Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Bob Carr sorry for Assange, but doesn't admire him

Is the casual Carr of the blog
to dematerialise utterly, forever?
It doesn't require much thought to regret that with Bob Carr's elevation to the federal ministry as foreign minister, his blogging is unlikely to continue. Started in May 2010, Thoughtlines with Bob Carr took a broad perspective, roping in for commentary a wide range of topics. Carr felt qualified to talk about everything from National Gallery exhibitions of Renaissance art to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. As a man with an interest in history and Western civilisation who was once a journalist, you should expect nothing less but it's to Carr's credit that he stuck his neck out for so long. Is his neck made of stern stuff? Now, those days of casual comment and counter-riposte are probably over.

As for Assange, Carr holds a composite view that seems to be at odds with the views of both supporters and detractors. For a start, he called Assange "an under-educated [egomaniac]" for WikiLeaks (post of 17 December 2010), which he regretted because "Lives could depend on ... confidentiality." In a post dated 13 February 2011, Carr explained his rationale more fully:
Daniel Ellsberg did not breach secrecy for its own sake. He was acutely conscious of the risks of disclosure and did not circulate documents betraying live diplomatic efforts to end the fighting. The Wikileaks dumped on the Web allow endless mischief. They can be data-mined and pattern-mined by the Chinese and private companies. Amoral – nothing in common with Ellsberg’s intervention aimed at exposing US lies about Vietnam and ending the killing.
Some might counter that the difference between the Pentagon Papers (what the material Ellsberg revealed is called) and WikiLeaks disclosures is merely a matter of scale, and that Carr's rearward view is tinted rosy merely by dint of the mellowing effect of time's passing. But Carr, it seems, believes that modern technology has changed the game, so that the potential for undesirable damage has now increased to a critical point. (Carr doesn't include a search tool on his blog, probably for the same reason; to find blog posts here you have to go to the monthly lists and scan.) Nevertheless, Carr takes a compassionate view regarding the treatment of Assange, although we must reason that the scale of his empathy is tempered by the association he makes between one element of the Assange case and a personal hobby-horse of his about a charter of rights (he doesn't think we need one). On 2 February 2012 Carr explained his thinking:
If I heard it once, I heard it a thousand times. Australia, the advocates said, had an inferior rights record to Europe because all the countries of Europe were stitched up in its charter of rights.
And how do you explain the treatment of Julian Assange under European jurisdictions, that of the UK and Sweden?
He goes on to list his objections to the Swedish process in respect of Assange. The prosecutor is the same person as the judge, he scoffs. The hearing would be held in secret, without the presence of the public. The accusation (he says "charge" although there has been no formal charge) involves rape but the sex was consensual. The complainants talked together about revenge. "Hang on," Carr muses.
None of the above happens here. Would anyone disagree that Assange would be better off in an Australian court? In a system, that is, without a charter or a bill of rights?

1 comment:

Jude said...

The person I'm really worried about in all the Wikileaks saga is Cpl Bradley Manning. Had an amazing conversation with a young law student in final year at Duke Uni in Nth Carolina over the summer hols. She had spent a lot of time in Algeria and Tunisia recently and was hot on the topic of tolerance and understanding etc of cultural difference. Mention of Bradley Mannings' human rights though turned her into a red-hot US patriot in a flash. "He signed up and knew what he was doing and broke the military code of conduct. They should throw the book at him " etc etc. When I asked if she would condone his execution then she couldn't really give an answer as it obviously caused a lot of conflict intellectually. We then left that topic but the general consensus at that dinner re Assange was that the Wikileaks material wasn't all that earth-shattering anyhow (unlike the Pentagon Papers)and pretty much everyone would have agreed with Bob Carr's view of the matter. And the Swedes are a disgrace allowing themselves and their judicial system to be used by the Americans in this way for biblical-type vengeance. I think Assange is of a similar personality type to our ex Foreign minister myself recently described by Patrick Cook as our own Bonny Prince Charlie. Looking forward to Bob Carr's Foreign Ministership very much and already love the way he has dished it up to Abbott.