Do they really care about rape?

December 14, 2010

Gary Lapon looks at the disturbing hypocrisy behind political leaders' calls to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on charges of rape and sexual assault.

I AGREE with Lisa Seibert and Russell Pryor ("Defending Wikileaks or Assange?") that the left should not uncritically defend WikiLeaks' Julian Assange from rape or sexual assault charges--several articles from leftists and progressives that tried to demonize Assange's accusers were shocking and disappointing in their sexism.

But there’s more to this question. The reality is that the rape allegations are being used to punish Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, not to challenge sexual assault.

First of all, writers other than left-wingers have treated the allegations similarly. Far-right pundit Glenn Beck went on a sexist rant about the case as well, using pictures of Barbie Dolls to represent Assange's accusers and raising the idea that the charges against Assange are part of an "uber-left" plot to "discredit the establishment." And the right-wing British tabloid The Daily Mail has published several articles undermining the accusers and calling their morality into question.

Nicole Colson is correct to point out that the charges against Assange, which had been dropped only to be brought up again after WikiLeaks' recent release of diplomatic cables, are being used in an attempt to extradite Assange to the U.S. to face manufactured charges here for exposing U.S. wrongdoing in Iraq, Afghanistan and now around the world ("WikiWitchhunt").

However, by formally "taking rape seriously" by going to such great lengths to retrieve Assange for questioning, the Swedish, British, and U.S. governments and Interpol, with the complicity and support of the mainstream media, are in actuality undermining genuine efforts to combat rape and sexual assault.

As Wendy Murphy points out in the San Francisco Sentinel, the attention paid by authorities to Assange's alleged perpetration of sexual assault is an anomaly: "If Assange were any other guy, he would not be sitting in a British jail, and there would have been no international manhunt, no matter how may times his condom broke during sex."

That the charges are being brought to punish and silence Assange and WikiLeaks for their efforts to expose government brutality and corruption--and not because the governments involved are genuinely crusading opponents of sexual assault--belittles the charges and exploits the women who brought them in this case and in any other.

The message is, as Murphy concludes, that "the value of a woman's autonomy is measured by the political benefits of prosecuting the man who took it," not as something that should be protected on principle as a prerequisite for women's equality.

BEYOND TRIVIALIZING rape and sexual assault by opportunistically using it as a tool for the political repression of Assange and WikiLeaks, press coverage of the scandal is serving the purpose of drawing attention away from the damning revelations brought to light by Wikileaks, which expose institutional crimes on a far grander scale than those for which Assange stands accused.

Among these is a cable that describes the efforts of Afghanistan's interior minister and U.S. diplomats to cover up reports that DynCorp, a military contractor hired by the U.S. government to train Afghan police and protect President Hamid Karzai, among other things, recently provided drugs and young boys for a party involving the boys dancing for and being sold for sex with Afghan police offices.

This is not the first time that DynCorp, a corporation that receives some 95 percent of its funding from the U.S. government, has been implicated for involvement in sex trafficking and child prostitution.

David Isenberg wrote in the Huffington Post that in 1999 DynCorp fired Kathryn Bolkovac, a whistleblower who accused DynCorp employees of "rape and the buying and selling of girls as young as 12.

"DynCorp, hired to perform police duties for the UN and aircraft maintenance for the U.S. Army, were implicated in prostituting the children, whereas the company's Bosnia site supervisor filmed himself raping two women. A number of employees were transferred out of the country, but with no legal consequences for them."

Another whistleblower, Ben Johnston was fired after alleging that these girls were kidnapped by DynCorp and trafficked to Bosnia from various countries across Eastern Europe.

Similarly, Isenberg describes a case in 2004 where DynCorp employees in Colombia "distributed [and sold] a video in which they could be observed sexually violating underage girls from the town of Melgar."

One of the girls shown in the video committed suicide in the aftermath of the video's release.

Despite repeated evidence of DynCorp's engagement in sex trafficking and child prostitution and sex slavery, they have received contracts from the U.S. government continuously since 1951, about $2 billion annually in recent years.

Over the years, the U.S. government has deployed DynCorp contractors everywhere from Bosnia to Angola, from Haiti to Afghanistan and Iraq, and even in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

If the Swedish, British and U.S. governments took sex crimes seriously no matter who the perpetrator, we would expect coordinated international efforts to investigate, expose and prosecute DynCorp for these allegations of engaging in the trafficking of minors for sex slavery on multiple continents.

And U.S. diplomats would be pushing for the U.S. to stop giving DynCorp lucrative multibillion-dollar contracts, rather than being exposed by WikiLeaks for helping to cover up these crimes.

But for the U.S. government and other powers, imperial might is a goal that trumps women's rights any and every day, as evidenced by the crisis levels of rape and sexual assault against women in the U.S. military, routinely covered up.

The astounding hypocrisy and crass opportunism brought to light by comparing the "international manhunt" for Julian Assange to the U.S. government's continued shoveling of billions to DynCorp in the face of their atrocious crimes brings to mind what the socialist Rosa Luxemburg said about capitalist "justice" some 100 years ago: it is "like a net, which allowed the voracious sharks to escape, while the little sardines were caught."

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