Here’s one for the “if only they’d ever been in a position to do something about it” files: former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce and former foreign minister Bob Carr expressing concern about the United States trying to prosecute Julian Assange for Wikileaks’ exposure of war crimes and misconduct in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Assange currently faces extradition to the US from the UK for Wikileaks’ publication of material exposing US crimes provided by Chelsea Manning, under charges of conspiring with Manning to obtain and publish classified information.
Bob Carr described Assange as “in trouble because he delivered on our right to know”. “We have an absolute right to know about American war crimes in a conflict that the Australian government of the day strongly supported — we wouldn’t know about them except for Assange,” Carr said.
That marks quite a turnaround for Carr from his position when he was foreign minister under Julia Gillard. Back then, Carr argued Assange hadn’t delivered on our right to know. In 2012, he accused Assange of releasing “secrets … for the sake of being released without inherent justification”. In dismissing any public interest in what Wikileaks revealed, Carr also attacked comparisons of Assange with Daniel Ellsberg. It was “not like Daniel Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers which revealed huge American deception, huge deception by the American government of the American public”. Too bad Ellsberg himself disagreed.
That was the time when Carr also derided — in the face of extensive evidence — the idea that the Americans would try to extradite Assange, saying “there’s not the remotest evidence that that’s the case. There was one allegation that appeared somewhere of something called a sealed indictment. No US figure has confirmed that to us.”
Evidently Carr has had a change of heart since he actually boasted in his memoir Diary of a Foreign Minister about trolling Assange. In his entry for June 2, 2012, Carr writes:
“Another consular issue rears its head: Julian Assange. And I decide to take this one head-on. Fed up with complaints from his family suggesting he hasn’t been supported by Australia and the opposition spokesperson saying the same thing, I stride out of an Estimates Committee in the morning-tea break to do a press conference and point out that he has had more consular support in a comparable time than any other Australian. Strictly speaking, I don’t know whether this is the case. But it is a broad, healthy truth that I don’t think anyone could disprove. I do it to needle his self-righteousness. Let him go to Sweden and face questioning for sexual assault and rape…. Sure enough, my needling has an effect.”
Funnily enough, Carr doesn’t mention that the Manning material outed him as a US intelligence source in the 1970s.