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The Commons: And so we arrive at satire

This government won’t stand for attacks against civil servants


 

The Scene. Bob Rae stood first, with what sounded like a reference to a particularly demented game of Clue.

“We were told yesterday at the Afghanistan committee that a braided electric cable, which is undoubtedly an instrument of torture, was found in the office of the director of investigations at the National Directorate of Security,” he reviewed. “I would like to ask the Minister of National Defence, would he not agree with us that a discovery like that points to a systemic problem rather than simply a single instance with respect to a discovery of that kind?”

As Mr. Rae spoke, there was some discussion on the Conservative side as to who should answer. Since the Liberal critic had requested the Minister of Defence, it was apparently decided that the Transport Minister would rise. Mr. Baird duly rose to list all the times Canadian officials have searched Afghan prisons without finding anything like a braided electric cable.

“In other words, in 2007 alone, we visited the prison on 33 occasions, the National Directorate of Security on 12, and the Afghan National Police Detention Centre on two, for a total of 47 visits,” Mr. Baird explained. “These were usually unannounced and there was nothing discovered.”

Au contraire,” Mr. Rae said, reminding the Transport Minister of the braided electric cable to which he had referred just seconds earlier.

The Transport Minister rebuffed this too. Over then to Ujjal Dosanjh, the increasingly frustrated Liberal defence critic.

“Mr. Speaker, in the spring of 2006, the Red Cross was sufficiently alarmed about Canada’s transfer of detainees to meet with our officials at least four times to warn us of the danger of detainee torture in Afghan jails,” he reported. “The government took no action for at least one year after these warnings. The Red Cross, of course, must not have been credible enough in the eyes of this government. The government is covering up the fact that it continued to transfer detainees to a real risk of torture for at least one year after those warnings. Why the cover-up?”

Here Peter MacKay was permitted to stand and speak on his file and so he did, first claiming to have answered the question, then suggesting the real culprit is Paul Martin’s government.

“It is important to note that the case with respect to notifications to the Red Cross was not about prisoner abuse,” he continued. “It was about prisoner transfers and the Red Cross has now clarified that, not to warn them about prison conditions, but the routine matter of discussing Canada’s responsibilities.”

It has been a long two weeks. And the daily riddles have proved quite tiring. So you can, for yourself, attempt to square this explanation with what Mr. Colvin reported in June 2006.

For his part, Mr. Dosanjh was not having it and so he repeated his questions. From across the aisle, Vic Toews loudly suggested Mr. Dosanjh had not heard Mr. MacKay’s answer. Mr. MacKay took the opportunity to dismiss a question Mr. Rae had asked. Various Liberals chirped and heckled.

Gilles Duceppe next attempted to ask a question of the former defence minister, Gordon O’Connor, about what he knew about the Red Cross reports. Mr. Baird intervened. Mr. Duceppe then tried to sort though the logic.  “If the government thought it good to review the detainee transfer protocol in May 2007, it is because there were problems with the treatment of prisoners before 2007,” he posited. “Otherwise, quite obviously, he would not have changed the protocol. If there were problems, there was therefore a risk of torture, and he nonetheless continued to transfer the prisoners. Given this, will the government admit that, from 2006 to May 2007, it violated the Geneva Convention?”

Mr. Baird stood to suggest that Mr. Duceppe apologize to the troops. Mr. Duceppe wagged his hand dismissively.

The Bloc’s Claude Bachand rose to complain that many of the documents provided to the Afghanistan committee have been blacked out. How, he wondered rhetorically, could the government promote democratic ideals in Afghanistan if it could not live up to them here?

Mr. MacKay stood to express his boredom. “Mr. Speaker, on the process of redaction, I know Canadians are rivetted by this,” he sighed.

Indeed. This business of accountability and transparency in governance is quite tedious. There may be some rarefied place for such stuff, but surely this is not it.

After a brief interlude from Jack Layton, Liberal Dominic LeBlanc, in prosecutorial tones, picked up the questioning. After lamenting for how little the Afghanistan committee was apparently allowed to see of Mr. Colvin’s memos, he wondered when the government might get around to calling for the sort of inquiry that might allow for fulsome consideration of the situation.

