2012-06-25 Assange, Diplomacy, and Duplicity

We are all forced by logic to respect this dichotomy:

Either the US threatens Julian Assange's freedom, or it does not.

However, the Washington Post editorial board, reflecting the US diplomatic position, prefer to have it both ways in the same article.

First, in current political circumstances, the US is no threat to his freedom:

"The WikiLeaks man claims, after all, that he is resisting extradition to Sweden because he believes he will be subsequently turned over to the United States and exposed to the death penalty. That no US charges or extradition case are open against him is irrelevant to this fantasy."

Second, in current political circumstances, the US will severely punish anyone who guarantees his freedom:

"There is one potential check on Mr Correa's ambitions. The US "empire" he professes to despise happens to grant Ecuador (which uses the dollar as its currency) special trade preferences that allow it to export many goods duty-free. A full third of Ecuadoran foreign sales ($10 billion in 2011) go to the United States, supporting some 400,000 jobs in a country of 14 million people. Those preferences come up for renewal by Congress early next year. If Mr Correa seeks to appoint himself America's chief Latin American enemy and Julian Assange's protector between now and then, it's not hard to imagine the outcome."

Unfortunately for the Washington Post and all it speaks for, the consistency of its menacing contempt is no cover for that glaringly equivocal logic. The US would like to:

1) Pretend that Assange is not threatened by it; and

2) Crush everything to do with him, by all local and offshore means.

In the temporally, conceptually, and territorially boundless "war on terror" the US indefinitely imprisons and tortures innocents in obscurity, unless they happen to be whistleblowers like Bradley Manning, who has the honour of being a public example, receiving this treatment for years as the alleged source of Assange's publications.

So there is nothing trivial about US Vice President Biden and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell speaking of Assange as a "high-tech terrorist".

Nor can it be insignificant that recent presidential candidate Newt Gingrich declared Assange as engaged in warfare and terrorism, and specifically to be treated as an enemy combatant.

We cannot dismiss it as a minor coincidence that Assange's supporters are often detained, questioned, and harassed by US officials due to their association with him.

It would only be obtuse to call it incidental that prominent figures in the US including Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and Bill Kristol have publicly advocated Assange's assassination.

So Assange has all these crystal clear objective reasons to fear for his freedom at the hands of the US.

What is perhaps most frightening is the chilling diplomatic pretence of the US, without tangible assurances, that Assange has nothing to fear from it regarding politically motivated harm.

This cynical posture distresses all who value the right of freedom from fear, mentioned in the Atlantic Charter. Antithetical to respect for that right is the disingenuous bullying approach on display.

The US can easily change from producing fear to dispelling it simply by providing a diplomatic guarantee that it will not prosecute Assange on charges of espionage or conspiracy.

If we are to take it that the US has no such interest in prosecution, then nothing should be easier, more natural, or appropriate than provision of such a guarantee.

Countless millions, who fear this war on terror increasingly tramples human rights and the flow of accurate information, are as desirous and deserving of this one effortless gesture as Mr Assange.

Nor should there be any diplomatic frictions if the head of state of Ecuador, Australia, Sweden, or the UK would provide any guarantee precluding extradition to face such charges, since that would not preclude anything the US is interested in.

So let's have no more of the mannequin-stiff diplomatic postures and gestures. Let's have some worthy statesmanship.

Whoever moves first to break the duplicitous spell will earn the most respect.

Though it would take a radical pivot, like millions of Australians including Assange, I wish it would be Julia Gillard, though Rafael Correa seems hard to beat.

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