Stick to the story -

Stick to the story


A diplomat tells CBC she warned Paul Martin’s government in 2005 about the risk of torture.

Meanwhile, CBC obtains a power point presentation prepared for Peter MacKay in the spring of 2007 that advised the government to stick to its story.


Stick to the story

  1. So, how many detainees did we take in from '01 to '05?
    Are there records available to the general public?

    • That is irrelevant. Doesn't matter if it's 1 or 1000.

    • I think there were somewhere around 40 Cdn detainees prior to Paul Martin re-assigning Cdn troops to the 'blood fields' of Kandahar, which happened just a few weeks before PMSH won govt.

      But there is no knowing how many joint US/Cdn battles , where Cdns were only witness to US detaining Afghan prisoners.

      But maybe the very leaky forieng affairs department will tell us, or the good Judge Iaco….

    • We handed over detainees prior to the 05 agreement to the Americans. I'm not trying to be deliberately partisan, but the number of detainees jumped considerably under Harper…this is likely simply due to battlefield considerations.

  2. I suppose the CBC leaving out the fact the agreement she commented on only existed for less than two weeks in December while there was an election going on is their idea of providing balance.

    Damn thing was signed by Hillier, not the government. I realize he's untouchable and everything, but It still looks like an end run to me.

    • General Hillier signed the agreement on behalf of the Government of Canada you twit.

      • Agree with Mitchell on this one. He signed it on behalf of the government. The government was made aware of the possibilties when drafting the agreement, they should have acted to ensure those possibilities were made extremely unlikely within the final version agreement. They have their share of the blame.

        • Please. Neither of you have any clue who was involved in drawing the document up but thanks for demonstrating your willingness to invent a narrative.

          • It doesn't matter who drew it up. What matters is who's responsible for it.

          • If it's responsibility you're trying to sort out then keep in mind that not two months after that agreement was signed the Minister of Defense (who later went on to serve as another human shield for the Prime Minister) stood in Parliament and declared the agreement sound and refused to even consider changing it.

          • Absolutely. Saying "these people are also responsible" in no way diminishes those others who are responsible. Those who approved it are responsible for having done that, especially now that we know they were cautioned against doing so in the form it was in. Those who later defended it are equally responsible. Those who didn't work to change it, knowing that it was setting up our troops are also responsible.

            Let's be clear, I certainly don't think Harper or MacKay should be given a pass on this. I just want to make sure we include everybody who had a hand in it. It's important that these people, especially those who are or were our representatives that knew and didn't take action, be made examples of. It needs to be driven home to future generals and politicians that you do *not* screw around with this stuff, because of the dangers it poses to our troops and our mission.

  3. These kinds of questions should be put before a public inquiry. Some people won't trust one group; the other group won't trust the others. So why won't Harper call it?

    • And I have to ask…is calling for an open public inquiry into our military's conduct while they are still engaged in the war smart?

      This is something that needs to be dealt with for sure, but done in a public forum where our enemies can watch and use against is maybe not the right move at this time. We've sent our troops into harms way and now we try to tie both their hands behind their backs.

      You can be sure that every soldier has been taught the lessons learned from the Somalia affair. But now some might be wondering if they've engaged in war crimes, they are being accused after all. And our enemies laugh at us because we've come to the fight and are expected to play nice. If not, the harsh punishments associated with war crimes.

      • It is not the soldiers that are accused, it is the high ranking officers and government officials.

      • It's only not smart if you believe some of our soldiers have been acting in a way not becoming of what we expect from the Canadian military.

        And if that's the case, it's STILL smart, because we don't want those soldiers sullying our name.

        • I think that what you expect from our Canadian military is different from what I expect. I, frankly, think our military should use every tool available to them to win this war. Our troops should treat our prisoners as they would expect to be treated…and we need to remember that we are, seriously, at war.

          Interrogation should never include the word "please". Define torture. Depriving our prisoners of food and water, under the supervision of a physician, in order to cause this enemy to become weak and share his information…is that torture?


          • Ummm, this isn't about 'our' prisoners. It's about Afghans captured, detained and then – and is this not the issue? – handed over to Afghan Security Forces where it was reasonable to expect they would receive the harshest treatment. Even the previous Liberal Gov't was clearly warned that this would be the case.

            As for defining torture, depriving people of milk and cookies isn't it. However, it is well-defined in several international laws and agreements of which Canada is a signatory. Look them up.

