A friend wrote yesterday to ask whether I thought Julian Assange should be prosecuted.
A response was not easy. I have a sense of the harm Assange has done, but I also see the humor and I understand that unfair prosecution would only further damage America’s credibility and reinforce America’s ‘bully’ image.
First, the humor. The American diplomats who were exposed for their less than flattering undergarments, have done nothing that diplomats the world over and from time immemorial have not themselves done: spoken freely in private.
The publication of the correspondence is like an embarassing statements made over an open microphone by a careless politician.
The second reason the incident should be ignored is that nothing good can come of suppressing the urge to ‘expose the truth’, especially when that ‘truth’ is tainted and America’s credibility challenged as it has been following the manipulations of the press and public opinion by the neo-conservative “Project for a New American Century”, PNAC.
Finally, the decision to prosecute Jullian Assange should be perceived not as an act of revenge by embarassed public servants, but as a political act. A case for prosecution should be made and defended publicly. More harm will come from an arbitrary act of political censure perceived as a surrender of political control than would come from simply letting the storm “blow over”.
Political control is the key. America, under George Bush surrendered political control to a conservative clique operating as the PNAC. A clueless, populist president surrendered control in favor of revenge, mobilising American forces and invading Afghanistan even before there was sufficient proof of Osama Bin Laden’s personal responsibility and before anybody knew Al Qaida was the name given by the CIA to the list of proxy operatives they funded and fielded in their Cold War crusade against the Soviet “Empire of Evil”.
Symbols are important and Assange has been transformed into a symbol of personal freedom, truth and justice. The authorities would be well advised to think twice.
Post-script, added 10 January 2011.
The Alternet.org website on January 3rd posted a carefully argued and convincing piece in support of Jullian Assange. I recommend it to anyone who still wonders about the justness of Wikileaks’ actions. You will find the article here: