The question is unavoidable: who holds the end of the string for rape accusations and a 12 hour arrest warrant on Wikileaks founder Julian Assange?
Two Swedish newspapers reported that the allegations were made by two women who had worked with WikiLeaks in Sweden. That Assange knew both women seems to be established, and the two women independently verified stories before going to the police last Friday. Their story becomes stranger when Swedish police said they had been afraid to go public, while the women specifically denied these reports: "He is not violent and I do not feel threatened by him.”
These women, if in fact honest, admittedly enjoy little benefit of the doubt given the international battle between the Pentagon and Assange. What else can they say if they're being truthful? But one of the women released a suspiciously scripted remark: "The charges against Assange is of course not orchestrated by either the Pentagon or anyone else. The responsibility for what happened to me and the other girl is held by a man with a skew perception of women who do not take no for an answer.”
So they were aware of the Pentagon's witchhunt and just decided to help out? How generous and coincidental.
No suspect outside the women fits the criteria more than the US government. An American or Afghan entity in favor of the war has more cause to discredit Assange than individual women. Furthermore, few US citizens have the power to manipulate the Swedish police, judiciary, and media. A larger organization appears at work. And the timing was perfect - Assange was visiting Sweden to discuss his actions. To call these events a conspiracy does injustice to reality.
The Swedish reveal traces of a cover up on their part. Although Eva Finne, the country’s chief prosecutor, dropped the rape allegations due to lack of evidence, an investigation into the second charge of molestation against Assange continues. This could be false justification for the rape allegations though, to be dropped as well. The Associated Press reported, “The prosecutor’s office provided few details about the case against Mr. Assange, who denied the allegations. Nor did it say why it backtracked so quickly.”
That’s a shady situation.
Timing may hold the answer to Assange’s enemy. His response on Twitter, that Washington had prepared to use “dirty tricks” and that the charges’ timing was “deeply disturbing,” makes perfect sense from the US government’s perspective. The Pentagon, having denounced Assange from the highest level, has threatened to bring him down and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates ordered prosecution “should go wherever it needs to go.”
But a US courtroom and prison isn’t the best place to go. “Silencing” him isn’t an option either with such a high profile. Practically speaking, discrediting Assange in the media is the Pentagon’s most viable option to harm him. As a non-US citizen, the Pentagon would create an uproar if it extradited Assange into a federal court to debate a war that 60% of Americans oppose, with few believing Afghanistan is improving. President Barack Obama can’t afford Assange’s trial or punishment to dominate the next year, especially when many Americans felt Wikileaks needed to be released in some form.
The war’s disapproval and timing render legal means ineffective. That leaves propaganda warfare by default. The rape allegations coincided with Assange’s speaking events in Sweden, a diversionary measure and initial warning to what Wikileaks believes will be a long campaign against them.
Said Gavin MacFadyen, director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism, and a friend of Assange, "A lot of us who had any notion of what he was doing expected this sort of thing to happen at least a week ago. I'm amazed it has taken them this long to get it together. This is how smears work. The charges are made and then withdrawn and the damage is done."
He's technically accurate since the women went to the authorities last week.
Gates himself said Assange’s case should go “wherever it needs to go.” Assuming that his CIA contacts are still good, and given that the Pentagon has battled Assange longer than the latest leaks, it’s entirely within possibility to plant women around Assange’s circle and bring them to bloom at the right moment. The US government cannot hide its power all of a sudden, and underestimating the CIA would be wishfully ignorant.
The venom directed at Assange appears to exceed concern for Afghanistan’s trends, which Pentagon officials publicly believe are improving. They're trying to pin Afghanistan’s negativity on Assange even while admitting most of the information is “already known,” which essentially admits to wrongdoing. But instead of addressing the problems described in Wikileaks, the Pentagon is mainly concerned with punishing Assange. This spells trouble for all those in opposition to the war as the December review and July 2011 approaches.
The Pentagon is doing everything it can to limit bad news, as evidenced by General David Petraeus.
A potential rape allegation goes beyond Afghanistan too. Perhaps President Barack Obama would be left out of the loop for plausible deniability, but the order would need to come from the highest level. Gates seems a real possibility, though he’s likely to feign ignorance too. In any event the tactic of rape smearing doesn’t exemplify hope and change, and Assange’s circumstances may prove ominous for future whistle-blowers of any issue - American or not.