      • "And our enemies laugh at us because we've come to the fight and are expected to play nice. If not, the harsh punishments associated with war crimes"

        Right! Because we oughta worry that the Taliban laugh at us, because we 're attempting to behave like decent human beings – or at least as decent as you can be while at war.

      • Our enemies know far more about what's going on in Afghanistan than our government does.

  4. Did Hillier and Gauthier not say that it was ludicrous that there was any hint of torture from any one, especially Colvin? Just wondering, why only now, Madam?

  5. Burlivespipe have you got $15M it wiil take for an inquiry? I don't want my Tax money to go for the Lieberals Wet Dream.

  6. Congrats. You've earned the STFU rejoinder of the week award. Well done.

    • Is that a good thing or a bad thing?(any mention of steak knives? 'cause I've seen them passed around on this site before)

      • No, no…only Wells gets to hand those out. God knows where he keeps them locked up.

  7. Credit where credit is due: when I heard about Olexiuk's claims yesterday, the thought that went through my mind was "Wherry will not even mention this." Kudos to Wherry – this is part of telling the whole story, partisanship be damned.

    I have been convinced for a while that MacKay is a disaster. If he knew about all this (and at this point I am fairly convinced that he did) then he should be sacked ASAP.

    That Martin's team were possibly also culpable is in no way surprising to me, and at this point it's probably not what we should be focusing on. The Conservatives should not have continued the amoral "ends justify the means" attitude of past Liberal governments.

    • At the same time, we shouldn't lose the focus either. If Martin's team set up our troops like this, they deserve their share of the consequences.

  8. Some would say yes. Waterboarding is said to make the person feel as though they are drowning. I bet that has the potential to scare the living bejesus out of some people and maybe they too will provide information that will save lives, both civilian and military. Is that torture?

    And if it is torture, do we weigh the benefits at all? If we stop one suicide bomber who was planning a public detonation – does that change the way we see things? These bombers don't hesitate to venture into crowded public places and kill themselves and every one within range; civilians, military, muslim, Arab, child, woman, man, Canadian, American, animal – it really doesn't matter to them.

    We need to stop being so nice!

    • Better yet, why don't we just preemptively execute anyone who we suspect might one day commit a serious crime?

      I mean c'mon, this is a war! We need to stop being so nice!

      • "Better yet, why don't we just preemptively execute anyone who we suspect might one day commit a serious crime?"

        And that statement contributes to the discussion how? Execution is a war crime…it is not torture. Got that? And have we or should I say our "high ranking officers and government officials" ever ordered an execution? Do we know for sure? Let's have a public inquiry then, to find out.

    • Several problems with this. Let's start with the basic ones:

      1. Torture doesn't work.
      Oh, Torture will get you what you want to hear, no doubt. But that's the problem, it'll get you what you want to hear, not necessarily what the truth is. Did Salem or the Inquisition teach you nothing? Read up on your history.

      2. Torture endangers our troops.
      If we have a reputation for torturing detainees, or allowing detainees to be tortured, are our enemies going to be willing to accept capture? Or are they going to fight as if they might be tortured if they're captured? Do we really want our enemies fighting as hard as they can?

      3. We're the good guys.
      If you want to condone torture, go join those who do. They're called the Taliban.
      Think on that a bit.

      • We're the good guys which means we don't send out our own suicide bombers. We don't lay IED's in the roads travelled by everyone, including civilians.

        Torture endangers our troops – guess what – war endangers our troops. If we can gain information from our enemies to prevent danger to our troops…perfect.

        Torture doesn't work…define torture.

        • Unless you're of the belief that the excuse "Aww.. mom.. but Jimmy did it!" is valid, your first point is ridiculous. I believe the standard response to it is "If Jimmy jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?"

          As for your second point, try reading. Yes, war endangers our troops. Should we be acting in a way that increases that danger, by encouraging our enemies to fight harder? Or perhaps we should be acting in a way that takes away their will to fight, be demonstrating that we are a good people, and that they have nothing to fear from us, even if captured.

          I can't address your third point because you don't have one.

          • "Or perhaps we should be acting in a way that takes away their will to fight, be demonstrating that we are a good people, and that they have nothing to fear from us, even if captured."

            And how's that working out for us?

            "Jimmy did it first?" Are you saying we have started a platoon of Canadian suicide bombers?

