Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Quite simply, today's revelations on the torture question, offer the most succinct indictment of this government, as well as a glaring testament to their unseemly nature. The Chronicle Herald piece has it all, a willful attempt to manage a KNOWN problem, essentially lying to an international agency, as well as putting propaganda before policy. In a few paragraphs, the essence of the Harper government is revealed.

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.


Steve V said...

NDP have demanded MacKay resign:


JimBobby said...

Good that the Dippers have demanded MacKay step down. Any chance that the Grits will do likewise? BQ?

All 3 oppo parties should be working in unison to stop all business in HoC until MacKay comes clean.

Yes, Steve, it is a national disgrace. Let's just hope our collective shame doesn't prevent us from doing the right thing and exposing the crimes.

Steve V said...

I've really enjoyed watching the opp parties work together on this one, very classy and genuine. Let's hope the Libs and BQ follow suit.

penlan said...

My concern, now, is that this is the last week before Christmas break - which is a long one. What happens then? Does all of this just fade into the background & become a non-issue until the House resumes again? By then people may be dinterested. Just my thoughts.

And the Libs have been way too slow in calling for Mackay's resignation - which I doubt will happen as he will take others with him is this were to happen, I'm sure.

Steve V said...

The Committee is scheduled to do more work on this issue come the new year, so even if there is a lull, it won't disappear. Last week I said I thought the government strategy was to try and run out the clock until the Christmas break.

JimBobby said...

Christmas break? Isn't that when we all strive for peace on Earth and goodwill to men?

Steve V said...

This year, it's the strive to survive.

Jerry Prager said...

Since the only agenda the Cons have left that they started with is their war on the Liberals, is it any wonder that the first casualty of that war is their ability to tell the truth. If corporatism is the conscienceless pursuit of profit, then Harpercon neo-corporatism is the conscienceless pursuit of power. This is the most divisive, malicious, secretive government is the history of Canada. The fact that most of Canada's former ambassadors are beginning to jump on the 'against diplomatic chill' bandwagon, has to be unprecedented in the history of diplomacy. My guess is that never have so many people whose lives are focused on the niceties of international diplomacy, repudiated a national government, the way Harper's government behaves. Will that make Canadians care ? No. The erosion of all ethical barriers in big business has led to an erosion of public sensibilities, couple that with the tendency of Liberal governments to self-implode on the same issue, and suddenly there's nothing left but hell and high water. Granted, the Harpercons are in a league of their own (the only team left in the Bush League) but we now have a citizenry without ethics, and thus conscienceless pursuit of profit and power are taking us closer and closer to an abyss. Because the much of the media is corporate, the fifth estate is no position to stand between us and the cliff.The centre cannot hold.

penlan said...

Excellent comment Jerry & I, too, am appalled at the ignorance & non-caring of the majority of the citizenry about where this country is heading & what state our Prty's are in with their collusion with big business & not the people.

Steve V said...

Well said Jerry.

Tof KW said...

"Will that make Canadians care ?

I still have some hope that an actual ICC investigation into Canada's roll in this might actually shake the public's complacency.

But then again I thought the same thing when the global financial crisis hit, banks were bailed out with taxpayers dollars ...and not a peep from the US public about the roll the neo-liberal global corporatism of the past 25 years has played in all this.

Like the others said, that was a great post Jerry.