Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Afghanistan: Tories Score Own Goal

You’d think that the knuckle-draggers and mouth-breathers who presently run the Government of Canada would be able to run the war in Afghanistan. After all, war is what these jokers are all about and Afghanistan is the “good war” in the War on Terror.
Well, it warms the cockles of the heart to see that, in fact, sometimes even a PR budget bigger than the budget for reconstruction isn’t enough to cover up corruption and brutality.
Let’s start with the good news – good news for the Tories, that is. Former Liberal Foreign Minister, John Manley, did the Tories a good service when he released his government commissioned report on Afghanistan. No surprise, he basically rubber-stamped the mission in Afghanistan and called for Canadian troops to stay after the 2009 mission deadline, if NATO ponies up another 1,000 troops.
The Harper Tories, with the support of the media and the pliant and confused Liberals – including NDP turncoat and present Foreign Affairs Critic Bob Rae – pumped the report as a lifesaver for the increasingly unpopular mission. Of course, the only real “critical” suggestion in the report, besides the NATO troop boost call, is that the Tories need better propaganda to sell the war.
The good news for the Tories ends exactly there.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the printers for the intellectually light-weight report – that couldn’t manage a single footnote to back-up its claims. It seems that big chunks of the report were written prior to the panel having been struck by Mr. Manley.
Canadian blogger, The Scott Ross, compared the report to an article written by Manley last October in a Magazine called Policy Options. What did he find whole chunks were identical.
A related article in Maclean’s Magazine added the point that the only thing Manley seemed to have changed was to downplay the corruption of the Karzai governent in Kabul.
So far the media’s given Manley a pretty easy ride on this obvious plagiarism – and therefore big waste of Canadian taxpayers’ cash. But already other aspects of the war were coming unraveled before the Tories could even pop the champagne corks on their coup of getting a highly placed Liberal to back them.
The big one is, of course, the ongoing farrago known as the “detainees scandal”. Doug over at The Proles has good coverage of the history of this whole mess.
Basically the scandal can be summed up as a series of revelations that our “democratic” partners in Afghanistan systematically torture their prisoners and the Canadian government has systematically tried to cover it up.
It’s remarkable how many times the Harper Tories have been caught lying and stuffing documents down their pants. What’s more remarkable is that the media still takes anything they say seriously.
In any case, on January 22 the whole issue exploded again when a spokesperson for the Prime Minister claimed that the military hadn’t informed the government that they had stopped transferring detainees to Afghan authorities.
The head of Canadian forces, General Rick Hillier, sitting on a beach in the Dominican, shit his pants and called up the Prime Minister to give him a piece of his mind. The Prime Minister’s office had to retract the claim the next day. Oops.
And it got still worse.
A few days later it was revealed that the Tories and the military were covering up allegations of involvement by the governor of Kandahar, Asadullah Khalid, in torture. Now, just to make this clear, the allegations aren’t just that he endorses or permits torture, it’s that he himself engages in it. He’s a hands-on kind of guy, apparently, and keeps a personal prison in his compound.
Now, of course, he denies it along with the report by Canadian diplomats that the Tories and the military have worked hard to suppress. Trouble is, it was after a meeting between Khalid and Tory Defence Minister Peter MacKay that the decision was taken to stop detainee transfers.
Of course, the Tories are doing what they always to and are deflecting and denying. MacKay now says that since the detainee who made the specific allegations wasn’t a Canadian transferred detainee, it’s not our issue. Besides, Khalid is an appointed governor, we have no right to investigate him.
Interesting logic. Suppose we were to say that about the Taliban – they were a sovereign government, their treatment of prisoners and everyone else was an internal matter and we had no jurisdiction there. Of course, we invaded Afghanistan and put in place a regime that we approved of, with personnel we approved of, to achieve policy goals we approved of. So, Khalid, as an appointee of our man in Kabul, is also our man. If he’s torturing people, then that is an expression of our policy and we are responsible.
But, what’s more, what are we doing participating in a civil war to back appointed governors, corrupt officials, and torturers? What are we doing there if the regime we’ve put in place is identical to the one we overthrew in every way, except that it supports our policy? But then, the question contains the answer, doesn’t it?
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