Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Memos show stephen harper more concerned with image than torture in 2006

Posted by Christian  |  at  8.12.09

stephen harper's government assured the Red Cross in 2006 it would take a significant role in determining the fate of Afghan detainees handed over by the Canadian Military. They then went on to spend the next several months crafting talking points designed to suppress any negative information relating to possible torture abuse.
The records, examined on a confidential basis by The Canadian Press, show the Harper government placed a greater emphasis on drafting "key messages" to the public and preparing "approaches" for embarrassing disclosures than on dealing with the human rights of prisoners.

Throughout 2006, when Canada took on its combat role in Kandahar, the International Red Cross pressed Ottawa to take more responsibility for prisoners captured by Canadian soldiers.
As predictable as ever, stephen harper had no interest in actually dealing with the situation at hand. His pattern is well established. Climate change, Afghanistan ~ it simply does not matter. The only thing harper is concerned with is protecting the facade his handlers have concocted to fool Canadians.

November 2006
"Canada is reflecting on how to engage more pro-actively with Afghan and international authorities on the issue of treatment of detainees, including asking the Government of Afghanistan for permission to visit the prisons, discussing with Afghan authorities the process and procedures for handling and treating detainees from transfer to arrival at final detention facility, and talking to the (Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission)," say the talking points.

The document also warned officials to prepare "an interdepartmental approach" for dealing with "the potential scenario where allegations of mistreatment or torture are substantiated."
Clearly the government was not in the dark. Their heads may have been in the sand, but they were aware of the potential fallout.

February 2007
No. 1 on the eight-point plan for officials was to "Prepare standard key messages (ie. importance of adhering to obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law regarding the treatment of detainees.)"
Even when the conservatives took action, it was only to protect harper's image.
In March 2007, the federal government did ask the Afghan human-rights commission to check on the welfare of prisoners, but the chronically underfunded agency had trouble getting into detention centres.

The Harper government eventually decided on full-blown Canadian monitoring, but only after being rocked by published allegations that prisoners handed over to Afghan intelligence may have been abused..
Canada's former high commissioner to Pakistan, Louis Delvoie and Errol Mendes, human rights law expert, sum it up.
A respected former diplomat was aghast that "developing the spin" would take priority over dealing with an issue as urgent as possible torture. "This is one of those situations where – once again – presentation has taken the place of substance,"...."It's a rather sad commentary on what is taking place. You (should) deal with the substance of an issue and then you develop the communications plan as a separate and subsequent item to explain how you're doing it and what you're doing." He said this is not the kind of conduct Canadians should expect from their government in wartime.
said the paper trail demonstrates that the Harper government viewed the war as a political exercise, where image-branding trumped policy.

"Throughout all of this the military has been used as a political prop and that is dangerous," he said.

"Governments come and go but the military as an institution remains and the damage this kind of approach can leave is severe."
all emphasis mine


  1. Excellent summation of the scuzziness of the man and his government.

  2. Hi, thwap. These clowns gotta go! I only recently started paying attention to politics. I've always had an eye on things, but after following closely for the last couple of years, I have come to the conclusion that stephen harper is not the person I want leading this great Country.

  3. "The document also warned officials to prepare "an interdepartmental approach" for dealing with "the potential scenario where allegations of mistreatment or torture are substantiated.""

    Naturally, there's no need for an "interdepartmental approach" to actually PREVENT "mistreatment or torture" in the first place, yes? Jeez... I'm a little bit disturbed by Mendes's last point about the military. Turning people over to be tortured is a crime. If the military was that concerned about this sort of creative "mismanagement," well, there were always other options...

  4. David, yes, I agree there should not be a need for such a directive. However, as we watch this episode unfold and realize how politicized it all is, what do you propose the military do? And when you say military, are you referring to brass, the grunts?

    After witnessing the harper government's attacks on Richard Colvin, I'm not sure many more want the same treatment.

  5. The brass. They are the ones who should theoretically be looking to the survival and good standing of the military as an institution. As for the men and women on the ground in Afghanistan, I honestly wouldn't know enough about their daily experiences to form a judgement one way or the other, but either way, this isn't really about them.

    Saying that the military was used as "a political prop" implies that they were unwilling participants. If that's so, the first reaction to torture (which, again, is a crime) should not have been for the generals to step forward and defend the government position. In lieu of openness and honesty, they could always have resigned their positions. During the last several years, senior military officers have been willing to play political roles (granted, Hillier far more than Natynczyk). They can't hide from that now that things are turning ugly.

  6. Good day, David. Just returned from work (early day) and noticed your comment.

    You raise an interesting point regarding Mr. Mendes's statement. And I completely agree with your analysis of it. I do not believe military brass were involuntary actors. However, I interpreted the statement in the context of the current government's actions. They are setting the agenda. They are using the military as a whole, as a political prop.

    And as I said, I agree and will go one step further. Not only did they have the option to resign, it was their duty.


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