Abu Ghraib and everything after


A government official tells CBC that three options for detainees were considered as Canadian forces moved into Kandahar, but that the failures and controversies of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay discouraged Canada from holding those it captured.


Abu Ghraib and everything after

  1. I think that's a decision made on what they call "CYA" rather than on anything resembling "concern for human rights".


    • I'l bite. What's CYA? Consider your audience is my first and last guess. What should have been the best available option, assuming HR was top of your list?

  2. Here is one definition of "extraordinary rendition":

    Extraordinary rendition and irregular rendition are terms used to describe the apprehension and extrajudicial transfer of a person from one state to another.[1] "Torture by proxy" is used by some critics to describe situations in which the United States has purportedly transferred suspected terrorists to countries known to employ harsh interrogation techniques that may rise to the level of torture.[2][3][4]


    Do Canada's methods in Afghanistan fit this definition. why did the Conservatives support this?

    • Yes i see that thanks…oddly my definition works too,no?

  3. "What should have been the best available option, assuming HR was top of your list?"

    Designate a prison, hold them, treat them properly, and give each one a quick court martial to establish whether he was a combatant or a civilian. Let the civilians go.

    • Even that's not good enough. We all know that part of the Taliban playbook is to claim torture by Western capturers, whether it happens or not. This is not in dispute. The last 3 months of media coverage in Canada demonstrates exactly why they do this.

      The Canadians could run a "Club Fed" just for the Taliban and we'd still be up to our necks in detainee abuse allegations…only this time they'd be alleging that their abuse was inflicted directly by Canadians. Which would be a whole different kettle of fish than the one we are looking at now.

      • The Taliban could do whatever the hell they want, and I'm sure they would. And I'm also sure that some in the media would believe them rather than Canadian soldiers. True.

        However, the point here is to do what's right, not to CYA at the expense of prisoner treatment.

      • One problem with your assertions is that it is common knowledge that Afghans torture Afghans.

        There are no allegations of Canadians torturing anyone.

        This is a situation where Canada having a clean record (at the time) would have given legitimacy to a Canadian-operated prison for Afghan suspected combatants.

        We have probably lost that legitimacy since the government is paralyzed by the paramount requirement that the government of Canada be protected, regardless of the strain it puts on the armed forces, bureaucracy, observer organizations…

        • Also we would have has support from the Dutch and the Brits as regards the detention facility. I'm with Gaunillon on this, this would have been the moral thing to do. But it is mitigated to an extent by hindsight. We can say they were wrong, but that like being right is of course the logical consequence of making a decision/choice. On the one hand stood abu ghraib, on the other known risks in the Afghan system. But there was another choice. The challenge would have been to not let that become an Abu Ghraib. I'm pretty confident we would have been equal to it.

          • Well said.

      • "Even that's not good enough. We all know that part of the Taliban playbook is to claim torture by Western capturers, whether it happens or not – this isnot in dispute"

        Actually it is. Colvin claimed the exact opposite is observable if you talk to prisoners, not simply accept one possible scenario. The first impulse for many prisoners is to tell the captors what thry want to hear, what pleases them. It is in fact difficult to get a complaint of abuse out of a man who knows once the westerner is gone, his jailer will extract a price from him. Only the bravest, most foolhardy, and occasionally the motivated [ taliban] will make accusations of mistreatment. You seem to be assuming they're all taliban.

      • Wow, it's unfortunate that nobody in our government or military is as bright as you and would be able to see this coming and.. oh.. I don't know.. document the treatment, or allow third parties to monitor the treatment on a regular basis.

        Why, if only we had the technology to record the treatment prisoners were receiving. But it'd take some means of putting light onto a medium of some sorts. Surely something well beyond us.

        • Yes that's right, filming prisoners' every waking and sleeping moment would never be construed as mistreatment in the form of lack of privacy.

          Face it, John G is absolutely right that for many people (i.e. the Taliban and much of the Left) anything the government could have done would have been condemned. So what. They should have done what was right and assumed responsibility for the prisoners, not fobbed them off on another regime because that seemed to hold the least political risk.

          • Okay. I agree with your last sentence. Or at the very least they should have established very strict monitoring conditions for our soldiers to take care of to ensure no abuse was happening. That said….

            Yes, that's right. I specifically said we should film their every waking and sleeping moment. Oh wait.. I didn't, and you're just putting words in my mouth. Screw off with your baseless generalizations, okay?

          • (1) Your suggestion to "record the treatment" in order to avoid accusations of mistreatment only works if their entire existence is filmed. Otherwise the accusations would still be made concerning unfilmed moments. In fact, the accusation would be made no matter what Canada did.