It was here that Mr. MacKay tried his hand at satire. “It is interesting with the benefit of four years’ hindsight and it is interesting from the comfort and the security of this Chamber how members opposite can continue to cast aspersions over our professional civil servants, our military,” he moaned, “bringing down the mission, bringing down the important efforts that continue to this day to improve the rights and democracy of a place like Afghanistan.”

So it was that the Peter MacKay of today came to seemingly denounce the Peter MacKay of two weeks ago.

The Liberals finally sent up Judy Foote to pick up wherever Ujjal Dosanjh had left off, with whatever it was the Red Cross reported and whatever was going on in those Afghan prisons. And it was here that the Defence Minister capped the week quite perfectly.

“Here is a news flash for the member opposite,” he snarked. “It is not just in Afghan prisoners where human rights abuses were taking place, it is not just in those prisons where violence was occurring. We have stories of Afghans being thrown down wells, beheaded in soccer stadiums. It was one of the worst places in the world. Let us not lose sight of that. That is why we are there. That is why we are trying to help and improve the people’s rights in that country. News flash to the honourable member.”

Ms. Foote attempted a reading of this. “Mr. Speaker,” she mused, “it would appear that the minister thinks that this is justified because it is happening everywhere else in the world.”

Or, well, something like that.

The Stats. Afghanistan, 12 questions. The environment, four questions. The economy, taxation and foreign affairs, three questions each. Firearms, Aboriginals, violence against women and infrastructure, two questions each. Tourism, China and heritage buildings, one question each.

John Baird, 10 answers. Peter MacKay, nine answers. Jim Prentice and Helena Guergis, four answers each. Jim Flaherty, three answers. Diane Ablonczy, two answers. Peter Van Loan, Rob Nicholson, Bev Oda and Jason Kenney, one answer each.


 

The Commons: And so we arrive at satire

  1. Aaron, I know this is serious business, however I love your sense of humour!

  2. The Scene. Bob Rae stood first, with what sounded like a reference to a particularly demented game of Clue.

    “We were told yesterday at the Afghanistan committee that a braided electric cable, which is undoubtedly an instrument of torture, was found in the office of the director of investigations at the National Directorate of Security,” he reviewed. “I would like to ask the Minister of National Defence, would he not agree with us that a discovery like that points to a systemic problem rather than simply a single instance with respect to a discovery of that kind?”

    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

    Bob, are you sure there was no mistranslation in the report? Perhaps the word cable was mispronounced and should have been cabal, or cobble, or couple or something else. Bob, could you bring in the person who said the words so we can hear for ourselves what was said?

  3. "Mr. Baird stood to suggest that Mr. Duceppe apologize to the troops. Mr. Duceppe wagged his hand dismissively."

    To paraphrase Homer Simpson, Mr. Baird can kiss my hairy yellow butt.

    The one positive development here is that the issue is clear enough to expose the shameless, unprincipled sham currently occupying the government's side of the House.

    The Republican party hid behind troops like this for 8 sickening years. Apparently Canadian politics are just American politics with a time delay.

  4. The quote from Gilles Duceppe is great, essentially saying that, by updating the 2005 transfer agreement in 2007, the Conservatives admitted to war crimes in 2006. It's nice to see the opposition taking on the Liberal-Conservative government on this issue.

    • There were no transfers while the Libs were in power. I believe the first transfers were in April.06

      • Why do you take such comfort from the fact we were turning detainees over to the Bush administration? Anyway,,
        Duceppe is saying that improving the December 2005 detainee agreement is an admission there were war crimes in 2006. In essence, he says the Conservatives are guilty of war crimes because they implemented the Liberal policy and agreement.

  5. The braided cable Rae made mention of to, was found in 2005.If the liberals are not careful, and hell, I don't care if they are or are not.This will come back to bite them on the arse., especially the way things are going for the liberal party.This pin the latest crises on the Conservatives is backfiring, once again.

