Why Democracy needs Assanges

29.08.2012 - London - Silvia Swinden

This post is also available in: Spanish

Why Democracy needs Assanges
(Image by http://bit.ly/TKeZrP)

http://bit.ly/TKeZrP

As Ecuador offers asylum to Julian Assange at its London Embassy with the Foreign Office doing Olympic-size legal somersaults to try to justify storming it, we hear that both the UK and the US have been helping the Syrian rebels, secretly, without any consultation with their parliaments, just to prove the point that we need Wikileaks to know what our governments are up to.

According to Reuters “Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorising US support for Syrian rebels seeking to overthrow the Assad government… Obama’s order, approved earlier this year and known as an intelligence finding broadly permits the CIA and other US agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust President Bashar al-Assad.” See Reuters

The Guardian reports on an interview in Radio 4 to William Hague, Foreign Minister: “Britain for its part had been offering support help in terms of communication. “I do not ever comment on intelligence matters but I can say that we are helping elements of the Syrian opposition, but in a practical and non-lethal way,” he said. “We have helped them with communications and matters of that kind, and we will help them more.”

Nobody other than completely self-deluded megalomaniacs (they are still kicking about, I’m afraid) would try to pull again the Iraq WMD trick on Parliament/Congress. The next best thing is to go ahead and engage people and resources in a new war, without telling the public; a public whose taxes pay for such engagement, a public that becomes the target of “the enemy” faction without having any choice in the matter. The UK Royal Prerogative allows the Prime Minister to declare war without consulting Parliament, and surreally enough The Prime Minister is voicing his desire to limit it, whilst using it give help to one side of the Syrian civil war. He would argue, I imagine, that there is no war declaration, but this is the new face of war, war by euphemism. “Giving non-lethal help”, “just communications”, “training”, “stepping us financial help” (surely the Syrian rebels will not buy sweets with it!), etc.

As for the US, although the Constitution clearly states that only Congress has the power to declare war, this has been regularly circumvented by various administrations with the help of not-too-keen-on-consulting-elected-bodies secret services, endlessly depicted by Hollywood as our saviours (disobeying orders, bending rules and NOT consulting Congress seems to be part of the job description).

Which brings us back to Julian Assange, beans-spiller extraordinaire, holed up at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after being granted political asylum. He is not refusing, he claims, to answer to the (still to be formally brought) charges of sexual assault in Sweden, but attempting to avoid extradition from Sweden to the US where he would most likely be charged with espionage, or treason, and executed. Alternatively, another old favourite would be getting shot by a “crazy” who would then be shot by another person, so that Oliver Stone could make a film about unverifiable conspiracy theories.

Under international law, police are not allowed to enter the embassy without the express permission of the ambassador. This “rule of inviolability” was dictated by the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and all nations observe it because their own diplomatic missions would be otherwise at risk. However, the Foreign Office has threatened Ecuador with revoking the embassy’s diplomatic status under the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, passed to enter the Libyan embassy after a policewoman was shot dead outside, presumably from a window. This would certainly establish a dangerous precedent regarding diplomatic asylum all over the world. In recent days the FO seems to be backing down from this.

Needless to say that Rafael Correa’s Ecuadorian Government is being subjected in Britain to a smear campaign only comparable to the one he suffers in his own country at the hands of the traditional corporate media, where any attempt to limit its onslaught on the government (Honduras and Paraguay are examples of success in bringing down popular governments through relentless media campaigns) leads to accusations of curtailing the Freedom of the Press.

Democracy may rhyme with secrecy but they do not go well together, and the fuss surrounding the founder of Wikileaks speaks for itself. How can parliaments make decisions without information? How can the public vote without information, just the propaganda of political parties? Information is power and those who are attempting to democratise it are feeling the full weight of the system’s elites intent on keeping its monopoly.

Categories: International, Politics
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