Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Supporting the Troops

Over the last several weeks we've seen Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Defense Minister Gordon O'Connor and Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day twist and squirm on the issue of prisoners of war captured by the Canadian military in Afghanistan. They seemed to have hit a new low last week when Harper, who has never served in the military (or even had a job in the private sector) tried to deflect criticsm of his gormless defence minister by suggesting that anyone who hadn't served in the military was not fit to criticize those who had. By the same reckoning I suppose those who have never taught school should be barred from criticism of the education system and those of us who have never held a seat in the House of Commons should just keep our traps shut and be grateful for the fine job the Gnu Gummint of Kanada is doing on our behalf.
This is, of course, to use the technical term complete and utter bullshit. Canada is not a military dictatorship, the armed forces answer to their civilian overseers, who are supposed to answer to the voters.
This week, they've sunk a notch lower in their emulation of the national security state to the south, where anything the government does, no matter how many of its own laws it breaks, can be justified by claiming it is being done in the interest of national security (Just like they do in such enlightened democracies as North Korea and Burma. The government is now stonewalling on releasing information about the number of prisoners taken in Afghanistan, saying the enemy could use such information for propaganda purposes or to hurt our gallant boys in harm's way defending our way of life over there so that we don't have to fight the terrorists over here and why aren't you wearing red with yellow ribbons you islamoanarchofacist pinko bastard?
Doris wants to know how we dare to even ask questions:

"Detainees are not simply people who have jay-walked," Day said. "These are
people who are suspected terrorists."

"That has been the air of the questioning, so much so that our troops tell us they think they're being accused of doing wrong things."

Doris better go read the Geneva Conventions again, because if the military is handing over prisoners to be tortured, they are doing the "wrong thing" -- the kind of wrong thing that could land people in the Hague. By asking these questions and demanding the military act properly we are supporting them, we are making sure they don't inadvertently violate international law and commit a war crime by mimicing the conduct of our neighbors to the south.
It is not the job of the grunts in the field or their immediate superiors to determine whether the Afghan government tortures prisoners. They should be able to take the word of the minister of defense and the prime minister and the chief of defense staff who job it is to determine what happens to prisoners taken on the battlefield. It very definitely is their responsibility to determine whether the Afghans are likely to torture any prisoners we hand over to them.
The opposition are doing their job, the voters are doing thier the troops are doing theirs -- why isn't the government doing its job?

crossposted at The Woodshed

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