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On the subject of brave women getting the story in Afghanistan


 

From the 2007 Michener Awards citation:

Stories published by La Presse in October and November of 2007 indicated that abuse of detainees was continuing. In January 2008, the Canadian government revealed that the transfer of prisoners to Afghan authorities had been suspended.

In his acceptance speech, Philippe Cantin said he was honoured to be sharing the award with the Globe and praised the work of the entire La Presse news team responsible for developing the series on Afghanistan. He also congratulated lead reporter Michèle Ouimet for her courage under fire and for the risks she took to obtain the information required for her stories. Ms Ouimet is a foreign correspondent for La Presse covering stories in Afghanistan and in the neighbouring regions.

Michèle Ouimet’s column today, translated and excerpted:

Mr. Harper’s lies

Melissa Fung gave a one-hour interveiw to the CBC. She talked about her 28 days of captivity: her fear, the endless nights when she slept very little, her life in a hole barely larger than a closet, her strange relationship with her captors, her liberation

For one minute, and only one, she spoke about the conditions surrounding her liberation. For her, there was no doubt: prisoners were liberated in exchange for her liberty.

One explosive minute that puts the prime minister of Canada in an embarrassing situation. Tuesday Stephen Harper claimed that there had been no exchange. He was categorical. He was reacting to news in the Pakistan Observer which affirmed that two Taliban prisoners had been freed in exchange for Melissa Fung.

Yesterday it was Mme Fung’s turn. Two days, two declarations, two different sources. Mme Fung and the Pakistan Observer.

Yesterday the denial came from Mr. Harper’s press secretary, Dimitri Soudas. I could bombard him with all the questions I liked, he repeated the same answer: no exchange, no ransom.

So Mme Fung is lying? The Pakistan Observer is on the wrong track? Or is it the Afghan government that accepted the exchange?

Mr. Soudas repeated his answer like a mantra: no exchange, no ransom.

Who to believe? Mme Fung, who spoke with the chief of Afghan intelligence, or Mr. Harper, who has a tendancy — and here, I am being polite — to take certain liberties with the truth as soon as one touches on the Afghan question?

I have already tasted this medicine. In 2007 I wrote that the Taliban captured by Canadian soldiers were tortured. Stephen Harper swept this story away, swearing it was false. His foreign-affairs minister Maxime Bernier added that this was Taliban propaganda.

Yet the story was true. Two weeks after its publication Mr. Harper was contradicted by the Federal Court and president Hamid Karzai recognized that there was still torture in his country.

So I ask the question again: Who to believe?

….Minister Lawrence Cannon’s press secretary reacted to Mme Fung’s claims with an email that can be summed up in a few words: no ransom, no exchange. For any other question, she added, talk to the Afghan authorities.

When I was in Afghanistan, Canadian authorities refused to answer my questions. “Call Ottawa,” they said.

Today I’m in Montreal and they tell me: “Call Kabul.”

It’s an absolute mania.


 

On the subject of brave women getting the story in Afghanistan

  1. Does anyone know how many Canadian women are currently reporting in Afghanistan?

    I recently read Christie Blatchford’s book, and thought she had done an incredible job.

  2. All right. Let me get this straight. When all the journalist in the country lie to the public by refusing to air a story about how a Canadian journalist got kidnapped in Afghanistan that’s all right. But when the government do what every government do after they pay a ransom (whether it’s money or prisoner exchange), that is deny it so that not every armed group in the world will start kidnapping Canadians in the hope of getting whatever they wanted from the government then it’s “mania”. If Harper had gone out and said “Yeah we gave them a few million dollars and 50 prisoners”, you can be sure that lots of people around the world would notice and start looking for easy money.

  3. I fell a little foolish for giving harper hte benefit of the doubt when this first was reported. I should really have known better.

  4. The PM said there was no ransom paid. That appears to be correct.

    The PM also said there were no political prisoners exchanged. That also appears to be correct. Ms Fung said that after her kidnapping the Afghan police rounded up members of the kidnappers’ families as part of their investigation. It appears some, not all, of those individuals were released as part of the deal.

