Friday, December 10, 2010

Wikileaks, Peace Prizes, and O. Henry . . . .

The more closely one looks at the case of Julian Assange, the more it appears to be one of the most blatant cases of straightforward political persecution for whistle-blowing in memory. Though it is difficult to get clear information regarding the charges against Assange in Sweden, by most accounts it appears that the charges are a bizarre case based upon bizarre laws. It appears that Assange is being accused simply of 'sleeping around' which one woman claims constituted sexual deception - which according to Swedish law constitutes a sex crime. I don't kwon for certain that this is the case because, as I have said, accounts on the internet are sketchy and sometimes contradictory, and the main stream media has entirely failed to report on the issue. What is particularly troubling about the indictment is that the charges were brought against Assange some weeks ago when he was in hot water because of another set of leaks, and then were promptly dropped as the furor over the leaks died down. Then when Assange brought forth his current set of leaks the charges were suddenly reinstated. This makes it difficult to believe that the charges are anything but politically motivated. We know by the tertiary evidence that the pressure coming from US diplomatic circles against Assange are significant. For a mulitnational powerhouse corporation like Visa, which deals with all kinds of dubious and disgusting organizations and is driven by the almighty dollar, to drop its association with Assange is an unprecedented event. It clear to all but the most nieve observers that these kinds of corporate moves against Wikileaks are the result of massive and powerful pressures from Western governments in general and the US government in particular. There is something deeply troubling about the fact that a man like Assange can be so quickly demonized and jailed for such an act of whistle-blowing. As I have said before, the recent leaks of information by Wikileaks are of dubious value and appear to contain few significant revelations about government duplicity. These leaks therefore lack the kind of massive public support that other such revelations like the Pentagon Papers had. However, despite their dubious value in the struggle to make governments more accountable, the political persecution by Western powers is outrageous and sets a dangerous precedent.

Two other events of this week make the persecution of Julian Assange somewhat ironic. One is the report by the Auditor General of Canada on the functioning of the federal watchdog designed to protect and investigate whistle-blowing in Canada. It seems that not only was the Watchdog, a Ms Christiane Ouimet, a petty tyrant who compiled secret information on her employees who she perceived to be overly honest or whistle-blowers themselves, but she failed utterly to investigate a single case of wrong-doing by whistle-blowers or protect them in any way. Now the Harper Government who sang her praises when they nominated her for the appointment were obviously active in their efforts to make sure that Ms Ouimet did not fulfill her mandate, because the Harper government has made it clear time and again that they are fundamentally opposed to any real transparency in government and anyone who is engaged in whistle-blowing or even proper oversight of the Conservative government is quickly fired and discredited. It seems that whistle-blowers are nowhere safe.

The other ironic event took place this morning. It was the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. The recipient of the prize could not, of course, attend the ceremony because he is presently in a Chinese prison serving an eleven year term for his political activism. So there are the Scandinavians giving a Nobel Prize to a man who is prison for his political activism, while they are about to imprison a man for . . . . political activism. This is so rich in narrative irony that O. Henry himself couldn't have made it up.

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