Thursday, January 28, 2010

At the Risk of Charges of Treason...

I must ask, what the hell is going on at DND?  Now, they're all worried about reports of torture of detainees handed over to Afghan police forces.  The rest of us have been talking about this for months.  Richard Colvin has been talking about this for years.

Here's the story:
The Canadian military has ordered a formal investigation into how a critical report on the beating of an Afghan prisoner remained buried at National Defence headquarters.

In June 2006 soldiers captured a suspected Taliban fighter and handed him over to local police, who then beat him to the point where the Canadians had to intervene.

A report on the incident, which undermines Conservative government claims that no prisoners handed over to Afghans faced abuse, was apparently uncovered only in December.

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk ordered an investigation, which is headed by Rear-Admiral Paul Maddison, commander of Joint Task Force Atlantic.

Natynczyk's deputy, Vice-Admiral Denis Rouleau, says the probe will look at the incident itself, why soldiers took the actions they did and how it was reported.

The report of the investigation is due March 1 and is to be made public shortly after.

Diplomat Richard Colvin testified before a special House of Commons committee in November that he repeatedly warned federal officials in 2006 and 2007 that prisoners faced the possibility of torture in Afghan jails.

You'll have to pardon me if I think it is a little late for the Chief of Defence to suddenly be concerned with the treatment of people we handed over to local authorities in Afghanistan. Don't get me wrong; I'm glad the bureacrats at DND will, I assume, be trying to discern what went wrong. They should have just been a little more concerned three or four years ago.

Further, can this little incident put to rest the notion that if you don't like government officials covering up torture, you obviously hate the troops on the ground?  It's my reading that the troops on the ground agree that certain Afghan officials were torturing people.  It's my reading that the troops on the ground agree that we shouldn't let this happen.  Granted, we shouldn't be that surprised.  This is not the first time soldiers in the theatre acted nobly, only to have their higher-ups not really care.

So Gen. Natynczyk, by all means, report on your error, but please let no one try to spin this to imply that no error was ever made - or that it was just a administrative error.  It's become clear that we, as a nation, knew - or chose to ignore - that people were being tortured, people whom we had a moral and legal obligation to protect.

And it should be remembered: it was government officials who failed our troops, not those of us who refuse to let our nation be complicit in torture.

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