On Hillier's assertion the Afghan detainees were killers - Macleans.ca

On Hillier’s assertion the Afghan detainees were killers


There was a lot to ponder in Gen. Rick Hillier’s testimony yesterday before the House committee on Afghanistan. But the retired chief of defence staff’s affronted “nothing could be further from the truth” response to diplomat-whistleblower Richard Colvin’s claim that Canadian troops have detained Afghans who were not really insurgents is particularly worth considering.

“We detained,” Hillier said, “under violent actions, people trying to kill our sons and daughters, who had in some cases done that, been successful at it, and were continuing to do it.” Listening to him, I can’t have been alone in thinking back to his famous remark about Canadians fighting “detestable murderers and scumbags” in Afghanistan.

No doubt the Taliban is full of killers who fit that description. Still, Hillier’s assertion does not quite square with the most thorough probe of a detainee incident conducted by the Canadian military itself: the “Board of Inquiry into In-theatre Handling of Detainees,” a exhaustive investigation of the treatment of three individuals detained in Afghanistan in April 2006.

The inquiry was prompted by media reports suggesting those detainees might have been mistreated while still in Canadian hands. In its Feb. 6, 2009 report, the board exonerated the Canadian Forces members involved. It spent two years combing over the incident in question, and heard from 121 witnesses from Defence, Foreign Affairs, and CSIS.

So I think it’s safe to say the military has a clearer picture of this case of taking detainees and passing them over to the Afghan authorities than any other similar incident. And here, getting back to what Hillier said yesterday, is what the board of inquiry concluded about what is known about the three detainees in question:

“It is important to note that the Canadian Government, through efforts by the CF National Investigative Service (CFNIS), attempted to locate the three detainees once they launched their investigation. After several attempts by CFNIS, in coordination with local authorities, none of the detainees were located. The board concluded for its own purposes that the detainees were therefore unavailable to testify. The board did receive some written evidence to support that at least one of the three detainees was a member of the Taliban; however, in the final analysis, the board was unable to conclude whether or not the detainees were in fact insurgents.”


On Hillier’s assertion the Afghan detainees were killers

  1. I have had the same “detestable murderers and scumbags” quote in my mind ever since this thing broke a week ago.

    But, I have to also think that Mr. Colvin was at a distinct disadvantage as "the new kid on the block" when he started raising his concerns in May 2006. And if the risk of mistreatment/torture in Afghani prisons was as commonly known at that time as some claim, perhaps that is the reason his reports did not stand out as exceptional to some who had been involved for quite some time – such as the veteran generals.

    • perhaps Dot, but that does little to explain while Hillier is now making the case against Colvin based or emotive rhetoric that does not square with the millitary's own investigation into some of these matters.

      • Not trying to explain Hillier's actions, just acknowledging the environment/culture that may have existed when Colvin was there, early on. To his credit, his perseverence may have resulted in the changes that ultimately came about.

  2. Hillier was not quoted properly. His full statement was: "The detainees are detestable murderers and scumbags" he said, adding "but please remember to respect their rights as you hand them over to fair-minded Afghan jailers who we know will treat them humanely."

  3. So we're supposed to believe that, lamentably, some times Canadian Armed Forces accidentally kill Afghan civilians (and express deep regret for that) but when it comes to detaining Afghanis we're sure that 100% were "people trying to kill our sons and daughters?"

  4. I really don't think its appropriate to look at an isolated case of 3 individuals and claim this in any way shows that Canadian forces were randomly capturng Afghan civilians.

    However, it does bring to light the less-talked about aspect of the case, which is Colvin's assertion that Canadian Forces were basically capturing civilians wholesale. When Conservativ MPs such as Vic Toews mention that there is an implied insult to our soldiers, they have been universally castigated for smearing Mr. Colvin. But what else is Colvin's assertion but an enormous accusation against the Forces? It seems very strange that everyone is talking up the aspect of what Afghans were doing, and not whether or not Colvin is correct about what OUR people were doing. And make no mistake, if Colvin is correct, this is a MASSIVE indictment of our Forces.
    That aspect of his testimony frankly is hard to believe. We should not be surprised that our military chiefs are fighting back hard. If its true, they have a lot to hide, and if its false, they SHOULD be angry as anything at the accusation.

  5. The sad thing is that the military has become so untouchable that no MP even raised this quote with Hillier to ask if he felt he was setting a tone that suggested the human rights of detainees were not a priority.

    • Yeah, the offshoot of a cheap 'support our troops' claptrap that Harper has decended to since February 2006. I agree; that's a dangerous slope.

  6. My favourite Hillier moment was in January 2008 when PMO publicly said Hillier had kept his political masters in the dark about the detainee transfers stopping. Hillier blew up and PMO quickly retracted their assertion.

    Mike Duffy was golden covering it with phraes like (and this is roughly from memory) 'Hillier was infuriated and went on the war path,' and 'he feels persecuted, put down and spat upon'

  7. The killers comment struck me too. If it were true, it sounds dangerous as it means they are releasing everyone who may be (or even likely to be) a dangerous murder, but they don't know for sure. Sounds too dangerous to be true.

  8. Maybe we could get Hillier elected premier of Newfoundland. Then we could freely
    call him a bumptious loudmouth. Of course he could still be a hero too .. a grandfather

  9. I'm really confused by this reaction. Is it really so insane for our general to characterize our enemy as people trying to kill our troops?
    Should he be more like the sheepdog and the wolf in the Bugs Bunny cartoons?

  10. Why would we even waste a PENNY of our tax payers money to figure out what happened to the MURDERING COWARDS.
    As a proud Canadian I could care less. It is War boys and girls, figure it out. I am sure glad all these traitors were not around back in WW2 feeling sorry for Hitler.
    If you care so dearly about the Taliban go over to Afghanistan and do one TOUR with our soldiers.
    It seems every time I pick up the news paper there is another dead Canadian soldier and here we are making a bigger deal out of a group of TERRORIST " Remember 9/11" than we are our own troops safety.
    I vote to quit spending my Tax dollars on this Ridiculous topic and spend the money on Heavier Armored Vehicles for our boys over there.
    I Love my Country.

  11. I dont understand why is so much violence in that region