    That is entirely consistent with the PMs careful statements on the issue. It is also consistent with the idea that kidnappers should not be rewarded by allowing existing prisoners, especially the Taliban, to be swapped in exchage for kidnap victims. That would only create a precedent for more hostages to be taken. The apparent release of some of the kidnappers’ relatives, who would likely have been released anyway, does not create that type of precedent.

    I don’t see any statement by the PM that is not accurate, Certainly nothing that warrants the hyperbolic accusations of “liar”.

  5. If Harper had gone out and said “Yeah we gave them a few million dollars and 50 prisoners”, you can be sure that lots of people around the world would notice and start looking for easy money.

    I am more than a little surprised that this journalist cannot deduce this. Oh well, I guess she really wants to prove that kidnapping Canadian journalists pays off.

  6. Mike Redmond
    Nov 13, 2008 10:57
    The PM said there was no ransom paid. That appears to be correct.

    The PM also said there were no political prisoners exchanged. That also appears to be correct.

    * * *

    Actually, it appears to be disingenuous crap.

  7. The media (along with the government) “lied” for the month to protect the life of a reporter. The immediate need of the media “to lie” is over. The need for the government “to lie” about its policy with respect to what it may or may not do in hostage situations is NOT over.

  8. Ouimet’s near hysteria on this need for the truth is one of the funniest things i have read in a long time. Is there a Michener award for comedy? Because the second article cited is pure gold baby. Not South Park or the satirists at The Onion could have come up with a better parody of a pretentious, hand-wringing journalist more in love with her self-important quest for the truth. Here’s a little subtlety that Mme Ouimet needs to understand, and that other commenters have alluded to. In this case if there was a prisoner exchange, official government confirmation of that puts Canadians in danger. Denying it is correct and entirely acceptable. IF there was an exchange, then Harper is only lying to the Taliban through the media and hoping that most journalists have the common sense to see through the ruse so word does not get out to other groups, and leave it at that. Here I thought reporters and journalists of this calibre were supposed to be good at teasing out the subtleties in stories and explaining them to people. As that does not appear to be the case, then she’s just a partisan bomb-thrower.

  9. Becaues citizens must never be made aware of actual government policy.

  10. I agree with Mike Redmond. I think the media is being irresponsible if they talk this story up and try to pin the Prime Minister on a ‘lie’. Let it be. The Prime Minister has to think of the safety of other Canadians in Afghanistan, NGOs, journalists, etc. We are all thankful this situation turned out well… don’t let it be a set-up for another kidnapping. If the media was being responsible in not reporting Ms Fung’s kidnapping, let it also be responsible in not trying to redefine the Prime Minister’s carefully worded statement. What he said was true.

  11. It isn’t up to journalists to play Big Daddy and keep us all snug and warm at night. It’s harper’s job as the head politician to wrap us in his soft downey lies, so that we sleep well.

    Journalists are supposed to tell it like it is. This prime minister sees his job as lying to the public so as to hold onto that slim minority he holds.

    He’s a freaking liar. Just because it makes you feel more comfortable doesn’t make it right.

  12. If my investment broker spoke to me about my investments using the same level of honesty that harper spoke to the press, he would cease to be my broker. I expect the same, if not better, from my prime minister. End of story.

  13. There is a vast gulf in policy implication between:
    “if you kidnap a Canadian journalist, we’ll release prisoners we’ve captured from your forces in exchange” (i.e. if you want captured Talibs released, all you need to do is kidnap a few random Canadians). — If this was the case, then it needs to be publicised, so that Candians know how stupid our government’s policy is.

    vs

    “if you kidnap a Candian journalist, we’ll figure out who you are, and if we can’t find you, we’ll capture all your friends & family until you release our girl unharmed”.

    There may be moral objections to the 2nd policy – but this is a corner of the world, where “family business” is redundant. And quite frankly, the main point of such a policy is deterence, so again, why shouldn’t it be publicized. “Canadian released unharmed” is a not-too-bad policy outcome, but “Canadian not kidnapped in the first place b/c it is a losing game” is a far better one.

