As the United States and Britain look for an excuse to invade another oil-rich Arab country, the hypocrisy is familiar. Colonel Gaddafi is “delusional” and “blood-drenched” while the authors of an invasion that killed a million Iraqis, who have kidnapped and tortured in our name, are entirely sane, never blood-drenched and once again the arbiters of “stability.”
But something has changed. Reality is no longer what the powerful say it is. Of all the spectacular revolts across the world, the most exciting is the insurrection of knowledge sparked by WikiLeaks. This is not a new idea. In 1792, the revolutionary Tom Paine warned his readers in England that their government believed that “people must be hoodwinked and held in superstitious ignorance by some bugbear or other.” Paine’s “The Rights of Man” was considered such a threat to elite control that a secret grand jury was ordered to charge him with “a dangerous and treasonable conspiracy.” Wisely, he sought refuge in France.
The ordeal and courage of Paine is cited by the Sydney Peace Foundation in its award of Australia’s human rights gold medal to Julian Assange. Like Paine, Assange is a maverick who serves no system and is threatened by a secret grand jury, a malicious device long abandoned in England, but not in the United States. If extradited to the US, he is likely to disappear into the Kafkaesque world that produced the Guantanamo Bay nightmare and now accuses Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks’ alleged whistleblower, of a capital crime.
Should Assange’s current British appeal fail against his extradition to Sweden, he will probably, once charged, be denied bail and held incommunicado until his trial in secret. The case against him has already been dismissed by a senior prosecutor in Stockholm and given new life only when a right-wing politician, Claes Borgstrom, intervened and made public statements about Assange’s “guilt.” Borgstrom, a lawyer, now represents the two women involved. His law partner is Thomas Bodstrom, who, as Sweden’s minister for justice in 2001, was implicated in the handover of two innocent Egyptian refugees to a CIA kidnap squad at Stockholm airport. Sweden later awarded them damages for their torture.