            (2) The rest of your acrimonious post seems to be almost entirely a non sequitur. Just saying.

          • (1) and even then prob from multiple angles. part of the problem is one could never prove, absolutely, the absence of wrong doing. but as you said earlier Gaunilon, one needn't allow the possibility of accusations, drive their actions.

    • That's a good answer…it would be mine too…with hindsight.[ not that that's an adequate excuse]

  4. The truth is that no option would have pleased the critics of this war. Eventually people would find some way to impugn our moral integrity, and we'd be back at square one with nonsensical ravings by Ujjal and Jack.

    • Yes. It's too bad our government had to go and give them credibility.

      • Wouldn't you feel better criticizing the people who are actually out there to maim, torture, and abuse? You know, the enemy? The Taliban? I don't sense you're dealing in good faith here when you ignore the greater human injustices in this equation.

  5. So what does that mean. "Assume responsibility". For every prisoner? Do you have any idea what point these prisoner transfer occur? Literally on the battlefield.

    And if we had built a $20 million detention facility, do you think that would have pleased anyone for a moment? Of course not. They'd call it an extra-judicial gulag and call us colonialists.

    • "And if we had built a $20 million detention facility, do you think that would have pleased anyone for a moment? Of course not. They'd call it an extra-judicial gulag and call us colonialists."

      The point is to do whatever ensures proper treatment for the prisoners. Pleasing everyone and avoiding politically motivated smears should run a distant second. Ethics and principle, not optics and politics, should have been the dominant consideration.

  6. The entire point of the ISAF is "security" and "assistance", not the creation of extra-judicial authorities and governments. The point is to get Afghanistan into a position where it can stand on it's own. Not take care of it's penal system.

    • This isn't a matter pertaining to the penal system: these are prisoners of war, not criminals.
      Prisoners of war are the responsibility of the nation that captures of them, both ethically and legally.

      • Actually, these are men who wear no uniforms, who abide by no rules of international warfare, and who respect no international law. Even deciding what kind of prisoner they are is difficult. Particularly when they're found among civilians. The NDS or ANA would typically take in a bunch of them for questioning to determine if any belonged to the Taliban.

        You have to realize that the biggest problem is in designating who is a prisoner of war and who isn't. You also have to realize the constraints of the ISAF rules pertaining to the 72-hour rule.

        • Those are good arguments for shooting them after court martial, as we did to such prisoners in WW2, but not good arguments for handing them off to a regime that can't be trusted not to torture them.

          • The inevitable consequences of your philosophically moral objections resulting in the handing off to a regime that quite literally shoots people in open stadiums and stones women to death for being seen with a man.

            You expect standards in a third world country that don't exist, and then expect Canada to compensate for it. Here's a news flash. Every country in that part of the world has prisons with bad human rights records. Should we make the Taliban prisoners Canadian citizens and send them off to Kingston?

          • Is it somehow not possible to build a simple prison in Afghanistan and put them there? Why on earth does citizenship have anything to do with it?

          • No, we expect those standards of ourselves. One the one hand you would argue for girls to be educated et al., and on the other you shrug your shoulders if others suggest reforming their attitudes toward other human rights – make up your mind. By the way, the 72 hr rule is an artificial political construct – is it not?

          • My mind is just fine. I'm not the one arguing for a perfect system. I think you have to get your ducks in a row first. Learn to recognize priorities.

            1. End of the insurgency, establishment of security
            2. Building of infrastructure, economy
            3. Democratic and human rights reforms.

            You people are all about the cart before the horse.

          • I take your point…but aren't you rather forgetting our hearts and minds policy? Priorities aren't always just a simple linear formulae. We can walk and chew gum at the same time; so can the Afghans.

  7. I certainly would. Unfortunately, criticizing others behavior while allowing it to proceed at home is hypocrisy.

    I actually think that's a bad thing.

  8. "The truth is that no option would have pleased the critics of this war. Eventually people would find some way to impugn our moral integrity…"

    The truth is all gov'ts in similar circumstances have to deal with this to some degree or other. It is not a get out of your responsibilities card, or any other form of carte blanche.

  9. I think if you actually read the polls in Afghanistan, find out what they think, what they feel. If you read what human rights workers are reporting, the people are just fine with our presence, and what we're doing there, including our treatment of the Taliban.

    • The last point is an interesting one. I'm aware they want us to stay, i've read nothing either way as to the attitude towards our treatment of detainees.

  10. Wow! So all this is really Bush's fault! It took a while for the (cough) proper-thinking (cough) people to get there. It's about time the CBC got around to diging up this talking point. Phew. That was close.

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