Assange: a pawn in Ecuador's power game with Uncle Sam

Aug 17, 2012
Charles Laurence

Assange appears more useful to the wily President Correa than he is to the US authorities

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HAS Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder wanted for questioning for alleged sexual offences in Sweden, stumbled into a new role as a pawn in the century-long power game in what Teddy Roosevelt first called "America's backyard"?

The 41-year-old has been more-or-less safely out of reach of the Met Police and their arrest warrant since June in his tiny backroom in the Knightsbridge flat which passes for the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

But Ecuador's announcement yesterday that it had decided to offer Assange permanent asylum on the grounds that his human rights are endangered by extradition to Sweden has transformed his personal plight into a major diplomatic incident.

Americans, who have been content to put their WikiLeaks humiliation on the back burner as they shift focus to the presidential election, see clear signs of Latin American ‘banana republic' shenanigans.

"Ecuador's decision to grant Assange asylum appears, on the surface, bizarre or even irrational, given the apparent costs," Max Fisher wrote on the Atlantic magazine blog yesterday. "The small-ish Latin American nation has effectively blown up relations with the much more powerful United Kingdom just over Assange... But it's possible that the diplomatic stand-off itself, and not Assange's freedom, is precisely Ecuador's goal.

"Though we can't know the Ecuadorian government's motivation for sure, engineering a high-profile and possibly protracted confrontation with a Western government would actually be quite consistent with [President Rafael] Correa's practice of using excessively confrontational foreign policy in a way that helps cement his populist credibility at home."
Correa is playing a canny game in exploiting Assange, whether or not he believes that there is any real threat of his being passed on from Sweden to face the wrath of the Americans with the very remote possibility of a death penalty for espionage.

There is no doubt that Assange's cramped and tedious living conditions in Knightsbridge would be paradise compared to his fate should he ever find himself under lock and key in the States.
Americans acknowledge that the treatment in custody of Private Bradley Manning, who fed Assange his WikiLeaks scoop from classified diplomatic traffic, not only amounted to torture, but torture designed to get him to put Assange in the frame as co-conspirator in the leaking of classified documents, rather than the receiver and publisher of the material. That would make Assange a spy.
The New York Times explained: "Since WikiLeaks began making public large caches of classified United States government documents, Justice Department officials have been struggling to come up with a way to charge Mr. Assange with a crime. Among other things, they have studied several statutes that criminalise the dissemination of restricted information under certain circumstances, including the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986.

"But while prosecutors have used such laws to go after leakers and hackers, they have never successfully prosecuted recipients of leaked information for passing it on to others — an activity that can fall under the First Amendment's strong protections of speech and press freedoms."

Assange's British lawyers claim that they have heard from Swedish authorities that there is a "secret grand jury" impaneled in Virginia weighing charges, but if there is there has been no word of the result.

Manning, his conditions improved after a public outcry, seems to have held out against "co-operating", and as the New York Times pointed out, if Washington charges Assange with the lesser crimes of aiding the dissemination of its secrets, they would have to charge the Times, too, for publishing - along with The Guardian – many of the WikiLeaks cables.

After all the drama, it may just be that Assange is no longer of much use to anyone but President Correa.

Ecuador's president has joined Venezuela's Hugo Chavez in what Washington likes to call a new wave of authoritarian left-wing, anti-American leaders who came to power democratically but are bent on consolidating it through nationalism and stoking the fear of the Yankee.
Like most Latin Americans, Ecuadorians have good cause to fear the US authorities. The country sandwiched between Columbia and Peru, the Andes and the Pacific, whose sovereignty includes the Galapagos Islands famed for Darwin's discoveries, was heavily featured as a Cold War playground for the CIA in ex-agent Philip Agee's classic 1975 expose Inside the Company: CIA Diary.  The CIA engineered a military coup there in the days of the Cuban crisis.

Since coming to power, Correa has refused to renew America's rights to an airbase used in the drug wars and has presided over the prosecution of Chevron oil for widespread environmental damage. Last year, he threw out an American ambassador who had accused him of hiring a corrupt police chief so that he could more easily manipulate him.

That last was revealed in diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks.

Whether Assange ever makes it to Ecuador against the determined opposition of the Foreign Office is a moot point. But if he does, he had better beware the exploding cigar, infamous emblem of the CIA's covert wars against Castro and all those who cock a snook at Uncle Sam.

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You call him a pawn, I call him David taking on Goliath.

