Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Three Stooges and Prisoner Abuse.

The idea of governments waiting until after 6 p.m. on a Friday to release information is that the news cycle is effectively dead. Unless something truly titillating is transpiring, most reporters have left the field and headed for cover. Some go to the bars and hob-nob with the very people they're writing about. (If you don't believe that, do I have some interesting pictures for you!)

In any case, if a government official wants to release information that is least likely to gather attention, after 6 p.m. local on a Friday is the best time to do it.

That's what Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay's office did yesterday.
Six prisoners have complained to Canadian officials of abuse in Afghan prisons – not four, as Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay and Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said earlier this week.
Not the two admitted to by Stockwell Day in April; Not the four admitted to by Peter MacKay before a parliamentary committee this past week.


But it's not the number so much as the attempts to either mislead parliament or the glaring incompetence of O'Connor, Day and MacKay in dealing with the problem.

At any given time they have a different answer to the same question. They have misled parliament and parliamentary committees. They have lied about the levels of access Corrections Canada officials had to transfered prisoners. They were unable to describe the prisoner transfer agreement until yet another new one was implemented on 3 May.

And now, they keep changing the numbers. Why? The most obvious answer is that someone else knew the truth and was about to deliver it to a news outlet.

Before anyone goes off half-cocked with inappropriate suggestions, I have no problem with detaining captured prisoners, or transferring them. As long as it's done within the scope of the standards set for the Canadian Forces. That means that whether a combatant meets the test of identity laid out in the 1949 Geneva Convention Article 4 or not, the Canadian Armed Forces are required to treat all captured combatants as Prisoners of War by way of regulation and orders.

It's the fact that, until 3 May, there seemed to be little concern for the way transferred PWs were treated. It is likely that there was no complete record of those transfered to Afghan custody. Prior to that date, the conditions of the prisoner transfer agreement were literally unknown, the Minister of National Defence being unable to explain its contents.

For those who would argue that we shouldn't be concerned about how Afghan insurgency fighters are treated once captured because they are murderous scum-bags, I can state, without compunction, we don't get to be like them - ever. Neither do our agents.

The particularly warped belief that we can behave in the same manner as those we refer to as the Taliban would suggest that we would have been completely justified, between 1939 and 1945, in rounding up every citizen and resident of German descent, however far removed they were from that heritage, concentrate them in camps and methodically murder them. The fact that, in 1942, we did incarcerate Japanese-Canadians for no other reason than their race and appearance remains a shameful stain on the Canadian historical record.

This is about O'Connor, Day and MacKay and the fact that they cannot seem to get any of this right. They are either trying to hide something or they are all unbelievably incompetent.

Either way, they appear less organized than the Three Stooges and it's time we were rid of them. They are exposing our troops to charges of war crimes and I can't think of any serving CF member who deserves such a lack of support.

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