Sinister Attack on WikiLeaks to Cover Up Imperialist Crimes
Free Julian Assange! Drop All Charges!
Assange, presenting WikiLeaks’ release of files on Afghanistan war in
London, July 26. (Photo: Getty Images)
The December 7 arrest in London of Julian Assange, the founder and editor-in-chief of the Internet investigative site WikiLeaks, is a threat to freedom of the press and an attempt to silence critics who expose the bloody deeds of imperialism. We are convinced, along with many others, that Assange is innocent of the trumped up accusations of the crimes of rape and sexual molestation that are being manipulated by Swedish authorities to request his detention and extradition. It is clear that sinister forces are pushing the persecution of this courageous man, and his life could be in danger.
We have no hesitation in naming the criminal forces who are behind this frame-up: first and foremost, the United States government of Barack Obama and its military and spy agencies. They have enlisted U.S. corporations such as Amazon, MasterCard, PayPal and others, Swiss banks and the complaisant Swedish, British and Australian governments in their war on WikiLeaks. They seek to silence whistleblowers who have not only caused them diplomatic embarrassment but also lifted a corner of the veil on Washington’s Murder, Inc. If the would-be masters of the world cannot stop the leakage of information through judicial/police methods, they will surely resort to other means.
Despite the arrest of its leader, the shutdown of some of its websites by service providers due to U.S. threats and cutoff of donations by payments companies, WikiLeaks has vowed to keep publishing. It is urgent that all defenders of civil liberties and opponents of imperialist war stand up in defense of Julian Assange, demanding that he be immediately freed and that all charges against him be dropped, including those that are in the works. It is also necessary to defend his comrades who are at risk for their dedication to shining a light into the dark corners where the capitalist rulers hide their dirty secrets. And we must oppose all efforts by the U.S. and its allies to enact gag laws to enforce police-state controls. We demand: Hands off WikiLeaks!
For the last nine months, U.S. imperialism has been smarting over a series of revelations of a small proportion of its crimes by WikiLeaks. The website won global fame and attention when it released the video “Collateral Murder” last April, showing the crews of U.S. helicopter gunships nonchalantly mowing down with machine-gun and rocket fire two reporters, several first aid responders and even children in Baghdad in 2007. Millions of viewers watched in horror as they saw the massacre unfold before their eyes.
The Pentagon, stung by the worldwide outrage, responded by arresting Private First Class Bradley Manning, a military intelligence analyst stationed in the Iraqi capital, charging him with leaking the incriminating footage. In our article, “Defend PFC Bradley Manning!” (The Internationalist No. 31, Summer 2010), we wrote:
“If Bradley Manning did indeed help to uncover evidence of U.S. imperialism’s war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, and if he did try to bring to light the secret dealings of U.S. diplomats and spies, these were justified acts evidencing rare moral courage. Class-conscious workers and all defenders of democratic rights should hail Manning as a hero. Exposing U.S. imperialism’s crimes and tearing the curtain of secrecy from its plots can save the lives of innocent people by helping to put an end to the Pentagon’s reign of terror in Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world.”
We also warned that Julian Assange, the founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, was at risk of arrest or even assassination: “Make no mistake, Julian Assange is in real danger from the same imperialist war criminals that have Bradley Manning in a military jail. Hands off Julian Assange and WikiLeaks!”
In July, WikiLeaks followed up by releasing over 90,000 documents from the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan spanning the six-year period from 2004 through 2009. The Afghanistan War Logs were provided in advance to several leading news media, including the New York Times, the London Guardian and the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, which published excerpts. Naturally, the Times downplayed some of the most egregious war crimes – for example, suppressing a story by its correspondent on the hit squads of Task Force 373, professional assassins responsible for numerous massacres in Afghanistan – alleging lack of space and other implausible excuses. Der Spiegel (26 July), at least, put the story on its cover.
In October, Wikileaks released 350,000 documents about the Iraq war, showing, as Assange summarized them, that it was “a bloodbath on every corner.” It also documented 15,000 civilian deaths that the U.S. never publicly admitted. Then at the end of November, WikiLeaks began releasing documents from a trove of 251,000 secret State Department and CIA cables. As rad-lib journalist Alexander Cockburn noted in an article titled “Julian Assange: Wanted by the Empire, Dead or Alive” (Counterpunch, 3-5 December), the “communications released by WikiLeaks contain no earth-shaking disclosures that undermine the security of the American empire.” The latest stash of documents published so far mainly illustrate the prejudices and stupidities of the diplomatic corps. Most of the yelps are coming from the governments being reported on, not from the U.S. If anything, as a columnist for an Israeli liberal Zionist paper noted:
“They depict the fall of the American empire, the decline of a superpower that ruled the world by dint of its military and economic supremacy…. The days when American ambassadors were received in world capitals as ‘high commissioners’ are long since gone. The diplomats who wrote the WikiLeaks documents are tired bureaucrats: Nobody rises in their honor and clicks their heels when they enter a room. They spend their days listening wearily to their hosts’ talking points, never reminding them who is the superpower and who the client state that needs military or financial aid from America.”
