When the Left apologises for Assange

When the whole scandal recently flared up again, I said I wasn’t going to talk about Assange. After numerous Facebook arguments with people on all sides, I said I wasn’t going to talk about Assange. After being screamed at for daring not to flock down to the Ecuador embassy in uncritical support of an alleged rapist, I said I wasn’t going to talk about Assange. And yet, here I find myself talking about Asssange, because it matters.

Before I was comfortable with calling myself a revolutionary socialist feminist, I self identified as ‘apathetic’. I had convinced myself that nothing mattered anyway, so there was no point in demonstrations, slogans and arguments, because the world moved on at the same pace whether or not you were ok with benefit cuts, £9k tuition fees and political sentencing.

Being a part of the student movement showed me how we can work together and win together. Sometimes I hear people saying we lost the tuition fees vote, the movement is dead, we never achieved anything, and I don’t know how to tell them they’re wrong. I know we owe so many victories to the links we formed at Millbank while working together in revolutionary organizations or outside of them. But above all, the radical left taught me about feminism, and how to stand up in the face of growing inequality.

I was shocked to see parts of the very Left which regularly slams patriarchy, and condemns sexism and misogyny, unconditionally defending a man who has been accused of rape. I was shocked seeing parts of the Left defending a man who had unprotected sex with a woman who had specifically not consented to having unprotected sex. A man who initiated sex with a woman who was asleep. A man who admits these things, and does not call them rape!  And this Left was not even mentioning the word rape – as if it’s not important, as if the wrongs and rights of this man canceled each other out.

I was shocked to see this Left coming up with every excuse in the book for this man. That sometimes people admit to things they haven’t actually done, that the women were CIA agents, that one of them even had the audacity to look happy and throw a party in the days after allegedly being sexually assaulted.

As a woman, this sent me a clear message: if you happen to be sexually assaulted by a man who has done good political things, you better not speak up. Because you will be silenced. You will be called a liar, and people will support the man, because powerful men can get away with these things.

The arguments have been made time and again, in articles and subsequent Facebook, Twitter and blog threads. Semantics have been debated, party lines have been established. Some have managed to see that there is no dichotomy between supporting Wikileaks, being against political maneuvering and imperialism, and taking rape accusations seriously. Others huddle outside the Ecuador embassy building with signs of support, to see Assange on a balcony, smiling like some kind of cross between Mussolini and Eva Peron.

The uncritical support of Assange from parts of the Left has left a very sour taste in my mouth. It comes from a culture of silence and fear. It has made me think twice, like when I have to think twice about getting a bus alone at night. It has shown me who is willing to silence my voice, and it has shown me how much work we still have ahead of us as feminists.

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60 Comments

  1. Joe
    August 20, 2012 at 9:19 am · Reply

    I largely agree but I’m a bit unclear about whether Assange has in fact admitted the things you say he has. Do you have a link for this please?

      • Jonathan Cunningham
        August 20, 2012 at 4:33 pm · Reply

        This is extremely misleading. In fact, I’d go as far as to call it a lie. When you follow the sources on that link back to the Guardian, it clearly states “Emmerson is now explaining the alleged victim SW’s witness statement”. Emmerson was establishing that, assuming SW’s testimony is entirely accurate, it did not break the law. This did not concede that these events were undisputed. Additionally, SW did not accuse Assange of rape, and stopped talking to the police when it became clear they intended to charge rape.

  2. billj
    August 20, 2012 at 10:17 am · Reply

    Who’s being uncritical of Assange? This is asserted without evidence.
    My understanding is that Assange has said he is willing to be interviewed by Swedish police but does not want to be deported to Sweden as he is worried he will then be deported to the USA.
    Surely he’s got reason to be worried about that given how the USA are treating Bradley Manning, the leaker of the Wikileaks material, who is held without charge in solitary confinement without any prospect of release.
    Why can’t the Swedish police fly to the UK and interview him here? Why not inside the Ecuadorian embassy? Then they can establish the nature of the charges, he hasn’t yet been charged, and whether they could go to trial. Why not hold the trial in the UK, if it comes to that.

    • Sarah
      August 20, 2012 at 11:40 am · Reply

      It’s impossible under any International Law to offer some form of blanket guarantee that you will never extradite someone to a certain country. It’s not that they won’t do it, but that they can’t, and its a weak argument to avoid facing charges of rape – charges he failed to mention stood on a balcony in front of his fawning crowd and then had the audacity to mention Pussy Riot. If anyone can explain how it is possible legally to guarantee that, do it. As it is, Assange is happy to be in the UK, a country that regularly extradites political prisoners to the USA (Gary Mackinnon anyone?) and yet “refuses” (as if he has the right) to go to Sweden. A country that has never in its history extradited a political prisoner to the USA. It’s been through three European level court of appeal rulings, it has been explored, it has been shown to be unjustified.

