In case Canadians think that we don't have our very own Dick Cheneys and Donald Rumsfelds, they should read today's Globe and Mail. In a front page expose we learned that when suspected Taliban Afghans are captured by our troops, after being handcuffed and treated politely, they are turned over to Afghan security forces. The Globe dug up 30 former detainees in Afghanistan who said that they received good treatment from the Canadians.
However, once the Canadians had sent them to the Afghan security forces it was a different story. To put it mildly. The Afghans were a little harder on the detainees. For example, they were choked. They were hung by their ankles. They were whipped with electrical cables. They were starved, stripped naked and made to spend the night in brisk Afghan temperatures. And this treatment went on for days on end. When their tormentors decided that the detainees were no threat, they were then released.
When the Opposition got on O'Connor's case in the Commons today about him turning a blind eye to torture, he and the Prime Minister said our Canadian troops treated all detainees well. Which was true as far as it goes. As to the treatment of the detainees by the Afghan security forces, well, they would look into it. With a straight face, O'Connor said in his defence that the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission had promised to advise Canada if any of the detainees were abused.
That ranks up there as a mother of all disingenuous responses. O'Connor has been connected to the military all of his life. He rose to the rank of General in the Canadian Armed Force. After he retired he lobbied for some Defence contracting firms for a time before he went into politics. Since he's been in politics he has been Defence Minister. He is telling us and would have us believe that he is naive about these things. He pleads ignorance of interrogation methods and treatment of detainees by third world countries like Afghanistan, a country steeped in revolutionary foment for as long as anyone can remember. This is beyond belief - just like the piano player in the bordello who claims he doesn't know what's going on upstairs. This is monumental stupidity or wilful blindness. Take your pick.
O'Connor's actions before and after the evidence was presented by the Globe and Mail are no different from Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush who denied knowledge of mistreatment and torture in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison or Guantanamo Bay. It is the same mentality of officialdom that would send Maher Arar to Syria from Canada and the United States, so that the dirty work would be done by another country that had ways of making people talk. So they wouldn't have to worry about inconveniences like the Charter of Rights or civil liberties lawyers.
This is a continuation of O'Connor's blindness or stupidity on these issues. In the Commons in early March, he was questioned about allegations of detainee abuse by Canadian troops. He responded that Canada got reports and updates from the International Committee of the Red Cross on such issues. Two weeks later he apologized for his misstatement. He had discovered that The Red Cross has no such obligation.
O'Connor is a cowboy in matters of Defence. As is General Hillier, the Chief of the Defence Staff who broke through to the public consciousness in July with his famous 'murders and scumbags' speech. Part of what he said on that day about the Taliban was this: "These are detestable murderers and scumbags. I'll tell you that right up front. They detest our freedoms, they detest our society, they detest our liberties,.." Now if that isn't a page out of George W. Bush's 'Political Speeches for Dummies' book I don't know what is.
Hillier signed an agreement in December of 2005 wherein Canadian Armed Forces would transfer suspected Taliban detainees to the Afghan security forces. However, the agreement contained no clause that the Canadian military had a right to inspect the detainees after transfer. Unlike other European nations who are in Afghanistan as part of the NATO forces -those nations have such a clause in their agreements.
O'Connor and Hillier are reckless. They are Canada's Cheney and Rumsfeld.
As suggested today by a couple of Professors, if it is proven that Canadians turned over the captive detainees knowing they would be tortured, the two cowboys may be in for a helluva lot of trouble for themselves, not to mention the disgrace upon our country that will follow.