You mean the Americans pay attention?


Glen McGregor has taken a break from embarrassing the heck out of Sun Media and is trolling through today’s Wikileaks dump of cables from US missions in Canada. He’s crowdsourcing the job and is collecting the best of them. My contribution is this cable from the US embassy in December 2009, reporting on the presentation of the sixth quarterly report to parliament on the mission in Afghanistan. From the cable’s summary (my emphases):

Signature development projects move forward, and border security dialogue between Afghanistan and Pakistan is expanding, with Canadian facilitation. The media and Parliament, however, remain more obsessed with allegations that the government ignored credible reports of abuse of Afghan detainees transferred by the Canadian Forces in 2006 to Afghan authorities (ref c), and largely ignored the mostly discouraging news in this latest report. End summary.

The concluding remarks are rather astute as well:

While the media covered the December 10 release by Minister Day, virtually all of the questioning related instead to the on-going controversy over the treatment of prisoners handed over to Afghan security forces by Canadian soldiers and what the government knew when…

The three opposition parties are united in seeking to embarrass the government over this issue and have vowed to call into session the Special Committee on Afghanistan even during the holiday recess (which began December 10), but have indicated no interest in debating the actual Canadian mission in Afghanistan and the successes – or failures – of Canada’s role as documented in the quarterly reports.


You mean the Americans pay attention?

  1. The US embassy cable nailed it. The detainee controversy was all about the opposition parties trying to embarrass the government, and nobody seemed to care about the successes and failures of the actual mission.

    This is just one more example of how partisan maneuvering in Canada's 40th Parliament took precedence over stuff that actually matters.

    • The fact that it might make us complicit in torturing people against the Geneva conventions was of no matter, correct?

      • So that was the sole motivation of the opposition Thwim? Sorry, I agree with Crit_R

        • So you're saying enabling torture is just fine if the motivations of those questioning it are not pure as the driven snow?


          The motivation for continuing to harp on the question may well have been to embarass the government. The government could have ended that at any point simply by supplying the documents. That they did not suggests they were worried about something much more dire — and *that's* the part that Canadians have a right to know about.

    • This possibly places a bit too much blame specifically on the 40th Parliament though. After all, we've been in Afghanistan since almost SEVEN YEARS before the 40th Parliament first sat, and there are many people in Canada who would argue that we still don't even clearly know what the mission is, let alone that we might somehow be able to measure it's relative success or failure.

      • But the detainee controversy just managed to guarantee that none of your desired understandings (what are the objectives, how to define success or failure) would make it anywhere on the national agenda.

        • Yes. If only the CPC had released the documents the committee wanted in the first place, the whole thing could have been avoided and we could have gotten to real issues.

          • yup.

  2. They pay attention, but they misinterpret.

    While embarrassing the govt could be political gravy, the important thing to discover is if any of the prisoners were the victims of war crimes….something the ICC takes a dim view of.

    The ICC is in fact watching us to see if we will persecute any such crimes, or if it will become their job to do so.

    • Funny! I think you mean prosecute, right?

    • I'm sure you meant "prosecute."

      • Yes, I meant 'prosecute', but now that I think on it….if we don't do something about it, we may well be persecuted. LOL

  3. I'll be damned if I take criticism from Americans on how we should handle foreign combatant prisoners.

  4. Wow, its almost like they have access to a newspaper or something. Its incredible what you can learn from Wikileaks.

    • Dude, it's almost like they're reprinting Post editorials…

  5. To anyone who is wading through the documents: Do the Americans make any mention that it was our allergic reaction to Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib that made us bizarrely decide to hand detainees over to a thoroughly medieval detainment system instead?

    • Good question.

      • That is a good question. I haven't seen anything. But I sincerely encourage you to do some checking yourself and send the results to Glen.

    • I'd suggest that if our two policy options are "be directly abusive to our prisoners" and "outsource the abuse", we have no business trying to involve ourselves in these kinds of affairs above the reactive-support level.

  6. There's no question that Parliament has avoided touching the underlying reasons for why we're in Afghanistan for far too long. I think that's pretty obvious, and I suppose I should thank the Americans for pointing that out.

    But to hear the American embassy lecturing–nah, talking down to us–because we're having a discussion on how foreign prisoners should be treated? I don't handle that very well.

    • They're not talking down to us. This embassy cable was never intended to be read by Canadians.

      • I think this is the one point on this thread where I can agree with you, and by god I'm gonna do it.

        • I'm glad I could bring you two closer together. :)

    • I can't quite see how those American cables can be explicitly read as "talking down" to us (ie judegemental of us). OTOH I suppose I can't really rule out the possibility that "talking down" was the implied intent either.

      But overall it seems to me that the cables should be read as simple observations of the situation in Canada, and nothing more than that.

      • I was raised in a fairly passive-aggressive home, so I suppose I can read something into nothing more than the average bear. Perhaps obsession was an appropriate word, but I certainly took it the wrong way.

        I guess this is why these aren't meant to be read by the subject.

  7. Why are you interrupting election coverage to talk about something silly like the war in Afghanistan. Don't you know there are more important "OMG NDP" stories to be written?

  8. There should have been room for both the detainees and the mission in general, and the government should have complied with instructions to provide information on the first.

  9. Maybe facing the music instead of shutting down all of parliament for eight weeks might have been appropriate?

  10. It makes me curious about how seriously the country responsible for Abu Gahrib is taking its own international obligations.

  11. I should say that I don't actually think things are as one-sided as the post directly above may appear, my point was more to emphasize the fact that there were two sides to the detainee document controversy. It wasn't just about Parliament demanding to see the documents, it was also about the government REFUSING TO LET THEM.

  12. You mean single-minded focus on getting the information to the committee.

    Tell me, should they have just waved it away? Said, "Oh, I guess it's okay if we might be enabling torture, we won't bother you about it, how about we talk about something else for a while?"

  13. "The three opposition parties are united in seeking to embarrass the government … but have indicated no interest in debating the actual Canadian mission in Afghanistan …"

    Looks like the US State Department has also made the mistake of ignoring the NDP which continually and consistently called for re-evaluation of the whole mission, not just detainee policy, most recently when the mission was extended without debate. http://www.ndp.ca/afghanistan.

  14. You mean the Americans pay attention?

    The embassy of our most important ally, in the middle of a war in which we are both currently engaged, sends cables to head office describing where Canada's governmental headspace is at on said war. This should be a surprise?

  15. Here's a fun one. From Stephen Harper's Christmas List
    — Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams recants his
    Venezuelan/Che Guevara economic theories and gives free
    rights to Newfie water to AbitibiBowater in perpetuity,
    leading Maude Barlow to emigrate to Zimbabwe;

    Can someone tell me why the Americans think that Mr. Harper would like for our provincial premier to hand over the rights to Canadian water permanently to a private company?

  16. Your original comment stated it better: "This is just one more example of how partisan maneuvering in Canada's 40th Parliament took precedence over stuff that actually matters."

  17. I think one of the nets should hire David Jacobson or Terry Breese as a political commentator for election night. They show a keen grasp of #cdnpoli and free of partisan bias.

  18. I was looking for quality blogs in this niche. Yahoo Search has brought me here, I find it kind of measures satisfying than I wanted. I'll add this page to prevent missing yet.

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