      It is all weak weak excuses for the man to avoid due process for a crime he has admitted to committing, if you think that unconsentual sex is rape. If you don’t, you’re a rape apologist, and part of the problem.

      • Jonathan Cunningham
        August 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm · Reply

        The UK does not have a history of extraditing criminals illegally at the behest of the US- Sweden does (http://www.hrw.org/news/2006/11/09/sweden-violated-torture-ban-cia-rendition). Additionally, I find it hilarious that you’re pretending that this is an excuse to avoid due process, when he hasn’t even been charged with a crime.

      • billj
        August 21, 2012 at 5:19 pm · Reply

        Of course its not impossible under international law to offer a guarantee that you will never deport someone. Ecuador just did.
        The proof that it is not easy for the UK to deport Assange is the fact that the UK government will deport anyone they can to America if it pleases the US – see Gary McKinnon.
        If it was so easy to deport Assange to America they would have already done it.
        It is a fact that every whistleblower who has exposed US foreign policy from abu ghraib, to rendition, to Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction has been charged with some kind of sexual offense. That’s not a conspiracy theory – its true. The CIA are paid to conspire. Its an easy way of discrediting the opposition. Given we know that the US Secretary of State Hiliary Clinton has already explained how the US authorities want to get Assange this context cannot be ignored.
        His role in revealing US secrets doesn’t make him an admirable figure, but serious legal opinion in the UK including Gareth Pierce – Stephan Lawrence’s lawyer – take Assange’s claims about Sweden seriously.
        No one on here or anywhere else has been able to demonstrate that they know the law on extradition better that Assange’s legal experts.
        Of course they may be right – but then again they may not be – if they’re not then Assange will not face trial for the Swedish allegations but will be whisked off to an American cell for a lifetime of solitary confinement.
        But obviously Assange does have a case to answer. And that is why the obvious way out is for the Swedish cops to interview him here. And if necessary to try him and jail him here.
        That is not letting him off the hook but it is recognising the unusal context.

    • August 21, 2012 at 3:30 pm · Reply

      Here’s who’s being uncritical of Assange:
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/video/2012/aug/21/george-galloway-julian-assange-sexual-rape-video

      Somebody needs to slap Galloway. With a brick.

    • August 23, 2012 at 5:25 pm · Reply

      “Assange has said he is willing to be interviewed by Swedish police but does not want to be deported to Sweden as he is worried he will then be deported to the USA.”

      If he was so worried about this why did he apply for permanent residence in Sweden in late 2010?

      “Why can’t the Swedish police fly to the UK and interview him here?”

      He’s wanted for arrest, not questioning.

      “Then they can establish the nature of the charges, he hasn’t yet been charged, and whether they could go to trial.”

      He cannot be charged until he is first detained under Swedish law.

      “Why not hold the trial in the UK, if it comes to that.”

      Because we don’t apply one law to commoners and another law to celebs, the wealthy, and the powerful. Furthermore the crime took place in Sweden, involved their citizens, and therefore none of it is subject to British laws governing these issues.

  3. August 20, 2012 at 11:33 am · Reply

    If Assange was going to be extradited to the U.S., it would’ve happened while he was on British soil. Jesus, we’re joined at the hip to the States in some regards, and extradition is one of them.

    It’s metaphorical dick-waving with a large helping of anti-Americanism with a topping of black-and-white morality, because surely the person behind a good cause can’t be also a rapist. That’s inconcievable!

  4. August 20, 2012 at 1:06 pm · Reply

    wow. the last two comments are so ridiculously and arrogantly misinformed i just had to step in. for starters Sarah, yes Sweden could give guarantees against the extradition of Assange – it’s as simple as having some of their leading statesmen make the promise and thus politically compromise their own positions and honour if they went against their word. law works on all kinds of personal credit and precedent, if the Swedish government came out directly and publically against extradition to the States then they would severely undermine their own sovereignity if they then went and subsequently backed down. secondly, Sweden has extradited almost as many individuals to the United States than the UK, there are currently two Swedish citizens rotting in American prisons. thirdly, Assange has not admitted to the charges against him – wherever you’ve gotten this information from, it is incredibly inaccurate.

    Will, you evidently have little political inspiration and would make a terrible statesman. no self-respecting country in Europe would want to simply extradite Assange without a moral smokescreen or whitewash. the US are in no particular rush to get Assange, and if they can drag his name through the mud in front of a bunch of credulous poseurs such as yourself first then that’s all gravy to them.

    i won’t even get into the ridiculous nature of the charges; the fact that both Anna Ardin and Sofia Wilen have broken down separately under police observation claiming that they weren’t raped and that they had been railroaded by the authorities into making these accusations, that they never initially prosecuted for rape but only to see if they could force Assange to take an STI test after they discovered he had slept around with both of them, etc etc etc… you’re obviously too lazy to check out the facts properly and tbh i think you have a bit of a responsibility to considering this man’s entire life is on the brink of being ruined.

