Broken telephone


Speaking about the process of notification around detainee transfers, Richard Colvin testified on Wednesday that “when the Red Cross wanted to engage on detainee issues, for three months the Canadian Forces in Kandahar wouldn’t even take their phone calls.”

This has apparently been misrepresented in subsequent reports, but speaking to Canadian Press a Red Cross official seems to confirm Mr. Colvin’s claim.


Broken telephone

  1. I imagine this is what Aaron is referring to:

    "Spokesman Bernard Barrett said the agency tried and failed to get in touch with Canadians in Kandahar three times in 2006 – not to warn them about Afghan prison conditions, but rather the routine matter of discussing the country's responsibilities in notifying the Red Cross."

    I wonder if Peter Mackay would sob openly in the dock at The Hague?

  2. Shouldn't the House of Commons conduct an inquiry? How long can Harper plead ignorance and better information at the same time? What person in Canada trusts Harper to stand up for them when they are either in need or doing their job? Disrespect, intimidation and outright lying are not Conservative values.

    • It should be an Independent Public Inquiry. The only worse than nothing would be to let a Parliamentaty Committee investigate this. They don't have the objectivity needed.

      • Thanks, more expensive but I agree Independent Public Inquiry would be most credible.

  3. This is so Canadian of us. Afghans torture fellow Afghans, and Canada's gotta have an inquiry. Why don't we wait until the Afghans have their own torture inquiry, then we can conduct ours – seeing as we were handing detainees over to them, it would make sense that they figure out what was happening in those jails before we start laying blame at the feet of our fine armed forces, and accusing them essentially of torturing these Afghani's themselves.

    • "This is so Canadian of us."

      Not of you, surely.

    • An Afghan inquiry conducted for the benefit of its occupiers' laws would make their elections look squeaky clean.

    • "This is so Canadian of us. Afghans torture fellow Afghans, and Canada's gotta have an inquiry"

      No, we had a resonsibility to not hand over people to known torturers without question, or any monitoring…just like the Brits and the Dutch did. Get it? Their RDS thugs – our responsibility not too close our eyes. Simple when you think about it really!

      • kcm, sourstud and her or his like don't need an explanation. they simply don't care.

  4. Twenty-five blog posts about Colvin issue so far on Maclean's. Twenty-one posted by Wherry. Geddes three, Wells one. Just an observation.

    I would like to hear from people in Afghanistan, namely, the Afghans, the Canadian military, the NGOs, and the other countries in Afghanistan.

    • Poll was conducted Nov 14-16. Hardly a barometer of how Canadians feel about an issue that broke after said poll was out of field.

    • "I would like to hear more about this issue"


      too bad the government wasn't thinking this way two and a half years ago!

    • Let's follow the links and look at the full PDF, shall we?

      "From November 14 to November 16, 2009 […]"

      Remind me, please: Colvin testified when? The 18th you say? So then the contents of his testimony could have no affect on the poll results unless causality was somehow reversed? Yeah, that's what I thought.

    • You're a practiced Conservative shill, s_c_f, I'll give you that:

      Twenty-five blog posts about Colvin issue so far on Maclean's. Twenty-one posted by Wherry. Geddes three, Wells one. Just an observation.

      Oblique accusation of bias? Check

      I would like to hear more about this issue from people in Afghanistan, namely, the Afghans, the Canadian military, the NGOs, and the other countries with forces or humanitarian missions in Afghanistan

      Pointless lament of inadequate information, despite a World a information at one's fingertips? Check

      I suppose if the Canadian public strongly believed Colvin and blamed the Conservative government for being complicit, we might see it in the polls.

      Irrelevant reference to a public opinion poll? Check.

      Apparently not. Not so far, anyway. Maybe another twenty blog posts will do the trick.

      Reiteration of oblique accusation of bias? Check.

      I wonder if the Toronto Star intends to publish the results of their own poll..

      In other words "What? I'm just asking questions is all."

      • Oblique accusation of bias?

        Somewhat. Just another observation that topics that may put the Conservatives in a negative light get a lot of play from one blogger in particular. And when I say a lot, I mean a LOT. The reference to the poll, is simply an acknowledgment of the reason why there has been twenty-one posts by a particular blogger.

        Sure, there is news here, but I'd like to hear more about what people have seen in Afghanistan, from people in Afghanistan.

        Reiteration of oblique accusation of bias

        Actually, the statement "Maybe another twenty blog posts will do the trick" is not oblique at all, it's rather direct.

        As for the Toronto Star comment, it's always made me laugh how the Star buries their own polls if they don't like the results. That has not relevance to any of the other things I've said.

        • I just happen to be a real fan of declarative language. It's easer to organize one's thoughts that way. The stylistic touches of innuendo, obliqueness, satire, sarcasm, etc. etc. can come later.

          You tripped yourself up in your rush to make a political point by referencing an irrelevant poll for just that reason.

    • What does a poll have to do with anything? If a poll showed that Canadians approve of the torture of the detainees Canada transfers, would that make it okay?

