Peter Kofod - Musician & former 'Human Shield' in Iraq.
WikiLeaks is one of the most important things in the world right now – and should be seen as an organization that can cross all kinds of political divides. It isn't about left or right, liberal or conservative, democrat or republican. Instead it's about revealing the crimes of the powerful against us all.
It's about empowering citizens to make informed decisions about issues that affect them. It has the power to topple governments, to end wars, expose corruption, setting the records straight and bringing criminals – whether they happen to be CEO's, elected officials or political operators – all the over the globe to justice.
This – and this cannot be stressed too much – is something that most Western citizens have been led to believe was a job for their free media.
And we've been terribly wrong. Instead the corporate media has been ineffective at BEST in challenging power (I'd argue that they've actually been quite effective, but that their role has been one of enabling instead of challenging - Aiding and abetting the powerful, so to speak; just look at the Iraq War, Global Warming, poverty, easily preventable diseases in the “Third World”, the Economic Crisis or rampant inequality for starters).
If you – like many others unfortunately – think that WikiLeaks is 'just' some kind of anti-American lobby group, you should think again, and perhaps check their record. They've been at it for years and years, before they started to draw major headlines in the West (mainly but not exclusively because their “targets” then, wasn't terrible important to Western elites).
It is however undeniable, that since 2010 WikiLeaks have set their sights (quite rightly) on the US (at that time at least, the sole remaining superpower). It would perhaps be a good idea to remember what all this fuzz REALLY is about (and no... it has nothing what so ever to do with sex-allegations, Women's Rights or due process, although the mighty Wurlitzer of propaganda very much would like you to think so.)
It's about someone finally having the guts to stand up to power, and then doing something about it, instead of just talking.
It's about an organization that did what media outlets almost never does: challenge the powerful.
It's about this video, shot from a US attack helicopter over Baghdad, gunning down civilians for fun. It's about US military personnel firing high caliber rounds into a car with children inside, and into people rushing to help the wounded.
It's about war crimes perpetrated by us, against defenseless civilians in faraway places. Nothing new here, except this time you got to actually see it without filter, telling us that we're a force for good.
It's about releasing hundreds of thousands of secret government documents (Afghanistan War Logs, Iraq War Logs and Diplomatic Cables), thus exposing war crimes, cover-ups, corruption and extreme disdain for public opinion and the rule of law.
It's about changing the tables on the powerful, about forcing the media to report OUR crimes too, and not just those of our official enemies.
In doing so WikiLeaks and editor Julian Assange has thoroughly shamed western media – that this tiny organization has been able to produce many, many more scoops than the western media in it's entirety speaks volumes not only about what great a service WikiLeaks has performed, but also about the incompetence of our 'Mainstream' Media (as a side note: Elitestream Media would be a better term, since it's blindingly obvious to anyone paying attention that there nothing mainstream about the performance of the media)
SO, where does that leave us now? Well sadly – but perhaps not very unexpectedly – it has left us in a situation, where most journalist are engaged in a senseless, hysterical smear campaign against Wikileaks and Assange (see Glenn Greenwalds superb demolition of the 'mainstream' narrative, here).
It has left us in a strange situation where Assange is being dragged through the mud and the legal system (in that order) under the pretext of being wanted for questioning in Sweden regarding allegations of sexual misconduct. Most serious observers (including feminist author Naomi Wolff and the UK organization Women Against Rape) are able to see that this is a smoke-screen designed to deliver Assange's sorry ass to the US, where he will face the music for spilling secrets, but that doesn't bother the media very much. After all, we wouldn't want to be accused of rape-apologism would we? Or more to the point: we wouldn't want to have have to take a stand against the powerful, would we? That's bad for business, bad for media-careerism and probably bad for ones view of past performance as well.
If you doubt that the US would very much like to get Assange, you haven't been paying attention:
The alleged source of many of these leaks is Bradley Manning – a young private in the US military – who's now standing trial, facing more than 50 years in prison. He's been held in solitary confinement for more than 800 days (the legal maximum is 120 days) and subjected to “conditions tantamount to torture” according to the UN special rapporteur.
On top of that, a multitude of well connected political insiders in the US have been at it, calling Assange a traitor (quite silly, since he's not a US citizen), a terrorist and a spy and calling for the government to murder him, no less. See for instance this little video:
If you bother, here's a list of prominent people who are perfectly comfortable with Assange being murdered: People OK with murdering Assange.
It's no secret (although you'd be hard pressed to find it mentioned in the media) that a grand jury has been convened in Virginia to examine what the hell to do about WikiLeaks/Assange, and most likely a sealed indictment already exists, ready for opening the moment he's extradited to Sweden, hence allowing for Uncle Sam to charge him with whatever they've been able to dream up. Espionage, computer crimes, incitement to commit a crime, whatever.
The simple truth is, that NOTHING WikiLeaks has done is a crime; and whatever they've done, is exactly the same as all other media outlets have been doing for ever (except, WikiLeaks has actually threatened power). If Assange should be punished, so should the editors of the New York Times, The Guardian and other media outlets who also published the leaked documents.
So what's up with Sweden I hear you say? Scandinavian paradise, due process, social democratic bastion of hope and all that. Well yes – and no.
