Monday, November 23, 2009

If Peter MacKay Saw Acid Being Thrown in Children's Faces, Why Didn't He Try to Stop It?

I'm appalled that Peter MacKay witnessed acid being thrown in the faces of children and bombs being planted on buses by the the Taliban, and did nothing to stop it. How can he live with himself?

Unless he didn't actually see these things and instead is relying on heresay, Or perhaps, it's simply that you don't have to be an eye witness, to just know those things are taking place.

As it is becoming more evident that Canadian authorities not only knew of the torture of Afghan detainees, but attempted to cover up the reports that could change public opinion of the 'mission', the Reformers continue to deny, deny, deny.

A game that they can't win this time, because they are no longer making up the rules.

A full public inquiry is not just an option but an obligation. Under international law, something referred to as "Command Responsibility" comes into play, meaning that if Canada does not address this with absolute seriousness, the international courts step in. And simply stating that you did not read the reports (which is highly unlikely give Harper's obsession with controlling everything), is not a defense.

Expert Errol Mendes spoke on this issue and you can watch the video here.

Mr. Mendes is also appalled that the Harper government would try to discredit Richard Colvin. He suggests that trying to discredit this highly respected career diplomat, means that they must also question the integrity of NATO, the UN, The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and the U.S. State Department, because they are all saying the same thing as Colvin.

MacKay out of his league on torture claims
November 23, 2009

IF NOTHING ELSE, one has to admit that Defence Minister Peter MacKay is certainly an amusing individual.

With the pressure from the Afghan detainee scandal steadily increasing, the Conservative Party brain trust went to their bullpen and gave MacKay the tap on the shoulder.

Anyone familiar with MacKay’s political stats knows he is a one-pitch wonder, resorting inevitably to throwing the ball directly at his opponent’s head. In this case, the proverbial batter was none other than Richard Colvin, the Foreign Affairs diplomat who first warned his superiors — and DND — about the possible abuse of Afghan prisoners in Kandahar as early as 2007.

Colvin’s damning testimony last week before a House of Commons committee has led opposition parties to demand a full public inquiry into the alleged coverup of Colvin’s warnings.

In the game of partisan politics, truth means less than scoring opportunistic points, and, similarly the Conservatives will not consider conceding a point — even if it’s in the public interest — as long as they have willing players on the field.

The first to gamely take to the mound against Colvin was none other than Laurie Hawn, the chairman of the parliamentary committee. With as much bluster and pomposity as he could muster during a Canada AM interview, Hawn repeatedly alleged that Colvin’s allegations were easy to make from the safe confines of North America.

However, before Hawn’s intended beanball could even leave his glove, co-panellist, Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae quickly reminded the television audience that Colvin had in fact first tabbed his allegations during his 17-month tour of duty on the frontlines in Afghanistan.

With Hawn so embarrassingly defeated by Rae, the Conservatives knew they would have to find someone with a more powerful throwing arm. Hence MacKay dutifully suited up. The torque on MacKay’s spin-ball thrown out in the House of Commons was that Colvin’s information about prisoner abuse was "second or third-hand" at best, and that by repeating the claims of torture, the Canadian diplomat was effectively giving voice to Taliban propaganda.

For the record, Colvin is hardly an enemy of the state, and when he was sharing his concerns with his superiors, he was the Canadian Foreign Affairs representatives on the ground. His allegation was that a great number of Afghan detainees captured by Canadian troops and turned over to the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) in Kandahar were subsequently tortured. Colvin’s analysis came from interviewing hundreds of prisoners who had been transferred to the Sarposa prison, after allegedly being abused. In May 2007, the Globe and Mail’s intrepid, unembedded reporter Graeme Smith had ventured to the Sarposa prison and broke the same story of alleged torture. I happened to be in Kabul with colleagues when Smith’s expose hit the newsstands and, as a result, we were able to do some first-hand followup.

After a two-hour mountain hike and simultaneous interview, the head of the NDS acknowledged that the abuse issue could strain Afghan-Canadian relations and, as a gesture of good faith, he offered to grant us direct access to the notorious NDS detention centre in Kandahar. It took us 48 hours to fly south from Kabul and to make the necessary security arrangements. In that intervening time, I have no doubt that efforts were made to clean and enhance the prison conditions. Let’s face it, everyone spruces up their homes before receiving guests. As a result, when we toured both the general population area and solitary confinement cells, all seemed to be in order.

Prisoners were shackled and sheepish, sitting on their filthy bedding. The toilets we inspected were gross beyond printable description.

We then examined the NDS prison guards’ living quarters. Although unshackled, the guards were equally sheepish, the accommodations were equally crowded, and they used the same filthy toilet.

When we interviewed the directing staff, they proudly admitted that to a man they had all received their training from the Soviets and were all former KGB officers.

While our visit certainly did not prove or disprove the allegations of torture or abuse, it did illustrate that the Afghan NDS leadership was fully prepared to subject themselves to independent oversight. In fact, shortly after we made our tour in June 2007, Canada altered its prisoner transfer agreement with Afghanistan to include followup inspections.

The fact that our soldiers were simply handing our detainees over to ex-Afghan KGB operatives serves to illustrate, at the very least, that Canada was out of its depth when our battle group first deployed into the volatile and complex Kandahar district.

Of course, at that juncture the Conservative government was anxious to sell the war to the public, and negative stories and honest mistakes would only make that task more difficult. It was easier to simply shut Colvin down, or at least that’s what they thought.

Given his dogged persistence in bringing this issue to light, it would seem that Calvin is not so easily silenced, which brings us back to MacKay’s attempted brush-back pitch.

Unfortunately for the Conservatives, their allegation that the Taliban used the torture allegations for their propaganda is blatantly false. That same spring we interviewed Taliban cleric Mullah al-Zaeef at his home in Kabul. When we asked him to comment about the stories regarding the NDS guards torturing Taliban prisoners, he simply shrugged and said, "This is war. We would do the same to them."

Hit the showers MacKay, you’re out of your league on this one.

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