Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Galloway's rape claims no help to war crimes victims

Accusations: Julian Assange could be innocent, but the comments of George Galloway have proven to be a diversionary device

There is no excuse for George Galloway. Even if it turns out - as well it might - that Julian Assange is entirely innocent of the allegations against him, Galloway's remarks about rape will remain indefensible.

It may eventually emerge that the allegations are not just groundless, but have resulted from a vile conspiracy orchestrated by Western security services to discredit WikiLeaks's revelations of war crimes. But that won't exculpate Galloway, either.

Galloway didn't purport to be referring solely, or specifically, to the Assange case when he delivered his podcast lecture on the parameters of rape. He was referring to rape generally.

It is this which makes him - or ought to make him - an anathema to all who claim to be opposed to sexual violence against women.

The fact that media outlets are currently choked with a glut of hypocrites using Galloway's outburst to deflect attention from Western crimes against humanity cannot be invoked in his favour, either. The contrary is the case.

Galloway has gifted a diversionary device to those who support - or who are at least prepared to tolerate - sexual violence on a mass scale when it is perpetrated against the people of countries and communities they want to see subdued.

Thousands of Iraqis were subjected to extreme sexual violence by US forces following the invasion of March 2003. Pictures from Abu Ghraib prison gave just a hint of the horror.

The double standard of those - and they are many - who took an insouciant attitude to that orgy of sexual violence, but who now affect distress at Galloway's relaxed attitude to the Swedish women's complaints is obvious, too.

The point is, though, that Galloway has stained the credentials of the anti-war movement in making this argument with his late-night spurt of belligerent sexism. The people in high places who gave the green light to the gang-rapists of Abu Ghraib must be grinning.

Thus, there are confusions, contradictions and interpenetrating hypocrisies strewn all across this story. But the outline of Galloway's offence shines through with clarity.

He chose to focus on the question of whether a woman who has had consensual sex with a man thereby relinquishes her right to refuse consent to sex for a second time: "Some people believe that, when you go to bed with somebody, take off your clothes and have sex with them and then fall asleep, you're already in the sex game with them.

"It might be really bad manners not to have tapped her on the shoulder and said, 'Do you mind if I do it again?' It might be really sordid and bad sexual etiquette, but whatever else it is, it is not rape, or you bankrupt the term rape of all meaning."

This is the exact opposite of the truth. What Galloway describes is rape - or you bankrupt the word of its meaning.

Julian Assange has done the world some considerable service. It is on this account that powerful people in the US are avid to get their hands on him.

New York congressman Peter King, chair of the House permanent select committee on intelligence, has been baying for his blood since WikiLeaks's publication, in November 2010, of a tranche of documents exposing violent criminality by governments - including the US government.

King wrote immediately to US attorney-general Eric Holder, urging prosecution of Assange for espionage - a capital offence - and demanding that he be immediately formally declared "a terrorist", leaving him open to assassination under rules of engagement supported by King in the 'war on terror'.

The congressman wrote at the same time to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, suggesting that WikiLeaks be declared a "foreign terrorist organisation [so that] we will be able to seize their funds and go after anyone who provides them help, or contributions, or assistance whatsoever."

Those who believe that the people are entitled to know whether their governments practice torture, murder and rape will continue to campaign for the protection of Assange from the likes of Peter King.

But the women who have made allegations against Assange have a right to protection, too.

He says that he will return to Sweden and answer all their claims if the British and Swedish authorities give him an assurance that he will not then be extradited to the US on changes related to WikiLeaks.

This is what should happen. The British Government says that it cannot be done. Nonsense. If there is a will, there'll be a way.

Meanwhile, women everywhere will continue to be entitled to protection from the view of rape expressed by George Galloway.

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