I lived in Russia for a long time. There corrupt officials control the people and the economy by over-legislating and then selectively enforcing laws to their own convenience, even to outright expropriate companies of rivals (see Mikhail Khodorkovsky). By seeking out laws from 1917, it seems that the U.S. is no better.
I use to admire the U.S.A. a lot. Especially during the Reagan years. But in my eyes, they have long ago lost their moral high-ground. After all the corruption, economic misery from Wall-street and the way they have muzzled Occupy Wall-streeters and the way they've declared all-out war on Assange (even manipulating Visa and Paypal to cut-off his financial support), they act no better than the ‘banana republic' shenanigans, mentioned in this article.
"Secret grand juries" in Virginia, also do nothing to elevate their stature. My father always said; "only people who do shameful things have to hide them".
The U.S. is angry and wants revenge, not justice. And "anger" is just one letter short of (d)anger.

So you think it's by accident that he sought refuge in probably one of the very few embassies, if not the only embassy, that would actually do something as a crazy as grant him political assylum...I'm not sure he 'stumbled' in to anything

Comic book interpretation by Mr Laurence. He wonders "we can't know the Ecuadorian government's motivation for sure", even though the full reasoning can be found on the internet. Perhaps the 3,788 word document has a little too much legalese for his poor brain....

Laurence is still in denial about his heroes in the US. He ignores the death penalty and threats of assassination by powerful US political figures. He prefers to forget US (& UK) lawlessness in the international arena, with crimes against peace - wars of aggression just like 'itler) - kidnapping, torture, mass murder, international terrorism, and crimes against the UN charter.

He prefers to ignore the fact that the two women involved merely wanted to know if they could force Assange to take a STD test.That he was allowed to leave Sweden, and that while Sweden has questioned murder suspects abroad they refuse to do so for Assange who is wanted merely for questioning.

In other words, Laurence takes the officialist position as most churnalists in the corporate media do, proving that the word presstitute is entirely appropiate.

Fully agree.
It's about time they started spreading some of that 'democracy' and 'freedom' they keep harping on about inside their own borders.

"... while Sweden has questioned murder suspects abroad they refuse to do so for Assange who is wanted merely for questioning."

Don't forget they've also bent over and sent asylum seekers to Egypt when the usa wanted to question (read torture) them.

Of course he's a pawn in Equador's spat with the US. That doesn't negate the real issues of free speech and access to proper justice that the Assange story highlights.

If it weren't for the cringing toadyness of the Swedish and UK Governments towards the USA, this whole embarrassing circus would not be causing the UK government any political awkwardness at all. If they could only have gained from Sweden, or indeed guaranteed Assange's, safety from extradition to the US themselves, then he could have answered the allegations already.

For goodness sake, this country is in a political mire and they waste time on this kind of nonsense, instead of growing some balls and facing up to the now over reaching 'Taliban' across the Atlantic.

Get some policy going here and focus on developing what little national and international credibility you have left at the moment.

So, we have another US sycophant in William Hague! Well, one can hardy blame him after the manner in which Blair has profited subsequent to taking us to war in Iraq where no national threat to ourselves existed! Suddenly, Hague becomes quite bellicose, completely forgetting that his thinly veiled threat to invade the Ecuadorian embassy would then be used as a precedent for other countries to invade our and other embassies abroad! None of our diplomats would be safe thereafter should his idiotic suggestion be enacted. With regard as to why the US could be involved should be self evident. The Wikileaks exposures have so obviously exposed the duplicity of American politicians that they just have to round furiously on anyone who dares to show them up! Pour encourager les autres! Can it be endlessly ignored that in spite of all of the moral propaganda spewed out our the righteous ‘Western’ democracies, all of the blood letting that takes place is in someone else’s back yard, mostly in the Middle East. Presumably because that is where the oil lies! In spite of Hague’s self righteous outbursts referring to Julian Assange, one has only to read the many blogs that appear to gauge where the sympathy of the nation lies. This continuous hypocrisy on the part of our politicians can only further lower the estimation in which they are regarded. Just to think, the writer of this comment once held William Hague in high regard!

No one feels like mentioning that he has no charges pending or outstanding in the US, but he DOES have charges of sexual assault and rape in Sweden.
RAPE. But of course he published some secrets and embarrassed a lot of people so we should applaud that and forget that he's a narcissist who (allegedly) raped 2 women? How blind people can be. His own defence team's best efforts at defending the accusation that he forcibly held down one woman and raped her was 'don't we usually call that the missionary position'? Sickening. He might well have published documents that needed seeing, but we shouldn't let that blind us to his character. And his crimes.

Equador is a country that does not want to be corrupted by big US business. John Perkins on YouTube gives focus on the real situation. Hear him on economic hit, men jackals and war by the US. There is a great good war here. Cameron is clueless...

It's basically racist and patronising to refer to Ecuador in the manner you have without also calling Sweden, UK & Australia the US' bitches as well.
South American countries need a good dose of tough left-wing leaders to throw off the yoke of corrupting and murderous US imperialism.
It's always the same-the Bush & Blairs of the world can loot and go to war on lies leading to untold deaths and when a mouse roars they are a Banana Republic.