  14. Would someone please direct me to stories generated by Melissa Fung. When I google her all I get is stories about this kidnapping. What was she doing in Aganistan? Was she being directed by CBC? What insightful stories was she delivering?

    What is the CBC risk evalation process? Assigning Ms. Fung to work in Afganistan seems to be looking for trouble. Am I missing her unique qualifications, her fluency in local dialects or her ability to blend in to get in depth background that is not first apparent.

    On the surface it seems that a non-muslim female would be an affront to the cultural norms that exist in region and had a higher chance of becoming the story than covering it.

    I suggest that a burka wearing sharia-muslim reporter not be assigned to do indepth on the Biker gangs and stripper bars.. but I guess Journlists have the RIGHT to intrude as they see fit and it up to the people being covered to adapt to their norms.

  15. I love the pseudonyms people pick.

  16. I’m with Mike Redman.

    This site sure has a lot of Harper hater’s and one sided thinkers.

    Leave your tinfoil hats at the door. Cheers.

  17. I also love the pseudonyms people pick.

  18. The Prime Minister should know that whatever arrangements he is involved in with criminals is likely to be exposed and he should have some response ready if he thinks his actions fall short of what Canadians expect. He could simply have said “no comment” if he really had no explanation. However, Harper’s words on fixed election date laws, Riddell, and other matters, show that he can’t stop himself from trying to give the impression of being someone he is not.

    I don’t buy Victor’s argument. That is the reason governments don’t pay ransoms; it is not the reason they pay ransoms and lie about it. Various criminals/terrorists, not to mention those directly involved, are going to find out in any case and act accordingly. It doesn’t have to be written up in the Canadian press for them to know.

  19. Oooh! I missed that. What were Harper’s words on Lord Voldemort?

  20. There is no evidence that I’ve seen to support the conclusion the Canadian or Afghan government paid any ransom. The PM’s statements on that appear to be entirely correct.

    As has been pointed out there is a considerable difference between releasing existing prisoners in exchange for a hostage and what was apparently done in this case. If an prisoner already in the hands of the Afghan authorities had been released in exchange for Ms Fung there would clearly have been a net benefit to the kidnappers and the encouragement of more of that activity.

    What appears to have happened is that as a result of Afghan police and intelligence work, aided by our forces, the kidnappers were identified and pressure brought on them by seizing members of their families, some of whom may have been involved in the illegal activity. That isn’t something we would find acceptable in Canada, in most circumstances (although one might recall how many people were rounded up, and released without charge in 1970 in the face of a polticial kidnapping and murder). The tactic, however, appears to have been successful. As well, because the net benefit to the kidnappers was zero, or less than zero if some of the detainees remain in custody, this is actually a deterrent to further kidnapping.

    Kidnapping as a business enterprise in Afghanistan will become upopular if the net result of the enterprise is the imprisonment, even temporarily, of the relatives and associates of the kidnappers.

    That appears to be what has happened here. And the PM was entirely accurate in his description of the operation.

    This appears to have been a well handled and welcome rescue of a talented and brave journalist. It is unfortunate that the partisan dislike some people have for the PM is blinding them to those facrts.

  21. In contrast to the PM’s word games, the CBC’s John Cruickshank refused to comment beyond saying that no money changed hands. A wise decision on his part.

  22. So, is it brave of a Canadian journalist to continuously publicize the possibility of harvesting rich rewards for kidnapping a Canadian journalist, whether or not there was indeed a rich reward? Well, only if that Canadian journalist goes back into that region after having prominently suggested how profitable it would be for her future kidnappers to kidnap her. Otherwise, I can come up with a few other adjectives besides brave, Paul, and I am not sure you would appreciate their getting shared on a blog that deservedly prides itself on a civil tone of debate.

  23. Considering the fact that Fung was apparently taken a couple of days before the election, I have now come to believe that she was the reason why Harper did that spectacular about face on the Afghan mission.

    Harper declared the mission dead in 2011 because he feared that the Fung kidnapping would blow up during the campaign. If it had, he would have had to deal with a backlash and with the Afghan mission becoming front and center.

