Refuse the "refute', and give us an inquiry - Macleans.ca

Refuse the “refute’, and give us an inquiry

by

1. A headline on the National Post website:

Colvin refutes Afghan detainee testimony

2.  From a press release from Laurie Hawn that just came out:

In past weeks, committee members have heard from numerous senior military and diplomatic officials who have all strongly refuted Mr. Colvin’s claims.  There is nothing substantially new in Mr. Colvin’s recent correspondence.

This is driving me crazy. Simply stating the opposite of another’s position, or saying it is false, does not refute it. It might rebut it, or it might contradict it, or dispute it. But “refute” is an accomplishment verb, and to refute a claim or opinion is to successfully prove it to be false or erroneous. So you can refute another’s argument through logic or evidence that successfully meets a given standard or test of truth.

Aside from the fact that the ongoing misuse of the term in headlines and news stories scratches on my eyeballs like fingernails on a chalkboard, it matters in more serious, and less pedantic way. What we have in the Colvin affair now is a whole lot of he said/she said/they said/we said testimony, much of it rebutting or disputing or contradicting what others have said.

Who is right? Who has been refuted? Where lies the truth? What is the required test or standard?

We need an inquiry. Now.
The full Hawn statement after the break.

December 16, 2009

Statement by Mr. Laurie Hawn, MP

In past weeks, committee members have heard from numerous senior military and diplomatic officials who have all strongly refuted Mr. Colvin’s claims.  There is nothing substantially new in Mr. Colvin’s recent correspondence.

When military and diplomatic officials have been presented with credible, substantiated evidence, they have taken appropriate action, including pausing and suspending the transfer of Taleban prisoners. The Government has also invested over $132 million to enhance Afghan justice and corrections capacity and infrastructure, provide training and mentoring to the military, police, and human rights workers.

The events in question happened over three years ago and have been thoroughly aired many times since then. The opposition is second-guessing the actions of the Canadian Forces with four years of hindsight, from 12,000 kms away, from the safety of their comfortable offices.

As a retired member of the Canadian Forces, I look forward to celebrating the accomplishments of our Canadian Forces this Christmas and New Year.  And unlike my opposition counterparts, I will not be cavalierly suggesting that Canadian soldiers have committed war crimes for political gain.

Filed under: