'Why do you want to know?' - Macleans.ca

‘Why do you want to know?’


More memos from 2006, more concerns about Canada’s handling of Afghan detainees.

One of the complainants was British Colonel Dudley Giles, a senior military police officer with NATO’s International Security Assistance Force the 40-plus nation coalition fighting insurgents in Afghanistan. In August of 2006 he brought his concerns to the Canadian embassy in Kabul, saying Canada was stonewalling on providing basic information on the Afghans it was capturing.

“Col. Giles made what can only be described as strong criticisms of the Canadian approach on detainee issues,” Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin wrote in a Sept. 28, 2006, memo that was sent to more than 30 Canadian government e-mail addresses – most of them in the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“There are ‘issues of trust and openness,’ ” Mr. Colvin quoted Col. Giles as saying. “According to Giles, when he contacts Canadian [officials] in Kandahar, ‘their first response to requests is ‘Why do you want to know?’ followed by ‘We know what you want, but we won’t give it to you.’ ” The memos add to the weight of concerns already raised by Mr. Colvin, the International Committee of the Red Cross and human-rights groups about Canada’s practices in transferring prisoners to Afghan authorities.

(Reminder: Tomorrow at 1pm, I’ll be chatting about the year in Parliament.)


‘Why do you want to know?’

  1. Mr. Wherry, stop making it so difficult to dismiss all of this as a silly little "shoegate"!

  2. Every time I hear the phrase "Why do you want to know?" I want to ask where my super-suit is, a la the Incredibles.

  3. Mr. Colvin quoted British Colonel Dudley Giles,
    oooh the same Giles that:

    Three high court judges ''singled out Colonel Dudley Giles, deputy provost marshal – deputy head of the military police – for
    "lamentable disclosure failures".
    Asked why he had not referred in his witness statement to a document stating that the soldiers had detained between 10 and 12 Iraqi detainees, Giles replied that he did so to avoid prejudicing any future prosecution…''

    • Cherry picking again Wilson…provide the whole story or the link…you have very little credibility here these days.

      • Speaking of cherry-picking, I'd like to see Mr. Giles' memos for myself, rather than through Mr. Colvin's lens.

        I realise that Colvin's job is to report and summarise information that he considers pertinent. This isn't meant as a critique of Colvin or his work. But why rely on Colvin's memos for information revealed by Giles? Why not go straight to the source, so that we can analyse the information for ourselves?

        If Colvin revealed that Giles (or anyone else) reported problems with detainee transfers, then it becomes imperative that we ask that person for their side of the story, rather than rely on Colvin's interpretation or selected quotes.

        Oh well. I guess you'd need a full inquiry for that, and unfortunately, that doesn't seem likely.

    • So, wait, your criticism of the guy who says we weren't open enough about handling our detainees is that HE wasn't open enough about the handling of detainees?

      It doesn't strike you as at all problematic when other countries single out their military officers as being too secretive, and those same uber-secretive officers turn around and argue: "You think I'm secretive and unaccountable??? You should check out how the Canadians operate!"

      • Thank you, my thoughts exactly.

  4. Sigh, more obsession with process, and breathless reporting of second-hand accounts of somebody in an office having a beef with our processes. Guess that's why we fixed them.

    P.S. Good for our military for asking why other people are asking for their info. Guess they're covering their asses. Like Colvin apparently was. Sauce for the goose . . .

    • It doesn't personally bother you, Joan, that National Defence HQ was so obsessed with keeping these transfers all a secret, that they wouldn't even tell our allies what was going on, even as they were required to?

      Conservatives sure like to claim they're the party of law and order and democracy and such. but when those principles come up and clash against doing that for folks they consider to be enemies, all that talk goes out the window and it quickly becomes "who cares about the process?"

      • Don't ask the Joan any tough questions ST; she's just as likely to give you a redacted answer. It's the only way she can remain consistent in this ridiculous CON folly.

        • An accusation ascribing motive, with a question mark plopped at the end, is not a question.

          But if we are free to ascribe motive, I guess I can say that the premise of Tribe's comments seems to be the same as Jim Travers' in his column today: the government's motives are all bad and the opposition's are all good. Sorry, it's not that simple. Most Canadians can figure that out, which is why this issue has little traction with them.

          And I can't tell you how tickled I am to see Liberal MPs arguing for the supremacy of Parliament that their idol Trudeau took away, rendering them permanent nobodies. Really, I can't tell you.

          • I'm quite sure that no Canadian government dives headlong into a war looking to torture the wool off an innocent sheep, or even a guilty sheep, if they have regard for the Geneva conventions.

            The issue that I see here is that a particular party branded itself as one thing and their actions reveal a different character altogether. In many cases, that doesn't have extreme implications: we've all seen parties "forget" about legislation they promised on the campaign trail. In this case, it might yet: concealing evidence of torture, failing to produce documents reasonably required for a house investigation, and mudslinging at a whistleblower, if it's found that that's indeed what happened, are all contrary to the principles of peace, order, and good government that our current leaders promised to uphold.

          • No traction? An 8 point swing in public opinion in Angus-Reid's latest poll? A 3 point drop from 9 to 6 in Decima? Polls saying the majority of Canadians are critical of the government's handling of this and believe they're hiding something?

            More tellingly, if this had no traction amongst the public, the Conservative government wouldn't be twisting itself into pretzels trying everything in its power to prevent this from being an ongoing media story. Or trying to use the "we love the troops, everyone else is calling them war criminals hyperbole"

  5. So that makes it clear : the cover up goes at least as high as McKay and possibly as high as Harper himself.

    • At least as high as the CDS of the time, who was Rick HIllier, who should be called back to the Afghanistan Committee pronto to explain himself on this.

      • But he's reportedly lost interest and isn't following the story now.

  6. Spin as the CPC might, this is still an issue of Government Ministers misleading the House and obstructing boards of inquiry and committees. It's about officials in Ottawa, not soldiers or diplomats in Kandahar.

    • That's what you'd like it to be, certainly.

      • On this episode of Being Ignatieff: our guest star today, avr.

    • That's about the cleanest and clearest summary I've seen.

  7. With each passing faux scandal,

    the desperation at finding the instant keys to power, become more apparant.

    Joan's right. Unless you are a rabid leftist who'll ascribe malevolence to anything Harper does (including his choice of wearing a sweater vest, or …gulp…shaking his son's hand), this issue isn't resonating one bit.

  8. To make my point, once gain: see a single one of these Afghan detainee posts among the "most read" on the right hand side of this blog?

    That signifies interest (not insular intensity which the comments threads approximate here) or more appropriately a lack thereof.

    • And your post signifies that you think the Maclean's readership is metonymic of the entire Canadian population. It's not.

      • "It's not." You seem rather sure of yourself. I for one, eagerly await the true test, being an election, which more likely than not will come in the spring, after the Olympics and an economic update that will almost certainly showing Canada far ahead of most of developed world in racing out of a recession.

        I'm thinking food on the kids' table will be a tad more important than concern over treatment of Taliban roadside bombers, women oppressors, homosexual killers and child murderers.

        We'll have to wait and see.

        • No possibility of innocent detainees eh Biff? You really are quite contemptble, at least on this issue. But no doubt you really do represent the heart and soul of neo-con thinkng in this country.

  9. The world needs to see more articles like this.

    Thanks for your insight,

    michael j

    Conshohocken, PA USA