–Aluf Benn, “WikiLeaks Cables Tell the Story of An Empire in Decline,” Haaretz, 1 December
That certainly describes Israel’s dismissal of any pressure from the Obama administration.
No doubt, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
put-upon to excuse U.S.
envoys’ denigrating comments about their “allies,” and to explain why
Foreign Service and even ambassadors had been tasked with ferreting out
credit card and frequent flier numbers of their counterparts. Or to
about the list of facilities in other countries that the U.S. considers
its own (“critical foreign dependencies”). Moscow
was irate about a secret NATO treaty to defend Estonia,
Latvia and Lithuania. “Against
whom else could such a defense be intended? Against Sweden,
Finland, Greenland, Iceland?
Against polar bears, or against the Russian bear?” asked the Russian
to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin. Russian president Dmitry Medvedev suggested
perhaps Assange should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
U.S. spokesmen keep repeating that the leaks will get their secret informants killed, for which there is not a shred of evidence. After getting heat for releasing the names of Afghan informers collaborating with the NATO occupiers (what about the identities of Nazi collaborators in occupied Europe?), WikiLeaks is so intent on appearing responsible that it has taken to excising the names of such covert operatives themselves. At least former CIA agent Philip Agee named names when he broke with “The Company” in the 1960s. Still, official Washington is fit to be tied. Democrats and Republicans alike fear that the U.S.’ ability to dictate to the world will be gravely compromised unless it clamps down on “unauthorized disclosures.” “The empire can’t exist without secrecy,” said Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers history of the Vietnam War, in defending Assange and WikiLeaks.
Democrat Dianne Feinstein, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, notorious for covering up CIA torture, called for Assange to be prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act. Democratic turncoat Joe Lieberman, head of the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee, wants to investigate the New York Times as well. And Attorney General Eric Holder vows to “close the gaps in current U.S. legislation” by enacting new laws infringing on freedom of speech. But that may take some time. They yearn for an Official Secrets Act like in Britain, so they could stop publication of anything by slapping a “D Notice” on it. They wish they were back in the post-9/11 days when they rammed through the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act with a near-unanimous vote before anyone bothered to read it.
For now, they want to defame the WikiLeaks founder, to take away Assange’s moral authority by smearing him so that he looks dirtier than they are – a pretty tall order. So we get this persecution on sex charges. Not prosecution yet, for curiously no charges have been filed. In fact, the allegations against him were not even described to Assange and his lawyers before he was arrested on an Interpol alert and held for deportation to Sweden. No evidence has ever been presented. Everything about this legal vendetta stinks to high heaven of state provocation. Briefly:
Indeed there are. And what are those “darker forces?” the interviewer asks. Assange’s lawyer responds that “Sweden is one of those lickspittle states that allowed for ‘extraordinary rendition’ and torture flights to go through their country.” Good point. Not only did Sweden dispatch asylum seekers to Egypt where they were imprisoned, beaten and tortured, as well as allowing CIA “rendition” flights, under Prime Minister Göran Perrson of the Social-Democratic Labor Party (SAP), despite its professed neutrality, Sweden sent troops to join in the occupation of Afghanistan.
This points to the crucial social-democratic connection in this affair. Sweden’s social democracy has long been a handmaiden of U.S. intelligence agencies. During the 1980s, much of the CIA’s clandestine aid to the anti-Soviet Polish Solidarność was channeled through Sweden with the blessing of SAP prime minister Olaf Palme. This was hardly novel. The CIA financed social-democratic parties throughout Western Europe after World War II in order to break their wartime alliances with the pro-Moscow Communist parties. It is particularly significant in the case of Assange, because the politician/lawyer who contacted the prosecutor in Göteborg was Claes Börgstrom, who is the SAP’s chief spokesman on gender equality issues.
This brings us to Anna Ardin, one of the two women who made the accusations against Assange. Ardin is a well-known feminist activist who was a gender equality officer for Uppsala University, the Harvard of Sweden. She is also the press secretary of the Christian Social Democratic Association, commonly referred to as the Brotherhood Movement. Former prime minister Persson is likewise a member of this association. Anna Ardin worked at the Swedish embassy in Buenos Aires for a time when the Social Democrats were in power, and also reportedly at the Swedish embassy in the U.S. But most particularly, Ardin has been active on the issue of Cuba, as a social-democratic operative keeping in touch with anti-Castro “dissidents” (see box on “Anna Ardin’s Gusano Connection”).
