Monday, November 30, 2009

What Kind of Leader Tells His Country's Troops That the Majority of Parliamentarians Are Out to Get Them?

What a horrible display Stephen Harper has been putting on, suggesting that the Opposition do not support our troops, simply because they want to try to avoid our own soldiers facing war crimes at the Hague.

Under international law we must have a full public inquiry on this, or that is exactly what is going to happen. Clearly the Harper government is more concerned with saving their own butts than the reputation or indeed lives, of our men and women in uniform.

Since they have now been abandoned, it is time to bring our troops home.

Red tape and blank sheets
What are the feds trying to hide in Afghan abuse probe?
November 29, 2009

For more than two years, Stephen Harper's government has been sitting on more than 1,000 pages of potentially key evidence in the widening fiasco over the alleged torture of Afghan prisoners.

The documents are the official results of Canadian military police investigations in Afghanistan, dating back to 2006, and go straight to the heart of the controversy gripping Parliament.

But like other documentary evidence surrounding this murky chapter in Canada's war effort, the military police reports remain under government lock and key.

All of which raises the obvious question: What is the government trying to hide?

The military police apparently probed allegations that Canadian Forces turned over Afghan prisoners to local security authorities, knowing the detainees faced a high risk of torture.

If true, Canada may have violated international convention, or worse, abetted war crimes.

On the other hand, if the military police found no such evidence, one would think the Harper government would have plastered those reports on every street corner.

It's not just the Canadian public being kept in the dark.

For almost two years, the quasi-judicial Canadian Military Police Complaints Commission has been trying to investigate the Afghan detainee issue.

Yet, it wasn't until May this year that the government even mentioned the existence of the military police probes.

Six months later, the Harper government still has not turned over any of the resulting police reports to the commission.

In fact, in the 18 months since the commission launched a public inquiry into the Afghan detainee issue, the government has yet to provide a single page of evidence of any kind. It hasn't been for a lack of trying on the part of the commission.

As the commission's chief lawyer recently said: "Despite numerous document requests and despite continuous assurances the documents would be produced ... the commission has not been provided with a single new document."

Instead, federal lawyers have devoted their efforts -- and no doubt staggering amounts of taxpayers' money -- to binding the commission in legal knots, intimidating witnesses, denying requests for documents and generally ensuring the inquiry goes nowhere.

So far, a parliamentary committee has been treated to the same stonewalling.

In recent weeks, MPs have been trying to pursue allegations by senior diplomat Richard Colvin that Canadian officials turned a blind eye to probable torture of Afghan detainees and then tried to cover up their inaction by claiming ignorance of the problem.

Colvin claims he repeatedly raised the torture issue in dispatches as Canada's deputy ambassador in Afghanistan in 2006. This week, the government trotted out a parade of generals and Colvin's former bureaucratic boss to forcefully refute the allegations.

Popular retired general Rick Hillier said he had recently reviewed Colvin's missives and there was no mention of torture. So why doesn't the government settle the issue and simply release all of Colvin's memos?

Last week in the Commons, the prime minister seemed to promise just that. Alas, if it seemed to be too good to be true, it was.

What Harper actually said was the government would release "all legally available documents" related to the Afghan detainee controversy.

He failed to mention the government has already made sure there is almost nothing on paper that is "legally available."

Instead, the justice department declared all of Colvin's memos to be matters of "national security" protected by secrecy laws and threatened to have him arrested if any leaked out.

The same "secret" stamp has also been slapped on the 2006 military police reports and on virtually every other shred of paper related to the Afghan detainee issue.

The feds are even trying to put a "national security" designation on a letter from Colvin's lawyer complaining about government secrecy and intimidation. Go figure.

Two years ago, the Harper government gave the complaints commission $5 million in special funding for the Afghan detainee probe.

Instead, most of the money so far has been spent by the federal commission fighting off federal government lawyers trying to shut down the proceedings.

One thing is already clear.

The Afghan prisoner fiasco is either an insidious government cover-up of official lies and misdeeds or the Harper administration is going to extraordinary lengths to hide the truth about nothing.

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