In summary -

In summary


Canadian Press pulls together some of the more relevant bits from Richard Colvin’s letter to the Afghanistan committee. CP also reprints the full text of Colvin’s letter.

The Globe, Star and Sun recap yesterday’s developments and reaction. The Star talks to General Stanley McChrystal. The Globe’s editorial board passes judgment.

The government’s message, as reflected in its talking points, is that Christmas is a season for worrying about Canadian soldiers. If Ottawa had dealt truthfully with the torture issue at any point in the past two years, its call for a pause might have been on firmer ground.

Instead, it has tried to evade, duck and otherwise hide from the obvious fact that everyone and her brother – except those in the upper echelons of the Canadian government and military in Ottawa – knew about the propensity of Afghan authorities in Kandahar to torture prisoners. Long before senior ministers claimed they learned about it by reading The Globe and Mail in April, 2007…

The Conservative government’s handling of the detainee issue reflects poorly on its trustworthiness, managerial competence and ability to apply Canadian values abroad.


In summary

  1. "hide from the obvious fact that everyone and her brother – except those in the upper echelons of the Canadian government and military in Ottawa – knew about the propensity of Afghan authorities in Kandahar to torture prisoners."

    Everything I've read indicates everyone knew, and admits to having known, this when the 2005 decision was taken – which is why they saw no value in Colvin's memos telling them this again.

    • And yet this government's Ministers, the PM and senior military brass repeatedly asserted the very opposite for two years in the House, ridiculing anyone who suggested what you now say was old news. For two years they said there was no need to fret about torture by the Afghans, and now they say everyone new the Afghans torture so what's the big deal … up is down, down is left and gumdrops fall from the sky.

    • That's why the real issue is the Conservative government lying and coverup. It might even be true that the generals and ministers ignored Colvin's memos and didn't actually read them, but that's only because they already knew torture was likely.

      They decided that it would be better to lie than to admit they didn't want to make it a priority. And now they are caught in that lie.

      • You'd think that such Nixonian people would have learned the "coverup is worse than the crime" lesson.

        • If only someone had a tape recording to clear this so-called government…

    • so you are suggesting that that the 2007 changes should have come sooner?

  2. Everyone knew there was wide spread torture in NDS jails…but for some reason no Canadian detainees were tortured despite evidence that monitoring was inadequate and Red Cross lines of communication were absurdly long and cumbersome [ our faulty proceedure]… anyone spot a logical fallacy here?
    These excuses are pathetic…spin again!

    • In 2005, ISAF's military operation outgrew the US operation and couldn't continue using the Bagram facility (where there was apparently abuse or torture anyway). Canada and our allies had a difficult choice where the options seem to have been:
      – build and operate a NATO detention system parallel to the national system
      – transport detainees to domestic prisons in NATO countries like Canada
      – transfer detainees to Afghan authorities (possibly on the understanding they had already been interrogated by NATO and would only be detained by Afghanistan)

      I'd love to hear about how NATO made its decision, but the claims of a cover-up by the Conservatives seem a bit overblown.

      • – ship detainees behind the lines to Kabul where the likelihood of abuse was diminished…turned down as Colvin says in his latest rebuttal.
        – adopt the same monitoring system as the Dutch and Brits…dismissed again for unknown reasons.

        On available evidence i'd say a case for disinterst at best by our military and govt officials. And if Colvin is to be believed far worse, unfortunely As for a cover-up. What else could you but believe if you accept Colvin's latest revelations?
        The govt has no one to blame but itself. The place to have dealt with this was MPCC[?]. By limiting the scope of that inquiry and attempting to close it off the govt has shot itself in the ass…from here on in they deserve eveything they have coming to them.

        We badly need an inquiry!

        • Having the same monitoring system as the British and Dutch from the beginning would have been a good idea, but wouldn't have eliminated the problem. The Brits have their own complaints about detainee abuse, torture and tracking to address. Shipping detainees to Kabul would still have delivered them to Afghan authorities, I recall testimony suggesting it would have been more difficult to monitor detainees in Kabul, and that the facilities there had specific problems. So, there was no way to avoid these problems if the detainees remained in Afghanistan.

          The fact that an inquiry is seen as payback to the Conservative government is one reason to be sceptical of its worth…IF the opposition were putting forward suggestions to assist and strengthen the MPCC that would be much more appealing.

      • I want to thank you, Style, for being just about the only Conservative supporter who brings reasonable arguments to the debate. Which isn't to say I agree with them, but there is at least something to discuss, as opposed to "Katherine is an idiot" and biff's spleen venting.

        In this post, you set out the alternatives (none of them very appealing) that our government faced. But somehow, you then swing wildly to a conclusion that there was no cover-up. I have missed the steps in your mind between these two points. How do you explain the MPCC shuttering, the comments of recent weeks, etc.?

