In 2007, Wikileaks published the protocol manual for the US army at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp, Standard Operating Procedures for Camp Delta. The manual included a designated list of prisoners to be off-limits to the International Committee of the Red Cross – while the US government and military had claimed all along that all prisoners held in Gitmo could be visited by Red Cross representatives: and in April 2011, Wikileaks published the US military’s secret files on 779 detainees. President Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay, and never has.
In 2010, Wikileaks made available to selected media outlets a huge log of every Iraqi death recorded by the coalition forces (Multi-National Forces Iraq) in Iraq between January 2004 and December 2009. As Jacob Shapiro, Assistant Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University, pointed out: the deaths over five years is still an undercount.
- The database records 109,032 deaths in total for the period
- The database records the following death counts: 66,081 civilians, 23,984 insurgents and 15,196 Iraqi security forces
Wikileaks has done a lot to publicly embarrass many governments, but especially the US government, over twelve years of drifting rightward and away from human rights while publicly claiming righteousness. Nonetheless, it is impossible to say if, as far as his Wikileaks publications are concerned, Julian Assange – or anyone else not a US citizen – has committed any crime under US law, and he has certainly not committed any offense for which it would be possible for the US to extradite him.
As I wrote nearly four months ago, two months after Julian Assange had himself shut up inside the Ecuadoran embassy in Knightsbridge:
On 18th August 2010, Julian Assange applied for a residence permit to live and work in Sweden, hoping to create a base for Wikileaks there, because of the country’s laws protecting whistle-blowers. Swedish law prohibits extradition for political crimes: Swden have repeatedly said that the ECHR would intervene if Assange were to be extradited to face inhuman or degrading treatment, such as Assange claims to fear in the US.
If Julian Assange were genuinely afraid of being extradited to the US more than anything else, he would have stayed in Sweden. He fled because he did not want to be questioned by the Swedish police about the allegations of rape made against him by two women in August 2010. He has spent two years trying not to go back to a country where he wanted to live and where he would be safe from being extradited – but where he might well spend up to six years in jail for rape, if the Swedish authorities decide to charge him and if he is convicted.
From an interview Decca Aitkenhead had with Assange, published on 7th December, it seems clear that Assange would have been better off both physically and mentally if he had stayed in Sweden, given evidence to the police, been charged or not – since, even if he had been convicted, Swedish jails provide better living conditions that the cell which Assange has assigned himself to. Assange’s self-imprisonment is entirely his own problem, or ought to be: he’s opted to act as if ordinary laws shouldn’t apply to him.
This is what Amanda Marcotte has described as the Great Man theory of rape:
Even Assange defenders who claim they want Assange to face his accusers seem to be directing anger at everyone but the person who likely bears the most responsibility for the current situation. They’re mad at Sweden for not brokering a deal that would shield Assange from extradition to the U.S. They’re mad at the U.S. for hanging on to the option of prosecuting Assange for WikiLeaks-related crimes. They’re mad at the British government for threatening to arrest Assange. But they don’t seem to hold Assange responsible for creating this situation in the first place.
If the accusers in the Assange case are telling the truth—and so far, there’s no evidence that they’re lying—supporters of WikiLeaks should be furious at Julian Assange. He put the whole WikiLeaks operation at risk in order to sexually dominate women. Even if he didn’t rape the accusers, Assange’s reaction to the accusations has demonstrated a strong disdain for the notion that women have a right to bodily autonomy. He accused Sweden of being the “Saudi Arabia of feminism” for no other reason than its willingness to take seriously a woman’s claim that she was penetrated against her will. He trotted out the idea that a woman’s clothing choices and flirtatious behavior matter more than her consent. He’s admitted that he’s a “chauvinist pig” while reiterating the assertion that the only way you could read the accusations as rape is if your view is “distorted.” He doesn’t seem to give a whiff if he comes across as a dangerous sexual predator.
On 19th December, Julian Assange completes the first six months of his self-imposed imprisonment. For the past three months at least he seems to have become increasingly detached from reality – but as far as anyone can tell, it’s still Assange who curates the @Wikileaks Twitter account, the public face of Wikileaks to the world.
The best thing that could happen to Wikileaks, while Assange is locked up in Knightsbridge, is for the organisation to become independent of Assange in the eyes of the world. The worst thing that can happen is that, as Assange slowly bricks himself into his own self-created cell, Wikileaks goes with him.
Which is one of the many reasons why this t-shirt, which is an actual thing actually on sale, is so blitheringly ill-advised at best, and at worst, a horrifying confirmation that too many men – and some women – who ought to be on the side of civil liberties and human rights, see nothing wrong with glorifying a sexual predator.
Update, 21st August 2012. Impossible to summarise: necessary to read. Daniel Mathews, one of the founders of Wikileaks, says why he had to resign from the Wikileaks Party.