusional flourishes we have come to expect from the newest self-declared messiah on the [embassy] blok.


There were plenty of oratorical pauses, which supporters outside the London building obediently filled with worshipful “Yeahs” and applause. Then came a couple of dark references to darkness - “after dark, I could hear teams of police swarming up into the building” followed by “vigils in the dark” and “citizens whispering in the dark”. Finally, the slogan-perfect, the US “must renounce its witch-hunt” moment.


Now you might be forgiven if you think this is all about the US going after Assange. As Raffi Khatchadourian wrote in his insightful July 2010 New Yorker profile, the USA has always been Assange’s favourite bogeyman and the 41-year-old Wikileaks founder has been adept at pinning it all down to the dark empire.

Sweden as a US attack dog


But the current Assange saga is not about the USA. It’s about sexual assault allegations against him in Sweden of course.


When I try mentioning this to many of my friends and colleagues, I’m invariably brushed aside. It’s all about the USA, they solemnly intone. Obviously Washington is using Sweden to secure Assange’s extradition to the US. In other words, Sweden is the USA’s attack dog.


Sweden, we are darkly told (darkly, always darkly) has an extradition treaty with the US.


But then so does the UK. There are certainly widespread calls in the UK for an overhaul of that 2003 treaty, but the fact remains that the US and the UK share extradition agreements, which is hardly surprising given the close relations between the two countries.

Assange has been in the UK for over a year, ample time for the US government – or even private US citizens – to file charges against him in the US courts and kickstart extradition proceedings, if they really wanted him.


Sweden does have an extradition treaty with the US, but the process of extradition is long and very complicated. So far there is not even a charge against Assange in the US, which makes a long process even longer.


Tried explaining this too to a number of my friends and colleagues and the explanations I get range from the absurd to the seriously delusional. “The Brits” would not stand for it, so the US government “won’t go there” – enter the Sweden as attack dog theory. Another theory is that the US does not want to “embarrass” the British authorities.


Ah, to spare the British authorities the embarrassment. Like anything can top the current silly-fest around that red brick building in London’s upscale Knightsbridge neighbourhood.


Those silly little sexual assault whines


At the heart of the matter are those sexual assault allegations against Assange by two Swedish women.


Now most sexual assault cases are “he said, she said” affairs that are complex and tricky to prosecute. But how many times have sexual assault allegations by women against powerful or popular men been dismissed as politically motivated? Oh your silly little sexual assault whines when there are so many important political issues at stake.


Just this morning, my Parisian taxi driver, who was of Congolese origin, was ranting about how the Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) sexual assault case was a conspiracy against the former IMF chief by his French political opponents.



I heard him out until I reached the office building and then snapped. “Monsieur, DSK is a very rich man and today, he is a free man. If you ever hear of a poor, immigrant woman in France – it could be your daughter, it could be anyone – winning a sexual assault case against a rich, powerful Frenchman, you know where I work, just contact me because THAT’s a story.”


Freedom-hating Sweden, freedom-loving Ecuador 


The Swedes of course are fuming about Assange’s witch hunt-like portrayal of their nation.


In August 2010, Assange applied for a residence permit to live and work in Sweden because of the country’s laws protecting whistle-blowers.


Now Assange is in the glorious state of dumping on Sweden to find an ally in Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa who, turns out, has “one of worst track records on press freedom in the Americas”.

A word about those leaked US cables. For the record, I’m a huge fan of those leaked cables. Whether I’m covering Mali or Tunisia or places in-between, I often refer to those cables and they’re so absorbing and fascinating, I have trouble getting back to my story on deadline.


They’ve provided me information, background, colourful incidents, biting insights and they’ve also convinced me that some US diplomats are far better writers than journalists. One thing they haven’t provided me though is anything new.


Some of Wikileaks’ latest leaks are almost embarrassing – like the Stratfor email leaks that described the subscription-based analysis provider as a “private CIA”. In his masterful Foreign Policy piece, “How WikiLeaks Blew It,” Joshua Keating accused Assange and WikiLeaks of “overpromising on leaks the site can't deliver”.

The crux of the Assange-o-rama though, is that his organization, Wikileaks, has been hijacked by the delusional saga of one man - the “crazy white-haired Aussie” as ¨Private Bradley Manning once called Assange.

Bradley Manning, the US Army soldier whistleblower at the heart of Cablegate. Now that’s one guy the US government is after since Washington is determined to nip any future military whistleblowing dreams in the bud.


Private Manning is the one who’s really roasting. But the Wikileaks saga is now all about Julian Assange’s David-like fight against a Goliath Obama, not about Manning.


To be fair to Assange, he did call for Manning’s release in his balcony speech. But then he went on to compare his case to Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab (who I deeply admire) and Russian band, Pussy Riot.


But then again, Rajab is a human rights activist taking on a repressive Sunni monarchy that is crushing its majority Shiite subjects. The Pussy Riot trio is questioning the legitimacy of President Vladimir Putin’s re-election and exposing the cozy relations between the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church.


I’m still scratching my head trying to determine the similarities between Pussy Riot, Nabeel Rajab and Assange. Private Manning will once again have to wait.

