Friday, November 20, 2009

Who do you trust

The current controversy over who knew what when about prisoner abuse in Afghanistan seems to be boiling down to who you trust most to tell us the truth.

“We always had concerns with those handovers, but no smoking gun ever caught my attention.”

- Rick Hillier

On the one hand we have Canadian diplomat and intelligence officer Richard Colvin and a journalist or two who were in Afghanistan telling us that senior Canadian officials knew that Afghans captured by Canadian troops have been tortured by Afghan authorities.

On the other hand we have our Minister of Defense, Peter MacKay, and our former top soldier, retired general Rick Hillier, denying allegations they or other senior government or military officials were aware prisoners transferred by Canadians to Afghan authorities were tortured.

So who are we to believe? The unvarnished truth is probably somewhere in between both these extremes.

I have no doubt that Canadian officials and military leaders knew something about Afghanistan’s rough justice. They certainly did back in the 2006 timeframe when this file heated up for some weeks. And they probably had concerns even after they had responded back then by putting certain safeguards in place. But certainly having concerns and having proof are two very different things.

I do not believe for a minute that our military are guilty of war crimes as is being suggested by many in the mainstream media and by members of the opposition. Oh, they try to condemn the government while excusing the military from responsibility. But how could that be when it is the military who capture the prisoners in the first place and “following orders” is not a defense against charges of war crimes?

War, even just ones, are terribly brutal affairs. We all know that, yet some of us think there is a way to fight a clean war with zero innocent victims. We send our young women and men to horrible places like Afghanistan where horrible things occur every day, even in pacified regions. We ask them to kill as many enemy as they can so the can win the war. But we insist they do so in a “humane” fashion. What crap!

If Afghans have been torturing their prisoners, including ones we captured for them, then so be it. It is their problem, not ours. We can try to set up reasonable safeguards, which we have done, but the rest is up the the Afghan government. We do not operate the prisons, nor should we. And who knew what when about suspected practices is immaterial.

Throwing around charges of war crimes is not helpful. It undermines our support for our troops. The war and its consequences is not their problem. They are doing their best under trying circumstances and we need to be more understanding of how incredibly difficult it is to wage war in that part of the world.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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  1. Two thumbs up from the Raging Tory.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. "The unvarnished truth is probably somewhere in between both these extremes."

    I agree, this is my opinion too. Of course they didn't know. They've probably heard a rumor. Unfortunately, there's little space for investigating rumors in a war. I won't say it's not right, because the whole idea of war is not right at all.

  3. I'm appalled, I tell you! Just simply appalled that the government won't roll over and hold another costly public inquiry at the behest of the opposition. It makes me so angry that I offer this advice to the Liberals: bring down the government and let's go to the polls on this issue. I am sure your 'principled' stance on this issue will resonate with the electorate. So, all you Liberal supporters, instead of nibbling at the edges of this earth shaking scandal, do the right thing and form a coalition to throw the Tories out. C'mon. I DARE YOU!!!

  4. I understand it was Paul Martin who decided to turn over detainees to the Afghan government rather than the previous practice of turning them over to U.S.forces. So the Libs better be careful because some of this could wash over them as well.
    Having said that what were the Canadians suppose to do with these detainees? The Red Cross was in no position to hold them and we certainly didn't want them back on the battefied. Its easy to sit back here in our comfy chairs and criticize. This is war and sh.t happens in war.

  5. This is a breath of fresh air amongst all the heated rhetoric currently flying around.

  6. I often wonder, after all the lessons we've learned from thousands of years of waging war how we can continue to do so to settle disputes. Having said that, it does happen. The fact that Canada owns one of the most respected and effective peace keeping forces in the world, reinforces my belief that the Canadian military is not guilty of these war crimes. Having said this, I would find it difficult to believe our military doesn't have some knowledge of what is happening to these prisoners. If Afghans are mistreating prisoners it's up to them to do something about it.