    • ugh
      August 21, 2012 at 3:37 am · Reply

      I really don’t give a shit what charges were made when and who has been railroaded into doing what. Assange admitted to an act of rape (though he incorrectly argues it shouldn’t be considered rape), therefore he is a rapist.

      We all know the international community has dredged up the charges in an effort to discredit WikiLeaks, and we all know the way they have dealt with him is stupid. But to cry about “oh noes this man’s life is going to be ruined” is fucking disgusting and shows that you, like the international community, care more about the politics surrounding WikiLeaks than rape. Defend Wikileaks, but don’t defend Assange.

  5. Joana Ramiro
    August 20, 2012 at 1:28 pm · Reply

    Dear Charlie,

    please read here before you go on a rant about women who “have broken down separately under police observation claiming that they weren’t raped” – http://studentactivism.net/2011/07/12/assange-lawyer-concedes/

    This man has built a great website, yes, but if his life is “about to be ruined” it is not exclusively due to US-forged “character assassination”, but because he has effectively forced himself onto two women (again, details of how this is in fact the case can be read in link above, which is the same Sarah has published, and which describes how Assange’s defense concedes to the fact that he has gone against the wishes of both women he had sex with).

    I find it extremely problematic that anyone (specially a renowned whistleblower, supposedly liberal “knight in shiny armor”, defender of all things ethical like Assange) would ever challenge the definition of rape, merely out of the fact that the women he forced himself onto have eventually allowed him to continue having sex with them unprotected. As someone just said to me today, it’s too darn close to convicted rapists’ defenses: “She stop screaming so I thought it was OK”.

    This said, I am well aware of the risks that Assange’s presence in Sweden could bring vis a vis possible extradition to the US, where he is wanted for espionage and “terrorism”. It is an unfortunate combination of events. However, to somewhat apologize for what sounds very much (for all intents and purposes) like rape, just because the perpetrator is being victimized by the United States is shallow ultra leftism at best, misogyny at worst.

    To want to see Assange in court for rape while not wanting to see him arrested for “terrorism” is not a contradictory stance, and that is ultimately what Stef Newton was arguing in this article.

    • Jonathan Cunningham
      August 20, 2012 at 4:37 pm · Reply

      This same faudulent link continues to be spread around. It is an outright lie, intended to change the meaning of what Assange’s lawyer stated in order to make it seem like something it’s not. When you follow the sources on that link back to the Guardian, it clearly states “Emmerson is now explaining the alleged victim SW’s witness statement”. Emmerson was establishing that, assuming SW’s testimony is entirely accurate, it did not break the law. This did not concede that these events were undisputed. Additionally, SW did not accuse Assange of rape, and stopped talking to the police when it became clear they intended to charge rape.

      If you actually want to see Assange in court, you should be pressuring Swedish officials to charge him. As it is, he has not been charged with a single crime.

  6. Pippa
    August 20, 2012 at 2:39 pm · Reply

    Couldn’t agree more. Rape is rape. No excuses.

    • August 26, 2012 at 9:04 pm · Reply

      “Rape is rape.” And a meaningless tautology is a meaningless tautology. Just like:
      “Violence is violence.” (A favorite assertion of SOME pacifists but one that Gandhi would have rejected.)
      “Wages are wages.” (Said by an employer who decides to cut his employees’ pay by 50%.)
      “Food is food!” (Said to a hungry vegan when presenting her with a steak, or to a hungry carnivore when presenting her with a plate of bean sprouts.)
      “Stupidity is stupidity.” (Said in an attempt to equate all foolish comments made on this or any other web site.)

      Even if two separate acts both fit into whatever is being agreed or asserted as a definition of ‘rape’, those acts can be as different as night and an overcast day. Invoking a tautology like “Rape is rape” is not an attempt to advance a discussion but to shut it down.

      • A.C.E.
        September 20, 2012 at 3:58 pm · Reply

        In this case, it is not a meaningless tautology, but a tautology invoked to show the obvious to people who want to deny it – people who, like Assange, want to reclassify certain rapes as not rape, but as something else – like “bad sexual etiquette”.

  7. billj
    August 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm · Reply

    Its pretty clear that the USA want Sweden to extradite Assange in order that they can then remove him to the US, where he will be accused of treason regarding the Wikileaks revelations – or something similar, and locked up forever, as an example to the rest of the world not to leak US secrets.
    Certainly there seems a case for Assange to answer, that’s obvious. The ins and outs of it are not going to be resolved over the internet, not least as much of the information is rightly not in the public domain.
    So if there is a case to answer then the Swedish authorities should come to Britain, to the Ecuadorian embassy and interview and if necessary try Assange there.
    Unfortunately, Stef Newton’s article spent a long time criticising unidentified leftists and presented no solution that could explain how Assange could face justice in these peculiar circumstances. What is her answer?

