Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I'd Probably Prorogue Too

What a read. Political interference, willful negligence, unexplainable delay, secrecy, attempts to kill the paper trail, basically a buffet of disturbing facts. Some of what Colvin says is objectively startling, I've highlighted a few areas that caught my eye:
"Instead, embassy staffers were told that they should not report information, however accurate, that conflicted with the government’s public messaging."

Again, the spectre is raised that there was a concerted effort to stifle any information that undermined the desired political presentation of the government. This statement reinforces what we've heard earlier this week from the likes of Jim Travers. I would submit, it is this particular line of inquiry that raises this discussion to "scandal" terrority.

Colvin provides examples, active censoring:
For example, Ambassador Lalani instructed that we not report that the security situation was deteriorating. This followed an embassy report to Ottawa in which we noted that the Afghan Minister of Defence judged security to be getting worse ‐‐ a view shared by our allies, and corroborated by violence trends and other metrics. Nevertheless, Mr. Mulroney sent instructions via Ambassador Lalani that we should either not mention the security situation at all, or to assert that it was getting better. The ambassador accordingly sent a report in which he said security was improving.

In September 2007, an embassy staffer, in response to a written request from DFAIT’s Afghanistan Taskforce to contribute to a security assessment by one of our NATO allies, sent a report that security in Kandahar had got worse and was likely to further deteriorate. Mr. Mulroney severely rebuked the officer in writing.

Specific instance of Mulroney and others managing the information to prevent any admissions which didn't support the government spin. The significance of the above can't be overstated. Keeping the timeline in mind, our elected representatives were sold a dishonest picture of the situation in Afghanistan. It is fair to wonder how these revelations would have impacted the Manley report and/or the extension debate. Our representatives were only privy to what was deemed acceptable, while counter information was WILLFULLY suppressed.

We also learn, that language was sanitized to eliminate any potential problems. This was done in concert with a "tightened" circle of information, as less people were allowed to see reports from the field:
After the embassy sent out its annual 2006 human‐rights report for Afghanistan, which repeatedly used the word “torture,” Mr. Mulroney told us in person that we should be “very careful” about what we put in future reports. In the context, we interpreted this as an attempt to discourage us from sing the word “torture” in future such reports.

The inference is clear. This sanitization and self censoring comes with a push to eliminate any paper trail on this file. The request for phone calls only, can only be read as a deliberate attempt to lessen the chance of "discovery". Officials were actively trying to bury any information that conflicted with the propaganda:
Her message to me was that I should use the phone instead of writing.

Colvin refers to this as an "intervention". We also see the move from censoring and message control, to downright deletion from the record:
in the April 30 message (KBGR‐0267) that the embassy sent to Ottawa, what Ambassador Lalani deleted was the most important information in the report, directly related to our detainee concerns, and from a highly credible source. I was so surprised by this decision that I filed the draft as well as he final, approved report.

In the approved version of the report, Ambassador Lalani reduced the distribution list from roughly 5 to about five addressees. Short distribution lists became the norm for messages on detainees.

A web of secrecy:
The result was to concentrate information in the hands of a very small number of officials. Any onward distribution was strictly at their discretion. The change also eliminated any record of who had actually seen a iven report, beyond the five initial recipients.

..."The NDS tortures people, that’s what they do, and if we don’t want our detainees tortured, we shouldn’t give them to the NDS.” (The NDS, or National Directorate of Security, is Afghanistan’s intelligence service.) The response from the Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM) note taker was to stop writing and put down her pen.

Colvin also reinforces the allegations that the Canadian government intervened to keep the Governor of Kandahar in his post, despite rampant knowledge of torture and other abuses:
The PRT, and subsequently the embassy in Kabul, recommended both in writing and orally that he be replaced. However, senior Canadian officers intervened twice to keep him in place..

This despite the Afghan government being "receptive" to his removal.

Colvin also takes issue with the Generals claim of ignorance. He lays out considerable evidence to support the notion that everybody in the international community was well aware. Colvin uses the most careful language:
"It is implausible that they would not have known how Afghans treat their prisoners."

As you follow the dates closely, you see that when the government was finally forced to develop a new detainee policy, in the face of controversy, it still didn't act with any urgency:
Even after the new MOU was signed, Ottawa for the first five months did not send a dedicated DFAIT monitor to conduct the monitoring. Monitoring in Kandahar was implemented by a rotating pool of officers, some on very short deployments. As a result, Canadian detainees in NDS custody in Kandahar remained at risk of torture. When a dedicated monitor was finally sent out in late October 2007, he quickly found conclusive evidence of continued torture. This finally triggered a Canadian decision to stop transfers.