    This makes sense of what I believed was one of his most bizarre campaign announcements.

  24. the CBC’s John Cruickshank refused to comment beyond saying that no money changed hands. A wise decision on his part.

    Easy for a member of the media establishment to do, but if the PM said, no comment, he would catch holy heck from the press. Exhibit A: Michèle Ouimet. Can you imagine what her article would say if the PM said, “no comment”?

  25. Boudica, I am more than open to correction on this one, but didn’t Harper pull that “spectacular about-face” (by repeating what Parliament had resolved in March) well before the Oct 12 kidnapping? Or am I missing a timeline in my memory?

  26. Did the gov’t do the right thing? I dunno, to be honest. Using innocent family members as ‘reverse hostages’ doesn’t seem to me to be the kind of thing we should be getting involved in. Releasing guilty people in a hostage exchange is even worse. That said, the only other real alternative is forcible removal, something that may not be possible. So I’m not entirely sure where I come down on this, but I think it’s more along the lines of forcible removal or nothing.

    However, one thing they did *not* do right is handle the media story. The proper response to any media query about how she was released from captivity is simply, “No comment.” If that doesn’t seem to have the strength you want to show to potential kidnappers, you can go “We are not commenting on whether or not the JTF2 was involved in the captive’s release.” What you do *not* do is split hairs, because it’s that exact type of thing that the media makes into it’s bread and butter. Either tell the truth in letter and spirit, or specifically say you’re not going to tell the truth. Anything else ends badly, as this situation is doing right now.

  27. i am pretty sure madeyoulook is right. the 2011 promise was very early in the campaign

  28. He made that announcement on September 10, 2008, showing remarkable prescience if it was designed to help a hostage who hadn’t yet been kidnapped.

  29. Madeyoulook, if you are right, why would Harper bother repeating something at the very top of the campaign if it had already been made clear earlier?

    Prior to that statement, Harper talked about a change in priorities in 2011 but I don’t recall him being so firm about a complete pullout.

    I say that Fung’s kidnapping sheds light on that sudden firm and unequivocal announcement.

  30. Redmond, I’m looking at a quote from teh Globe that says that says:

    “Ms. Fung’s kidnapping two days before the federal election triggered hand-wringing on an international scale as Ms. Fung’s employer, the CBC, pleaded for discretion from rival news organizations.”

    Did Les Perreaux get the date wrong?

  31. So what happens if Canadian sanctioned afghan forces kidnap the relatives of suspected kidnappers, and the kidnappers call their bluff?

  32. So what happens if Canadian sanctioned afghan forces kidnap the relatives of suspected kidnappers, and the kidnappers call their bluff?

    Then Harper will have to come up with a new variety of lying, I suppose.

    I’m more than happy to accept that the journalists sat on this story to protect the life of Melissa Fung. But I don’t have to accept the Government lying to us.

  33. Easy for a member of the media establishment to do, but if the PM said, no comment, he would catch holy heck from the press. Exhibit A: Michèle Ouimet. Can you imagine what her article would say if the PM said, “no comment”?

    —————-

    The PM had two options:

    He could have told the whole truth and nothing but, and then could have explained it by way of an adult conversation with Canadians–as the editor of the Globe did on the issue of the embargo.

    Alternatively, he could have invoked national security as a reason for saying nothing.

    Either of these options would have been preferable to the word games/prevarication he engaged in.

  34. Boudica, no the dates appear to be right. Ms Fung was kidnapped two days before the election, on October 12, 2008. The PMs comments on extending our mission beyond 2011 (which I agree, only re-stated the position adopted by the Commons in its earlier resolution) were made in early September. My point is only that the PMs comments can’t have had any relationship to the kidnapping, since it hadn’t happened yet.

    As to Mike T’s question, the obvious answer is that if the kidnappers had called their bluff, either more negotiations would have ensued, or someone, or many people, would have died, probably including Ms Fung. What do you think would have happened? And do you think making these matters public would have helped resolve the issue?

    Kidnapping for business or for political purposes is common around the world. When it happens in Canada there is almost always a news blackout until the issue is resolved.