    • Luke Cooper
      August 20, 2012 at 6:50 pm · Reply

      The claim that Sweden want to extradite him only to then extradite him again to the US is utter nonsense – amazing though the hold that conspiracy theories can have on leftists.

      Sweden would not have the power to immediately extradite assuage to the US alone, but he could appeal against it in both the Swedish AND British courts, potentially dragging the process out for several years. The US has not even attempted extradition proceedings. I dare to speculate that it’s because this ridiculous circus that Assange and an Ecuadorian misogynist president has cooked up, is a perfect publicity exercise for them. Especially when you consider it is not clear whether non-US nationals can even be tried under the 1917 US Espionage Act.

      Serious allegations against Assange have been made by Swedish women, which, whatever George Galloway and the Ecuadorian president claim ,amount to rape if true, and the crimes that are alleged to have been committed took place in Sweden. He should go there and clear his name if he is serious about not being labelled a rapist for the rest of his life.

      • billj
        August 20, 2012 at 7:35 pm · Reply

        Utter nonsense according to you.

        • Luke Cooper
          August 20, 2012 at 8:19 pm · Reply
        • billj
          August 20, 2012 at 8:25 pm · Reply

          Or to elaborate a little.
          We know its not easy to extradite Assange from the UK to the USA – for the simple reason that it hasn’t been tried.
          According to a quick scan of the debates on the web, the issue around Sweden is far from clear. I’m no legal expert – but its fair to say that some of the barrister experts in these matters do think that there is a heightened risk of Assange being extradited to the US from Sweden – I’d like to know at what level is Luke’s legal expertise of the Swedish extradition system?
          Given that he can dismiss these opinions as nonsense – including those of Gareth Pierce the QC in the Lawrence case – he must be pretty damn good.
          Which brings me back to my original point – given that this is an unknown the easiest way to get around it is for the Swedish cops to interview Assange in the UK.

          • Luke Cooper
            August 20, 2012 at 9:07 pm ·

            There is no evidence whatsoever that the British authorities would not swiftly comply with an extradition request from the United States.

            After all given the “special relationship”, with its track record of British compliance with US imperial designs from Iraq to Guantanamo, the practice of extraordinary rendition, and, more specifically, the awful recent extradition record, there are reasons for thinking that they would act with less “concern”, to say the least, for Assange’s human rights in the US, even though he would likely face similar, horrendous, treatment to Bradley Manning.

            On recent outrageous cases of British extradition to the US check out these wiki pages:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_McKinnon

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_O'Dwyer

            This one is also notable for the speed of the extradition from UK to US:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NatWest_Three

            Assange isn’t just wanted for questioning. He would be arrested the moment he set foot in Sweden. The reason that can’t be done in Britain is because police officers from Sweden do not have the power to arrest people here. Hence: an extradition process.

            I don’t have any special knowledge, but like any sensible socialist, I try and make an effort to look at the facts and think about the principles before forming an opinion.

          • bill j
            August 20, 2012 at 10:27 pm ·

            The evidence on the UK is simply that they haven’t done it. Obviously given the obedience of the UK authorities if it was so simple then they would have acted already.
            You have no special knowledge but nonetheless feel qualified to describe the opinion of people who disagree with you as “nonsense”.
            Yeah.

          • August 20, 2012 at 11:39 pm ·

            What makes Assange entitled to special treatment by the Swedish police?

      • Samir Dathi
        August 20, 2012 at 11:34 pm · Reply

        It amazes me how many people who don’t know a damn thing about the law profess to be experts on the law of extradition.

  8. Sargent
    August 20, 2012 at 4:09 pm · Reply

    Seems to me that if he is so worried about his life in the US, he should have chosen to rape a Swedish girl instead of a CIA agent?

    It would stink for him to have to face multiple charges in the US, but that was HIS choice, not the victim’s choice. If your daughter’s rapist took off to Ecuador, you’d want his ass back on American soil ASAP.

  9. Carolyn in Baltimore
    August 20, 2012 at 4:24 pm · Reply

    Assange has bragged that he has at least 4 children on different continents. I have read the police interviews – from what i can gather, he is not only a lousy lover – rough and inconsiderate – but he seems to have a thing about spreading his semen and fathering kids that he doesn’t need to care for. He had sex with 2 women who were both insistent on condoms, one while she was asleep, and the other she heard him break the condom.
    That is rape.
    I believe Wikileaks has done some important things. But their leader is not someone to idolize.And he should answer for his treatment of these 2 women. And how many others are there who did not complain? And the ones who had his children – bet they weren’t planned, at least by the woman. Yuck.

