Case Study in International Diplomacy Involving the US, Its Vassal States, and Ecuador: Sweden's handling of the case against Julian Assange, Bradley Manning's torture in US custody, and US attempts to oust Rafael Correa
"The common thread among the whistleblowers, Assange, and Manning is that all of these innocent, courageous people were only exposing what shouldn't be kept secret anyway, namely, what our government does in our name, presumably on our behalf, with our money."
(Albuquerque, NM) - Will a team of US Navy Seals and possibly British Navy Walruses (or whatever the Brits call the people they turn into murdering robots) storm the Ecuadorean embassy in London and assassinate Wikileaks founder Julian Assange? Even if Assange has no wives and children there to witness the event as in the case of Osama bin Laden?
Ecuador's President Rafael Correa stood up to the bullying of the US and Great Britain this week and granted political asylum to Julian Assange. Correa was subject to all kinds of threats and pressures, both publicly and, you can bet, by secretive means that will come out eventually, and by one we do know about, because it was leaked: The British government threatened to storm the Ecuadorean embassy and physically abduct Assange.
Assange has been the subject of a "witch hunt" as he correctly called it today, by President Obama, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Attorney General Eric Holder.
"Witch hunt" isn't an exxageration. Obama has a neurosis about secrecy. He has prosecuted twice as many government whistleblowers under the Espionage Act as all other presidents combined. Remember that whistleblowers, those who expose government fraud, corruption and waste, are protected under US law.
They are supposedly protected, anyway, because they perform a valuable public service, and because another neurotic president, Richard Nixon, went after whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg in ways that were illegal, immoral and shamed his presidency, prompting congress to specifically enact a whistleblower protection act.
But Obama has gone after them, and Assange, and Assange's presumed source, US Army private Bradley Manning, with all the tools at his disposal, legal or not, just like Tricky Dick Nixon did. The common thread among the whistleblowers, Assange, and Manning is that all of these innocent, courageous people were only exposing what shouldn't be kept secret anyway, namely, what our government does in our name, presumably on our behalf, with our money.
Assange, as he always does when he speaks publicly, today called for the release of Manning, who has been held in military prison in the US under Guantanamo Bay like conditions for two years now.
New details have emerged revealing that Manning's torture -- which is how the UN special rapporteur on torture has characterized his treatment -- in US military custody was even worse than was known. Forced nudity, sleep deprivation, forced to sleep locked in a straight jacket like device. Being denied covers to sleep under, laces for his shoes, a belt to hold his pants up. He was never allowed to sit on his bunk with his back against the wall. He was under constant surveillance, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, went everywhere in hand and leg shackles, never saw the light of day for months.
Manning was receiving this kind of treatment from day one, long before he was formally charged. The government says it was because Manning was a suicide risk. Not true. It was punishment. Pre-trial punishment.
Rafael Correa's decision to grant asylum to Assange ultimately was because he knew Assange wouldn't receive a fair trial in the US, where Obama has already publicly declared him guilty. Obama's top foreign diplomat, Clinton, has been busy arranging for charges to be filed against Assange in Sweden so that he can be extradited there and from there whisked off to the US, where Holder has been busy assembling secret grand juries which have issued probable indictments against Assange for high crimes against the US, indictments that can only be prosecuted if they can get Assange to the US.
New details have also emerged about the Assange case. He has not been charged with a crime, either. The case was once dismissed, after Assange spoke to Swedish authorities. He left Sweden with their knowledge. The case was later resurrected.
Assange is wanted for questioning about allegations made by two women in Sweden. The older woman, who once published a legal guide for getting revenge on a cheating boyfriend, is said to belong to a CIA-funded anti Castro group in Sweden. it's been reported that she contacted the younger woman and convinced her to file charges, too. Coincidentally, it appears, she is also connected to figures involved in the coup attempt against Correa.
The charges against Assange provoked a lot of discussion about sex and sexual assault, about "boundaries," about whether men or even women know where they are. Many have commented on Sweden's sexual assault laws and whether Assange would be wanted for questioning in other countries for the same behavior. It's been asked whether feminism has gone too far.
