25 January 2008

What Did They Know and When Did They Know It?

The Harper Administration is trying to have it both ways on this Afghanistan detainee torture file. For a government that is renowned for its tight control of information - everything including the lunch menu for the Parliament Hill cafeteria seems to go through the PMO - to deny knowledge of Canada's complicity in torture simply strains credulity. In trying to avoid the critical embarrassment of not acting as soon as the fact of torture was discovered by a Canadian diplomat, they conveniently hide behind the problematics of bureaucracy (which attracts my attention like a red flag attracts a bull):
When asked whether it was true that the military did not tell the government that the transfer of prisoners had been suspended, [the Prime Minister's communications director, Sandra] Buckler replied: “Yes. This is an operational matter and is the responsibility of the Canadian Forces. The military exercises discretion concerning the transfer policy and agreement.”... There was no need for approval from the high command because the ground commander in Kandahar had the authority. “The task force commander made his decision independently,” [senior military officer, Brigadier-General AndrĂ© Deschamps] said.
All of this is compounded by the conspicuous-by-its-absence mention of torture practices by the Manley panel. But why should we be surprised at this? The panel's conclusions had been previously published last October in the journal, Policy Options, long before the panel was a realpolitik twinkle in the Prime Minister's cynically partisan eye. Manley didn't know about torture then, so clearly, the panel wouldn't know about it now.

One of the justifications for Canada's continued role in Afghanistan is that pulling out a year from now would damage Canada's reputation in the eyes of the world. Commissioning a sham panel that used its chair's preconceived opinion as the findings to inform public policy doesn't damage reputation? Attempting to sweep our complicity in torture under the chair in a dank dungeon (which is where the torture implements discovered by the Canadian diplomat were laying in plain sight - what additional signs of complicity do you need) doesn't damage reputation? Prime Minister Harper, hiding behind bureaucratic plausible deniability, hiding behind the PMO communications officer, who hides behind email doesn't damage our country's reputation?!

The White House could learn a few lessons from Stevie.

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