All right aside from the Korea experience, my attention has been diverted back to Canada this week due to the ongoing political situation there.
This week doesn’t really contain any surprises as parliament resumes after Stephen Harper’s most recent prorogation, and by no surprises I mean the dawning realization that the prorogation was in fact just a weak-handed attempt to avoid accountability.
We know that Harper was empowered only by a Liberal scandal, since Canadians had consistently denied him of federal leadership until that point. We know that during that campaign, Harper championed the issue of “government accountability”, an issue that he has ironically dogged throughout his minority leadership, most notably through his latest prorogation. He has consistently shown contempt for the concept of transparent government on which he based his entire campaign. (more)
A politician who does an about-face on campaign promises is nothing new. It’s nothing less than we could have expected from Stephen Harper. But what bothers me most is what lies under the issue of the Afghan detainees that Harper has been so fervently trying to dodge.
Harper consistently uses the line “The Canadian Forces have conducted themselves with the highest performance of all countries,” as recently as this past Thursday. Every time the issue of the Afghan detainees comes to his door, he answers with the suggestion that anyone is blaming the Canadian military for being some kind of torture-mongers. The fact is that this is not at all the case.
What many Canadian want to really know is if Afghan detainees were handed over for torture, was this a matter of policy? The military serve the bidding of those in charge; that’s what they are trained to do. They’re not in Afghanistan because they wanted to go there. They went because at the time the Canadian government deployed them. The military acts as an arm of the Canadian government, and the issue of prisoner transfer is a matter of policy, not tactical whim. By suggesting anyone is blaming the Canadian Forces for being complicit in the torture of these detainees is a completely underhanded. Harper implies that if you want to know the truth about Afghan detainees, well then you must think that the Canadian military are wrong in what they have done. And by questioning the Canadian military, you undermine their mission and fail to support them in their work and morality. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
This type of politics tastes like the Bush-Cheney era, when you were “with us or you are with the terrorists”. If Canadians are inquisitive about what’s going on in Afghanistan, they somehow undermine morale in the Canadian military. What an utterly ridiculous claim.
If Afghan detainees were handed over for torture, it was a matter of policy set by the Harper government and dates perhaps as far back as the Liberal leadership. To suggest that the Canadian Forces are doing anything else is to deflect blame from Harper’s own policy onto the military. By defending the military, Harper is actually blaming the military for the charges at hand.
By holding the Canadian military up as some sort of patriotic shield against the larger issue at hand is the lowest form of politics. Harper has consistently side-stepped, obstructed, and denied the detainee torture issue from the outset, and now uses our military to hide behind Canada’s desire to get to the bottom of the issue by suggesting that Canadians are blaming them for possible war crimes.
As the issue progresses I hope we find out what was written in the heavily-redacted document first submitted by Richard Colvin. Whatever it is that Stephen Harper doesn’t want us to see should reveal a lot about his style of politics, further expose his true feelings about government transparency, reveal what his policies were on the issue of torture, and possibly even uncover evidence of war crimes at the highest level of government.
To suggest Stephen Harper is crusading to protect the integrity of the Canadian Armed Forces is ridiculous. He’s fighting to save his own party’s reputation, fighting a possible charge of contempt of Parliament, and he’s using our military to do it.