Interesting, that when the government finally acted, the first visit found conclusive evidence and this demanded a stop of transfers. This means, that after the government crafted a new transfer agreement, it did nothing for five months. This fact, despite acknowledging the torture concern with the new arrangement. The argument that the government offers, hiding behind this new agreement, evaporates, when we learn that no implementation took place, people remained at risk. Colvin actually details what he found during this period, relating to four detainees. Colvin's team uncovered credible evidence of torture, some horrifying detail. On the "not credible" front:
embassy monitoring team included the head of the consular section, who had been trained in recognizing signs of torture

Trained? And, his conclusion was what?

There's more, but the whole rebuttal presents a devastating case against this government, their actions and inaction. How anyone can argue against an inquiry now requires leave of your senses, or partisan koolaid so strong, as to render the brain useless.


Jerry Prager said...

"It is fair to wonder how these revelations would have impacted the Manley report and/or the extension debate. "
Reminds me of the gun registry decision and Van Loan holding back the RCMP report until after the decision was made, only in this case, there wasn't supposed to be an after.

Jerry Prager said...

The sad part in this for David Mulroney is that Canadians are highly sensitive to lies coming out of the mouths of a Mulroney, and because Mulroney is part of the Conservative brand, his very presence at the centre of all this, makes the Conservative position immediately suspect. He's the perfect resonator for distrust.

Steve V said...

Colvin really undercut Mulroney.
New poll out tonight. 34-28, Con lead narrowing.

Jerry Prager said...

And finally, if all this is true, the question is, what were they hoping to gain by allowing torture ? The answer has to be that it allowed them to look like they could fight the war the way the Pentagon wanted: they wanted to prove to Washington that there were real warriors in Ottawa, not the pussy Liberal kind: Harper allowed it because he was Bush League Wannabes;that's why this happened, Harper is a nerd, and he could finally prove what a man he was.

Gayle said...

"...what were they hoping to gain by allowing torture ?"

Maybe they just did not care.

Steve V said...

I think they were banking on Canadians not caring, but this thing has morphed into something else.

The Mound of Sound said...

The best part of Colvin's rebuttal is the richness of sources he provides for his claims. Much of Colvin's statement can be independently corroborated. He has laid a path for the media to follow to get to the truth. Harper and his minions, civilian and military, continue to rely on bare denial and denunciation. I really believe they're in far too deep now to spin their way out of this.

Marpman said...

I admire Colvin. He has put his career on the line..for no other reason than he thinks it is the right thing to do.
We should all act with his courage and conviction.
McKay won't resign, but he will be gone soon....moved off to do damage elsewhere. Guess Baird will be assigned this portfolio next...he seems to be the hatchet man.
We are the laughing stock of the world..worse than the French right now...sad.

rockfish said...

"New poll out tonight. 34-28, Con lead narrowing

BC's 'top dog (in more ways than one)' prefaced a small item about the poll by saying questions on Afghanistan detainees is having little effect with Canadians' voting patterns... A gap of 15 becomes six? And that's not evidence of concern/questions/lost support?
I'm just bafflegabbed how some of these media joints can still act as though they know what journalism means...

Tof KW said...

McKay won't resign, but he will be gone soon

You can pretty much take that to the bank. About two weeks ago the media had already reported that Harper's planning a cabinet shuffle over the Christmas break, and with all that's happened since moving MacKay is now a no-brainer. He'll still be deputy leader, but in a lower portfolio. Now as for who his replacement is, that's the $64,000 question, since the CPC talent pool is a pretty shallow one.

Polyorchnid Octopunch said...

Personally, I think the CPC's gene pool is what's shallow.

Steve V said...

Deep as a bird bath.

Marpman said...

The news this morning which reveals that there have been 6 (5 unfounded) complaints against Canadian soldiers is alarming. But in investigating the MPs are doing the correct thing. However, for MacKay not to acknowledge that they can occur, and be proactive and strong in statements that it will never be tolerated is evidence in the belief that the Afghan people are inferior. They do not deserve the same rights as offered others.
I believe that Baird will replace MacKay....