Tuesday, 14 December 2010

take the consequences

Julian Assange that is. Freed on bail, but not acknowledging the truth, that the moral "other half" of civil disobedience is taking the consequences.  Read this, which as so often with Hitch's writing made me change my mind.  I thought that the stuff about diplomatic cables on Wikileaks was just gossip, that while diplomats might be less frank in future if they thought their cables were going to be leaked, there was not much to it.  I am with Hitch that given that we now know (and in my case are not surprised) that swathes of Arab governments want and wanted Washington to go kick Iran's ass I am very glad to know this now and not twenty years from now after several events.  But I did not think that diplomatic gossip really mattered that much.  But it does.  Hitch says he knew everything he needed to know (he does not put it like this) about the Iranian regime post-Shah when it took diplomats hostage.   Well, yes.  An act against sovereign territory.  For which there is a place.  Sometimes.  Depending on the circumstances.  So Assange can publish what has been leaked to him.  People can make him a hero for doing so if they are so minded.  But when he breaks, or apparently breaks, a law he must take the consequences.  People's hero or no.  That is what the rule of law is about.  And let him be thankful that in Australia, or the UK, or Sweden, he has due process.  In China, whose embassy windows were not broken during recent student protests in London (why not?) he would not have.

Earlier this evening I heard Thorbjorn Jagland, the chair of the Nobel prize committee, which has awarded the Peace Prize to Chinese human rights campaigner Liu Xiaobo, who was represented by an empty chair at the ceremony, speak on that and other subjects.  He seemed a bit bruised by recent events.  He should not be.  Or should not feel that way.

People have broken laws over centuries, knowing they were doing so, and believing they should do so, either because they thought the laws were unjust or because breaking them would make a wider point and support a nobler cause.  They paid the penalty, sometimes with their lives.  The rule of law must mean just that.  You know the law, you know what will happen if you break it, you decide to break it and that is what happens.  Conscientious objectors went to prison.  So did Nelson Mandela.  Who was not an objector to the use of violence to achieve the aims he supported for his country, which is why among other things he was never supported by Amnesty International.  Who have some decidedly dodgy policies these days.  But that is another story.


dreamingspire said...

Wikileaks isn't Assange - he was, we hear, only the founder. There are unnumbered others driving it. And we don't know what their motives really are. But it is indeed better to know now rather than aeons later.

Anonymous said...

David James Smith's book on early Mandela is very interesting indeed. Changes some of the 'saint' assumptions.

Anonymous said...

Assange's supporters against his extradition for attacking women were John Pilger, Jemima Khan (Goldsmith) and Bianca Jagger. With friends like that ... .

Pilger had a nasty programme on ITV last night attacking governments' "propaganda" (ignoring that he is a master of propaganda). One of his main interviewees was Assange.

Anonymous said...

John Pilger looks very much like the only man I have ever loved.

Forgive him anything for that - and the man - wherever in God's name he is now - if still alive.