  3. Everything under discussion covers military actions in 2006-07. There is a distinction between "torture is practiced in Afghanistan" and "Canada has transferred detainees to torture". Our NATO allies are having the same difficulties:

    The MPCC hearings seem to concern actions under the 2005 agreement:

    If there's a cover-up, it seems it would be of war crimes by our military under the 2005 agreement.

    • "Everything under discussion covers military actions in 2006-07. "


      Sorry, not buying it. The conduct and statements by Government Ministers in 2009 is also a major issue … or perhaps I'm from the future?

      • Perhaps you are – are you wearing a jet pack? We don't have those here yet.

        You have long comment about how this issue isn't "old news", but all the investigations and statements you cite refer to events in 2006-07. I'm not sure why it matters that the events happened in 2006 though – the point was that acknowledging widespread torture is different from admitting people detained by Canada were tortured.

        • A particularly useful analysis if your goal is to avoid assessing what Government Ministers have been saying and doing in 2008 and 2009.

  4. Wait… What?

    • That's a pretty good summary of the coverage.

  5. And while the partisan leftists spew anger and compare this great Country of ours to a "banana republic", this time for stated reason of the Afghan prisoner issue, but as with all such calls of late, for the overriding reason that a conservative dare hold the keys to power,

    their brethern over at Copenhagen wildly cheered their favourite thug-in-chief, Chavez as he railed in favour of socialism. And they listened intently to the words of Mugabe (who has taken a shine to the use of systematic rape as the method putting down dissent).

    One man's brutal thug, is another man's brother in ideological arms, it seems.

    • Self pity's your shtick isn't it?

      • In my experience: a conservative is all at once a manly Real Man and a perpetual victim.

        They tend to consider anybody to the left of Peter Kent to be simultaneously a bleeding-heart sissy and a jack-booted thug.

        The cognitive dissonance is truly entertaining.

        • Well, if nothing else, your gratuitous sweeping generalization just goes to show you are in need of more experience.

          • Try reading some rightwing blogs. Try reading some rightwing writers (Krauthammer, Brooks, Jonah Goldberg, etc).

            Try watching some rightwing tv. Listen to the media narratives swing back and forth between hero/victim and wussy/thug.

            I've been watching this for years, I know what I'm talking about.

    • And while the partisan leftists spew anger…

      Lol! Thats my favorite part of your post! Hello pot! Have you met kettle?

    • "And they listened intently to the words of Mugabe (who has taken a shine to the use of systematic rape as the method putting down dissent)."

      Wow. So if I'm worried about Canadian complicity in torture, and our government obfuscating and stonewalling concerns to that effect, I'm now a) anti-conservative, b) against the troops (and should apologize), c) ignoring that the Liberals started it, and d) endorsing rape?????!!!!

      Your panic is palpable. Your lack of honour is dismaying. And your habit of flinging sh*t is childish and tiresome.

      • nutter xmas party is clearly overly sean!

        i kinda wish this place had a survivor theme where the comment ratings meant something

        • indeed.

          • well it was good for the brief while it lasted.

          • The smell of sulphur almost disappeared entirely for short bit.

          • I'm not sure you want to be cribbing a Hugo Chavez UN General Assembly line at this point in your conversation…

          • That was my Christimas present for biff – s/he can share it with his friends as proof of his/her initial suspicions.

  6. Globe article: "Colvin fires back at critics in military and government" – "I left the protected embassy zone … probably 500 times in total."

    Shouldn't that headline read "Colvin fires back at The Globe and Mail?" Wasn't it the Globe that accused Colvin of never leaving the embassy zone?

      • It says something when She Who Shall Not Be Named is more plugged in than Lewis MacKenzie. Or perhaps is says very little.

        • It does make you wonder what Lew MacKenzie thinks of his "very reliable source" right about now, doesn't it?

      • Here's Colvin's comment on this point:

        For the record, I went "outside the wire" in Kandahar at least eleven times, including attending a shura of 300 elders in northern Kandahar (which was widely covered by the media), visiting villages in Arghandab, and spending the night at a forward operating base in Panjwayi. In Kabul, I left the protected embassy zone (presumably "the wire") an average of twice a day — probably 500 times in total. I also travelled to other provinces."

        I'm not sure what Lewis MacKenzie meant by "the wire", but he may define it differently than Colvin. Or perhaps he was just repeating incorrect information that was given to him. Or it may be that Colvin's trips "outside the wire" were not meaningful from MacKenzie's perspective, especially if he was escorted by CF personnel.

        I respect Lewis Mackenzie for his considerable service to Canada, and I'm not prepared to call him a liar based on this apparent contradiction.

        • Fair enough. I used 'repeated the lie' to suggest that he was just as likely passing on information he'd been fed in good faith.

          I too respect his considerable service. I also respect Colvin's. I will say that Lewis has run for the Conservatives, and makes a living as a media expert, and cannot be purely judged as a selfless public servant at this point. (i.e., let's not treat him without fair skepticism).

          • Fair points, Sean. I know you weren't directly suggesting that Lewis MacKenzie is a liar, and I agree that we should treat everyone with fair skepticism with regards to this issue.