'Nothing new' - Macleans.ca

‘Nothing new’


Mark Sedra writes about the reality of Afghanistan.

Sadly, as an observer of Afghanistan who has closely monitored the security apparatus for almost a decade now, the revelations of Colvin are nothing new. Most Afghans would also express little surprise; their only shock would be over the naïveté of those who believe some form of torture is not a routine aspect of prison life in Afghanistan. You would be hard-pressed to find an Afghan who does not know someone, whether a family member or friend, that has not been mistreated in some form or another by the security establishment over the past eight years. One Afghan police official I spoke to during a recent trip looked puzzled when I inquired about prisoner abuse. He didn’t understand why Canadians are so fixated on the issue.


‘Nothing new’

  1. I don't know, I've heard from a number of people around here that the Canadian government thought the Afghan prison system was completely torture-free until 2006.

    • If folks in the Canadian government or military thought Afghan prisons were torture free until 2006 then this says more about their naiveness than anything else. There were so many other people and organizations who warned about the reality of torture that it really says something about the mind-set of the Canadian government and military if there weren't prepared to seriously investigate what was happening in the Afghan prison system. After all, the interrogators had been trained by the KGB courtesy of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. A simple test to use to figure out if assumptions about the 'torture free' status of Afghan prisons can be performed by asking in hind sight whether warnings about torture turned out to be credible. And, as we now know, yes, these warnings turned out to be all too accurate.

  2. "He didn't understand why Canadians are so fixated on the issue."

    Of course we could always tell him the truth…Canadians aren't.

    It seems that the Canadian press gallery are the only people left who haven't seen MIdnight Express.

  3. "He didn't understand why Canadians are so fixated on the issue."

    This fellow is just as easily confused as is our press.

    The issue isn't whether torture and abuse do or don't take place within the Afghan security and prisons systems; rather, it is why Conservative Government Ministers and senior military brass continue to deny it, repeatedly mislead the House as to our monitoring efforts, lied about what they knew and actively threatened and defamed anyone who might suggest well know facts are, indeed, true.

    This is about truth-telling and government conduct in Ottawa, not torture in Afghanistan.

  4. Correct, in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, right up until the Harper govt was sworn in, Feb 2006,
    the Afghan detainees handed over by the Chretien/martin govt were treated with kid gloves.

    ''….Military documents obtained by CBC News detail the transfer of 35 detainees caught by Canadian troops in Afghanistan, beginning in 2002 and ending in April 2006.

    In one case in January 2002, officials of the then Liberal government waited nearly 3½ months before notifying the International Red Cross it had transferred a detainee.
    (Harper govt takes over and…)
    In 2006, the length of time shortened to between four and eight days….''


  5. Except when it comes to human rights in China,
    then our Canadian media prefers to take a swipe at our PM instead of the Chinese government.
    But then again, writing anything critical of China could mean they could never take the wife and kids to see the Great Wall!
    Just safer to criticize Canadians.

  6. Really? I could have sworn it was about alleged torture in Afghanistan.

  7. Actually, for me its much more about the damage this three monkeys defense is doing to what's left of our image.

    There's no what where when? They let you form an army?

  8. It's a torture issue, not a partisan issue. We should investigate and hold those to account who did things they shouldn't have, regardless of partisanship.

  9. Most media do both and still have the time to be critical of Ignatieff as well.

    Perhaps you missed the media coverage of China in the run up to the summer Olympics…

  10. That quote speaks to the menace that Afghanistan's own security forces are.

    It took centuries and a monarchic motherland to achieve stable institutions in Canada. Until there is a leader in Afghanistan who can gain the trust of the people and introduce change over time, this war cannot be won. Peace is in societies interest, not the rulers of Afghanistan (or the would be ruler Taliban).

    As long as there is a corrupt puppet in charge it will be very difficult for a new leader to transfix the attention of Afghanistan. The cycle of violence isn't going to stop any decade soon… internally or in their regional neighbors.

  11. Certs is a breath mint! Certs is a candy mint!

  12. Don't forget how it started. If the government had given the MPCC more cooperation so they could investigate the specific charges they were concerned with, then this parliamentary committee might never have been struck and the whole issue might not have gotten nearly so much attention. But the government was so heavy handed with the MPCC that it got everyone wondering what they were hiding.

  13. "was about alleged torture" is right … that's where it started.

    But the actions and statements being scrutinized aren't those of alleged Afghan torturers, but of the statements and actions of O'Connor, MacKay, Harper, Baird, Van Loan, the three generals, David Mulroney, etc. … what they've known and what they've tried to suppress. The issue of the day is: Why has official Ottawa continued to denying something so bloody obvious and sought to chill, muzzle and defame anyone who asks a legit question or raises a legit concern? The issue of the day is, what are the consequences for ministers who lie to the House (which is in Ottawa, BTW)?

  14. I agree that the government response to Colvin's allegations was clumsy and ham-fisted, but I don't think it was a damnable cover-up like some allege. I guess we'll find out soon enough.

  15. Why on earth not? They were desperate to prevent Colvin from testifying in the first place, they censored the documents, pretending it was for national security, they smeared Colvin and they smeared the soldiers by pretending the soldiers were being accused. OF COURSE IT"S A COVER_UP!