Ob whether a thing is right or wrong is not measured by what others think of it – not even to contemporaries, from whom we prefer to keep a few meters more distance from reason, taste or decency. Neither rejection by a party is a guarantee that you are right, nor is the applause of the right wrong people a sure sign that you are on the wrong track.
Julian Assange is such a case. Anyone who takes his side and sees himself on the same side not only with human rights activists, journalists’ associations and other venerable people, but also with Stalinists, right-wing extremists, Putin’s supporters, conspiracy theorists and fools of all kinds, can easily find themselves in problems explaining themselves. But Assange is not a natural poster of such unsympathetic contemporaries; only an unscrupulous and vengeful campaign for international justice made it a symbol of the anti-Western international. To the useful idiot that Putin is trying to take advantage of this world.
Tasteless attempts to exploit Russian propaganda in particular must not obscure what is being negotiated here, along with the person’s fate, in two ways: the credibility of the Western world. On the one hand, despite the US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, which he discovered as the founder of the Wikileaks detection platform. On the other hand, through a retaliatory campaign by the US authorities, in which the Swedish authorities first took on the role of a flexible helper through wind rape and then the British, who, with the consent of the Johnson government, removed the penultimate obstacle to his extradition to the US.
The name Julian Assange, like no other in the last decade, embodies the answer to the question: What is the value of so-called Western values, such as the rule of law, freedom of the press and the prohibition of torture, when things become serious? Only based on his case is the devastating answer: nothing much.
Yes, in his revelations, Assange sometimes lacked the sense of responsibility that belongs to the free exercise of press freedom. But while those responsible for exposed war crimes have escaped, he has paid a high price for his mistakes: eleven years of slavery. Eleven. Three of them were in British custody under shamefully inhuman conditions, which the UN Special Rapporteur, the Swiss Nils Melzer, called torture. If Assange’s appeal is rejected – and there is currently no evidence to the contrary – he faces a ridiculous sentence of 175 years in prison in the United States.
But the US and the West are also paying their price, they are carrying war crimes in Iraq – which, by the way, were less committed in the fight against the mass murderer Saddam Hussein, but even more so in the coming years – and the Assang trade also contributes to the Western model losing much from his earlier charism. Potentists like Vladimir Putin or Tayyip Erdogan are also popular worldwide because they can reject norms such as the rule of law, humanity and freedom of the press, referring to Iraq and Assange (as well as Srebrenica, Rwanda, Guantanamo, etc.) as hypocrisy. and propaganda lies.
It would be naive and ahistorical to understand the Western model as a promise of the infallibility of state violence. But it includes the principle of division of power – and public control: Small, sometimes big crimes should not happen, but happen. But they are punished as soon as they are discovered. The respondents are at least a little repentant, they verbally promise clarification and consequences – and they do not persecute journalists because they have revealed injustices.
The fact that the United States, various governments, the judiciary, and others, after so many years, still insist on Assange’s extradition speaks only of a desire for revenge and deterrence. This means that they claim a right that no one has: the right to commit crimes with impunity. A bitter announcement at a time when the world is struggling not to stand by and watch Russian war crimes in Ukraine.
Ukrainians, on the other hand, are not only defending their country from the Russian aggressor, they are also defending – the cliché use of this sentence is wrong – also the Western model of society, which Putin hates to the bone. The West could seize this opportunity and regain its lost credibility, but it risks wasting it. Germany and France for their lack of empathy and unwillingness to provide the necessary military assistance, the US and Great Britain for their actions in the Assange case.
But you cannot credibly condemn and punish war crimes in Ukraine if you expose the crimes of your own soldiers and prosecute those who expose them – just as you cannot convincingly demand freedom for Russian opposition politician Alexander Navalny when you also seek it, Julian Lock Assange away on 175 years. If you don’t want to talk about Assange, you should keep quiet about Navalny – and vice versa. This is a great thing about Western values: they are not Western, but universal, which means they apply no matter who they are. No matter who you are ever on the same page with.