Wednesday, November 25, 2009

12000 Kilometers

Hillier referenced the distance from Ottawa to Afghanistan several times. In an unintended way, Hillier has highlighted the chasm between the opposing viewpoints, with very different recollections. If you're following closely, you'll notice that Colvin is finding support from all the "on the ground" forces, while most of the rebuttal seems to be coming from Ottawa-centric opinion, whether it be the military, politicians or civil servants.

Today we learn that the International Red Cross expressed great concern to Colvin about the detainee situation. This revelation comes on the heels of the Amnesty International view, which was collaborated by several foreign diplomats. On top of that we have award winning journalists like Graeme Smith, who spent considerably time in the field, laugh off denials, saying the idea of tortured detainees was discussed freely in Kandahar amongst the populous, EVERYBODY knew. In other words, Colvin finds support from others who were ON THE GROUND. We also read a couple of Colvin's memos today, which highlight his intimate involvement and EXPERTISE on this detainee issue. I would submit, Colvin alone spent more time around the Afghan prisons than everyone of his detractors combined.

What we have is an incredible disconnect, top brass, top officials, all apparently unaware of anything credible happening in Afghanistan. We heard puffy statements, that spoke to generalities, the totality of the mission, their roles juggling many complex balls- a characterization that actually speaks to a distracted attention on a singular issue. Was it torture or getting new jeeps, as you mentioned today, that was on your mind General? Contrast that with those in theater on a permanent basis, the accusations were the stuff of public consumption. Hillier's 12000 kilometer reference, as well as detailing his various "visits", becomes very symbolic to this whole discussion. I'd be willing to toss Colvin aside, if only his supporters didn't enjoy the INTIMACY with the issue, that the pencil pushers and distant officials didn't enjoy.

You're not going to get your answers from the Canadian military, very much a circle the wagons flavor today. When you examine the consistent soundbites coming from the Conservatives and their surrogates, it provides another pack mentality. When you look outside this veil of denials, you find that many CREDIBLE organizations and people, people who LIVED and WORKED in Afghanistan strongly support Colvin, he himself fully immersed.

I've always preferred the street view, that's where you get a sense of what was really going on, devoid of all the various layers and warpings. I'd be inclined to support the government denials, if they didn't stand in such stark contrast to the view of those on the ground, a view that renders those denials almost ridiculous.

12 comments:

Joseph said...

Good post, Steve. It is particularly insightful and relevant given that a cursory review of conservative "commentary" today reveals one clear talking point, in which a "desk jockey" in an "expensive suit" is being labeled "ludicrous" when compared to a righteous and honourable soldier like Hillier.

I particularly how Hillier was more than willing to discuss that he had read the reports (since last week) and found them lacking. Yet the powers that be are stepping up actions to prevent Parliament and the public to see them.

So they are not to be believed, but shouldn't be seen? Something clearly doesn't square there.

Seems more to me that Hillier has successfully transformed himself into a politician, as if we had any doubt on that matter at this point. The next Senator perhaps?

marie said...

You know, when an organization(Alliance idiots)keep dening and hiding, they are proving themselves guilty of such allegations. If they are not guilty, why try to hide the facts. Admission of guilt by all counts. Perhaps people like Canadian Sense could jump off the nearest bridge for a thrill. She's either working for the Government or has a spouse working there. Perhaps an MP for a mate.I would suggest to her to go visit the blogging tories whereshe will be welcomed with open arms.

Steve V said...

I think we need to separate this questioning of the military and patriotism, everybody seems to tread carefully with people like Hillier. By his own admission today, he was concerned with things like getting new jeeps (not sure why he mentioned that in this context), which means maybe their gaze was distracted. To say nobody brought the issue to their attention, is just nonsense, given the respected international organizations that were quite angry. It might come down to a question of seriousness, it wasn't a chief priority until torture became very public, then they focused on changing the transfer protocols.

Gayle said...

Yeah but, aren't the Red Cross and Amnesty International socialist organizations? ;)

Toe said...

But Gayle that would be saying the UN itself is a socialist org. since they have mandates with the UN?

Gayle said...

Yes it would. That is a commonly held belief over on BT land.

Steve V said...

I would pretty concern, that the CONCERNS of the Red Cross weren't brought to the attention of the brass. If the Red Cross was frustrated with roadblocks and no co-operation, then it suggests woeful incompetence that Foreign Affairs and people like Hillier weren't responding seriously or worse, UNAWARE.

It's starting to sound like they buried this issue throughout. Colvin reads like a nuisance for them, which is why he ultimately took this drastic step. I think they were downplaying his information all along.

Steve V said...

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/730865--mackay-knew-about-concerns-over-prisoners?bn=1

"Emails sent to then-foreign affairs minister Peter MacKay's office expressed alarm over the treatment of Afghan detainees on behalf of the International Red Cross Committee – the world humanitarian organization entrusted by the United Nations to monitor prisoners of war, the Star has learned.

Up to now, MacKay and other government ministers have characterized the testimony of senior diplomat Richard Colvin as "not credible" or unproven "allegations" based on "lies" by "Taliban prisoners."

Colvin lit the fuse on the scandal over the treatment of Afghan detainees with his charges last week that Canada was transferring them to local authorities who routinely tortured them.

Copies of emails seen by the Star indicate that as early as 2006, Colvin was conveying distressing information from the most direct and trusted of sources, the Red Cross, relied on by countries that are signatories to the Geneva Conventions.

The emails were sent a full year before the government changed its prisoner transfer agreement to provide better protections to detainees."

Steve V said...

“All kinds of things are going on,” Mr. Colvin quoted a Red Cross representative as saying.

Gayle said...

Were there actually people out there who believed Hillier et al were going to say they knew about torture allegations and decided to do nothing about it?

Oemissions said...

A few summers ago I met here in Canada a Red Cross worker who was on leave for a bit from 'over there' mission.
This person had first hand stories of the torture(s)
Also spoke of the tarnished reputation of Canadians.
Once viewed as friendly, now viewed with disdain and suspicion by locals and seen as Americans.

JimmE said...

Perhaps you heard the actress Senator Pam Wallen on CBC radio on Wednesday. Several times in her answers to the puff-ball questions she "wondered what his (Colvin's) motive was."

Pity the journalist Pam Wallen was not there to do the interview.