By Dave Lindorff
I've long had a fondness of Australia. Since back in the early 1980s, when I worked out of the New York City bureau of the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, flagship of the Fairfax publishing company, writing for several Fairfax publications (including the sadly now defunct National Times and Business Review Weekly), and got to know a bunch of smart, funny Oz journalists, I've come to know the country as a place much like our own in many ways -- like the friendliness and lack of artifice of its people and the vast beauty of its still vast wilderness areas.
But where I once also admired what appeared to be a strain of independence in Australia -- a willingness to stand apart from America on things like socialized medicine, the death penalty, and the use of land mines in warfare -- I have seen the country fall into line with terrible US policies like the invasion of Iraq, the ongoing war in Afghanistan, and most recently the posting of US marines on Australian territory.
I also envied Australia over the years for having something totally lacking in the US: a major labor-based party advocating democratic-socialist policies, that successfully vies for power in running the country. But of late, that party, now headed by Prime Minister Julia Eileen Gillard, has been a shameless and uncritical apologist for US policies, including the so-called "Global War on Terror," and policies like rendition to and detention at torture centers like Guantanamo and Bagram Airbase.
Most recently, Australia and its Prime Minister Gillard have been strangely passive in allowing the US to attack Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange, an Australian citizen.
Despite credible reports that the US has a secret sealed spying indictment prepared against Assange, currently facing deportation from Britain to Sweden on questionable and probably politically motivated charges of rape, and concerns that the US is prepared to seek to extradite him to the US to face potential capital charges if he is extradited to Sweden, Australia has not done anything to defend its own citizen against such threats. These threats and an unsuccessful appeal of the extradition request in British courts have led to Assange's latest decision to seek asylum in the Ecuadoran embassy in London.
The most that Gillard has said about Assange's case by way of "support" is that Australia does not permit extradition to countries where its citizens could face a death penalty, but of course the US could always promise not to seek the death penalty in any prosecution of Assange...
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