Assange Is A True Democrat: Chomsky


It has been with some degree of fascination that I have followed the unfolding of the Julian Assange saga. While I have been apt to question what all this meant for the so much talk about freedom of speech, Britain’s recent attitude towards it has been nothing but amusing. In all this however, I see Assange being the ultimate winner as it has done nothing but increase his popularity – something he will surely cherish. While Britain has said that it remains committed to reaching a diplomatic solution to the presence of Assage in Ecuador’s London embassy, after both countries took steps to defuse a row over his action in taking refuge, Noam Chomsky has proclaimed Assange a true democrat.

The WikiLeaks founder who has been living in the Ecudaorian  embassy’s quarters for more than two months in an attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over rape and sexual assault allegations received his accolade in a discussion New Matilda had with Chomsky as presented in the following write-up by Tamara Fenjan  of,

Noam Chomsky

Last week NM spoke with US intellectual giant Noam Chomsky about Julian Assange, who is now the centre of a diplomatic nightmare in London. Tamara Fenjan reports

Julian Assange has been granted asylum by the Ecuadorian government, creating a diplomatic row between the Latin American nation and the United Kingdom, which remains intent to extradite him to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault. While voices have been raised in Sweden and the UK, the US has so far declined to “interject” itself into the situation.

However, there is one American who has been loud and clear in his support of Assange — MIT linguistics professor and left-wing intellectual Noam Chomsky.

Last week Chomsky told New Matilda he believes Assange is right to fear extradition to Sweden, where if the USA asks for him to be extradited he would “be on the next flight”.

“If Swedish interrogators want to interrogate him they can do it in London,” Chomsky told NM. “Everyone in their right mind knows that this is a stepping stone to the US.” He draws a parallel with Bradley Manning, the US soldier accused of having leaked thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks, and says that what to happened Manning is a clear indication of how Assange will be treated if he is extradited to the United States.

Manning has been held in a military prison for almost a year and a half without trial — most of that time in solitary confinement.

WikiLeaks Founder – Julian Assange

“There is no doubt that the purpose of all this is to get [Manning] to say something about Assange, who will also be treated the same way if he ever comes to the US. … Therefore, a decent country at this time — if there is one — would grant him political asylum,” Chomsky said.

Chomsky says of the Swedish legal system “that one can not rely on it, which is not so surprising.” Sweden cooperated with the Nazis during World War II and is now working with the Americans, he points out. “Sweden cooperates with whoever is in power … suppose that Syria asks Sweden to extradite somebody to Syria whom they accuse works with the rebels — would Sweden do it? No!”

“By right [Assange] ought to get a medal of honour. He’s performing his responsibilities as a citizen of a democratic society and people ought to know what their representatives are doing ”

The question now is whether UK police will storm the Ecuadorian embassy, located in London’s Knightsbridge. Wikileaks reports via Twitter that this morning “there are still over 35 police surrounding the Ecuadorian embassy”, and has issued a statement condemning “in the strongest possible terms the UK’s resort to intimidation”.

“A threat of this nature is a hostile and extreme act, which is not proportionate to the circumstances, and an unprecedented assault on the rights of asylum seekers worldwide,” the organisation said.

Assange’s fears seem to be corroborated by private confirmation given to Craig Murray, a respected former UK ambassador and human rights activist:

“I returned to the UK today to be astonished by private confirmation from within the [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] that the UK government has indeed decided — after immense pressure from the Obama administration — to enter the Ecuadorean Embassy and seize Julian Assange.

“This will be, beyond any argument, a blatant breach of the Vienna Convention of 1961, to which the UK is one of the original parties and which encodes the centuries — arguably millennia — of practice which have enabled diplomatic relations to function. The Vienna Convention is the most subscribed single international treaty in the world.”

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam spoke this week in support of Assange. Foreign Minister Bob Carr said the Federal Government would not “make representations one way or the other” regarding Assange’s asylum claim.



Africans and the Olympic Games – What is the Motivation?

What will Africans be Remembered for?

Cameroonians supposedly ‘missing’ during Olympics

Shortly before the beginning of the just concluded Olympic Games, I wrote a piece for FabAfriq Magazine  carrying the same title as this post – Africans and the Olympic Games: What is the motivation? I began by asking a question and logically addressing it:

…what are the Olympic Games all about – what motivates people to come to them?

