A point on simple common sense. You don't go the lengths this government did to "manage" the message on the torture question, if you weren't aware that a problem existed. In fact, this government went so far as to co-ordinate talking points between departments, which clearly speaks to their full KNOWLEDGE. Any other suggestion is laughable, the issue was on the radar, and steps were taken to mitigate any potential fallout:
Nov. 20, 2006, Foreign Affairs officials drafted talking points meant to assure officials of the humanitarian agency.
"Canada is reflecting on how to engage more pro-actively with Afghan and international authorities on the issue of treatment of detainees, including asking the Government of Afghanistan for permission to visit the prisons, discussing with Afghan authorities the process and procedures for handling and treating detainees from transfer to arrival at final detention facility, and talking to the (Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission)," say the talking points.
The document also warned officials to prepare "an interdepartmental approach" for dealing with "the potential scenario where allegations of mistreatment or torture are substantiated."
The government, in REACTION to the Red Cross concerns, formulates these talking points to address any concerns or issues. A clear attempt to appease, rather than a genuine response to torture concerns. This shocking "misplaced priority" scenario, fully documented:
Despite those assurances, officials in Ottawa placed the notion of formally monitoring prisoners at the bottom of a "Strategic (Macro) Level Engagement" plan produced near the end of February 2007.
No. 1 on the eight-point plan for officials was to "Prepare standard key messages (ie. importance of adhering to obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law regarding the treatment of detainees.)"
Point No. 8 in the plan was to "consider supplementing the existing arrangement" in such a way to include the "guarantee of access for Canadian authorities to individuals transferred by the (Canadian Forces)."
The emphasis is on SPIN, while actually dealing with the detainee problem appears as an afterthought. The Red Cross is mislead into thinking the government is focused on action, when they are really consumed with COVERING THEIR ASSES. The question then becomes, how many Afghans were tortured during this period when the government was distracted with co-ordinating propaganda? Is the 15 month delay between awareness and action a result of putting party fortunes above INTERNATIONAL LAW concerns? Only when revelations did become public, the spin no longer effective, did the government finally act, on what they apparently knew all along.
This government prepared a messaging campaign, because they feared damaging revelations were a distinct possibility. How could they react in this manner, if they didn't have CREDIBLE information on abuse? You don't go into damage control mode, if damage doesn't exist. There is no way for apologists to reconcile this logic chasm.
Anyone paying attention knows that this government always puts messaging and control center stage, no matter the issue. It's not about getting it right, it's about finding the right talking point. The truth is a casualty, political survival the main consideration. Where this particular issue rises to a different level, the pre-occupation with self interest effectively put lives at risk, so irresponsible and offensive, Canadians should be rightly ashamed and profoundly embarrassed.
The way this torture issue was handled is a national disgrace.