Humphrey McQueen: Don’t let lying dogs sleep over Assange, Ecuador

August 21, 2012
Sydney rally to support Julian Assange, July 16. Photo: Peter Boyle

Australian historian Humphrey McQueen gave the speech below at an August 17 pro-WikiLeaks protest outside the British High Commission, Canberra.

Green Left notes that, while most of McQueen's speech is an entirely justifiable defence of Assange and WikiLeaks, McQueen makes an argument in the case of the allegations of rape against Assange that Green Left strongly rejects. Green Left believes allegations of rape are very serious and should not be dismissed or minimised as simply "misconduct" -- as McQueen does. At the same time, we reject the hypocritical use of these allegation by the US government and its allies as a smokescreen to attack Assange and WikiLeaks.

We also note Assange is yet to be charged, has a right to a presumption of innocence and has expressed his willingness to be questioned by Swedish authorities. Green Left journalist Ash Pemberton writes on these issues in a Green Left here.

We apologise if any readers concluded that McQueen's arguments reflected Green Left's views on this matter. We note McQueen is not the only supporter of Assange to make similar comments on the rape allegations and feel it is important to debate this matter among WikiLeaks supporters. We encourage readers to use the comment section below to do so.

* * *

The news that British police had entered the building containing the Embassy of Ecuador gave Melbourne’s Herald-Scum a further chance to distort the WikiLeaks-Assange story. According to that Mass Murdoch outlet, hundreds of “professional protestors” were gathering in London.

This language came from an organisation, News International, notorious for its professional phone-hacking for profit in contrast to the “hacking” to advance peace and justice that motivates WikiLeaks and its hundreds of millions of supporters. So, here we are, the “professional protestors”.

The implication behind “professional” is that we are being paid. If we were truly professional we would have a union that would not let us work in the extreme cold and rain. Far from being “professional” we are here as amateurs, as lovers of the truth behind the “news” peddled by the professional liars and louts around Murdoch.

To say that one loves truth can be no more than a pious platitude. Indeed, we need to be wary of maxims such as “the truth will make us free”. The reality is several times more complicated. What can set us on the path to being free is the struggle for the truth, especially the battle to communicate the truth beyond a few experts. On top of that hard task is the fact that truth-tellers are likely to end up in prison, Bradley Manning being a prime example. His incarceration is a physical expression of the emotional damage suffered by all whistle-blowers.

Without Bradley Manning, it is much less likely that the US war-machine would be after WikiLeaks. Manning is a hero, displaying extraordinary moral and physical courage in withstanding months of soft torture to get him to rat. His reason for passing on the US government documents is why the world needs a WikiLeaks. He had evidence of criminality. He told his superiors. They did nothing. In refusing to “obey orders”, and thus be complicit in those crimes, he made the material available to the world.

Manning lived out the legend about George Washington’s response when his mother asked him whether he had chopped down the cherry-tree: “Mother, I cannot tell a lie.” Successive US governments seem incapable of doing anything else. Their addiction to black propaganda extends to their allies in Britain, Sweden and Australia. As the US journalist and precursor of WikiLeaks, I.F. “Izzy” Stone used to put it: “All governments are run by liars and nothing they say should be believed.”

Earlier this week, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that Assange was “facing criminal charges” in Sweden, which is a bare-faced lie. The “special relationship” between the US and Britain is not affected by changeovers from Labour to Conservative administrations in Whitehall, as Blair demonstrated with the invasion of Iraq.

British governments are as alarmed as is the CIA at the prospect of endless exposures of its crimes from WikiLeaks-style bodies.

At the same time, the Swedish politician driving the investigation in Stockholm was talking about “rape”. The ABC maintains a version of that slander by reporting that Assange is wanted for questioning about “sexual assault”, as if violence or some kind of coercion had taken place.

It is a tribute to the good sense of a majority of Australians that the nature of the possible offence has broken through this campaign of character assassination. The conduct at issue is best described as misconduct and is not any kind of criminal offence in Britain, the US or Australia. However, even if Assange had never gone to Sweden, the US authorities would have come up with some way of diverting attention from their crimes onto him, as they have tried with his family background and with Manning’s sexuality. The tactic aims to fool people into believing that what goes on inside the heads of that pair is more important than the crimes they spotlight.

As much as we need to counter the black propaganda from overseas, our target has to be the liars in the ALP administration and the Australian-based media. Prime Minister Julia Gillard opened the lying with the allegation that Assangehad engaged in criminal activities by releasing “top secret” material. Since the Federal Police blew that charge out of the water, she has taken refuge in the claim that Australia cannot “interfere” in legal processes elsewhere. That line is hard to square with interventions in Indonesia over drug traffickers and in Libya on behalf of a war crimes lawyer.