Of course, Pythagoras, many centuries BC had clearly stated that: “There are three sorts of people that attend the Olympic Games. The lowest class is made up of those who come to buy and sell, the next above them are those who compete. Best of all, however, are those who come simply to look on.”

I went on to conclude after challenging some of Pythagoras’ assumptions especially with reference to Africans and arrived at the conclusion that what motivates them is:

 Love of the games; patriotism – they can come in any order – but no more no less.

When the Olympics kick-off in London, Kenyans will win gold medals in track events, Nigerians will win gold in football (as they did in 1996) or other events, Africans from different nooks and crannies of the continent will prove their worth in gold in several sporting events. One thing that should cross the minds of anyone watching is this – all these people are making it out of nothing. Some will only be recognised if they win something – some have been only because they were able to make it to the very top – on their own.

If one is looking for people who need nothing much in life to succeed than an opportunity – look no further – watch out for Africans during the Olympic Games 2012 in London.

As we throw a glance back on London 2012 Olympics, it will likely be remembered for breathtaking performances,  the plethora of firsts for women, men and their nations, and the spirit of London that reverberated around the globe, from the scintillating and wonderfully executed opening ceremony, through the many performances and culminating in a quintessential British concert that was the closing ceremony.

There is no doubt that the UK will want us to always remember that the did so well both in hosting and coming third – second to the USA and China – Michael Phelps will be remembered for becoming the most decorated Olympian. Usain Bolt solidified his status as the world’s greatest sprinter after doubts were heaped upon him before the Games but it does not end there – his relationship to a ‘White’ lady becomes an issue for massive debate.

Gabby Douglas will be remembered for being one of those to make history for her country by winning one medal individually and helping her team win another – but again – unfortunately, she will be remembered more for being the lady who did not do her hair as many would have wanted.

The link I can make between Bolt and Gabby is their ancestry which is undoubtedly African. At this stage therefore, I am apt to ask another question: What will Africans be remembered for after the Olympics?

The African Mo Farah will be celebrated for making history in the long-distance track event – and his victory is not marred by negative news! Oh! I forgot he is British! So nothing negative trails his victory.

Let me take a look at the general African Olympic standings:

Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
South Africa 3 2 1 6
Ethiopia 3 0 3 6
Kenya 2 4 4 10
Tunisia 1 1 1 3
Uganda 1 0 0 1
Algeria 1 0 0 1
Egypt 0 2 0 2
Botswana 0 1 0 1
Morocco 0 0 1 1

Not too bad but not too wonderful – but going by my initial submission – many of these should be celebrated because many achieved something from nothing – many came from countries with myriads of problems: war-torn countries; countries stricken by famine and drought; countries still struggling to come out of waves of revolutions; countries at logger-heads with their neighbours – just to name a few. But were these modest achievements celebrated? Maybe! But again like everything African, the achievement is immediately clouded by unfavourable news. This time Africa will not be remembered by the medals won but by the news of athletes supposed to have ‘absconded’ or gone missing. The headlines on western media after the Olympics have been screaming like this one on Eurosport

More African athletes go missing in London

From the Telegraph to Reuters, to the Guardian, to BBC to CNN these has been what has been making news. From the initial story that came out about 7 Cameroonians ‘missing’ through to the most recent ones from Guinea, Ivory Coast to the DRC, the foregone conclusion has been that their motives for ‘absconding’ is economic! I will not challenge this conclusion given the situation in the countries all named – but I will like to ask a few questions:

Why is the media so obsessed with negative news about Africa or people of African decent?

Participants at the Olympics have up to November to legally stay in the UK – what then is this talk about people going missing – does their decision to leave their teams or camps automatically translate to a decision to stay after the expiration of their visas?

Would the language have been the same had some Europeans not been found in their hotels or camps during an event in Africa or Asia? I guess not – they would have been branded to have been kidnapped!

With the current situation in Europe, are western media outlets not being hypocritical to make it seem like Europe could be a safe haven for anyone? At least I know many people who are legally living in the continent, well qualified, with the right to work but finding it difficult to get jobs because of the recession – to make it seem as if anyone coming in would have it easy could be misleading to say the least. Casual work in the UK has become a luxury so I wonder how those who ‘abscond’ are going to survive.

What ever the answers to these questions – I guess the news is serving its purpose – making the UK look good and an appealing destination even for Olympians – while making Africa look bad – as usual. Hence, while others are making news for their achievements – Africa is being remembered for what she is – a continent where no one wants to live!

