Assange should be nobody’s hero

A white man with blond hair wearing a light blue shirt and red tie, standing at a French window behind a balcony holding a piece of A4 white paper and a microphone. The yellow, blue and red flag of Ecuador hangs from a flagpole with the coat of arms below with the words "Republica del Ecuador: Embajada" around it. Two people are holding cameras pointing at Assange from the left side of the balcony.
Julian Assange, 2012

Now that Julian Assange has finally been evicted from his refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, a whole lot of his old admirers seem to have taken a trip back down memory lane to 2011 when he leaked all the American diplomatic cables and briefly made himself a hero, to some. He was shortly afterwards accused of rape by two women in Sweden, leading to an extradition request which was assumed to be a cover for an American extradition demand even though, at the time, there was none. Friends including Vanessa Redgrave put up bail money for him (money bail is unusual in the UK) while he fought the arrest warrant; in an attempt to skip bail, he secured ‘asylum’ from Ecuador and, unable to leave the UK, took refuge in their embassy. Details of the rape accusations were made public and clearly indicated that this was a non-consensual sexual act (or at least that they gave consent to one thing and got quite another), and certain people, notably George Galloway, tarnished their reputation forever by defending him, in his case claiming that the women alleging rape were already “in the sex game”. (Contrary to some of the memories being shared on social media, it was not only men defending him back then; besides Redgrave, Naomi Wolf called for his accusers to be named while the Guardian published two letters from representatives of Women Against Rape, claiming the arrest warrant was politically motivated.) The people defending him have conveniently forgotten that this is only a fraction of his offending, and that most of it involves his conduct as head of WikiLeaks itself.

To put it simply, he began betraying his sources, and some of his sources were in a very vulnerable position. After the redacted versions of the 2011 cables were published, to much applause, he published the cables in full, in an easily searchable form, exposing informants in a number of countries, many of them dictatorships with powerful or unaccountable police forces to danger, including disappearance and torture. He published personal details about pro-democracy activists in Belarus, the last remnant of Communist dictatorship in Europe, which resulted in a number of them disappearing; he published the names of male and female rape victims; when asked about Afghans identified as assisting the American and British forces in their country and the risks to their safety, he responded that they were informants and if they were killed, they had it coming. He is closely associated with Israel Shamir, a Russian anti-Semite who admires both Putin and Lukashenko, the dictator of Belarus; he refused to publish a cache of material that could have exposed Russian corruption and international interference as well as the 2016 Panama papers.

It is depressing to see Muslims fall over themselves to excuse this immoral individual who is really no friend of Muslims; we also see figures on the Left make excuses for him when he is no friend of theirs either. This is not someone who has been on the side of good, despite some flaws, and been persecuted by a powerful establishment. Such people exist, but he is not one of them. He is someone who did something we agreed with many years ago, and has since shown that he has no morals to speak of, that he believes he is above the rules that constrain everyone else’s behaviour. Even before the 2011 leaks, we knew that the Iraq war was without sanction in international law, that it was a war of unprovoked aggression, that it was motivated by personal grievances on Bush’s part and drew on a well of hatred among the American people and in their media following the 9/11 attacks; that its result was a disaster was already well-known. Whatever the truth of the rape accusation, he is a scoundrel and an anti-American or anti-British scoundrel is no less a scoundrel than one who is against anything else. If he had gone to Sweden to answer the rape accusations and been convicted, he might well have received a sentence considerably shorter than the time he spent holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy, making a nuisance of himself to his hosts, as we now know, and serving the interests of Vladimir Putin and tyrants the world over. He is a criminal, even if the people demanding his arrest are not seeking justice for the people he has hurt the most.

Image source: Snapperjack. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (BY-SA) 2.0 licence.

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