Don’t minimize for a minute the gravity of Julian Assange’s crime associated with the WikiLeaks disclosures. Whereas an ordinary criminal – a tax evader, a bank fraudster, a child molester, even a Mafia chieftain or the head of a Colombian drug cartel – might seek and eventually find refuge from the long arm of the law in Switzerland or the Cayman Islands, provided of course they had the right kind of connections, clout, and wherewithal, no such luck awaits poor Mr. Assange, I’m afraid.
We’ve long learned since 9/11 there is no greater crime against humanity than a crime against the state, no matter how benevolent or rogue the state. It’s as if all modern states, totalitarian or democratic, consider it the greatest affront whenever even one if them is singled out as the chief perpetrator of duplicitous, behind-the-scenes stately dealings; a collective guilt syndrome, I suppose. Which is why one must view Mr. Assange’s recent request for political asylum in Ecuador as an act of desperation. If we overlook the irony for the moment, hell, even Iran or North Korea would be certain to deny the request, and they’re ideological enemies.
Let’s face it, in the eyes of today’s world powers, great or small, Mr. Assange had committed an unpardonable sin: for in attacking the institution of the state, even the most hated and the most resented of all states, he had attacked them all. Julian Assange, my friends, is a doomed man.
It’s not exactly as though an equitable solution could not be found. For one thing, the Swedish authorities could well consent to interrogate Mr. Assange on British soil without necessarily compromising the integrity or the outcome of the investigation; with the proviso, of course, that once the results were to be found less than satisfactory, he’d face immediate deportation on yet-to-be specified charges. Or barring that, he could have been granted safe passage to Sweden, safe from the threat of extradition, that is.
I find it highly significant that neither the UK nor Sweden has opted for the obvious resolution of the conflict. Which suggests that the eventual demise of Julian Assange has for the most part a symbolic value, serving as it were an object lesson to all would-be perpetrators and purveyors of anti-state ideology. Sweden is a small potato in the larger scheme of things, so one shouldn’t expect it to be standing up to the long arm of Rome. But the UK?
John le Carré had it right in Absolute Friends when he spoke of Tony Blair as a toy poodle to George W. Bush. Which goes to show that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Now it’s Mr. Cameron who is kowtowing to Mr. Obama.
If there be a nation-state that could grant Mr. Assange full immunity from prosecution, it’s France. France has a long-standing tradition of bucking the trends, be they in publishing, sexual or social mores, political or religious persecution, what have you. It’s one of the first nation-states to have taken colonialism seriously, to have experienced a sense of collective guilt along with having felt necessary to make the necessary amends. Besides, it’s a nation-state that still counts.
I’d consider it a welcome development if Mr. Hollande were to grant Mr. Assange full immunity, but I know I’m dreaming. The Euro talks on the future of Spain and Greece don’t inspire much confidence; if anything, they reveal a pathological dependence on the global banking system, so there is still a long way to go before the states of Europe free themselves from the international financial stronghold and interests.
Meanwhile, I keep my fingers crossed.