Anna Ardin was the person who invited Julian Assange to speak at the Stockholm meeting on August 14, hosted by the Christian Social Democrat Brotherhood organization. An article by Israel Shamir and Paul Bennett (“Assange Besieged,” Counterpunch, 14 September) noted that while Assange went to Stockholm hoping to shield WikiLeaks from legal persecution, “the moment Julian sought the protection of Swedish media law, the CIA immediately threatened to discontinue intelligence sharing with SEPO, the Swedish Secret Service.” It turns out that Ardin has a brother who works in Swedish intelligence, and who was a liaison in Washington to U.S. spy agencies. Nothing but a strange coincidence?
Ardin offered to let Assange stay at her flat, and the night before the meeting they had sex. This sure smells like a classic intelligence agency “honey trap,” but with a Swedish twist. The usual pattern is to lure the target into bed with an attractive woman, photograph the tryst and then use the pictures to blackmail the mark into cooperating. In this case, after the sex come accusations of rape and howls about male chauvinism. At this point it’s sounding like the plot of a Stieg Larsson novel, perhaps “Wikileaks: The Man Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” as the London Guardian (8 December) titled its editorial.
Although no formal charges have been brought, or evidence presented, the content of the prosecution dossier against Assange were handed over to a major Swedish tabloid, Aftonbladet, which published a special supplement detailing the accusations. The affidavit read in court in London provided some detail of the allegations, but although it claimed to buttress accusations of a sexual assault, they could also be interpreted as “a frivolous case of miscommunication during consenting sex acts,” as the Toronto Globe & Mail (7 December) put it. There are numerous aspects that cast doubt on the claims by the two women.
Ardin now asserts that Assange has a “warped view of womanhood and can’t take no for an answer.” Yet by all accounts their sexual encounter was consensual, although apparently the condom split. Still, the two appeared to be on friendly terms at the meeting the next day. That same day Ardin twice posted “tweets” on her accounts gushing about “Julian” and a party she threw for him, telling the world at 2 a.m. that she was “with the world’s coolest smartest people, it’s amazing.” Later, when she went to the police she deleted the tweets from one account, but forgot another. In any case, cybersleuths retrieved them from the Google cache.1
The second woman admits that she actively pursued Assange, landing an invitation to the meeting, sitting in the front row, hanging around afterward like a groupie to get invited to dinner, calling him repeatedly for two days, then taking him home where they had sex in the evening, and again in the morning, first with a condom then without. They parted amicably. She asked Assange if he would call again, he says he would. But two days later when he didn’t, she called Ardin to say she was worried about getting pregnant or a sexually transmitted disease. Earlier both women sent out text messages that police describe as “exculpatory” toward Assange. Now the two text each other about going to the scandal sheet Expressen to get back at him.
Then they go to the police. The second woman tells police that Assange “had sex with her against her wishes” while she was asleep. Ardin now tells the police that Assange “deliberately” ripped the condom during their sexual encounter. The police officer and prosecutor on duty classify the former as rape, the latter as sexual molestation, and open an investigation (only to have it dropped in 24 hours, and then suspiciously reopened weeks later). Details of the case are immediately leaked. Editors are tipped off, top reporters are called in the middle of the night to hop on the story. By the next morning it is splashed across the pages of Sweden’s tabloid press. Within a day the news is shot around the world via the Internet.
That there was calculation here seems clear. Ardin’s deletion of the “tweets” from her blogs looks like an effort to make her story more plausible. Call it cover-up. The fact that the women don’t make a formal complaint and let the police do it shows that the Uppsala gender equity officer knows how the law works. Is there more to it? On her blog, Ardin has posted a “Seven-Step Program for Getting Revenge,” for women whose boyfriends have been unfaithful. Step 7: “Ensure that your victim will suffer the same way he made you suffer.” That much they have achieved, whether it’s what they were after or not: Assange is certainly suffering now.
