Harper government changes tune on Afghan prisoner issue
The Conservative government now says it was aware of “concerns about the state of prisons" in Afghanistan almost from the day it took office and eventually rewrote a prisoner transfer agreement as those concerns mounted.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay offered a dramatically different Tory narrative on the Afghan torture issue on Friday. This capped a week in which the government went from lampooning as Taliban dupes anyone who alleged prisoner abuse to claiming the government took such reports seriously from the start.
A 2005 prisoner transfer agreement with the Afghan government was eventually renegotiated in May 2007 under intense public scrutiny following explosive media revelations about torture in Afghan prisons.
Now, under the weight of evidence that many international organizations were sounding the alarm about treatment of Afghan prisoners, Mr. MacKay says his government knew of the problems and began to act shortly after taking office in January 2006.
“The decision to change the transfer arrangement would have been as a result of a lot of sources of information including those from Mr. [David] Mulroney, those from other individuals on the ground, Elissa Goldberg, those who were involved in the actual PRT, those who went to Afghan prisons to observe the situation," the minister said outside the Commons.
“That began almost immediately after we took office. … Obviously there were concerns about the state of prisons."
Effectively, MacKay is now admitting that the government was well aware of "concerns" (code for mistreatment) since it took office, and in so doing validating the CHIEF issue, that they did nothing for months and months. It has nothing to do with what the government eventually did, it's all about the period where the knowledge existed and the delay in response, that is where they are culpable. MacKay has moved, because the evidence has forced him. The latest admissions, render his previous statements laughable.
The government position now hangs by a thread, completely relying on no "smoking gun" for cover. This "first hand account" nonsense aside (torturers don't generally pose), the actions of the government contradict their position. Why does MacKay now say we worked to change the transfers immediately, if there was no compelling evidence to suggest the change was required? No evidence of torture, but we acted "immediately"? Nevermind the chronology problem, MacKay is in fact reaffirming what Colvin said, using their own reaction to validate. So, the Canadian government changes policies, based on flimsy "evidence" and not "credible" accounts? If anyone can square the contradictions, please let me know.
Yes, it was a great week for the government side. That's why MacKay is backtracking at an alarming rate and the story changes almost daily.