"Feminism is a mainstream concept in Sweden and the country has among the toughest sex crime laws in the world. In fact, lawyers have been known to joke that a man must get written permission before having sex," wrote Brinley Bruton on an NBC web site.
But as it pertains to the Assange case, with the facts not being known, the talk is irrelevant and premature. All that's clear now is that where the governments of the US, Sweden and the UK are concerned, this is not about the rights of two Swedish women. As Michael Moore wrote in an open letter to the Swedish government, "Actually, many see right through you. They know what these "non-charge charges" are really about. And they know that you are cynically and disgustingly using the real and everyday threat that exists against women everywhere to help further the American government's interest in silencing the work of WikiLeaks."
And as Naomi Klein remarked, "Rape is being used in the #Assange prosecution in the same way that women's freedom was used to invade Afghanistan."
Assange's lawyers have repeatedly offered to make Assange available for questioning by Swedish prosecutors in England, both before and after Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy. Sweden refused, although it has questioned other suspects in the same way, including a Serbian wanted for suspicion of murder, as recounted by Vaughan Smith, the British journalist who opened his country home to Assange when he was under UK house arrest in this interview conducted this week by New York public radio. Smith, a founder of the UK journalism organization Frontline, also says in the interview that there is precedent for Assange to worry about extradition to the US -- two asylum seekers who tried to get refuge in Sweden in 2001 were handed over to be tortured at one of the CIA's infamous "black sites" in Egypt.
Correa, before he made the decision to grant asylum to Assange, also asked for assurances from Britain and Sweden that Assange would not be extradited to a third country, and was refused them.
If Sweden, or the US, wanted justice for the two women, allowing Assange to be questioned in England would have prevented the current situation, in which it may never be known what happpened, but it wasn't justice for the two women that Sweden and the US wanted. It was Assange. The US wants his head and Sweden's leaders wanted to please the Americans.
This is not the first time, incidentally, that Rafael Correa, the Ecuadorean President, has stood up to the US. Soon after being elected he cancelled the lease on a US air base in Ecuador, and later refused to back down when threatened with a US backed revolt by parts of the Ecuadorean police forces.
Correa later expelled the US Ambassador to Ecuador at the time, Heather Hodges, who had already played similar roles in subverting other country's governments, when a cable leaked to Wikkileaks revealed that she had made derogatory comments about the police who supported Correa and that he used the police for social control. When Correa demanded that she explain her comments she refused and replied in what he considered an arrogant manner, saying she had nothing to explain. Out she went.
Correa also ordered another US senior diplomat to leave Ecuador, US Customs attache Armando Astorga, after he was caught trying to use US aid intended for the drug war to set up a system of control over elements of the Ecuadorian police force, under which the US would have been able to approve the hiring of heads of narcotics units. Using aid money intended for police or military operations in this way is a technique the US has long used in Latin America.
Correa also has stood up to multinational bankers and oil companies, negotiating larger and more equitable concessions from oil companies that, until he took office, exploited Ecuadorean oil for pennies on the dollar. He has declared invalid foreign debt incurred by previous administrations under "austerity" terms imposed by the World Bank and IMF, the global enforcers of Neoliberlaism and as a result obtained terms more favorable to Ecuador.
Bangladeshi Photographer and Writer Rahhuma Ahmed relates Correa's background of principle and courage at his blog and at New Age of Bangladesh.
|Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)|
CNN has the all important state by state, electoral totals about where they were last time I reported on them two weeks ago, 237-206, Obama over Romney. Larry Sabato has it 247-206 and at Political Wire it's 284-241. Nate Silver at the NYT says Obama's probable electoral vote total has slipped 1.5 votes in the last week, hardly a cause for anyone to celebrate or have a bowel movement.
And this is all before working people really start to find out that if a Paul Ryan ever gets into a position of real power they'll be living the rest of their lives in abject poverty and misery, paying a bigger share of the cost of government services while the rich pay even less than the almost nothing they pay now, with no medical care, no Social Security, and America will be like it was before Franklin Roosevelt made it possible for millions of Americans to retire with some dignity, when between one third and one half of senior citizens, depending on what kind of statistics you use, lived below the poverty line.
And never forget. Obama wants to privatize Social Security, too.