Gorgeous George, the British MP for Bradford West, has done it again. He said it like he thinks it is, and almost has emerged as the most vilified man in Great Britain, under vicious attack from newspapers, women’s groups and the Twitter crowd. His ‘crime’ was to suggest that the accusations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, wanted for questioning by a Swedish prosecutor, may be politically-motivated — and even, if true, wouldn’t amount to ‘rape’ in his eyes.
He knew his remarks made during his weekly video podcast Good Night with George Galloway would be controversial. But even he couldn’t have guessed to what extent he would be hung-up to dry by those close to him, such as the leader of his party Salma Yaqoob who characterised his stance as “disappointing and wrong”.
In brief, here’s what landed him in poisonous broth:
“Let me tell you, I think that Julian Assange’s personal sexual behaviour is something sordid, disgusting, and I condemn it. But even taken at its worst, the allegations made against him by the two women — and I’m not even going into their political connections … I’m going to leave the fact that one, maybe both, of his accusers has the strangest of links to the strangest of people, organisations and states …
“Even taken at its worst, if the allegations made by these two women were true, 100 per cent 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. And somebody has to say this.
“It might be really sordid and bad sexual etiquette but whatever it is, it is not rape or you bankrupt the term rape of all meaning.” He highlights the fact that one of the women hosted a party for her ‘rapist’ the following day. Another bicycled with him after the event to a train station, and bought him a ticket.
Shocked? Horrified? Britain’s dailies are, or pretend to be; they’re hyping this story like incisor-gnashing wolves. ‘George Galloway’s rape comments ‘made me feel sick, says rape victim’ headlines a story in the Guardian. ‘Galloway’s rape claims no help to war crimes victims’ cries the Belfast Telegraph.
One of few dissenting media voices is John Wight writing in the Huffington Post:
“George Galloway is not nor has he ever been an apologist for rape. He is not nor has he ever been a ‘rape-denier’. He is however a firm opponent of what he and many others around the world consider bears all the hallmarks of the political and legal witch hunt of a man whose role with WikiLeaks rocked and humiliated a US government that is now determined to take its revenge.”
When making your own judgment, there are several points to consider.
Galloway was unwise to be so blunt, but it’s worth noting that he’s a product of 1950s mores. Okay, he’s a dinosaur but does that make him a rape advocate?
Secondly, it’s worth evaluating whether Assange could be the victim of a US concocted ‘honey trap’, in which Sweden and the UK are complicit. A wild conspiracy theory, perhaps, but remember that both countries refuse to undertake that he would not be extradited to the US where a Grand Jury awaits.
Swedish prosecutors have also declined to interview Assange in Britain whereas they have happily travelled abroad in the past to interrogate suspects. They also made a legal faux pas by allowing the women to confer before being interviewed together. Worse, the Swedish police report and witness testimonies are in the public domain.
People who assert that the Swedish legal system is beyond reproach do not take into account that the UN ruled Sweden violated torture bans by cooperating with Washington’s illegal renditions. Leaked US embassy cables have revealed murky under-the-table dealings between the US government and Swedish politicians/officials.
One sent by Swedish officials in 2008 asks that Stockholm’s intelligence-gathering at Washington’s behest be kept from the country’s parliament and the Swedish public.
Furthermore, I find it astonishing that the UK rewrote its war crimes law to permit visits by Israeli officials when it is going after Assange with all guns blazing, making itself an international laughing stock with threats to storm the Ecuadorian Embassy.
Assange’s defence team argues this in the Guardian:
“We understand that both complainants admit to have initiated consensual sexual relations with Mr Assange — The first complainant did not make a complaint for six days (in which she hosted the respondent in her flat and spoke in the warmest terms about him to her friends) until she discovered he had spent the night with the other complainant… .”
An English translation of witness statements garnered by the Swedish police has been published on line, which may be of interest to the legions of armchair jurors who’ve assigned Assange to the guillotine in their minds.
Is Galloway a rapist-defending misogynist or is he looking at a bigger picture? You decide.
Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She can be contacted at email@example.com