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Issue #1623      January 22, 2014

The truly unbelievable story of Julian Assange and the milkman’s horse

Since his last public appearance there have been persistent reports that Julian Assange, the Australian founder of WikiLeaks, has secretly left the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Faced with arrest after publishing a number of highly embarrassing diplomatic cables, Assange sought diplomatic asylum there in 2012.

Several months ago the Metropolitan Police received an anonymous report that Assange planned to leave the embassy disguised as a milkman. They swooped, but the “fugitive” turned out to be the milkman himself. The police hastily apologised after the Milk Carters’ Union threatened to ban milk deliveries to police canteens across Britain.

According to an unnamed source, after the fiasco of the milkman’s arrest a group of Assange’s supporters hatched a ridiculous plan to assist his exit by staging a fake milk delivery. The group is said to have links to the notorious Australian practical joker team the “Chasers”, who gatecrashed the Sydney G8 meeting several years ago.

For some obscure historical reason early morning milk deliveries are still made by horse and cart in this part of London. The group intended to utilise a mechanical “horse” recently used as a stage prop in a play about horses in the First World War; with the head and neck covered with a vinyl skin, and the rest of the body with a blanket. They entertained the naïve hope the police wouldn’t spot the difference, and wouldn’t notice when Assange took the place of the second plotter at the rear of the horse.

It was nonsense of course. Although the prop is remarkably convincing on stage, and the street is rather badly lit, the scheme was doomed to failure. Indeed, given the edgy mood of the police, it was potentially suicidal.

However, in an extraordinary twist of fate a number of factors intervened in favour of the plotters.

The best laid plans

The chosen morning was very cold, with an unusually thick fog. About three am the police officer at the embassy entrance retreated to the more comfortable police lookout in a building across the street.

The same officer had been disciplined for an excess of zeal during the milkman’s arrest. Still smarting from the reprimand, he was indisposed to pay attention to the stunningly boring job of watching a doorway for hours on end.

And finally, he assumed that if Assange fled, he would walk or run from the front door, the only exit. The police had made the front of the building a no-parking area to assist their view. However, they made an exception for milk deliveries, and the low-slung milk cart obscures the view of the bottom half of the door from the police lookout.

According to our informant, an embassy official opened the door to receive the milk crate, whereupon Assange crawled between his legs to the milk cart and somehow managed to take the place of the rear-guard plotter in the fog. The best laid plans of mice and policemen gang aft aglay.

The plotter whose position Assange had taken remained sprawled in the embassy doorway. feigning intoxication with a small bottle of very good scotch. The guard officer accosted him, but let him go after confiscating the scotch.

As he later reported to his superiors, the real milkman arrived shortly afterwards. However, he swore blind (as it were) that Assange hadn’t appeared – which from his point of view was technically correct. The Chief Inspector was uneasy, but with no evidence to the contrary he decided the episode was just a prank, and no further action was taken.

A week or so later the police received another tip-off, this time that Assange intended to leave disguised as the cleaning lady. They now suspected a leg-pull, but couldn’t afford to ignore the information. Sure enough, in due course the cleaning lady, who admittedly did bear some fleeting resemblance to Assange, was arrested as she left.

Unfortunately, she later suffered a nervous breakdown as a result. However, she made a remarkably swift recovery, sued the Met and was awarded substantial damages.

Secrets rule, OK?

Julian Assange was the subject of a recent heated media interview given by Gladys Nost, the cabinet minister responsible for national security. Ms Nost is known to her small circle of friends as “Glas”, for short. The combination of her nickname and surname is particularly ironic because neither the current government nor the governments of other Western nations have shown any tendency to implement the policy of “glasnost” or open government that they demanded from the former Soviet Union.

Indeed, individuals who have attempted to implement the policy have been subjected to savage reprisals. Bradley Manning, the US soldier who passed the secret cables to WikiLeaks, is undergoing a court-martial, after being held in solitary confinement for two years.

Assange is threatened with deportation to face highly dubious charges of sexual misconduct in Sweden, from where it is very likely he would be transported to the US to face prosecution for releasing the cables. Edward Snowden, another US whistleblower, has been forced to seek asylum in Russia, after facing similar charges.

In Australia, Assange’s birthplace, the Abbott government has resorted to an extraordinary level of secrecy regarding a series of highly controversial policies, particularly relating to the treatment of asylum seekers. The government has refused to say what happened to asylum seeker boats that attempted to reach Australia but were forced back to international waters by the Australian Navy.

Nor will it confirm that ASIO, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, has forced a bank to cancel the account of Mamdouh Habib, an Australian citizen taken captive by US forces in Afghanistan. Habib is currently trying to get the Egyptian government to admit he was transported there and tortured, after his capture.

At the London media interview Ms Nost maintained a tight-lipped silence when a Times reporter suggested the public had a right to the information in the cables, which related in part to US war crimes, and that perhaps members of the previous government should be prosecuted for covering things up.

But what about the current whereabouts of Julian Assange? At the media interview one journalist mentioned a report in the UK Guardian that Assange is now living in a very nice hacienda somewhere in South America. Ms Nost replied with a snarl that he shouldn’t believe anything he read in the Guardian article concerning the current whereabouts of Julian Assange.

And neither should you.

Next article – ICC receives “devastating” dossier on British war crimes

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