Saturday, February 02, 2008

It's appointment season in Ottawa. (And Hillier is shilling for Harper again)

For the senior levels of the Canadian Forces, that is. Some of the top jobs in the Canadian Forces are up for grabs, including the position of Chief of Defence Staff. That position will either be handed to someone new or the incumbent might, in a rare move, be given an extension.

That might explain the sudden burst of public presence of Chief of Defence Staff, General Rick Hillier. It might also explain why his mouth is, once again, outrunning his brain.
Canada's top soldier says the governor of Kandahar province is doing "phenomenal work," and that allegations of torture against him are up to Afghans to investigate. [...] "Governor Asadullah has been doing some phenomenal work in Kandahar province. Obviously, we have worked with him because he is the governor there. And we have seen some incredible changes in the province, and if there's an issue of any kind of impropriety whatsoever, that's an issue for the Afghanistan government."
He was backed up by Defence Minister Petey MacKay with this.
"The allegation with respect to the governor is not a Canadian-transferred prisoner," Mr. MacKay said.

"Second, with respect to the governor of Kandahar, let us not forget that this is an individual appointed by the sovereign elected government of Afghanistan."

So, let's get this straight, shall we.

According to Hillier, if the Governor of Kandahar is a torturer, it's none of our business. That should draw some fire.

According to MacKay, the Governor of Kandahar is out of our reach because he is appointed by a democratically elected sovereign government over which we have no authority.

Well, to begin with, General Hillier might want to produce something more substantial. A detailed list would be a good start. Let's have the details on Asadullah Khalid's "phenomenal work".

This has been the touchstone of the whole Afghanistan mission since Canada moved its troops to Kandahar. We're making great progress. Except that nobody provides details. We're just expected to believe it. And, given the casualty rate of Canadian troops in Afghanistan, we are fully entitled to know precisely why we're giving the lives of Canadian sons and daughters in Afghanistan.

This nonsense of of Daddy sitting at the head of the table telling us everything is just fine, now just be quiet and eat your broccoli is pure bullshit. The Canadian public are not subordinate to Rick Hillier. In case he doesn't get it, he serves at the pleasure of the Canadian population. The prime minister will dump him in a minute if public opinion turns against him.

As for the activities of Asadullah Khalid being none of our business, Hillier is so off the mark he might well be on the wrong rifle-range. If the governor of the province for which we are providing military defence is engaging in torture, we have every right to exercise any method we choose to stop it. Given that it's our people doing the heavy lifting we have considerable leverage and it would be wrong not to use it. Hillier's assertion is little more than offering a blatantly incorrect defence for the position of the Harper government. Further, Hillier knows he's wrong.

MacKay, typically, tried to run away from the issue. In doing so he attempted to deflect by suggesting that the prisoner claiming to have been imprisoned and tortured by Asadullah Khalid was not a transfer from Canadian custody.

Who cares?

Since when does the origin of a prisoner determine this country's position on torture and human rights? Before Harper, MacKay and Bernier, we had one standard. Now it appears we have several, all based on who is doing the deed and how close we are to them.

Both, however, have something desperately wrong in their thinking and that is the contention that the government of Afghanistan has the power or even the moral right to behave in any way it so chooses because it is sovereign.

That is a "peacekeeping" mindset and it flies in the face of Hillier's (and Harper/MacKay) declaration that any mission in Afghanistan is a combat mission.

Flailing purple fingers do not absolve Afghanistan of the responsibility to live within the bounds of civilized human decency. Far from that however, they are anything but sovereign. They are highly dependent on the presence of others on their own soil as a means of survival.

Afghanistan was released to its own autonomy far too early, primarily because the incompetent Bush administration wanted to be done with it and move on to Iraq. Without a proper military consolidation of the ousting of the Taliban regime, without a planned and progressive construction of civil establishment, without a building of infrastructure, without the proper foundation of the rule of law and the elimination of the elements of corruption, Afghanistan's leaders could be expected to abuse the autonomy they were granted.

But it is even more basic than that. Hillier knows it; MacKay knows it; and, Harper knows it. MacKay and Harper are the worst form of political animals so their positions, while absolutely inexcusable, should come as no surprize.

Hillier, on the other hand, should know better. He didn't learn the words he spoke on any leadership or staff course in this country. He needs to take a good look at his position and decide whether he has just prostituted himself, because there is a simple fact about a nation's sovereignty he seems to be ignoring.

Any country with somebody else's army on the ground is not sovereign.

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