Canadian troops turned over prisoners to the Afghan authorities
Playing politics with Canadian troops
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The opposition parties have been going after the government for weeks over allegations that Canadian troops turned over prisoners to the Afghan authorities when they knew or ought to have known that those detainees would be tortured. If so, that would be a clear breach of the Geneva Convention. According to some of these critics most of the detainees were simple farmers who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The scandal exploded after Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin testified before a parliamentary committee. According to Colvin, he reported this practice to his superiors in the field and to the Canadian government and nothing was done.
The Harper government defended its actions by saying that there was no credible evidence that any detainee that was turned over to the Afghans by Canadian troops were tortured. The government stated that the facts that Colvin had were vague and that when Canada received reports of possible torture, they changed the process by which these prisoners were turned over to Afghan officials.
Colvin’s allegations were challenged before the committee by his superior at the time, David Mulroney, and by three generals who were in the field at the time. No matter; the opposition is clamoring for a judicial inquiry to look into the possibility that Canadian detainees were tortured. If a judicial inquiry is not playing politics it’s hard to know what is. The opposition has been relentless. Liberal MP Marlene Jennings likened Canada’s human rights record with that of China. While Prime Miniser Harper was in China, Jennings said in the House of Commons that Harper has no authority to lecture the Chinese about human rights when the Canadian government is a party to torturing Afghanis.
What has been conveniently left out of all of this criticism are the Canadian troops who are or were deployed in Afghanistan. There was no mention of the men and women in the military who are putting their lives on the line until Prime Minister Stephen Harper mentioned them at the recent Commonwealth conference in Trinidad. Harper stated that the allegations that Canadian soldiers have breached the Geneva Convention by turning prisoners over to be tortured were undermining the troops in the field.
Shocking! The Toronto Star, the house organ of the Liberal Party of Canada called the PM’s statement a “low blow” in its headline. Liberal foreign affairs critic, Bob Rae, was quoted as saying, “To argue that some are stronger supporters of our soldiers than others I think is frankly reprehensible…to label what we are doing as somehow unpatriotic is quite frankly beyond the pale.”
It is true that the opposition parties are not blaming the troops for committing war crimes. What they are doing is much worse; they are completely ignoring the men and women who are putting their lives on the line for the country that these opposition members now purport to love. Although it’s the ordinary soldiers that are capturing the enemy and turning them over to the Afghans, the entire “scandal” is being played out as if these troops do not even exist. The troops whom they pretend to support are totally irrelevant to allegations that detainees are being turned over to be tortured. It’s as if they are too stupid to know anything about torture. The men and women in Canada’s military are reduced to mere props in the grand scheme to politically attack the Harper government.
Let’s assume for the moment that these allegations are true. Bob Rae, by his own admission is supporting troops that are clearly committing war crimes. To Bobby Rae and the others, the Nuremberg defense should be applied; that they are only following orders (of Harper and Defense Minister Peter MacKay no doubt) so they should be supported even if they are intentionally breaching the Geneva Convention. This only provides more proof that the scandal is just a way for the opposition to score points in their political games.
So what is the solution to the problem? Well, at least then NDP has one. The New Democratic Party has wanted the troops withdrawn from Afghanistan from about thirty seconds after Canadian soldiers arrived in that country. But the Liberals have no suggestions; more proof that they are just playing politics. Perhaps all of these detainees should be brought to Canada; some of them no doubt could move in with Bob Rae or Marlene Jennings. Maybe Canada should totally occupy Afghanistan and set up Canadian style detention facilities where the
terrorists farmers could take up golf and watch the latest goings on of Tiger Woods. The reality is that the Canadian troops in Afghanistan are being used as props in a desperate attempt to get that awful Stephen Harper.
No doubt the allegations of torture by Canadian troops are playing well to Liberal supporters in Montreal and Toronto. But it is difficult to believe that a lot of Canadians really see this as a major scandal. It’s only a matter of time before an opposition member suggests that what Canada really needs is a Terrorist Charter of Rights.