Assange is accused of (but not yet charged with) rape, sexual molestation, and molestation. Rape is an extremely serious crime, overwhelmingly against women, involving violence and coercion. For centuries, women have been intimidated from bringing charges of rape, fearing that they will be subjected to humiliation, or far worse persecution (as in U.S.-occupied Afghanistan, where a woman who has been raped can be stoned to death for her “sin”). However, under Swedish law, a complaint of sex without a condom can be the basis for a charge of rape – of the lowest of three categories, which is what is alleged against Assange (but which still carries a sentence of up to four years in jail). This trivializes the horrible nature of this crime. And as a spokeswoman for the British group Women Against Rape wrote to the Guardian (9 December):
“Many women in both Sweden and Britain will wonder at the unusual zeal with which Julian Assange is being pursued for rape allegations…. Though Sweden has the highest per capita number of reported rapes in Europe and these have quadrupled in the last 20 years, conviction rates have decreased…. In 2006 six people were convicted of rape though almost 4,000 people were reported….
“There is a long tradition of the use of rape and sexual assault for political agendas that have nothing to do with women’s safety. In the south of the US, the lynching of black men was often justified on grounds that they had raped [the Scottsboro Boys] or even looked [Emmett Till] at a white woman. Women don’t take kindly to our demand for safety being misused, while rape continues to be neglected at best or protected at worst.”
Criminal cases involving sex are notoriously difficult and messy (often no witnesses, complex relations between the individuals). However, in this case it is evident that there was no violence or coercion. None has been alleged, and whatever they may have felt afterwards, indications are the sex was consensual at the time. Add to this the judicial mishandling of the case: immediately leaking it to the press, switching prosecutors in order to reinstate the investigation, refusing to meet with Assange, then demanding his extradition. Throw in a connection with intelligence agencies, and Cold War anti-Communist connections via Swedish social democracy. Plus the overriding determination of the U.S. empire to strike back at, and shut down, WikiLeaks.
The conclusion can only be that Julian Assange is the victim of a political frame-up. The purpose of that frame-up: to staunch the flow of information about imperialism’s crimes and machinations.
Was it a “honey trap”? Was it two women who felt they had been wronged getting “revenge”? We don’t know. At the very least, the two are being used by sinister forces who will use any excuse to nail the founder of WikiLeaks: start by defaming him, and go from there.
Julian Assange is not guilty of rape, but there is plenty of serious criminality here. There have been highly publicized death threats against the WikiLeaks founder. A former aide to Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, Tom Flanagan, said on CBC Television that “Assange should be assassinated.” Former Nixon staffer and convicted Watergate criminal G. Gordon Liddy says that Assange should be put on a “kill list.” Conservative pundit William Kristol calls to “neutralize Assange and his collaborators.” Another, Jonah Goldberg, asks “Why isn’t Julian Assange dead?” A Washington Times columnist calls to “treat Mr Assange the same way as other high-value terrorist targets: Kill him.”
People who make such death threats should be behind bars. They would be if they made them against top capitalist politicians. But they won’t be when they are made against the man who is No. 1 on the Obama administration’s “enemies list.” Moreover, while liberal luminaries headed up by Noam Chomsky are circulating an open letter to Australian prime minister Julian Gillard citing these threats by vicariously murderous conservatives, the real danger to Assange comes from the liberal Democrats now wielding state power in the U.S. – and from their “lick-spittle” social-democratic allies, and partners in war crimes in Afghanistan, from Australian Labor Party to Swedish social democracy.
Assange is in potentially mortal danger. As the material published by WikiLeaks shows, and as he is well aware, the U.S. government is in the assassination business big time. It has multiple apparatuses to “terminate” opponents “with extreme prejudice,” as the Nixonians used to put it. Alexander Cockburn recently published excerpts from the CIA’s 1950s “how to” guide to pushing people out of windows. Then there was the Reagan administration’s illustrated Everyman’s Guide to “Selective Violence,” issued in Spanish for the Nicaraguan contras and subsequently translated into Arabic for use by Al Qaeda. Or the Bush administration’s secret Waterboarding for Dummies memos. One way or another, the masters of American imperialism would dearly like to “take out” the troublesome website’s founder and editor-in-chief.
The work that WikiLeaks has been doing has been useful in exposing a tiny proportion of the bloody crimes of U.S. rulers. But there should be no illusion that “leakers” from within the government will ever be able to show in all its horror what the imperialists are up to. For that, it will be necessary to carry out a revolution, as in October 1917 when the Russian workers seized power, and opened the archives and the dungeons of the tsarist autocracy. Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky was named Commissar for Foreign Affairs and proceeded to publish the secret treaties of the tsar and the other Great Powers. Only when U.S. imperialism is brought down by international socialist revolution will we be able to really delve into the vast secrets of Washington and Langley.
For now, it is urgent to demand that Assange
immediately freed and all charges against him be dropped, and that
Manning be freed. They will be awarded their justly earned medals for
valor, and the war criminals brought to justice, when the workers rule.
1 “Assange Case: Evidence Destroyed Over and Over Again,” Radsoft, 1 October.
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