When first we practiced to deceive - Macleans.ca

When first we practiced to deceive

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The Star’s Rosie DiManno reminds us of a rather salient point:

… Few of those clawing at their faces today in angst and shame over who-knew-what-when-generated hysteria with regard to mistreatment of Afghan detainees have paused to recall how this mess originated.

It’s because Canada picked Afghans over Americans as front-line allies…

Given the toxic view of American forces – no matter that the horrific mistreatment of Iraqi detainees was, at least in terms of supporting evidence, limited to specific rogue units in one notorious facility – it was clearly decided, by who knows whom, Canada could not put detainees in such soiled hands, despite the U.S. being this country’s closest nation-friend.

Someone bought into the dubious premise that the entire American military was not to be trusted and that Afghan wardens, Afghan guards, Afghan officials, were preferable partners in the disposition of detainees, although the only remotely up-to-Western-par prison facility was at the American base in Bagram.

And who was that someone? A Globe editorial reminds us:

In hindsight, the Liberal government of Paul Martin may have been naive in taking the initiative to press for the transfer of detainees to the Afghan authorities, rather than continuing to hand them over to the armed forces of the United States. At the time, Canada was worried by the prospect that Afghans captured by Canadian soldiers might end up in the limbo – or worse – of Guantanamo, Cuba. The government of Afghanistan, having been recently democratically elected, appeared to be a more promising and appropriate recipient for Afghan citizens.

Oops. But can you blame them? Remember the brouhaha over that photo, splashed across the front page of the Globe and Mail, of Canadian JTF2 commandoes shepherding Afghan prisoners for transfer to the Americans? That was in early 2002, when Jean Chretien was prime minister and Art Eggleton was the minister in charge of offering up confused, misleading answers to Parliament — a post later occupied by Gordon O’Connor and now by Peter MacKay.

So the tangled web goes back a ways. As A. Columnist wrote at the time:

But let’s remember why this was an issue in the first place. Mr. Eggleton’s startling revelation, that members of the Joint Task Force 2 commando unit had captured several enemy fighters nearly two weeks ago, was only newsworthy because it contradicted the Prime Minister, who had been saying publicly that no prisoners had as yet been taken. The Prime Minister had said this in order to make the point that the question of what should be done with any prisoners our forces might happen to come across — whether they should be handed over to the American forces, or to some other body — was “hypothetical,” and that as such he was not obliged to take a position on it.

And the reason the Prime Minister took refuge in this non-answer was because he did not wish to confront critics within his own party, who have worked themselves up into a state over the Terrible Wrong that would be committed if Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters were to be delivered into the hands of the Americans…