The big lie concerns what the government has been doing by way of consular and diplomatic contact. Attorney-General Nicola Roxon and Foreign Minister Bob Carr point to the occasions on which officials have approached Assange or his legal team. What they don’t own up to is what they are telling the US and British authorities. Once a WikiLeaks-style body publishes the traffic concerning Assange, Australian politicians and diplomats again will have a tough time maintaining their current positions as anything more than a morass of mendacity.

That exposure has started with information secured by the Fairfax media. We might ask why that content was not freely available in the first place. From the Washington embassy, agent of US influence Kim Beazley has had one concern above all others. He and Gillard have been pleading for at least a few hours notice of any overt moves by the US of A against Assange. The lickspittles need that time to get their lies straight.

A second foretaste of what to expect from the high-level emails came this week when freedom-of-information requests got the assessments from the Department of Defence about the allegation that the WikiLeaks had endangered the lives or safety of Australian forces in Afghanistan. The report showed that there was no evidence for that claim.

The danger, according to Defence, was that the revelations would further reduce support for the war. Hence, the commitment depends on keeping the truth about corruption and criminalities from the public. The case for keeping some diplomacy top-secret is once more shown to be a cover for deceit.

The wars in the Middle East point to the context needed to make sense of the ALP’s subservience to the US over WikiLeaks. As ever, Canberra is giving the war machine what it wants with the Marine base in Darwin, a base for drones out of Katherine and greater access to HMAS Sterling near Perth. Those sell-outs were announced during a parade of sycophancy during the Obama visit last October , which sickened even unquestioning supporters of the Alliance.

The enthusiasm for the “American Alliance” voiced by Gillard and Co. keeps quiet about its core component, namely, the intelligence-sharing network set up in the late 1940s. Publishing secrets is a low level of code-breaking.

Assange fears for his life if tried under the US Patriot Act. No doubt, his fears extend beyond any military commission at Guantanamo to what is likely to befall him on the streets of Quito. Should he get to Ecuador, he will not be safe from the US. They will never give up. Alongside the secret Grand Jury in Virginia preparing to indite him, he will know that Washington will also be preparing to oversee his murder. Wherever he goes, he will be a target for an assassination team.

The US military set up its School of Assassins (aka the School of the Americas) to train Latin American officers to murder tens of thousands of trade unionists and other progressives, including Catholic nuns and a bishop. Indeed, even had President Correa refused Assange’s request for asylum he would be watching over his shoulder for an “accident” to his aircraft and for a US-backed coup against his socially progressive administration.

He survived a police revolt in October 2010. The US faces a continent-wide challenge to its control of resources and markets. Washington backed the failed coup against Chavez in Venezuela in 2002. Two soft coups have succeeded since 2009. More covert actions are in the pipeline to make “democracy safe for oil”.

The record shows that there is nothing the rich and powerful won’t do to hang onto their privileges. Why should anyone be amazed at the UK threat to enter Ecuador’s embassy when British governments have been invading countries for hundreds of years, most recently Iraq. Australia’s indigenous people can testify to that tradition.

Reflecting on the hope that the truth will set us free, we encounter Edward Said’s saying that the duty of the intellectual is to speak truth to power. That obligation is never confined to intellectuals. No one has done more than Bradley Manning to fulfill that moral imperative. So, what should we all be saying to the rich and powerful, that One Percent? First, we must join in telling them what they do not like to hear; even more, we must chorus what they do not want the rest of us to know.

“Telling the truth”, whether to power or to the powerless, is not enough. Diluting the super-saturated solution of falsehoods that passes for “the news” is valuable only to the extent that it helps to break the power of the US war machine as the advance guard of corporate plunder of the creativity of human labour and of the wealth of nature. That goal has brought us together in Canberra this afternoon in support of governments such as Ecuador’s that display the self-respect so lacking in British High Commission behind us and the national gasworks on the hill in front of us.