  10. August 20, 2012 at 4:41 pm · Reply

    Joana, that article does not state that Assange conceded the charges – it claims that his defence lawyers are challenging the extradition to Sweden on the basis that the alleged offence would not be a crime under UK law. that is a very different matter, as it specifically relates to the legal strategy being employed by Assange’s legal team to stop their man being packed off to Sweden and then subsequently the USA. as for this constituting a ‘challenge to the definition of rape’ – well, evidently (and this is fact not conjecture) in law rape has different definitions. so that little aside is effectively a moot point.

    the above also confirms that the claim made in Sarah’s article posted above is false, that Assange’s lawyer did *not* claim that Assange had behaved disrespectfully or ‘disturbingly’. rather, he claimed that he did not wish to denigrate the complainants’ concerns and he was absolutely sure they genuinely *felt* Assange had acted in a disrespectful, discourteous and ‘disturbing’ way.

    a lot of the ‘extradite Assange’ arguments seem to come from a genuinely naive reading of legalese without considering that actually, the rules and language of the law don’t fall into the same general codes of morality or language which people use on a day to day basis. as bill says, if they want to haul Assange in they should guarantee, at the very least, that he will be charged based upon the present case and not extradited to the USA.

  11. Chris Davis
    August 20, 2012 at 4:51 pm · Reply

    I find it rather depressing that this has become a controversy within the Left. I fear that it reflects the rather warped, absolutist mindset that afflicts some on the Left. Whether or not he had effectively admitted rape, all allegations of rape must be taken seriously and Assange must face them. Leftists should demand that Assange face trial, but also voice their opposition to his potential extradition to the US. This is a perfectly sensible and sustainable position to hold. Should such a trial ever take place, the Left can afterwards make a rational decision about what action to take. I fear, however, that those currently offering Assange unconditonal support would continue to do so even after a guilty verdict.

  12. Jonathan Cunningham
    August 20, 2012 at 4:56 pm · Reply

    There are several things important to note that you ignore, or gloss over, or just aren’t aware of. The first is that Assange was never accused of rape by anyone but the Swedish police. SW and AA both went to a police station to compel and STD test, but when it became clear the Swedish police were preparing a rape charge, SW refused to sign her statement and stopped cooperating with police. After it was clear Assange would not be tried, woman AA amended her statement to include an accusation of non consensual foreplay, which she specifically had stated was consensual before. (http://www.crikey.com.au/2011/02/01/rundle-full-swedish-police-report-of-accusations-against-assange/, http://insomniacanonymous.wordpress.com/2012/06/29/assange-allegations-deeply-fishy-with-dangerous-undertones/, http://thepeoplesrecord.com/post/25864285065/christine-assange-interview-part-one-june-25, at al).

    We have clear evidence that the US is building a case against Assange, Sweden has a history of illegally extraditing innocent people for the US to torture, and most importantly Assange has not been charged with a crime! I’ll say that again: Assange has not been charged with a crime! If there is evidence and if this extradition is about a charge rather than an excuse to extradite him, why hasn’t he been charged? If there’s no charge, why should he be extradited?

  13. Kim
    August 20, 2012 at 9:00 pm · Reply

    From what I’ve read, he can’t be charged with a crime until he is arrested. The Statesman article above goes over that. But do continue repeating that he “hasn’t been charged” like it has some kind of meaning.

    • Jonathan Cunningham
      August 20, 2012 at 10:50 pm · Reply

      That New Statesman article says that he can’t be tried at the stage of “preliminary investigation”, which is true, but then goes on to try and pretend that in order to end a preliminary investigation there needs to be an arrest, which is not true.

  14. Natalie S
    August 20, 2012 at 11:11 pm · Reply

    This is a great article Stef and some of the comments above prove your point. Clearly, there is a concern about Assange’s extradition to the US but I am not sure why that would be easier from Sweden. After all, it is the UK that in 2003 signed a treaty with the US, whereby the US does not even have to provide “prima facie” evidence (i.e. an arguable case) in order to extradite people from the UK – see http://www.statewatch.org/news/2003/jul/25ukus.htm

    There is a wider issue about the over-use of the European Arrest Warrant to extradite between European countries. At the moment, this is how the system stands. It’s been pointed out countless times that he cannot be charged until he is arrested and interviewed, by police in Sweden.

    Certainly in a Europe that was more respectful of civil liberties, it might be possible for a police force from one country to travel to another, interview someone under caution and then make a decision on charge (although this actually seems pretty far fetched for a serious allegation like rape, where the investigation will often involve other steps like taking intimate samples which really need to be carried out at a police station. It would be a much better idea for the more minor allegations which are pursued via this route like petty theft and drugs possession). But Assange isn’t campaigning for a change in the law on European Arrest Warrants in the interests of civil liberties – he is just refusing to comply as an individual.