            No you can't address my third point, what is torture? Set the limits and let's let our soldiers work within. If they don't – address it but do we really need to address it publicly? (which was my original point – BTW)

          • Liberals do not want the limits to torture set,
            nor do they want 'Parliament is supreme' limits set.

            That would remove their smear and fear leverage.

          • Limits on what is torture can never be set. Torture is an evolving beast.

            However, a good rule of thumb is : would I be okay with the Taliban doing this to captured Canadian troops.

          • How's it working for us? Perhaps you should read the reports. It's working pretty well actually. As is shown partially by the increasing numbers of detainees that we're taking in, and by how we're slowly winning over the Afghan people.

            I'm not saying anything of the sort. You were the one claiming that if they torture, we should be able to as well. That's bogus.

            As for addressing it publically, don't be angry at me. Be angry at the Harper government that wouldn't provide documents to the MPCC that was all top-secret security clearance. They're refusal to do so has meant that we've needed to increase both the urgency of the call for documents and the transparency that those documents are presented with. Had they just done the right thing in the first place, none of this would be happening.

        • Thwim assumes that the jihadists fighting the crusaders have access to truthful information from their leaders. I highly doubt that they are being told that the crusaders are nice people who do not abuse their prisoners. More likely is that they are told that if they surrender then their wives and children will be raped and murdered by the crusaders. Propaganda works both ways and fear of the crusaders coupled with fear of their leaders keeps some of these folks in the fight. Previous examples: The Russian front where the Soviet troops had two choices, go fwd and be killed by the Germans or retreat and be killed (along with your family) by the NKVD. Some choice.

          • if true, there is no reason for us to validate the propaganda.

          • I want our soldier to be effective in the fight and that means delivering violence to the enemy quickly, massively, without warning and with the upmost devistation. Then deliver first aid to the survivors to hammer home the point that resistence to us is futile. Our soldiers do not need the chatters back home questioning their every move. And try as you might to seperate the accusation of war crimes from the soldiers and on to the politicians, the fella on the front line is going to think, how long before they starting going after me? Will I be protected even though I did everything according to the rules? I have already heard Ujjal Dosanjh use War Crimes and Canadian Soldiers in the same sentence, so where does his loyalty lie?

          • Hear, hear! Couldn't have said it better.

          • You're correct. However, torture doesn't really meet any of those requirements except for delivering violence.

            And as for the fella on the front line, that's why we have to correct anybody who lies and says that we're going after the troops. We correct that lie and point out that we're not accusing the troops, but accusing the government, every time it comes out specifically to reassure the troops that we know they're doing the best job we can.

          • Make sure Ujjal gets that message. He has been walking a razor thin line lately

          • ok. but in return I expect you and the tories and their acolytes to stop making excuses that seek to justifying torture as either necessary to combat the enemy or a matter that is beyond criticism because we are incapable of parsing the difference between criticizing procedure and those that set it and the troops that implement it. deal?

          • Okay smart guy. The only way to ensure 99% that captured detainees would not be abused was to set up our own prison system which the Liberal gov of the day rejected.

            We could have done it if our Army had another regiment to spare but we don't. We could have grounded the Air Force and beached the Navy to provide personnel for the prison but they have a few other important things to do.

            So we put them into their prison system and hoped for the best. A later government introduced some measure of oversight to mitigate problems.
            But it isn't enough for some folks.

          • Sure it is. It is exactly enough for most folks. The problem is that allegations have been raised that while hoping for the best we shut our eyes and put our fingers in our ears–which is no longer hoping for the best but instead moves us into ignoring problems.

            An examination of just what we knew, when we knew it, and when we did something about it (if applicable) is necessary at this point. Originally, I thought it was simply a matter of the government of the day being new at the job and requiring a little more time to do the job properly. Reasonable and understandable.

            But that was months ago, and the stonewalling that has gone on since then, the hiding behind the troops, the character assassination with everything other than refuting the actual allegations, that stuff leads me to conclude it is more than simple 'newness' that is the problem.

          • For God's sake! Protect the soldier then, dammit, and change his orders! How can this not be clear to you? If he did everything according to the rules and he's in trouble, IT IS THE RULES!

      • In addition to considering how torture will affect our enemies (will they fight harder to avoid capture or not) it's also worth considering how torture perpetrated by us (the good guys) will be perceived by the Afghan civilians.