I am very disappointed to see the GLW publish this piece. The author writes: "At the same time, the Swedish politician driving the investigation in Stockholm was talking about “rape”. The ABC maintains a version of that slander by reporting that Assange is wanted for questioning about “sexual assault”, as if violence or some kind of coercion had taken place." The allegations are (among others) that: "On 13th-14th August 2010, in the home of the injured party [AA] in Stockholm, Assange, by using violence, forced the injured party to endure his restricting her freedom of movement. The violence consisted in a firm hold of the injured party’s arms and a forceful spreading of her legs while lying on top of her and with his body weight preventing her from moving or shifting." and "On 13-14 August 2010, in home of the injured party [AA] in Stockholm, Assange deliberately molested the injured party by acting in a manner designed to violate her sexual integrity. Assange, who was aware that it was the expressed wish of the injured party and a prerequisite of sexual intercourse that a condom be used, consummated sexual intercourse with her without her knowledge." and "On 17 August 2010, in the home of the injured party [SW] in Enköping, Assange deliberately consummated sexual intercourse with her by improperly exploiting that she, due to sleep, was in a helpless state. It is an aggravating circumstance that Assange, who was aware that it was the expressed wish of the injured party and a prerequisite of sexual intercourse that a condom be used, still consummated unprotected sexual intercourse with her. The sexual act was designed to violate the injured party’s sexual integrity." All of these allegations are taken from a site supporting Assange ( The author implies that none of these *allegations* involve violence or any "kind of coercion" by using quotation marks around "rape" and "sexual assault". In other words, even if these allegations are proven, the author implies, these acts are not rape or sexual assault. Penetrating someone without their consent (such as when they are asleep or too drunk to consent) is rape. Doing so without a condom when they have clearly stated previously that they do not want to have sex without a condom is also rape. Every time the GLW or others on the left say that acts such as these aren't really rape or sexual assault, they help to contribute to rape culture. As Penny Red puts it: "You know what also hurts to hear? People telling you that your experience didn’t happen, that you asked for it. That you have no right to be angry or hurt. That you should shut up. That you hate men. That you’re against freedom of speech. That’s what hundreds of thousands of women all over the world are hearing when they hear respected commentators (I’m not talking here about Galloway or Alvin, although I’m sure there are a great many people who respect their opinions, god help them) saying that the allegations made against Julian Assange “aren’t really rape.” " - I want to do activism in safe spaces. I don't want to be part of activist spaces where I feel like my personal safety will be happily discarded if protecting it means criticising prominent movement leaders. Articles like this make me want to stay well away from Socialist Alliance. I can only hope that in the future the GLW will take a better stance.
If you say that Wiki leaks has courageously exposed the truth about US war crimes: I will stand with you If you say that Bradly Manning is a persecuted hero: I will stand with you If you say the persecution of Assange is politically motivated and without precedent: I will stand with you If you say there are numerous alternatives for interviewing Assange and testing the allegations against him in a duly constituted court that would preclude his rendition to the US for the "crime" of defending my right to know the truth: I will stand with you BUT: If you say that should a man, ANY man, climb aboard a sleeping woman & use the weight of his body to hold her down, force her legs open and ejaculate inside her vagina without a condom and without her consent well that is" poor sexual etiquette", or "misconduct" then I will call you out for the rape apologist that you are AND I WILL STAND AGAINST YOU. This article is a disgrace. Stop defending rape in your attempts to defend Assange. Indeed the allegations may prove to be without foundation: but if ANY man behaved as alleged IT IS RAPE. By trying to claim the acts described are anything else you expose your inherent misogyny. And you do nothing to further the cause of Wiki leaks: to expose the truth about human rights abuses, corruption, and government lies. Don't defend free speech over the raped bodies of us women.
"The conduct at issue is best described as misconduct and is not any kind of criminal offence in Britain, the US or Australia." Seriously? I have mostly thought GL had good coverage about this issue. But WTF? Penetrating someone without a condom while they are asleep after they have repeatedly said they didn't want to is rape, at least in Australia. In fact Swedens rape laws are actually less progressive than Australias. It really isn't necessary to join all the rape apologists like Galloway in order to defend Assange. I think you should issue an apology for printing this shit.
Your comments make some very valuable points, however .... as with all articles published in GLW, this speech reflects the views of their author, not necessarily of GLW. Nor do Humphrey McQueen's arguments put here reflect a 'stance' of GLW about the allegations about Julian Assange. Finally, no article in GLW reflects the views of the Socialist Alliance unless otherwise stated.
As a longtime advocate and seller of the GLW in Perth I'd like to thank the editorial staff for the apology given for the oversight which saw Humphrey MacQueen's speech published without critical response. I think the following quote from Ash Pemberton's article 'Anti-Wikileaks Campaign Undermines Anti-Rape Campaigns' is a strong reflection of the stance GLW has and will continue to take on such issues. Pemberton writes, "However, unlike the gossip about Assange, the rape allegations should not be treated as trivial. Some of Assange's supporters have dismissed the rape allegations as fake or downplayed their seriousness. One example was British MP George Galloway who said on August 18: “Even taken at its worst, if the allegations made by these two women were true, 100% true, and even if a camera in the room captured them, they don't constitute rape. At least not rape as anyone with any sense can possibly recognise it.” This kind of statement is deplorable and deeply damaging to the cause of women's rights. The women's rights movement has fought hard to have these matters taken seriously, against a history of cover-ups, victim-blaming and impunity. Trying to excuse such behaviour — no matter who is accused of doing it — plays into this sexism and should be considered unconscionable for progressive people. The accusations deserve to be taken seriously, but the highly politicised circumstances in which they have been used by the authorities means the possibility of a fair legal process for Assange is unlikely." I invite everyone to read the edited introduction to this article and Ash's new piece, and reflect on the manner in which many on the left, perhaps moreso in Perth than elsewhere, have siezed onto this oversight. Comradely, Chris Jenkins (Perth)

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