My views on most social issues align with liberal viewpoints, but I’ve been finding the left-wing hypocrisy on this issue distressing. Yesterday (Sunday 8/19) two stories converged in the media that put it front and center in my social network feeds:
• Republican Congressman Todd Akin, who is running for Senate in Missouri, defended his insistence that there should never be any abortions even in the most extreme cases by insisting that women don’t get pregnant from cases of “legitimate” rape. As one would imagine, this swiftly invoked the wrath of thinking liberals everywhere. It is both scientifically wrong, and extremely callous and misogynistic. Even presidential hopeful Mitt Romney couldn’t distance himself from his fellow Republican nominee fast enough.
• Also yesterday, Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder who has fled to the Ecuadoran embassy in London to take refuge from Swedish prosecutors gave a speech from a balcony. Sweden has issued an arrest warrant for Assange as part of an investigation into rape charges. Assange insists that it’s politically motivated and the sex in both cases was consensual, so he refuses to face the arrest warrant or stand trial.
However, in Assange’s case, since he’s a left-wing hero, those same left-wingers on my social network feeds who were so indignant over Akin not taking the rights and feelings of women seriously are more than willing to give Assange a pass. They believe that he’s being unfairly targeted, that this is a witch-hunt, and all just a big lie designed bring him to the United States so he can be put to death.
Doesn’t the case deserve to be looked at on it’s own merits? And I don’t mean the actual rape case—that’s for a Swedish judge and jury to decide. I mean the case for extradition. Liberal English lawyer and blogger David Allen Green wrote a long article titled “Legal Myths About the Assange Extradition.” For people who think that this extradition is just about getting Assange to the United States to face death, there’s a lot of enlightening facts.
For example, would it be easier to get him from Sweden to the USA than from the UK to the USA? He explains:
Any extradition from Sweden to the United States would actually be more difficult. This is because it would require the consent of both Sweden and the United Kingdom…One can add that there is no evidence whatsoever that the United Kingdom would not swiftly comply with any extradition request from the United States; quite the reverse…In reality, the best opportunity for the United States to extradite Assange is whilst he is in the United Kingdom.
He also addresses the idea that the USA could extradite Assange in order to have him put to death:
Sweden (like the United Kingdom) is bound by EU and ECHR law not to extradite in circumstances where there is any risk of the death penalty or torture. There would be no extradition in the United States in such circumstances.
And Ecuador? If his entire fight isn’t for himself, but to protect freedom of information, he’s sure picked an odd ally. As Green notes:
Ecuador has a woeful record on freedom of the press. It is 104th in the index of world press freedom, and even the quickest glance at the examples of press abuse in Ecuador accumulated by Reporters Without Borders and Index on Censorship indicate a regime with a starkly dreadful and illiberal record on freedom of expression.
It has even recently been reported that a blogger called Alexander Barankov is to be extradited by Ecuador to Belarus, of all places, where he may face the death penalty.
Whatever the reason for Ecuador granting political asylum to Assange, there is no basis for seeing it as based on any sincere concern for media freedom either in Ecuador or elsewhere.
Really, read the whole article. It talks about the extradition case in both minutia and broad detail, and is quite revealing.
Assange is acting more like a desperate fugitive than a political martyr for the cause of freedom. Let’s assume that he’s right, that there is political motivation for all of his legal accusations. Isn’t the way to prove that he’s innocent to face the music in Sweden—especially since, as the law shows, it’s harder for him to be extradited if he does? If he turns himself in, and the Swedish authorities play their hand, then he could flee to Ecuador or whatever safe harbor he can find without the taint of alleged rape on him. I can tell you that if I personally was accused of multiple rapes, I’d drop everything I was doing to clear my name.
My point is not to suggest I think Assange is guilty of rape. But it is to point out that even if we applaud his creation of WikiLeaks and it’s goals, that his accusers deserve their right to face him in a court of law, just as any rape accusers do. We don’t let conservative public figures get away with saying “she asked for it”—which is exactly what Assange’s is saying (“the sex was consensual”). Maybe it was. But why doesn’t he have to say that in a Swedish courtroom under oath, when we’d insist that people who’s politics we don’t admire as much do?
Human beings are complex. People can do selfless deeds that benefit everyone and also selfish, painful, or cruel deeds. Assange could be both an underground warrior for whistle blowers everywhere and a boorish misogynist, or he could be wrongly accused. He could be solely a political victim, or he could be hiding behind his iconic status to try and deflect from having to pay for his crimes. I don’t know the answers, and I don’t claim to. But I completely reject the argument that he should not have to face his accusers because of his iconic status. Two Swedish women have accused him of horrible crimes, and he must answer those charges, as would any accused rapist—even if innocent.