        Ultimately it is going to be more important to convince the civilians that what we have to offer them in terms of helping them achieve a better life than it will be to "convince" the enemy combatants to fight less vigorously. When the civilians stop enabling the Taliban and start assisting us, we will be much closer to victory. (And what "better life" means to the Afghan civilians will likely be different than our definition; we will need to keep that in mind as much as possible.)

        I'll venture that it is much more important to consider how torutre by our side is perceived by the Afghan civilians rather than how torture affects our enemy combatants' thinking.

        • that is a great addition Phil.

        • That's a very good point, actually, and one that stands as a counter-argument to the idea of Taliban propaganda. Who is an afghan civilian more likely to believe, their uncle, cousin, or brother who may have been detained and then released, or a Taliban priest speaking on the TV?

  9. Liberals [ and dippers] here should be careful not to attack this revelation, after all the opposition has called for an inquiry going back to 01. All this sordid story needs to come out. there will be enough blame to go round. The good news for the libs is that Martin's not around anymore, Ignatieff to an extent has a clean slate, and even more importantly this story only buttresses Colvins…good news for him. Let's get on with it.

    • Ah but poor Iffy is hounded by his previous pronouncements on torture. He agrees that torture is acceptable under some circumstances. Don't say read what he actually (context I assume) said because most Canadians are going to see those quotes in spades if Iffy continues japping about detainees.
      Power Point presentations? Memos saying the government was preparing itself with talking points. You guys are scrapping the bottom of the barrel. However, keep having fun. Martin may not be around but the Liberal party is and so is John McCallum.

      • Wow. You admit to taking quotes out of context, and threaten to continue the practice in spite of knowing it completely misrepresents what he actually said. Next, I suppose you're going to complain because the opposition never says anything meaningful, they just look to put out the next sound-byte.

        Truly pathetic. Do you ever stop to look at what you have become? I bet you decided to support the Conservatives because you believed in truthfulness and honesty.

        • I am what I always have been is a Conservative. I tried Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien and both of them lied throught their teeth and wasted taxpayers money trying to invent a nanny state.

          Do you honestly believe that the public cares about the context of poor Iffy's comments? He said what he said and it will be repeated ad nauseum. You can defend him but it will and has fallen on deaf ears.

          Are you kidding? The opposition very seldom asks anything meaningful. Its all about getting attention in the media. The more outrageous the better. The most recent example is calling Rahim Jaffer and Helena Geurgis Bonny and Clyde. Over the top you bet. However, it got the sound bite they wanted. However, Canadians are watching what use to be a serious party and seeing it going down the tubes.

          Jenn I know you don't want to hear it but look at Iffy's leadership polling numbers. They are a disaster and are getting worse. Yes Harper's numbers have taken a hit but Iffy's are in the toilet. This despite the worse recession since the 30's, a massive deficit coupled with the so called detainee torture story and the media darling prorogation.

        • hollinm continued

          Canadians have written your guy off and it will take something monumental for them to vote for him in the next election. You guys only criticize process and how Harper does politics.

          When it comes to policy you have none. It was telling that Iffy didn't even put an amendment forward on the budget nor he has asked no questions in the House. Why? Because he knows nothing about economics and Harper would beat him in any economics debate.

  10. See Thwim's more thougtful response above as a coherent rendition of my glib one.

  11. What a terrible automated censor Macleans has… Here's the word it was censoring:

    Bush-hitler read together makes a naughty word.

    Anyway, my original comment read:

    This isn't news. It's only new to people who already think the Conservatives are Bush-hitler.

  12. The Liberal government handed over detainees to the Afghan officials KNOWING they would be tortured.
    Liberals are complicite in war crimes…..

    ''..John McCallum, Ujall Dosanjh, Marlene Jennings – the whole crew were luxuriating in their cabinet-post limos when prisoner abuses were apparently at their most ferocious.
    Except Iggy. He wasn't there. He was too busy on Charlie Rose advocating worse…'

    • The conservative gov't publically defended the 05 agreement. Are you saying they were wrong to do so? Do you seriously imagine this only about protecting liberal war criminals…i think you need a little nap.

    • Soooo, now you assert that something approximating war crimes occurred? So did the current Gov't accelerate or merely continue that odious policy?

      • I was taking the CBC report to the same conclusion that Liberals and their media took the Colvin reports….