    There is obviously no one simple or right way to deal with any situation. It will depend on the nature of the kidnappers and the likelihood of the victim being released by any means other than ransom. In that sense Ms Fung was “fortunate” to have been taken by people with mercenary motives. Those who are prepared to die for their cause or commit senseless acts of brutality, such as some elements of the Taliban, might not have been willing to release her even in order to save their comrades from imprisonment.

    As for the government’s communications strategy, I think it might be worth remembering that, as they used to say “don’t you know there’s a war on?” That may not justify absolute secrecty when none is required, but it does mean the government may face this same situation again and it would seem unwise for it to reveal too much of its tactical thinking on such issues.

    But I get the sense that those who think of the PM as the source of all evil will not be satisfied with his position, nor would they have been no matter what he said. Others might simply consider this is a difficult and uncommon position for a Canadian PM and there is no rule book or handy guide to such matters that would assist him in providing the perfect approach to communications that would please everyone.

  35. He could have told the whole truth and nothing but, and then could have explained it by way of an adult conversation with Canadians–as the editor of the Globe did on the issue of the embargo.

    That makes no sense. The Globe was explaining the embargo after the embargo was over and unnecessary. AFTER Fung was released. The PM has to worry about the fate of Canadians still in country.

    What your suggesting is tantamount to saying the PM should hold a press conference, tell everyone in the country exactly how we and the Afghans deal with hostage takings, and then calmly explain to us that we should all collectively keep the public press conference quiet.

    And what, just pray no one in Afghanistan has satellite T.V., or a buddy in Canada who watches Newsworld?

  36. Once the immediate need for secrecy is gone, its important to have facts so that public debate can take place on our policies abroad. Harper might not have a handbook, but he should have more common sense.

  37. I don’t believe there was a kidnapping to begin with. The whole event seems staged to me. Time will tell.

  38. Where does the truth reside in this rather dramatic and very telling story.

    No doubt, this story has more sides than a prism and like a prism it sheds different colours of light in every direction.

    PM Harper has learned well the dark political art of obfuscation, of skirting the truth in words. Unfortunately his body language tells viewers a very different story.

    Readers of this blog should review the clips of Harper’s scripted responses, turn down the sound, and watch carefully his facial expressions, the movement of his shoulders, his hands, his arms etc etc.

    It becomes quite clear that our PM knows that he knows that he is not telling the truth, and nothing but the truth. He would been very hard pressed had he been asked to swear on the bible before he began his press conferences.

    What our PM does not realize, as he well should, is that we know that he knows that he is not telling the truth!

    The first casualty of war is always truth. The second casualty of war is democracy. The third casualty of was is …… You can and may continue the litany!!

    Clearly our PM believes that it is in the higher interests of the Canadian state and of his office that he not speak the truth on this matter. Do do otherwise, he is convinced, would create other far more intractable problems for him and Canada’s allies in this very difficult Afghanistan war.

    PM Harper has made his very deliberate choice and he will have to live with the consequences. It all comes with the burdens of the office.

  39. Boudica, he made his statements about a pullout from Afghanistan on Sept. 10 in Toronto, on Sept. 11 in Montreal and at the English-language debate on Oct. 2. Melissa was kidnapped on Oct. 12.

  40. One should not assume that a full explanation of what transpired would be injurious to our troops on the ground; I can think of at least one explanation that could serve as a deterrent. However, if that’s not the case, the PM could have invoked national security as a reason not to comment. Sure, he would have taken some lumps from a few ill-informed journalists. But that would have been preferable to the approach he chose: a prime minister who makes a habit of shading the truth and prevaricating eventually breaks his bond of trust with the people. And that’s the beginning of the end.

  41. I agree with Mr. Spector. If you’re determined not to describe the actual means which were used to free Ms. Fung, why comment?

    I still find it hard to believe that any Canadian thinks that seizing foreign bandits’ families as quid pro quo is somehow underhanded and caddish. Remind me to write on my driver’s license “In case of kidnapping by barbarians, please pull out all the stops.” Hypocrisy does have limits, people.

