Even Don Martin is suggesting a cover up here, and all the Reformers care about is damage control. This is disgusting.
I noticed some of the comments at the end of column suggesting that Paul Martin was informed of the torture. However, they misunderstand. He signed the deal during the election campaign but it was the Harper Government involved with the cover up of torture allegations. Mr. Martin was not PM when the reports began in 2006. Nice try though.
OTTAWA — In an organized smackdown rarely seen in Ottawa, the government turned inward on Thursday to attack a new enemy in its Afghanistan conflict — senior Washington embassy intelligence officer Richard Colvin.
After 15 years of steadily rising through the foreign service ranks, Mr. Colvin now stands accused of being a Taliban stooge, someone so easily duped by torture complaints that he shredded his diplomatic reputation by passing along their accusations.
Mr. Colvin became fodder for such accusations the minute he told MPs that a full year of warnings about detainee torture had been ignored at the highest levels of the military and public service.
He even hinted at tentative, but unproven, connections to the government itself. That made his testimony very, very dangerous — and that’s why the Conservatives have launched a campaign to discredit Mr. Colvin.
But it faces a big problem. Every action by this government to date has only enhanced the diplomat’s credibility.
Mr. Colvin was promoted to the Washington job under a Conservative reign after 16 years of unblemished duty in hotspots like Sri Lanka, Russia, the Palestinian territories and Afghanistan. While serving in Kandahar, he was told his insights were too sensitive to be put in writing, he says. His emails have been declared off limits on national security grounds. And he’s been told to shut up on this file or risk being charged under the Canada Evidence Act.
Those actions all speak to the significance and sensitivity of his input, not the ramblings of a rogue diplomat spreading stories from his imagination.
The government’s main concern seems to be that Mr. Colvin failed to observe torture first-hand. But it’s not like Afghans invite foreigners into their jails to witness guards delivering a hard beating on fresh prisoners.
Canadian officials never witnessed Maher Arar being brutally cable-whipped in a Syrian jail, but they believed him enough for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to apologize and cut him an $11.5-million compensation cheque.
But, as various Conservative MPs correctly note with too much partisan zeal, there are cracks in Mr. Colvin’s testimony that could be used against him in the court of public opinion.
He could not verify the sample of prisoners he observed had actually been detained by Canadian soldiers.
He described seeing happy, hand-holding prisoners and guards, hardly the sign of an abusive relationship.
He wasn’t trained to decipher the physical scars of torture, which could be the routine cuts and bruises of living in rough-and-tumble Afghanistan.
He refused to raise detainee concerns with the ranking military officer in Afghanistan because he didn’t like the general’s personality.
And let there be no doubt that Taliban detainees do understand the publicity value of lying their asses off about torture, knowing it raises a human rights ruckus for their enemies.
Yet instead of calmly focussing on these oddities, Defence Minister Peter MacKay went much further on Thursday, blasting the “holes” in his testimony and wondering why Mr. Colvin never raised such concerns with him directly.
The big hole in Mr. MacKay’s logic is how he assigned a fluctuating value to Mr. Colvin’s input. The diplomat’s 2006 concerns, which were ignored, are deemed false.
His 2007 input, which was taken into account by the government when it stopped prisoner transfers, was believable. Now in 2009, when his words anger the government, he’s back to spreading lies.
It is entirely conceivable neither the Prime Minister nor his cabinet ministers were in Mr. Colvin’s intelligence loop. But every move reflects the action of a government with something to hide.
If Mr. Colvin is telling the truth — and there’s only a career downside to taking the stand publicly — then the government’s behaviour certainly resembles a cover up.
Meeting minutes were selectively recorded, calls from humanitarian agencies ignored, his report’s distribution lists reduced until he finally was told to stop delivering concerns in writing altogether and now he’s being threatened with legal action if he testifies before the Military Police Complaints Commission.
There’s a serious consequence if Mr. Colvin’s story stands.
“The transfer of detainees to a real risk of torture or ill-treatment is contrary to international humanitarian law, also known as the law of war or the law of armed conflict,” military law authority Brig-Gen. Kenneth Watkin told MPs recently.
In other words, if the government knew its detainees would be tortured, it broke the law.
So it appears they believe the only way out of this mess is to break Richard Colvin, even if it means whipping his unblemished reputation.