    Of course Assange’s lawyers have to raise whatever arguments they think are strongest to try and prevent the extradition. But as far as I can see our legislation is pretty clear, if the complainant does not consent and the defendant does not reasonably believe in their consent to sex, it is rape. The comments are especially absurd re the woman who was asleep as the legislation states that if a complainant is asleep at the time of the sexual act, it’s to be assumed they did not consent and he defendant did not believe in their consent, unless there is evidence to the contrary – http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/42/section/75 .

    People need to be careful with the points about women “changing their stories” as many of these smack of the typical blame-the-victim mentality. If what is alleged to have happened is true, these women will have been understandably distressed and shaken up which could affect their accounts; they may not have been interviewed effectively enough by police to make sure all aspects of their accounts were dealt with; they may have not realised that certain details were relevant until after the first interview. They are not supposed to be the ones on trial.

  15. August 20, 2012 at 11:40 pm · Reply

    Thank you Stef for having the courage to speak your mind on an issue that obviously hits close to home. Sometimes challenging your comrades takes more bravery than challenging a system that is so morally bankrupt. You run the risk of being branded “pro-imperialist” (making you an un-person) and ostracized by dissenters for the “crime” of dissenting!

    There are two separate issues here: Assange’s personal acts and his political activism. He does not get a “get out of jail free” card for sexual assault because, while in jail, he might be extradited to the U.S. while in custody in Sweden. If that were to occur, then and only then would he become a political prisoner rather than what he is now — a common criminal on the run. He is shamelessly exploiting his political profile to avoid his apprehension by Swedish authorities, which is what would have happened to a person without fame or fortune.

    Shame on the left for championing double standards.

    Until Assange goes to Sweden to resolve the consequences of his personal behavior towards those two women, Assange is not the left’s problem. If we really give a damn about combatting women’s oppression, we should demand his extradition to Sweden.

  16. Doug
    August 21, 2012 at 3:47 am · Reply

    Why not pursue the sexual assault claims in the UK courts?

    Why is Sweden so hell bent on sending Assange to Sweden?

    Why is the UK extraditing him when it has a history of non-compliance on these issues?

    You are framing this discussion in a context that specifically precludes discussion about the non-trivial issues surrounding this case.

    I reject your argument; this is not a ‘global message that if you assaulted by someone who is famous/popular/etc. you should remain silent’. The COMMENTARY around this case from SOME ELEMENTS may suggest this, but the case around assange himself is considerably more complex than you are suggesting.

    • August 21, 2012 at 3:35 pm · Reply

      “Why not pursue the sexual assault claims in the UK courts? Why is Sweden so hell bent on sending Assange to Sweden?”

      Because the incidents happened in Sweden. If George Zimmerman fled to Pakistan, should he be tried there for the murder of Trayvon Martin in their judicial system?

  17. Peter Lindgren
    August 22, 2012 at 8:08 pm · Reply

    Stef says; “The uncritical support of Assange from parts of the Left has left a very sour taste in my mouth.”
    In my mouth too. Hearing Tariq Ali claiming “if you say yes it goes for the whole night” -as if sex isn’t mutual! And Tony Benn finds it necessary to state that “as socialists we are against rape since it means exploitation of women, BUT…” Shame on you,cdes!
    Great article about a serious matter,Stef!

    • August 23, 2012 at 4:46 am · Reply

      Scratch a socialist and you’ll discover a male chauvinist. Assange is the scratch that is exposing the left’s cooped up, hidden sexism suppressed by its self-imposed political correctness.

      • bill j
        August 23, 2012 at 4:12 pm · Reply

        huh?

  18. Scott Edwards
    August 22, 2012 at 10:39 pm · Reply

    Assange is wanted for questioning and has not been charged. I think that the government of Sweden has less regard for the alleged victims than does Assange. There is no reason that Assange could not be questioned in England by the swedish authorities who steadfastly insist that extradition must occur prior to questioning…. questioning which may lead to an indictment or not.

    What Stef Newton does not address is the possibility that an Assange deposition may not lead to charges of sexual assault, while a very real extradition request made to Sweden by the USA leads to his arrest for espionage.

    Rape is a serious issue and I am heartened that Ecuador is trying to get a guarantee from Sweden that Assange’s removal to Sweden will not result in an intervening action foisted on by the US. authorities.

    Finally I am leery of Stef Newton’s charge, “And this Left was not even mentioning the word rape – as if it’s not important, as if the wrongs and rights of this man canceled each other out.”, because it isn’t true. Every article I’ve read in the press, left or center, takes pains to explain that Assange is wanted by swedish authorities for questioning for alleged sexual misconduct. I don’t think it would prudent for the press to say more.

    If Sweden thought they had a prima-facie case for rape against Assange there would be an arrest warrant based on an actual indictment and extradition would be for the purpose of answering charges in court, not for a prosecutorial deposition.
    At this juncture there are allegations of sexual misconduct which may give rise to a charge of rape being sustained in a court of law. However the procedural posture of the instant case cannot at this juncture sustain the legal conclusion.

