Thursday, December 3, 2009

Now That Our Government Has Lost Credibility We Must Bring Our Soldiers Home

With the Harper government still lying, denying and going on the attack over what they knew about the torture of Afghan detainees, it's time to pull the plug on this mission. We have lost our moral authority, and the more I read and hear, the more I'm convinced that this is not a noble or sensible mission.

Matthew Hoh, an American diplomat spent several months is the country and resigned because he knows that this is not a winnable war. Al Qaeda is not in Afghanistan, and the Taliban is not as powerful as we are being led to believe.

Instead we are fighting against the people of Afghanistan who view us as an invading army, and they as the Resistance. They also do not accept that the corrupt Karzai government is legitimate, and since we are aligned with them, we too are the enemy of the people.

The only ones benefiting are the multinational corporations who get the military contracts; drug lords and warlords. We can no longer be part of this charade, and our own government's refusal to show any concern for the Afghan people, is only putting our men and women in uniform, at greater risk.

I wouldn't expect that to mean much to Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay, but it should mean a great deal to us.

Globe editorial
Credibility blacked out
Globe and Mail
December 02, 2009

The Conservatives continue to respond with contempt to reasonable, serious questions about the treatment of the Afghans first detained by Canadians. It is time for some sunlight.

The antics around the release of documents are unreasonable. Heavily blacked out e-mails and memos trickle out to MPs and the media, and Richard Colvin (the diplomat who expressed initial concerns about possible torture) has faced legal obstacles in disclosing others, but former generals testifying at a special Commons committee got an advance look at unredacted documents.

The redaction by Arif Lalani, a former Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan, of a paragraph in a Colvin e-mail saying, “Our own records substantiate [the International Committee of the Red Cross]'s comments about continued delays in notification,” is troubling. There may be good reasons for blacking out sections of these documents. But no compelling reason, other than the blanket rubric of “national security,” has been provided.

New documents contain more disturbing accusations. A Colvin e-mail (signed off on in this case by Mr. Lalani) from June 6, 2007 says, “Of the four detainees we interviewed, [blacked out] said they had been whipped with cables, shocked with electricity, and/or otherwise ‘hurt' while in [National Directorate of Security] custody in Kandahar.” Meanwhile, testimony at the committee yesterday revealed that in November, 2007, a Department of Foreign Affairs official found an electrical cable in the office of a director of investigations working for that same directorate; the director was subsequently fired.

Repeated assertions that “Canadian war heroes” are maligned by these questions have become farcical. And when it is not on the offensive, the government throws up its hands.

Yesterday, Peter MacKay, the Minister of Defence, maintained in Question Period, “There has never been a single, solitary, proven allegation of abuse of a detainee, a Taliban prisoner, transferred by Canadian Forces.”

Perhaps. But these increasingly implausible insistences betray a deeper problem: the government's incuriosity about what did happen to the detainees. To give the government the benefit of the doubt, it is to be presumed that Canadian officials on the ground were acting in good faith, taking reasonable steps to avoid torture.

This is supported by two moves made by the government in 2009 to stop transfers of detainees to the Afghan authorities due to allegations of mistreatment. These “were investigated by Afghan officials and appropriate corrective actions were taken,” in the words of the government.

If problems exist now, when protections are better, what about the accusations of mistreatment in years past? Again the question returns, and again the government throws up a smokescreen, forestalls disclosure and attacks the questioner. None of this inspires much confidence for those who seek the truth.

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