This has brought to life a question that will be asked even as the world looks towards the next Olympics in Brazil – what will be the motivation for African athletes?

Introduction: Theories of Political Development

Unbelievable… is a word commonly used when there is every reason to believe (and very little or no reason to doubt). I now realise this with a higher degree of force as I begin to write on this blog. This is something that I would not in my dreams have thought possible a couple of years ago. If you have travelled the road I have, then you will be in a good position to understand what I am saying.

I wouldn’t say it is the most difficult road, but I am sure it has not been easy. When I look back over the years and see many who had the same dreams I had (and still have) of impacting the world in a very positive way, but stumbled along the way because of the very structures they had hoped to change, I cannot but ask questions about many things… for to ask questions is but natural to any rational being. As Aristotle rightly put it “Si philosophandum est, philosophandum est; si non est philosophandum, philosophandum est, nemper ad ostendendum quia non philosophandum est; ergo, philosophandum est”. (If we must philosophise then we must philosophise:  if we wish not to philosophise then we must philosophise. Never can it be thought that we should not philosophise for on account of this we must philosophise)

If politics is ‘the central and dominant variable determining…developmental success or failure’ then I cannot help but remember the same Aristotle’s argument that “If the earlier forms of society are natural, so is the state, for it is the end of them, and the nature of a thing is its end. For what each thing is when fully developed, we call its nature… Hence it is evident that the state is a creation of nature, and that man is by nature a political animal.” This argument, so beautifully crafted in that book called ‘The Politics’ makes me realise that I cannot escape from being political without causing serious injury to myself  because it will involve denying the quintessence of my being – which of course is an ontological impossibility.

For if you happen  grow up  in a society where the people have been so impoverished, dehumanised and reduced to near total dependence on the production and shipment of necessary goods from foreign, distant and greedy lands and when its own products remain unmarketable and devalued, when that quality of life is normalised, then, philosophandum est. When there is so much to do to catch up with the rest of the world and yet nothing much is being done, when the job of a developing or underdeveloped continent is barely begun and the work force is idle and jobless – with work to do and people to do it and still nothing done – then philosophandum est. When some sections of the world are enjoying the benefits of convergence and all one sees is fragmentation and decay, then, philosophandum est. When the failure of organisation and governance resulting from the overthrow of primordial societal structures is imminent and chaos and anarchy stare at people in the face, then philosophandum est. When the only popularity a people get is about civil war, corruption, struggles for secession, sit-tight ‘democracies’, election and post-election violence, and when it seems this is fast becoming a way of life, then, philosphandum est. When a people have been traumatised by alien occupation, an alien occupation of their minds, more than exploitation of their natural resources, when their self confidence is so thoroughly undermined and their identity devalued, then philosophandum est.

Within the next ten weeks I am going to be processing so much information using the winepress of critical judgment and expressing them here. I hope that by the end of ten weeks I will either understand more about Development Politics or be more confused – which would not be a bad idea though – since it will also be sign that I am learning.

This has been the first week, and it is an introduction to development politics. (Or should I say to 21st century Development politics or better still Post World War II Development Politics?) I seem to be confused already!!! Maybe I did not know exactly what to expect. It was a wonderful starting point though since the lecture acted as a resume for several theories that I had initially encountered in Critical Approaches to Development. It was a good feeling to have the opportunity to reflect again on certain aspects of Modernisation, Dependency, Neo-liberal and Post-development theories.

The emphasis on the link between development and p0litics is not lost to me. I was really elated at the notion that Political development is at the heart of social science and political philosophy. Unfortunately, my joy was short-lived as I began to question what ‘political development’ actually is and tried to grasp this in relation to the different theories I have recently learned. As I tried to overcome this difficulty in the course of the week by searching for what sages have said on the subject, I realised to my chagrin that they also had a problem – lack of epistemic interdependence – for “It seems apparent that the implicit theorising by economists about political development and of political scientists about economic development should be replaced by more explicit attempts to develop an integrated theory of political and economic development…”1 Could this be the solution to the problem of fragmentation and parcelling-out of knowledge? I am sure I will move a step forward towards getting answers to some of this as I struggle to grapple with understanding why they had to be separated in the first place. Exploring and understanding the ‘Primacy of Politics’ for development in the coming week will be crucial to my understanding how development can also shape politics.