      • No the torture of detainees is not OK or legal. The polls or the opinion of a Prime Minister who, at best, has a defense of willful blindness, are not a valid way to determine if the conduct is shameful or politically damaging. History takes a long term view unlike polls and Stephen Harper.

        • You're right, Paul Martin was blind when he put the detainee transfer policy in place, and fortunately the policy was fixed in 2007 by Harper.

      • I call it spewing propaganda.

        • of course you do….you are hyper-partisan and you are only capable of processing all of this as your team is under attack.

          • Of course you'd say that, being a hyper-hyper-super-whacko-partisan. You'd like to see the reporting of all other news stop so that this one issue gets the attention of 24 hour a day coverage from all journalists.

          • What is your source for claiming the torture "ended in 2007?" The same ministers who didn't bother to investigate far enough to stumble on Colvin's memos before 2007?

            We know the government took some measures to change the transfer agreement in 2007, but we don't know if that worked, we still don't know how many prisoners are being transferred, or what happens to them afterwards. Are we suuposed to just believe the likes of Mackay? He's the one with the documented pattern of dissembling.

          • Well, since you don't believe the government, I assume you may believe that there are Canadians being tortured in dungeons within Nova Scotia. After all, the absence of evidence means it must be true, according to your standards.

  5. 'He painted Colvin as a Taliban dupe and said Canadians are being asked to accept the word of prisoners "who throw acid in the face of school children, who blow up buses of civilians in their own country"

    This after Colvin explicily said that most of those handed over were not Taliban as such, and were likely in most cases to have been only peripherallyy involved and in any case received no due process.

    Mackay's a scumbag!

    • "Due process?" You mean when prisoners were rounded up in the coures of Operation Medusa, they weren't read their rights first? I bet we entered houses without a warrant as well.

      I don't discount the importance of bringing a functioning justice system to Afghanistan. That is, after all, why we are there, in part. And the government has spent a substantial amount on training infrastructure and general improvements to the Afghan detention system. Starting from zero there was room for improvement. But that is the problem with Mr. Colvin's concerns. He seemed to expect a level of sophistication from the Afghans that was simply not possible in early 2006, and was, in fact, something that we did manage to introduce in the course of 2006 and 2007. Further, there have been lots of investigations of prisoners since then, and none support his hyperbolic allegations that "all" prisoners were "tortured". Yes, conditions were bad and are now much better. That's one of our accomplishments. I'm not sure why that spurs Mr. Wherry on to his obsession with this particular issue.

      • Despite the "oh, what can you expect from these types" attitude of some, it ain't about them. It's about us knowing what was going on and being complicit in it. When you know that the people you are handing over for detention in a country you are occupying are regularly being tortured, you stop handing them over immediately and take steps to rectify the torturing. You don't shrug your shoulders and start burying reports.

        • In fact, when there were creible reports of torture, the practice of handing over prisoners was stopped, and the process was changed. The practical problem was that we sent a very small force of soldiers into a very chaotic and large territory in which there was only the most rudimentary infrastructure to handle the prisoners that we started to capture. It soon became clear that the arrangements the previous government had made were not adequate and that along with every other element of government in Afghanistan, the detention system needed vast improvement. We have, in fact, been working assiduously to help reform that. Mr. Colvin's concerns are expressed hystrionically, but the issue is not a new one, nor is it one that was ignored by anyone. I'm still not clear why Mr. Wherry thinks this is an issue that needs to be obsessed over. It is old news.

      • Actually due process were my words not Colvins. I doubt if he was unaware of the on the ground difficulty i a place like Afghanistan. I'm sure as you say things have improved. No one exspects miracles – but the truth occasionally from Mackay would be nice.
        There have been a lot of investigations which have turnred up nothing eh…funny how everyones saying that torture is endemic there, now suddenly it disappears. Harper must have just waved his wand.

  6. Now you'd think if this were true MacKay wouldn't be sputtering like a special needs kid when he gets asked about it. it's really really looking like the ball got dropped here, and the government's lack of a credible response is making it worse.

    • The response took place over two years ago. Allegations of abuse were investigated, new transfer of prisoner rules were implemented and money allocated and spent on training Afghan corrections personnel and improving prison infrastructure. Again, what's news about this?

  7. Well, yes, I combined three things into one comment.

    My original comment about the number of blog postings does stand on its own.

    Past examples of the same type of Katrina-like blog flooding include Omar Khadr and Suaad Hagi Mohamed.

    • They're nothing compared to the "the Conservatives' shameful forest of stupid rebuttals" (in the words of Paul Wells) coming from the Conservatives with respect to Mr. Colvin,

  8. not sure what happened to that other comment.

    scf, you attempt to casually finger the LIbs while claiming to be above the partisan fray, only serves to further discredit everything you are saying on the matter. everyone on here you takes you for the schill you are.

    the libs policy stunk. the cpc replaced it with a policy that was cosmetically better, but may have only provided cover for the status quo. anyone that read colvin's statement would clearly understand the problems with the cpc 'fix'.

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