    Further it seems odd that the rights of the alleged victims can only be sustained on swedish soil. Imagine after an exhaustive deposition of Assange in England that the prosecutor feels there is sufficient evidence to bring charges. In that case support for Assange’s assertion of US interference would quickly evaporate. Another reason that Sweden may have less regard for two of her daughters than she does her american ally.

    • August 23, 2012 at 5:17 pm · Reply

      “Assange is wanted for questioning and has not been charged.”

      He cannot be charged until he is in police custody and he cannot be simply questioned because there is an arrest warrant out for him.

      Please check out the links Luke Cooper posted here.

      • Jonathan Cunningham
        August 24, 2012 at 6:29 pm · Reply

        “He cannot be charged until he is in police custody”
        This is simply and plainly a lie- it is absolutely untrue. Here’s a quickly googled example of a Swedish trial en absentia: http://www.thelocal.se/26862/20100526/

        • August 25, 2012 at 9:02 pm · Reply

          The person in question was dead!! Try not to do quick Google searches. They aren’t helping your case.

  19. August 23, 2012 at 10:28 am · Reply

    The issue of Julian Assange, and the publicity around the granting of asylum by Ecuador,  has clearly sparked off a high intensity debate among some sections of the left – as reflected on this site. There are those who are vehemently for his extradition to Sweden and those equally adamant that he should not. It seems it has split the left in a most debilitating and destructive way. Most of the opinions, for that is all many of them are, concern the allegations made in Sweden by at least two former sexual partners.  I do not know whether there is substance in the variously (and conflicting) reported allegations or not, but I do know prejudice when I read it.

    For white prejudice, it is enough for a black person to be accused of crime, for guilt to be assumed.  For homophobic prejudice, it is enough for a gay person to be accused of immorality, for guilt to be assumed. It is enough for religious prejudice, to assume, without evidence, that an atheist lacks morals.  For male chauvinists, it is enough for a female  to be  declared irrational, for it to be considered true. For radical feminists, it is enough for a man to be accused of sexual harassment, for it to be assumed true.

    Now it will undoubtedly true, that (as with white people) some black people will commit crime, some  homosexuals (as with straight people) may be immoral, some atheists (as with some religious people) will lack morals, many women (as with men) will be irrational at times, many men may be guilty of sexual harassment – but in such instances it will not be all. In such cases prejudice is clearly revealed by the supposition – guilty until proven innocent! In cases of prejudice, the onus is to prove ones innocence not on the accusers to prove guilt. This is a dangerous supposition from the standpoint of the oppressed who would (and do) suffer from it most – and which is the opposite of the modern concept of – innocent until proven guilty.

    The rational position in such cases is to demand sufficient and substantive  evidence and the rational response of those accusing is to present that sufficient and substantial evidence. Only in the eyes of those already prejudiced (including those on the left) is it a failing or crime to remain neutral until such time, and as in this Assange case, which has a further dimension, to consider and support that other dimension.  To my mind this issue of dispute, as with some others, reveals the lack of maturity of many on the left in general and some on the anti-capitalist left in particular, along with its own self-entrapment in dualistic bourgeois modes of thinking. In this bourgeois mode of thinking there are but two basic principles.

    1. In any dispute, you must choose one side or the other; one side must be right, the other side must be wrong. Or mostly right and mostly wrong.
    2. You are entitled to make up your mind on any issue based upon ‘official’ or ‘authoritative’ assertions and the flimsiest piece of evidence, particularly, if it fits your pre-conceptions.

    These two principles infect, not only bourgeois thinking in all aspects, from the scientific to the religious, but also infects the bourgeois forms of socialism outlined by Karl Marx.
    In the real world, it is not necessary to take sides on an issue, particularly where it is muddied by lack of information, contradiction and distortion. In the real world  both sides of an issue can be equally wrong. In the world as understood, by the revolutionary-humanism of Karl Marx, where you have time, you only make your mind up after lengthy, careful and prejudiced free analysis and even then maintain it with doubt for new evidence may arise, which causes a reappraisal of your analysis.

    Roy Ratcliffe [also at http://www.critical-mass.net ]

    • August 23, 2012 at 5:15 pm · Reply

      Innocent until proven guilty is a great idea, but Assange cannot be treated as either until he goes forward with the next step of the Swedish judicial process, which is surrending himself for arrest to satisfy their arrest warrant. He is flouting the due process that could clear his name.

    • Luke Cooper
      August 24, 2012 at 8:50 am · Reply

      No one is saying he is guilty until proven innocent. Rather, we are saying that to prove his innocence, then he should not try to abscond from the judicial process in Sweden and claim an immunity from these allegations.