  42. Well first of all, awards for journalism are not credentials for truth. After all, Jonathan Kay has got his biggie award and he’s a neanderthal according to Boyce Richardson (and I concur there). I don’t think journalism awards are going to have much impact on how we naturally critically assess writing as we read it or on what we take from it. So why do you try to sway with notice of Ms. Ouimet’s award? Why not say that you yourself respect her journalism and “here is what she says”. What is this blog all about?

    As to the facts, who of any can really know at this point? Ms. Fung is unlikely to have learned the whole truth from the Afghans. She was in a hole in the ground for a month and looked pretty out of it according to the video we saw of her departure from Afghanistan and in yesterday’s reported interviews with her. If she does have usable information toward Stephen Harper’s role in all of this she will need some time to put it forward. I would put more confidence in Ms. Ouimet’s story you have republished above if it did not try to pit Ms. Fung against Harper at this time. “She didn’t say much, but she said this…”. She admits in her piece that she cannot learn the truth through her sources. It’s just complaining. It’s not good journalism, not at all. I learned nothing from it. It is obviously written and publicized to serve agendas that have little to do with truth.

  43. truemuse, this blog is a dark conspiracy designed to cloud the minds of the innocent. You’ve got me dead to rights. Also, I try to attract the maximum possible number of lunatics. So far it’s going well.

  44. Mitchell: It’s not that it’s underhanded or caddish. It’s just that it’s stupid. What would be the reaction of the local populace if they heard that the foreigners had kidnapped innocent family members for something their cousin/uncle whatever did? How much support do you think we’d get after that for identifying future perpetrators?

    It’s a bone-headed move if it’s the one they chose.

  45. T. Thwim, it wasn’t we who kidnapped the kidnappers’ family, it was Afghan Intelligence. I think the locals are already well aware that their government is not governed by the Charter. And I think the Afghans understand their people’s psychology better than we do.

  46. Why We Kidnap just doesn’t have the same ring as Why We Fight, does it?

  47. And you believe the locals, especially those who are not already our strong allies, will be making the distinction “Oh, that’s okay, it was just our own forces who happen to be hired, trained, and paid by the foreigners who did it. So we shouldn’t think that these nice foreigners would do anything of the sort, and let them know that my friend’s brother Omar may have been involved. They won’t touch my friend.”

    Pull the other one, it’s got bells on. When you threaten those close to the perpetrators all you’re doing is guaranteeing that those close to the perpetrators will not talk to you in future. So okay, Maybe Ms. Lung gets out. How many more in future have we lost now because the Afghani people won’t risk reporting what they may know for fear that they’ll be next?

    I would also put to you that simply being in proximity to a person for a long while gives you no insight into their psychology if you make no attempt to understand them, and the repeated attempts of these people to, well, blow each other up, seems to indicate that there has been little attempt at understanding going on.

  48. Bad puppet regime! Bad! Bad!

  49. If they released criminals, that seems like a way to make sure the number of kidnappings keep increasing.
    However, if they rounded up innocent people, Jack, that’s not what you need to put on your drivers license to make your point. We all want to be safe. The question is, are you willing to put on your license “if anyone related to me is threatening someone, please feel free to pick me up and make me disappear if they don’t stop doing it”.

  50. Or even “if you suspect my son is behind a kidnapping, please disappear my wife and daughter. And to give weight to your actions, don’t hesitate to kill them if anything happens to the original victim.”

  51. “Boudica, he made his statements about a pullout from Afghanistan on Sept. 10 in Toronto, on Sept. 11 in Montreal and at the English-language debate on Oct. 2. Melissa was kidnapped on Oct. 12.”

    Damn! There goes my conspiracy. On to the next one then…

  52. I see another canadian women has just been kidnapped in Pakistan.

  53. Thwim: “When you threaten those close to the perpetrators all you’re doing is guaranteeing that those close to the perpetrators will not talk to you in future.”

    I doubt the organised crime world of Kabul is exactly teeming with patriots. Anyway, somehow I doubt you’re qualified to give tactical advice to the Afghan police.

  54. “Monette says she is not aware of any media requests to withhold news of the abduction as had been the case when CBC reporter Mellissa Fung was kidnapped in Afghanistan last month.”

