Sunday 7 February 2016

Free Julian Assange now! (Sunday Guardian)

By M.D. Nalapat | 6 February, 2016
Assange has done the world a favour by revealing the hypocrisy of policymakers.
Policymakers in India are not known for backbone, else then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would have offered asylum to Julian Assange when the founder of WikiLeaks sent the US security establishment into hysterical paroxysms by releasing thousands of secret diplomatic emails. 
If the outing of such communications has had the catastrophic effect on US interests, and indeed global security, that governments in the “free world” warned would soon occur, such damage appears to be invisible. The fact is that in democratic societies, greater transparency strengthens security and thereby the public interest.
Even individuals as inconsequential as this columnist have found mention in the cables, albeit in a less than complimentary way, apparently because of an opinion on Siachen given to an acquaintance, a professor of the University of Miami, who, at the time the discussion referred to in the cables took place, was in charge of the US embassy in Delhi. The view expressed in that meeting, which was that Manmohan Singh deserved to be hanged from the nearest street corner should he surrender military control over the Siachen glacier, was apparently not to the liking of the State Department, which has, over the decades, been obsessive in furthering the interests of the Pakistan army (as distinct from the Pakistan people) at the expense of India. It must be said that Julian Assange has done the world a favour by revealing the shenanigans of diplomatic discourse, as well as reveal what policymakers actually believe, as expressed in their secret conversations with US diplomats, as opposed to the lies they mouth in public on the same issues.
Not merely Julian Assange, this country ought to have given asylum to Edward Snowden as well. By doing so, it would have shown its independence from superpower pressures as well as done justice to an individual, who was, in common with Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame 45 years back, motivated solely by idealism rather than by personal gain in his actions. A bonus to India through giving Snowden asylum would have been insight into the way in which internal communications are being monitored by outside agencies. Hopefully, a time will come when the Government of India develops enough spine to ensure that Raisina Hill act in a manner which is autonomous of superpower and great power pressures rather than make compromises with the national interest in order to gain the favour of distant capitals.
For President Obama to lecture India about minority rights during his visit and thereafter fly off to Saudi Arabia and keep  silent about their treatment of women or non-Wahhabis is hypocritical. 
However, it is not India which is in the dock so far as Julian Assange is concerned, but Sweden, the US and the UK. In the case of Sweden, was it a coincidence that the charges of molestation against the WikiLeaks crusader were made soon after he became an “enemy of the state” in Washington, and not immediately after the actions which were described against the two complainants took place? It is difficult to imagine that individuals in good health would be unable to fend off unwelcome advances from a male who is clearly in less than stellar physical shape, and the way forward for Sweden would have been to have the trial in absentia, with Assange on videolink, so that the public could decide for themselves just who is telling the truth. By its role in the incarceration of Julian Assange in a room at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, the Swedish authorities have shown the extent to which Washington is a factor in their decisions. In the case of the UK, that it is a poodle of the US (and proud of that fact) is no secret, so it is understandable that the very country that gives lectures to others on the human rights of dissidents should itself act in such a detestable manner, by not even allowing Assange to have medical treatment outside the embassy without being arrested. 
In a rare display of independence, a UN body has found the detention of Assange to be indefensible and needing to be ended, but shame is not an emotion found in chancelleries out to make a point against those deemed to be egregious nuisances.
After its treatment of Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, with what moral force can Washington declaim against other capitals for alleged “human rights” violations? India has been a particular target of those in the Obama administration, who have subscribed to the agenda of think-tanks funded by the Wahhabi International, with allegations of “child slavery”, “minority oppression” and “denial of dignity to women” flying around discussions of the country. 
 Certainly, democracy in India is a work in progress, but for President Obama to lecture India about minority rights during his visit and thereafter fly off to Saudi Arabia and keep respectfully silent about that country’s treatment of those who are either women or non-Wahhabi is a new peak of hypocrisy. 
Julian Assange deserves his freedom. The man has been a welcome corrective to official deceit, and it is a matter of shame for Canberra that his own country, Australia, seems paralysed by fear when faced with the injustice being perpetrated on a citizen. 
The finest way the 21st century Anglosphere can assert its identity and its values would be for Washington and London to give Julian Assange back his freedom and his right to exasperate those in these and other capitals who have too much power for the good of their own people or the rest of the world. Free Julian Assange now!

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