Monday, November 23, 2009

Return Serve

The opposition has responded nimbly to the latest Conservative tactic. During a roundtable, then later in Parliament itself, the opposition reacted to the premature attempt to get Mulroney in front of Committee this week. Conservatives have mused for the past couple of days of wanting to see others testify, predicting a different account of the torture allegations. Today, they challenged the opposition to allow David Mulroney to tell his side of the story.

Tory MP Laurie Hawn demanded that the NDP and Liberals allow Mulroney to testify immediately. A clear attempt to do two things- get the looming stench of Harper's Chinese visit off the table, with Mulroney a potential embarrassment, and further muddy Colvin's claims. I was struck by how Rae and the NDP's Harris deftly brushed off the challenge with an effective counter. Basically, produce the documents we've asked for, or your boy takes a powder. Brilliant.

This posture continued later in Parliament:
Not so fast.

Opposition MPs tabled a notice of motion late tonight that will get voted on when the Committee meets Wednesday (a meeting at which they'll hear testimony from Gen. Rick Hillier and others). The motion is from NDP MP Paul Dewar but I'm told the Liberals were ready to table one that was mighty similar and, basically, it tells the government that Mulroney ain't testifying until the committee gets a pile of documents that they've been asking for for ages.

"The issue is simple - we've now asked for documents, and [Defence Minister Peter] Mackay has promised them. A proper inquiry is not "he said she said'. It's about understanding what happened in 2006-2007," said Liberal MP and committee member Bob Rae. "The committee is master of its timetable."

"We have concerns about having Mr. Mulroney appear in front of the committee before we've had a chance to look at the information promised by [Defence Minister Peter] MacKay in Question Period today (briefing notes of the minister in 2006-2007 on detainees), in order to ask the relevant questions," said Jean-Fran├žois Del Torchio, a Liberal spokesman. "The government has changed its story so many time that their attempt to move this quickly is suspicious. This is another example of the government failing to be transparent.

Dimitri Soudas, the prime minister's chief spokesman, accused the opposition of playing political games. "If the opposition were serious about finding answers they would allow Mr. Mulroney to appear before the Committee."

Maybe there is some gamesmanship on display, but then again you're clearly on the field too Dimitri so stand down.

There is some merit in the opposition demanding documentation, so they can review and decipher, prior to Mulroney appearing. For the government to now refuse, it just reeks of further COVER UP. The Conservatives will be forced to oblige, or risk the amusing spectacle of the willing witness silenced because of their stonewalling. The eventual appearance won't be the opportunity envisioned, more pointed and specific.

A classic case of putting the ball squarely back in your opponent's court. Well done. We look forward to the disclosure, see you in China at the photo-op Prime Minister!


ChrisInKW said...

A quid pro quo in this case seems fair and justified.

Frunger said...

I don't know. It seems like the Opposition just wants their cake and to eat it too. (I don't really know what that means, but you get my meaning I hope)

Colvin got up to make allegations without any supporting evidence, even circumstancial evidence. Liberals and the NDP were ok with that because it suited their narrative.

Now they don't want Mulroney to get up and defend himself and the work done in Afganistan without any documents.

What's good for the goose, right?

This follows a long tradition where political parties are bold-faced hypocrites (a trait they all share, Conservatives included) and hope that the media works their angle harder.

Say you don't want to hear from the guy because he may be a Conservative shill, but don't delude yourself into thinking that it's at all morally justifiable to say "Your unproven defence has no right refuting our unproven accusations."

Gayle said...

Frunger - it is valid for the opposition to seek copoes of the memos from Colvin before Mulroney gets up to sauy what he knows. I wonder why the government does not want to release the documents?

Gayle said...

Sorry about the typos. My fingers are too big for my blackberry.

Steve V said...


Omar said...

Colvin got up to make allegations without any supporting evidence, even circumstancial [sic] evidence.

It appears that minimum standards under International law have been violated and the legal implications under the Geneva Conventions could see the Canadian government liable in the 'aiding and abetting' of torture. Section 7 of the War Crimes Act states that commanders in the field all the way up to Ministers of government are liable and a 'Failure to Know' is a chargeable offense. How much evidence is required? If Mr Colvin had general information that lead him to believe Afghan detainees were at risk of torture following being handed over to Afghan authorities then he had the responsibility to act on that general information. As to Defense Minister MacKay stating there is "not one iota" of evidence to support Mr Colvin's allegations, an expert on international law said this morning on The Current that "Mackay needs to take a refresher course in international humanitarian law if he is taking his responsibilities seriously". This individual went on to say that the duty does not lie in proving concrete allegations, ie: being in the room where the torture is taking place, but knowing the substantial risk of torture is evident is what triggers the obligation to take all necessary steps to stop it. The UN, the US State Department, the Afghan Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International have all established that that risk existed. Colvin was doing his duty and should be applauded, not maligned.

Steve V said...

Tortures don't generally allow people into the gallows to photograph or document their abuses.