        Imo, neither the Lib nor Con govts are in anyway complicite of war crimes.
        Because both govts had assurances from a soveriegn country, the Afghan government, that Cdn detainees would not be subject to torture and abuse; and our detainees were not placed in jails with the locals.
        When crediable reports of abuse surface, the govt responded. There was no action 'before the fact' that could be taken,
        short of going home or taking 'no prisoners' .

        The Supremes have already ruled on this when Amnesty LOST their case for Afghan detainees being protected with Charter rights.
        The Supremes ruled NO, Afghan detainees are protected by their OWN GOVERNMENT.
        But the HR gang and Liberals (desperately wanting to get back into power,) won't quit the attacks.
        Maybe now, when their own Libs are in direct line of fire, they will get reasonable….

    • Generalization fallacy. Just as I'm not calling for Rob Anders to suffer war-crimes charges (as much as I'd like to), neither can we call for the entire Liberal party. Keep it focussed to the people responsible.

  13. Ah…the golden rule.

  14. Interesting commentary, all. Nobody looks very good. But here, at the risk of earning the broken-record-of-the-century award, I present the nuggets that still escape everyone posting & commenting:

    So-and-so "tells CBC…"
    "CBC obtains…"

    Who would like to be the first to explain to me how additional distribution of unredacted national-security-related documents could not possibly ever get bantered about between Terry M & Peter M on The National within a week or two?

    • This is another problem that I can see only getting worse as time goes by, that you and I haven't fully covered, MYL.

      I say I have seen unredacted documents that shows pink shoes in Mackay's closet. This is classified information. Now, it doesn't matter whether I HAVE seen unredacted documents, whether documents exist, or whether Mackay has pink shoes in his closet. You, in an effort to prove I'm lying through my teeth, will come out with your own classified document that you can't show that itemizes only brown shoes and pink ties in Mackay's closet. I will counter with another phantom document that, in addition to the pink shoes, also proves beyond question his possession of seven Teddy Bears of all different colours. You, knowing there is a picture somewhere of Mackay and a Teddy Bear, reply that its a damned lie, and he doesn't have any black or blue ones at all. And on it goes. Eventually, everything will come out (some stuff undoubtedly that doesn't exist) in the most public, most National-Security-damaging way.

      Let us all mourn the passing of the MPCC hearing that was(n't).

      • Totally agreed on the getting worse thing, Jenn. Which is why I have been pleading to a deaf country to just keep all our traps shut for a while. Alas, 'tain't gonna happen.

        This country has forgotten how to "do" a war. Time was, you set out to win, fast as you can. All able-bodied off to rout the enemy. Ration all consumer goods and divert the entire country's focus to equipping and arming our soldiers to get the bloody thing over with. Nowadays we harrumpf and tut-tut about stuff that happened years ago in a war that's gonna end because we will be bugging out, not because we won. But we harrumpf and tut-tut loud enough for our own troops (and the enemy) to hear.

        • That's a very good point. We do seem to be sitting on the sidelines looking on, rather than being involved in the thick of the thing with every breath. And you can't even blame it on the fact that the war is taking place overseas.

          You are very right that we wouldn't even know about this at some equivalent point in WWI or WWII. We simply wouldn't have time to follow up on such a story, if the original story even had the time to be written.

          Then again, there was also no question of just bugging out, either. We really were prepared to die, every man and woman of us (specifically in Britain, but I expect if they'd gone down, we'd have done the same thing here).

          I don't know why the change. But, we should learn to ask ourselves, "Is this war one in which we would be prepared to die, rather than surrender?" before we go into it. For myself, yes, I'd rather die than be subjected to Taliban rule. I'd rather my children die, etc. So now it begs the question, why am I okay with leaving in 2011?

          • So now it begs the question, why am I okay with leaving in 2011?

            May I extrapolate. This country is okay with leaving in 2011 because this country was never committed to the war itself. Oh sure, we get goose bumps when the Grey Cup telecast cuts to the Kandahar spectators with their rrrrollll-up-the-rrrrrim cups and we'll line up at the Highway of Heroes and we show up at the cenotaph in larger numbers and we might even summon the courage to offer a "thank you" to someone in uniform walking down the street. But that is NOTHING like how this country went to war when it went to war to actually, you know, win the war.

  15. This isn't news. This only appears to be news to people who already think the Conservatives are Bushitler.