Monday, April 30, 2007

Afghanistan: The Denials Continue

What the hell is going on?

During question period on Monday, Stockwell Day told parliament that Canadian corrections officers have been monitoring Afghan detainees in that country since February, 2007. That conflicts with what the Afghan ambassador to Canada said just this past weekend:

OTTAWA - Urging an end to the "political circus" over Afghan detainees, Afghanistan's ambassador to Canada says no Canadians, including corrections officers, have monitored treatment of prisoners turned over by Canadian military forces.

However, Ambassador Omar Samad said in a Global National interview that Canadian officials will soon have "unrestricted access" to prisons under an agreement currently being worked out with Canada in the wake of political uproar over alleged torture of detainees.

Samad contradicted assertions by Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day that Corrections Canada officers have been monitoring prisoner treatment - an assertion Day repeated in the Commons Friday, saying they are there "to see if there are cases of torture."

Samad said Corrections Canada officers have for many months, under their mandate to help build Afghan police capacity, had access to some prisons in Afghanistan and may have come across prisoners.

"It doesn't mean those were detention centres of people who were arrested by Canadian forces," Samad said. "So if this has created confusion, I think that we all need to take a step back and define what we're talking about and to bring some clarity to this instead of turning it into a political circus."

"From the Afghan point of view, it's clear there was no followup or monitoring of detainees caught by Canadian forces turned over to Afghans, especially to the NDS (National Directorate of Security) that took place prior to this current time."

Just how long will Day keep lying in the house? And where is O'Connor? He seems to have disappeared.

Day had said Thursday that corrections staff had made 15 visits to Afghan jails. But his spokeswoman, Melissa Leclerc, had said later they have no mandate to monitor prisoner treatment.

On Friday, Day told the Commons "they are there to support the Afghan officers by training them in the work that they do in the prisons and also to ensure, to see if there are cases of torture."

Pure fabrication.

Day needs to resign.

In fact, all of the tories who have spun these allegations since they were brought to light should be turfed immediately. An obviously angry Denis Coderre slammed Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Helena Guergis for smiling smugly when she answered a question about this situation in the house on Monday. And rightly so.

The Conservatives seem to think this is an opportunity to play political games - claiming they're somehow morally superior to the opposition parties because they are "dealing" with these allegations when they are actually doing everything they can to deny them and to offer political cover for their party colleagues. It's nothing short of disgusting - not to mention inhumane. If we had pictures, this would be their Abu Ghraib moment. They don't seem to get that.

Via the Globe and Mail, we also learn that O'Connor is whining instead of taking responsibility for his duties as defence minister:

Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor has also complained privately that he felt that he was left isolated by other departments on the issue of the detainees.

Is that what qualifies as leadership in this so-called "new" government? No one seems to want to step up to deal with any of this. No wonder they have no idea what's going on.

Meanhwile, in a related story about how this government washes its hands of allegations of torture by other governments, the US Supreme Court refused to hear appeals on Monday on behalf of Canadian Omar Khadr and Salim Ahmed Hamdan (of the Hamdan v Rumsfeld case):

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court declined on Monday to hear an appeal by two Guantanamo prisoners who face trial before a military tribunal and who sought review now of an anti-terrorism law that President George W. Bush pushed through Congress last year.

The high court sided with the Bush administration, which argued that the trials should be allowed to take place first before the two men could bring an appeal.

Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer said they would hear the appeal but it takes four votes for the nine-member Supreme Court to do so.

Just one vote shy. More conservatives who refuse to protect human rights.

And don't expect our tory government to intervene on Khadr's behalf. During question period, Harper and his cronies laughed at an opposition party suggestion that Taliban prisoners be brought to Canada. That would obviously include Khadr as well, despite the fact that he has repeatedly calimed he has been tortured in Gitmo.

The bottom line is that this government just doesn't care. This is all about politics to them and they seem to believe that this track they're on, which is so wildly off the mark, is actually going to boost their shoddy reputations. The more they open their mouths, the more they lie. While it's satisfying to watch their complete and utter ineptitude as they dig themselves deeper into a hole every day, it's also incredibly maddening that it's at the expense of people who are allegedly being abused and tortured. They need to stop immediately and face reality. This isn't going away no matter how hard they wish they could wave their partisan wand to make it so.

Related: The Globe and Mail has a quick review of just some of last week's tory statements:

The government's changing story

Officials of our government will be following up these allegations with officials of the government of Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday

[We're] taking this matter seriously

Brigadier-General Al Howard on Tuesday

We have heard these allegations. We always take these allegations seriously.

Primer Minister Stephen Harper on Wednesday

... to make that suggestion [of torture] solely based on the allegations of the Taliban, I think is the height of irresponsibility.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper later on Wednesday

If they have a specific name, we'd be happy to have it investigated and chased down.

Government House Leader

Peter Van Loan yesterday

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