Friday, May 04, 2007

Van Loan Calls Detainee Abuse 'Roughhousing'

Just when you thought the Conservative government's mishandling of the Afghan detainee abuse scandal couldn't possibly get any worse, someone like Van Loan decides to pull a Rush Limbaugh and refers to charges of abuse as 'roughhousing'.

The federal opposition continued to hammer the Harper government Friday over the treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan following revelations that the Afghan police beat up a detainee given to them by the Canadian Forces.

Col. Steven P. Noonan, a former task-force commander in Afghanistan, disclosed the incident in Federal Court affidavit that forms part of the government's response to a legal challenge by Amnesty International Canada and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association to stop all further detainee transfers.

Col. Noonan's sworn evidence was cited by the opposition in Question Period to demonstrate that the Conservative government was far from telling the truth when its members repeatedly denied that they had no specific examples that any detainee transferred by Canadian troops to Afghan authorities was later subject to abuse or torture.

Liberal Geoff Regan accused the government of deception.

“The government knew about the abuse. It knew and yet it did nothing. Worse, the government denied the facts, distorted the truth and deceived Canadians, day after day, week after week,” he said.

But Government House leader Peter Van Loan said the case cited by Col. Noonan is actually a good story for the Canadian military.

“ It is a case where they saw some treatment, some roughhousing of an individual and they stepped in immediately to put an end to it. That is how things should work. That shows that things were working well in the field.”

The hypocrisy is absolutely stunning.

As recently as Thursday, Mr. Harper dismissed allegations of prisoner abuse and blamed the opposition parties for making it an issue.

“This is based on nothing more than a handful of unsubstantiated allegations from Taliban prisoners and I think, quite frankly, it has detracted unnecessarily from the good work Canadian men and women are doing in the field in Afghanistan under dangerous circumstances,” the prime minister told a news conference in Mission, B.C.

Harper et al have been pushing these allegations as being false because they don't believe the sources. Well now they have a member of the Canadian military providing a statement to a federal court. Is he in league with the Taliban too? According to the tories' so-called logic, apparently he is.

...court documents, including a transcript of Col. Noonan's cross-examination earlier this week, filed in Federal Court, reveal that a prisoner captured by Canadian troops was abused by the Afghans.

Col. Noonan swore in his affidavit that the Canadian military learned that the detainee had been beaten by the local ANP, the Afghan national police. “When we learned of this, they approached the local ANP and requested that the detainee be given to them.”

The Afghans turned the prisoner over to the Canadians who then gave him to provincial Afghan police authorities.

The Ottawa Citizen reported that when Amnesty lawyer Paul Champ tried to get more details on the incident when it happened, what injuries were sustained, whether the Afghan police were charged federal lawyer J. Sanderson Graham curtailed questioning of the incident citing national security interests.

“It threatens Canada's national security to know when the Canadian Forces observed local Afghan national police beating a detainee that they transferred to that unit?” Mr. Champ asked.

“We object to any questions on this incident generally,” Mr. Graham replied.

Yeah, I'll bet you object to questions.

There is absolutely no way these Conservatives can wiggle their way out of this one. Every time one of them opens their mouths, they show just how horribly inept they are and their disrespect for human rights is so glaringly obvious that only a fool would believe they actually care about these charges. They're so incompetent that they can't even get their stories straight and now we have Van Loan minimizing the abusive treatemnt of a detainee much as Limbaugh did when he said that torture at Abu Ghraib was equivalent to frat boy pranks. That kind of flip indifference is staggering.

Not only that, the more this government dismisses these allegations, the more they place our troops at risk because they are then seen by local Afghanis as representing a country that doesn't care what happens to them. Human rights be damned. So, while these tories keep slamming members of the opposition parties as being "disloyal" to our troops when they simply raise these allegations and ask for the truth, it's their posturing that has the potential to cause serious repercussions in the end. Who's really being disrespectful here? It certainly isn't those in opposition to this government's continued malfeasance and lies.

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