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I don't understand one thing. Why didn't the British police catch and deport this chap the moment he landed there? Anyway, how did he get into the Ecuadorian embassy? Were the police sleeping or collaborating with him? It seems they are as embarrassingly bad as the police of a third-word country. Or is this some warped plan to conquer Ecuador?
In this day and age - why can't the Swedes case against Assange be tried via Skype without either party having to go anywhere?
He should have gone to the swiss embassy,they have an alleged sex criminal Polanski given protection?Could be wrong or is it the French giving him protection?
In this day and age why are the Swedes not trying their case against Assange via Skype i.e. without either party going anywhere?
Jeremy, oh come on, who barks and who jumps. The protocol is unavoidable - and this is not about Mohammed and the mountain!
If the media the politicians and the police backed off there would be no Assange saga.

Less is more, more or less

Thank you. Seriously thank you. I agree with every word you wrote. Of course as proven by the comment already on this page, the Assange true-believers will always come up with some new conspiracy based angle to explain why things don't make sense (to them) in the Assange case. Lack of information, knowledge or actual intelligence on their part doesn't seem to explain it (to them) as well as it does to me :-). One huge hole in the logic of the Assange believers argumentation is that they seem to think that being in police custody makes a person more likely to be extradited to the US: I mean, Assange spent months in Sweden earlier and was not extradited. He spent years in UK and was not extradited. But of course a person is just as likely to be extradited if he or she is free to walk the streets as if he or she is already in police custody on other charges. No one seems to focus much on this. To me its a huge hole in the logic. I also feel that those who still believe in Julian are mostly seeing what they want to see in him. Many US haters hear what they want to hear, believe he represents what THEY want to say - though he of course doesn't. When ever 1+1 doesn't equal 2, they throw in a conspiracy charge to explain the lack of logic in their reasoning. Its almost like a sect-thing.
Sweden does not extradite people facing possible death sentences. Also, there are a number of US Vietnam draft dodgers still living safely in Sweden.
Gary Christensen TV 10 News, Costa Rica Assange and Diplomatic immunity???? Hold your horses. In Costa Rica the defacto President Oscar Arias with his secret (wikileaks) "US vetted" CIA Presidential Police - La DIS, multinational corporations, the UN, OAS and Interpol control all media and the court system. The DIS and the US threaten and attack all here in Costa Rica and intimidate journalists in the US who attempt to disseminate Oscar Arias Presidential cartel extortion, blackmail, violence against women,human rights abuses and beatings (torture) of thousands upon thousands of innocent citizens. It is a state apparatus of extortion, violence, terorrism, beatings and constitutional and human rights violations. The Costa Rican Presidency has threatened us and other journalists with jail sentences should we reveal corruption and Constitutional violations. "New law imposes a sentence (between four to eight years) in prison to those who obtain “secret political information”. Death Threats by Government of Oscar Arias (INS) against ANEP Cato Institute, Washington D.C. The Mafia: “Institutionalized Organized Crime" The PLN and (the Government of Oscar Arias, the US, the UN, the OAS and Laura Chinchilla Foundation for Human Rights The "ultra repressive" Presidential Police la DIS of Oscar Arias an arm – un apendice of the C.I.A. "beatings" "raids" "threats" "violence" Gary Christensen TV 10 News ____________________________________________________________________________________ Gary Christensen TV 10 News The Oscar Arias “US Vetted” Costa Rican Secret Presidential Police – la DIS is an arm of the CIA & controlled by the US and multinational corporations. It is a state apparatus of terrorism and Constitutional and Human Rights abuses, "beatings" "raids" "threats" "violence"
In addition to concurring with Mr. Lansman, above, we should also note that if Sweden desires Mr. Asange to come to Sweden for the questioning, all that needs to be done is to make the guarantee that Mr. Asange will not be extradited from Sweden. That Sweden refuses to do this also belies their credibility. Finally, it is no secret that the US has been lobbying several governments in order to get Mr. Asange into its clutches. Trustworthy reports of this, with specifics, can be found easily on the internet. As to Mr. Obama's record on protection of whistle-blowers, it is worse than Bush's.
Bravo Ms Jacinto -- my sentiments exactly! It amazes me the reaction this story, and Mr Assange, create. Re: comment of Mr Lansman -- why should the Swedish government traipse to various points in the world to pursue questioning of people under suspicion of perpetrating serious crimes? What sort of precedent would they set doing that for this prima dona? As article states, Assange CHOSE to apply for Swedish residency/work visa; for his own purposes and convenience. One imagines he will chose a new country each time he needs to satisfy one of his selfish needs. I admired him originally, and I am one who was glad when the first batch of the Manning leaks published. However, after that, he seemed to developed a messianic complex. The subsequent large release, without benefit of review from responsible press to ensure no one put at risk, was irresponsible and contemptible.
Although the quality of the prose in this article rises well above background noise, its finely woven logic fails if, as his supporters claim, Assange has offered himself up for questioning by Swedish authorities willing to question him face to face in the UK. If, indeed, the offer was made, why did not Sweden proceed to quash the controversy with a rather inexpensive trip? I am sorry that this artful article is reduced to rubbish due to lack of having addressed the UK questioning question.
By taking refuge in the Ecuador embassy Assange has also persuaded Ecuador to interfere in UK domestic affairs. This should be a 'no go'.
Rarely have I endured a reporter more biased, uninformative...and just plain ignorant...what a waste of time. There is a story here.....he (apparently) missed it.??

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