Why it’s right to defend Assange

January 6, 2011

COURTNEY SMITH argues that focusing on WikiLeaks as an institution, rather than its leader and main public face, Julian Assange, is the best way to defend free speech ("We should focus on WikiLeaks, not Assange").

But we can't defend one without defending the other. And running away from the debate about Assange would be a grave failure of solidarity.

The united ruling class attack on Assange is aimed at taming dissent against the long-term imperial wars that class feels it must wage to hold on to its global "leadership." With the stakes that high for them, their ruthlessness will know no bounds.

They are opportunistically using sex abuse charges against him (or they have fabricated them) because it's the easiest way--easier then engaging around questions of free speech or the contents of the cables--to press against dissent.

It's not a distraction from the real issues, it's the cutting edge of the attack.

If Assange is successfully extradited and prosecuted, it will set an extremely dangerous precedent for government persecution. And it will do so in the most horrifyingly demonstrative, public way.

We should stand up for Assange precisely by tying his prosecution to its real aims. That necessarily involves a discussion about the content of the cables and the issues of press freedom and transparency Courtney urges us to frontload.

We should argue both that sexual abuse charges must never be dismissed and that these charges are either a frame-up or are being used opportunistically by a government that leads in the barbaric oppression of women globally.

If U.S. persecution against Assange succeeds, the left--and all fights against oppression--will pay too.

Solidarity means taking on a struggle when it is hard, or it means nothing.
Avery Wear, San Diego

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