Some very sensible thoughts from Chris Selley, on the charges against Julian Assange:
…you don’t need to be a hardcore conspiracist to think there’s something fishy. Isn’t the timing of Mr. Assange’s arrest at least “weirdly convenient,” as a Toronto Star columnist put it this week? Maybe. But put the question another way: Would it be shocking if someone sociopathic and narcissistic enough to effectively hold hostage the lives of spies, informants and pro-democracy advocates insisted on not wearing a condom, or had sex with a sleeping woman, or otherwise behaved in a manner not in compliance with Sweden’s strict sexual assault laws? I don’t think so, really.
It’s certainly likely that the Swedish government faced pressure from Washington not to let the case drop–though it claimed otherwise on Thursday. I can certainly believe a less infamous character would be less enthusiastically pursued. But that’s hardly unique. Nor does it seem strange, on its face, that charges were laid, then abandoned and then revived based on new information or legal opinion. I wouldn’t find that strange if it happened in Toronto.
The weirdest thing for me has been watching progressives line up in defence of an accused rapist, thus either implicitly or explicitly calling his accusers liars.
“Like Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods, Assange has angered the great powers, and he will suffer grievously for it,” wrote an intelligent blogger and sometime contributor to the National Post’s comment website. “Perhaps it will be the bogus ‘rape’ charge that fells him.”
Bogus, eh? One of Mr. Assange’s accusers says he had sex with her while she was asleep. I don’t know if that qualifies as rape in Canada, but I’m sure that if you’d taken a poll a year ago you’d have found 90% of Mr. Assange’s supporters would have said it should. There need be no contradiction here: He can do the lord’s work by spilling all the evil governments’ secrets and be a rapist. If you can’t admit that to yourself, you might want to consider whether it’s the truth you’re really after.
Assange is innocent until proven guilty. But it’s downright surreal seeing his supporters, most of whom I suspect would usually say the female complainant in a case like this deserves the benefit of the doubt, declaring that his accusers must be lying. (You know how women can get, right, Ms. Wolf?)
And it’s infuriating – though, to be honest, not at all surprising – to see them promoting conspiracy theories dreamed up by one of the world’s most notorious anti-Semites:
So what’s this evidence of CIA perfidy that Olbermann finds so convincing? A few clicks in and one comes to an article posted on Alexander Cockburn’s far-left website Counterpunch by the writers Israel Shamir and Paul Bennett (more on them in a moment) positing that because Ardin, who wrote a master’s thesis on the Cuban opposition movement, visited the “Ladies in White”—a group comprised of female relatives of jailed Cuban dissidents—while conducting research in Havana, and the vile extremist Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles (who was once employed by the CIA) went to a Miami protest on behalf of the Ladies in White, it follows that Ardin is therefore connected to the CIA. Got that? In 2007, the Ladies in White were presented with the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought from the European Parliament, raising the tantalizing possibly that Ardin is also an agent of Brussels.
Olbermann is sufficiently convinced that this connection merits your attention. This odious type of guilt-by-six-degrees-of-separation is so strained, so unbelievably lunk-headed, that normally I would suggest that it best be ignored. But when Olbermann spreads this poison, and when a mainstream liberal website like FireDogLake gets in on the act, it’s worth forcefully debunking.
So who is Israel Shamir, Counterpunch’s resident intelligence correspondent? Alternately known as Jöran Jermas and Adam Ermash, Shamir is a fringe writer who has devoted his professional life to exposing the supposed criminality of “Jewish power,” a paranoid anti-Semite who curates a website full of links to Holocaust denial and neo-Nazi sites, defenses of blood libel myths, and references to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Ali Abunimah, Hussein Ibish, and Nigel Parry have warned their fellow Palestinian activists to avoid contact with Shamir, citing his frequent forays into the sewers of Jew-hatred. The British anti-fascist magazine Searchlight (along with its Swedish sister magazine Expo) showed that Shamir is a “Swedish anti-Semite” who has repeatedly lied about his past, not a truth-telling Israeli dissident.
Update: speaking of Wikileaks, could Assange or Bradley Manning be charged with treason? Doug Mataconis is skeptical:
…Julian Assange has not been charged with treason, because he cannot be charge with treason. As a citizen of Australia who travels throughout Europe, Assange is not a person “owing allegiance to the United States.” Bradley Manning, of course, is a citizen in addition to being a member of the military, but prosecuting him for treason successfully would be very, very difficult…
In Manning’s case, it strikes me that it would be very difficult to prove the offense of treason in the manner that the Constitution requires. It seems fairly clear that Manning acted alone and covertly when he retrieved the documents that were ultimately turned over to Wikileaks. We’ve all heard by now how he supposedly transferred files to a DVD-ROM which he had altered to make it look like a Lady Gaga CD. Presumably, nobody actually saw him do anything at all and unless there are two witnesses who witnessed him commit an overt act. For that reason alone, a treason prosecution would be likely to fail.
It’s far more likely that Manning, and possibly Assange, will be charged under the Espionage Act. While a prosecution for espionage is not an easy task either, it doesn’t have the same Constitutional limitations as a treason charge would. So, no, neither Julian Assange nor Bradley Manning are going to be convicted of treason, even if they are likely to see the inside of a Federal courtroom at some point in the near future.