    Okay, now I’m confused. I thought it was the Canadian government who asked for a media blackout. Certainly, in the case of the French aid worker, it was the French government who asked. Now, the Canadian government is saying they are not aware of a media request for a blackout for the latest Canadian journalist. Why would the media request a blackout? What do the media know about undercover and military operations to free hostages?

  55. That’s the extent of your argument? That I’m not arguing from authority?

    I mean, I suppose I could pull out my credentials, but even then all you have is my word over the internet, and even if you believed them, that shouldn’t change the fact that who I am has no bearing on whether the argument is sound.

    So tell me, do you really believe that if we start “disappearing” innocent family members and friends of the perpetrators of these crimes that said innocent family members and friends (who are typically the sources of information used by all investigative teams) will continue to provide us information as to who the perpetrators are? Or are you just trying to justify a bad argument and a patriotic blood-lust?

  56. BTW, I had somehow missed this tidbit:

    Canada’s ambassador to Kabul, Ron Hoffmann, said Wednesday: “As part of their investigation (Afghan authorities) did detain briefly some family members of the kidnappers which was ultimately an important point of leverage to help secure her release.”

    The Pakistan Observer calls them “prisoners”, Canada’s ambassador calls them “leverage”.

  57. Thwim, thwim, thwim. I’m not bothering to argue because it’s just absurd to argue that “the Afghan people” are going to have a lower opinion of us because we availed ourselves of the Afghan security service to fight mercenary kidnappers. From what one vaguely gathers of the eye-for-an-eye culture of Afghanistan, I’d think we would be more respected for it. The iron fist in the iron glove is normal Afghan Intelligence procedure, anyway.

    Who ever said that the family members of the kidnappers were the ones to turn the kidnappers in? C’mon, you just pulled that one out of thin air, right?

    I’m not experiencing a patriotic bloodlust, I just find it hilarious — if that’s the word — that we are now inventing reasons for why we shouldn’t rescue our own kidnap victims.

  58. Jack, there are plenty of questions here. If they released criminals, how much of a threat is this to others? If they held innocent people, how did they use them as leverage? By torture, threats of death,…? If they only had them briefly, as the ambassador said, it must have been something, to get a quick reaction. I’d like to know what they did because I think it is a concern if our government knowingly does (or helps others do) nasty things to innocent people.

  59. I think people who have reservations about retaliatory kidnappings are just projecting the fairly obvious reasons why the police don’t use them here onto the siutation in the middle east. Barring some really convincing arguments to the contrary, I’m going to assume the same common sense rationale applies.

  60. catherine, my understanding was that the people held and subsequently released were not criminals but the close family of the kidnappers and that it was a quid pro quo (with, presumably, the threat of death if Fung were killed). But it was not our government who was doing it, it was the Afghan government.

    Mike T., I for one object to retaliatory kidnapping here in Canada because it endangers fellow Canadians. That doesn’t apply in Kabul. Also it wasn’t our own government doing it but the local government. It’s really not our business to wander around the world passing judgment on other governments when those governments are in the very act of helping us.

  61. Sure, he would have taken some lumps from a few ill-informed journalists.

    He did, see the top of this post.

  62. Michele, not Paul, of course..

  63. I think you need to take a wider view of ‘danger’.

  64. And i further assume that helping the people of afghanistan is not on your list of any just reasons for the invasion of Afghanistan, then?

  65. Um, no, not really. But even so, the jury’s out on whether, in a post-feudal society like Afghanistan, having its central government obey the Charter would really benefit the people.

  66. There are usually good reasons for Charter rights. And in this case practical suggestions which have been pointed to. As for the rest, I can’t get into the “good us vs. bad them” mentality it requires.

  67. Well of all the times and all the things that Harper has chosen to use a lie, this is one that i begrudgingly accept — but also suggest that Mr Spector’s options are preferred. The exchange, as we are to believe, occurred under the Afghan directives so really it is something we can comment on but not effect.
    Harper’s now predictable habit, however, needs to be addressed.