  6. Some how we have come to the conclusion that if prisoners in a jail are not part of the Canadian forces detainees what happens to them does not matter. Well, I guess in terms of the Geneva Convention that may be true.

    But what if you knew that was the fate of other inmates in a hell hole of a prison could you accept that?

    To me it's the same defence of past atrocities against human rights and human decency.

    I think the press has missed the core of Colvin's testimony.

    Canada what if we are look the other way in abuse by Afghans in the same prison as Canadian detainees with other prisoners – are you okay with that?

    I'm not.

    This, neither enforces the hearts and minds of the people of Afghanistan or protects our soldiers.

    The government of Canada may be correct on the point of law but failed in the intent.

    This worries me greatly.

  7. This will come back to bite them on the arse
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
    If laughing this hard is a sin, then I am going to burn….

    Bob, the "electric cable" … could that be " he licked a couple" ….

    Bob, do you have a witness to this act………………………….and who says it is torture……

  8. I get confused listening to the testimony. The generals said that the Afghan miltary wanted to shoot the detainees on the spot, but Canadian soldiers said no and insisted on detaining them. So, can someone please expalin. If Candian soldiers had just left the Taliban in the road, where Afghan soldiers would then have picked them up and shot them, would this have been preferable?

    Of course, we could have brought all of the Taliban detainees to a prison in Canada where they could have claimed refugee status.

  9. It's not our business what the ANA does to the Taliban. It's our business what we do — you may have noticed on your long diplomatic career that we hold ourselves to the highest standards of conduct. So we can't shoot POW's and, once we take them prisoner, we can't turn them over to people who will shoot them or torture them. That's our self-imposed ethical standard, and it's one of the reasons why this country is a good country to live in. But perhaps you've never been abroad.

    • It's pretty depressing that we now consider complying with the Geneva Convention to the "highest standards of conduct"…

  10. "Indeed. This business of accountability and transparency in governance is quite tedious. There may be some rarefied place for such stuff, but surely this is not it."

    Now that was a classic, Mr. Wherry.

  11. I don't want to tell Mr. feschuk how to live his life, but if he's looking for a photo for an upcoming caption contest….

  12. I just figures out what the mess is all about. Instead of reading reports, etc., Mackay has been spending his time reading the dictionary looking for insulting words to hurl.

    • Perhaps the CPC can ask where McCallum discovered his fondness for using "weasel words" lately, he looked rather unsteady on his feet today. Did he partake in some holiday cheer?

      • Geez, did it take you very long to come up with this nonsense? Sigh. By the way, I see you are on every blog spewing garbage.

        • OntarioTown

          I have just read your post demostrating a lacking of situational awareness. Is "speed" your concern of the current government in cleaning up the mess left behind by the previous government?

          Reports from 2001-2005 why did the LPOC led government have no detainee program? Why did they wait years? Why did they fail to notify the Red Cross for months? Were the LPOC-led government trying to hide something or just incompetent? Why did they leave Omar Khadr in GITMO for four years and complain only after they lost power? Why did they ignore human rights abuses Maher Arar and William Sampson to be tortured?

          Perhaps with your selective memory of history can be explained with consumption of "holiday cheer" as well?

          Hoping you have a Merry Christmas!

          • Really – I don't drink, I'm diabetic. What an idiot you are. Libs are willing to take their chances on this, why isn't Harper?

            I don't have a selective memory, you do. Perhaps you'd like to go way back and see if some MP spit on the sidewalk in 1902 or something.

            You are a joke.

          • By the way, perhaps a poor attempt, but my original comment was meant to be a joke – so lighten up and don't call me again

          • OT, I have read your posts they are "selective" and anti-Harper. The joke excuse is not credible.

          • You betcha

            Click

          • Sigh…

            Between 2001-2006 the LPC turned detainees over to the US forces.

            Really, with all your professed knowledge of history I am surprised you do not know this.

            Actually, I am not surprised at all. You obviously take all your posts from CPC approved talking points.

          • Can you provide the number of "detainees" transferred and the follow up from 2001-2006 from the LPOC led government.

            Location and number of visits by the LPOC government from 2001-2006 before handing control over to the CPC led government.