Whatever one thinks of the Swedish allegations against Assange (and note: if one thinks anything at all about them, it must be assumed that one has examined them a bit right? For example read the police-report? Seen this documentary from Australian TV: Sex, Lies and Julian Assange, read this article from the Swedish Press?) it should be clear from the way the prosecution has handled the case (well.. the way the prosecution has handled the case since they initially dropped almost the entire case because there was a glaring lack of evidence that a crime – let alone rape – had been committed) in itself is evidence that their main interest is NOT justice on the behalf of the alleged victims.
Here's a few details, but seriously, if you've ever caught yourself thinking: “who don't this white-haired moron don't just go to Sweden to face the allegations if he's innocent” you must take it upon yourself to examine the details of the case.
1) Assange DID cooperate with the police while in Sweden.
2) He DID seek (and was granted) permission to leave the country – AFTER trying on several occasions to get the police to interview him again.
3) After leaving Sweden he tried to make an appointment for coming back to be interviewed in Sweden again (but was turned down by the prosecution).
4) Soon after he (legally) left Sweden, the prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for him (and subsequently an Interpol RED notice.. usually reserved for terrorist and the like)
Assange cooperated with the police in the UK too, and tried constantly to arrange for a meeting to take place either at Scotland Yard, an Embassy or via telephone/video-link. All this was denied, even though this is normal procedure. Something that has been very much subject to criticism in Sweden.
So, why is he afraid to go back to Sweden now?
Actually he isn't! Ecuador (who now has granted him political asylum, while he's sitting inside their embassy in London – and THIS is very remarkable! This is the first time a western citizen has been granted political asylum from the West, by one of the new democracies outside the West – I'm afraid it wont be the last time) has stated repeatedly that if Sweden would be willing to negotiate some kind of deal that could make sure that Assange would NOT get himself extradited to the US, he could go to Sweden tomorrow). Assange's lawyers, friends, supporters and himself has said the same. Sweden refuses to even talk about this.
Combined with the fact that most legal experts believe that after questioning, Assange would be a free man (because the evidence is so weak), it really isn't strange that he is not comfortable with the whole idea.
Further, in 2001 Sweden became famous for letting CIA snatch 2 innocent asylum seekers who 'renditioned' them to Egypt where they were tortured. This of course was totally illegal, and apparently totally extra-judicial as well. They didn't even bother to invent a pretext.
WikiLeaks cables show a remarkable willingness from certain high-profile Swedish politicians (Case in point: Carl Bildt) to suck up to US power.
Swedish pundits talk a lot about something they call “the Duckpond”, which can be explained like this:
“One of Sweden’s big problems in reference to political debate is posed by the small size of the country’s cultural elite. At the end, there is no real debate. This is possibly because in Sweden everybody within the political-cultural elite seems to know each other, or is related with each other for one reason or the other.” (link).
Two examples of this, that also further illustrates why Assange is reluctant to go to Sweden:
The former Swedish Minister of Justice Thomas Bodström who approved the rendition described above, is law firm partner with Claes Borgström who is now representing the two accusers in the Assange case.
A key issue in a debate as to if the Swedish Government can deny an forward extradition to the the US, is Swedish legal lecturer Mark Klamberg: Klamberg is - if not the only, then almost - the only Swedish legal source who is arguing that the Swedish government would NOT have final say in approving an extradition of Assange to the United States. As such, he is being held up by widely quoted UK legal correspondent David Allen Green (The New Statesman) as an authority on this very issue.
It should be noted that all other Swedish experts, official documents from the Swedish government itself as well as Klamberg HIMSELF (before he realised that this was embarrasing to the government position) cares to disagree with this.
That's silly enough in itself, but well, back to Klamberg: His wife happens to be a minister (no less) in the Swedish government who's hellbent on not cooperating with Assange in any way (see above) – so hardly an impartial source (even though he genuinely seems like a nice guy).
And if that isn't weird enough, consider this: Minister Birgitta Ohlsson is a personal friend of policewomen Irmeli Krans who under extremely weird circumstances was the one who took the statement of Sofia Wilen (one of the accusers, although 'accuser' is probably the wrong word, since she appearently never had any intention of accusing Assange of anything. When she realized what the police/prosecutor was up too, she became distressed and refused to sign her statement.).
Irmeli Krans is in turn both a personal friend of Anna Ardin, the second accuser, a fan of Claes Borgström (cousel for the accusers) and enemy of Julian Assange. Small world, eh.
If anybody is in doubt Assange, – like anyone else – is responsible for his actions, and if he has done something wrong with regards to these two women, he – like anyone else – must be held responsible. There can not be any doubt about this. They deserve this, he deserves this, WikiLeaks deserves this and WE deserve this. It is crucial to realize that it is the Swedish prosecutor – not Julian Assange - that has stood in the way of justice for these past years, and it is to this day the Swedish prosecutor that could give up her stubborn insistence of doing so: by questioning Assange.
In lieu of this, the Swedish and/or UK governments could almost effortlessly stop this circus and negotiate a way forward that would allow Assange to face the allegations in Sweden without fearing being extradited to the US on WikiLeaks related charges.
Further, if anyone is in doubt: the case against Assange seems flimsy at best, but none of the above would change if the case appeared extremely strong. If a video was leaked (no irony intended) that showed Assange brutally raping the two women while calling them names and strangling a baby-seal, that would a very, very serious crime, and he WOULD deserve a very harsh punishment in Sweden for his actions. He STILL would NOT deserve to be delivered to the US injustice system for WikiLeaks related “crimes”.
If any of this is news to you - you should spend a few moments contemplating that very fact.