  68. Well, I seem to recall that we suspended the rule of law when a foreigner was kidnapped by gun-toting maniacs. In Afghanistan, it happens every week.

    “Us vs. them”? That’s not my view, unless by “them” you mean the unaffiliated bandits who kidnapped Fung. They’re hardly representative of ordinary Afghans.

  69. You said only a few moments ago that retaliatory kidnapping in Canada was wrong because it endangers canadians and that didn’t apply in Kabul. that’s us vs. them.

  70. Ah, well, to me “us vs. them” means us against them, i.e. some kind of hostility. Of course we have a different standard of conduct for foreigners than for our own people — every nation does. Unless you think that Charter rights are somehow God’s Word sent direct from heaven, as opposed to a pragmatic and useful arrangement for the regulation of our country.

  71. I accept your distinction. But I don’t think you need to split legal hairs to feel that rounding up the family members of suspected ne’er do wells is a really bad idea that can go horribly wrong, and not want it in your puppet regimes.

  72. You people have way too much time on your hands. I used to enjoy the comments on this blog but lately I find them much too strident and revisionist. I won’t slam the door on the way out. Cheers.

  73. I’m with you, Mike T., on not making it standard procedure. There is certainly something horrible about it. It’s interesting how kidnapping does seem to change the rules of the game, from the US instituting capital punishment for it after the Lindbergh baby kidnapping to the “shoot to kill” license that SWAT teams get in hostage situations. I suppose it’s because the stakes are so high in that the victim is threatened with death, and as long as that’s preventable it’s not simply a question of arresting the criminal. But since it is rather horrible to kidnap kidnappers’ families, that also sends a strong message to potential kidnappers. Certainly if there were a 50/50 chance of foreigners being kidnapped here, we’d probably accept some ruthless action on the part of the government.

    Sorry, sandra, if I’m one of the voices you’re finding too strident. One does lose perspective a bit. I have a rather dull online job with long pauses while data uploads, and I suppose I tend to take out my frustration on my comrades. : )

  74. Is there any actual evidence of a hostage exchange? Mrs. Fung’s “gut feeling” probably shouldn’t come into play here unless she physically seen the exchangees? If there is evidence – let’s see have it before we go calling the Prime Minister a liar.

    Come on, Michèle Ouimet. Do your job and investigate. Its easy to hypothesize from the sidelines.

  75. Brian, Canada’s Ambassador, Hoffman, said they detained family members and used them as leverage to secure Fung’s release.

  76. I think I prefer Harper’s…well, I’m not going to call it a lie, but let’s charitably call it his version of the truth…in this case than a “no comment” or hiding behind national security. This would lead to nothing but speculation that he was refraining from commenting because there WAS a ransom or a prisoner exchange (meaning a prisoner that was already in custody at the time of the kidnapping).

    I’m with Mike Redmond and those who don’t understand why the media won’t let this go. Harper is trying to help protect reporters by demonstrating that kidnapping reporters in Afghanistan won’t get you anywhere, and reporters for some unknown reason are trying to undermine him. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face…

  77. Do I smell a bit of hypocrisy. Do the same people who go bananas if you criticize some negative aspects of the culture of a minority group in Canada (“who are we to judge their dowry burning!”) the same people who start fretting about the use of cultural norms in another country to resolve a problem. “We used the tribal tradition of counter-kidnap to fix this. Were they “threatened” Oh Dear!! Oh Dear!!”

  78. There are a lot of things being posted on these comments.

    Facts on what happened in Afghanistan do not appear to be among them. I personally, will reserve judgment until we have them.

  79. In Tehran in the late 70’s the fundamentalists took a soviet diplomat hostage. The kgb upped the ante by sending back body parts of the kidnappers relatives in diplomatic satchels. They had lots of diplomats but the kidnappers were going to run out of relatives…

    Its called hardball and the way our press works we might as well give up because they will never let us play the game it needs to be played. Winning is not in their vocabulary. The government should have left fung to die. Sorry Paul, thats just the way it has to be when you wont let our side win. Its called quid pro quo.

    No wonder the free press ranks down with used car salesmen in respect categories.

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