          • You always make me sigh.

            Under the liberal government, the detainees were transferred to the US forces. Do you have any reason to believe the US forces were torturing these prisoners? If so, I would be interested to hear it as you would be the first one to come forward with such allegations.

            Or maybe you missed the fact that the issue here is that prisoners who were transferred to Afghanistan prisons were alleged to have been tortured, and the CPC government knew about it and did nothing.

            You would not be trying to change the channel from that discussion, would you? Of course you wouldn't – because that would be rather dishonest.

          • I did not find the link or the information, any reason for the oversight?

          • Not oversight. You just cannot read.

            Why don't you start with looking up "irrelevant" and move on from there.

  13. This sounds like a bad version of Billy Flynn in Chicago doing his Razzle dazzle me song. It reminds me of that carnival game where the different gopher heads pop out of the holes and you whack em with a mallet. Only there you could actually win a prize!

  14. redaction, means using a black wide brush pen to hide the truth.

  15. Interestingly enough, the Director of investigations at the National Directorate of Security's name is Colonel Mustard.

  16. LOL!

    John Baird should show Bob a picture of an electric kettle and ask Bob to please enunciate his words. ;)

  17. Separatist = terrorist : ) lol

  18. On a more serious note:

    The Scene. Bob Rae stood first, with what sounded like a reference to a particularly demented game of Clue.
    “We were told yesterday at the Afghanistan committee that a braided electric cable, which is undoubtedly an instrument of torture, was found in the office of the director of investigations at the National Directorate of Security,” he reviewed. “I would like to ask the Minister of National Defence, would he not agree with us that a discovery like that points to a systemic problem rather than simply a single instance with respect to a discovery of that kind?”
    ………………………………………………………………………………………….

    “ braided electric cable, which is undoubtedly an instrument of torture, “

    I have processed the words “ braided electric cable “ through a few language translators – Dari, Persian and Pashto. Nothing specific comes up. When someone went into the office, they may have found “ bread and an electric kettle “. “ Braided “ may even have been translated from“ frayed”, so there could have been a frayed cable attached to an electric kettle.

    If someone, say with Spanish as their mother tongue, used Pashto to communicate with another person in the initial observation and then transcribed their perception into English, anything could have happened or been construed.

    So, when Bob Rae stated:

    “I would like to ask the Minister of National Defence, would he not agree with us that a discovery like that points to a systemic problem rather than simply a single instance with respect to a discovery of that kind?”

    Then Bill Clinton should answer: “ It all depends on what the meaning of “is” is.

    A systemic problem may not exist if the objects were bread and an electric kettle, unless every similar office had a policy prohibiting such items in an office kitchen.

    However, there would be a systemic problem if other evidentiary reports were provided with the use of language translators.

  19. This government sure has a lot of supporters who don't care about torture or the law. Maybe the real reason the Conservative government ignored the detainee problem for months is because they don't either.

  20. There are outstanding questions related to both fact and law.
    The jury is not out because the evidence is not yet in.

    ……………………………………………………………………………………………

    Words have implied or inferred meaning based on many factors involving and affecting the parties and persons involved: ie; education, intelligence, enunciation, accents, cognitive ability, means of expression – ie. audio or visual, translation errors – audio to digital to text back to audio and perhaps to another third or forth language; and then there could be a bias or prejudice of one person to read into an expression or word, or to translate a word based on a narrow perception of what that person has already prejudged the word or expression to mean – and so forth.

    A: He says he was beaten in the face.
    B: Ask him when he was beaten in the face.
    A: He says he was beaten in his race to escape.
    B: Ask him who beat him in his race to escape.
    A: He says his friend beat him.
    B: Ask him why his friend would beat him.
    A: He says his friend ran faster.

  21. In my post above, I spelled fourth language as " forth language ". By itself, forth has no meaning, except that which is found in a dictionary and " forth language " can only have an inferred or implied meaning when taken into context with all of the other words. The concept has to be in harmony.

    Think about all the languages used by the troops and advisors located in Afghanistan during the past few years.

    Possibility of human errors? Yes. But that is as far as I would go.

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