      Yes, we are making a choice, we are choosing not to fall in behind the Assange solidarity movement and uncritically support his actions, because we disagree with them. That doesn’t mean we are making any a priori assumptions about his guilty or innocent. So your discussion of prejudice is wide of the mark.

      • bill j
        August 25, 2012 at 10:32 am · Reply

        Again you completely ignore the context. Why not address the real issues of the actual situation for a change? You want Assange shipped off to Sweden without any guarantees that he will not face extradition to the USA. That will deny justice both to Assange and the women involved in this case. It will hand a victory to the US authorities that wish to silence all opposition to their foreign policy.
        There is no reason why the Swedish cops couldn’t come here to interview him. The could pop on a plane at any time. But you’re against that. Explain why.

        • Luke Cooper
          August 25, 2012 at 11:20 am · Reply

          Never ceased to be amazed by your rudeness Bill, but there you go.

          1. Swedish police don’t have the power of arrest in Britain. That’s why extradition proceedings exist. Assange being interviewed won’t deliver justice for the women, his prosecution will.

          2. I don’t deny that the US is out to get Assange. But I don’t think his cause is helped by attempting to evade the legal process in Sweden. That’s why he should go.

          3. There is no still no evidence that the Swedish authorities would be any more likely to extradite Assange to the US than the British would.

          4. I am against Assange’s extradition to the US. If the British and Swedish authorities offer the guarantee against a US extradition his lawyers are demanding then good. But I don’t accept the conspiracy theory Swedish extradition is part of a convoluted plot to get him to the US.

          5. If Assange is shipped off to the US the moment he lands in Sweden rather than being arrested and prosecuted for rape, then that would indeed ‘deny justice to the women involved in the case’, but there is no evidence that this would happen.

          • bill j
            August 25, 2012 at 3:37 pm ·

            What’s good for the goose.
            Essentially your position is that of the UK and US authorities – you want Assange extradited to Sweden with no guarantees. That’s really bad.
            Its no conspiracy theory to suggest that Assange is more vulnerable to extradition to the US from Sweden than from the UK. This is the view of serious legal experts who have addressed the question.
            You initially tried to suggest that it was in fact in Assange’s interest to go to Sweden as the UK authorities were more likely to extradite him to the USA. You now seem to have forgotten that argument.
            Indeed you conceded that you had no expert knowledge of Swedish extradition law, but you nonetheless judge that your ignorance is superior to everyone else – including all the legal experts – who say different.
            You hope the Swede’s won’t extradite Assange but will not even demand the minimum guarantees against his extradition.
            Are you in favour of the British cops raiding the Ecudorian embassy?

          • Luke Cooper
            August 25, 2012 at 4:25 pm ·

            Not sure how you managed to get any more rude and demagogic. Again, never cease to amaze. The most infamous AWL members would struggle to do better.

            Obviously, I am not in favour of the police storming the embassy. Really, what an insulting suggestion that is.

            It is Assange’s lawyers who are saying that he is at more risk in Sweden and they are working according to his instructions and naturally trying to find legal arguments to make his case.

            It’s their job to do so. Legal arguments are always by definition contested.

            The problem is they have struggled to show that he would be in a worse position there than he is here.

            Not least because Britain has a “robust” extradition agreement which, as Nat points out above, does not even require the US authorities to present prima facie evidence (i.e. an arguable case).

          • billj
            August 28, 2012 at 8:53 pm ·

            Well thank goodness we’ve cleared that up.
            I won’t ask you any more questions, I get it, you’re a delicate soul.

        • August 25, 2012 at 8:59 pm · Reply

          Essentially your position is that Assange should be immune from any criminal prosecution since he could be subject to a U.S. extradition request in the future.

    • Dan Fisher
      August 24, 2012 at 2:49 pm · Reply

      Just to add to the comments above me, ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is a concept that applies to the court system, not private individuals.

      Assuming the innocence of the accused is #not# a neutral stand for observers and commentators.

      Also, I love how you listed several genuine types of systematic oppression, and then added men facing prejudice from radical feminists onto the end. Total false equivalence.

  20. bill j
    August 23, 2012 at 4:12 pm · Reply
  21. Richard
    September 1, 2012 at 6:32 pm · Reply

    Interesting thread. One point I would add: the reason the US has not sent out an extradition request for Assange so far is because of two things: they have yet to flip Manning, who is the only one who knows if Assange put him up to it. They tortured Manning and the US courts are ignoring that fact, no better these days than any so-called 3rd World country’s judiciary, and yet Manning has not indicated any conspiracy on Assange’s part. The second issue is: arrest him for what? The Espionage act and the Sedition act are domestic laws which have no bearing on foreigners. In time, they will come up with something. It seems absurd to pretend that Assange’s asylum request is to avoid the potential charges in Sweden. He won’t have a chance in the USA, period. In Sweden, he could very well be found innocent and let go.

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