Harper government made Canada complicit in torture in Afghanistan;country being sucked into maw of depravity by involvement in Bush's "war on terror "
"Mr. Speaker, a real friend of George Bush would be with George Bush and Tony Blair in the United States today."
– Stephen Harper, Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance in the House of Commons, March 27, 2003, referring to President Bush and Prime Minister Blair's Press Conference at Camp David, Maryland and Canada's decision not to participate in the illegal U.S.-led invasion, overthrow and occupation of Iraq.
Afghan furor shows we're slipping into
May 11, 2007
It was almost enough to revive one's faith in
After two weeks of unrelenting pressure – led by the media and the opposition parties in Parliament – the Harper government was forced to abandon a deal that made
Before we go farther, let's emphasize that the much-improved deal governing the treatment of our detainees in Afghanistan came about despite the sustained and determined efforts of the Harper government to thwart such monitoring of human rights.
For more than a year, the Conservatives had been content to hand over detainees to Afghan custody, despite ample evidence – including from Canadian officials – that
Even after controversy erupted over the situation last month, the Harper government was evasive and unco-operative, dismissing detailed reports of torture as mere "allegations of the Taliban." This dismissive approach was echoed by Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente who made clear that her sympathies lay with Canadian military leaders, not with Afghans who reported being hung upside down and punched so hard their teeth fell out.
"I have deep sympathy for our military leaders," wrote Wente, explaining what she saw as the difficult bind our generals are in. "They can fight a war. Or they can babysit `our detainees' ..."
To Wente, ensuring that our detainees aren't tortured – a requirement of the Geneva Conventions, which
Then there was our top general, Rick Hillier, whose fingerprints are all over the original deal, and who made light of the furor last week by diligently trying to divert attention onto the flashy arrival of the Stanley Cup and a group of NHL old-timers in
First stop for the hockey celebrities was the local Tim Horton's that Hillier famously brought to
Surely it doesn't need to be noted that torture is among the lowest forms of human depravity. While it has lost its acceptability in civilized circles in recent centuries, it's made a disturbing revival under U.S. President George W. Bush.
Invoking the atrocities of 9/11 as a justification – as if there were no atrocities on this scale in history – the Bush administration has demonstrated a comfort level with torture that would befit the most brutal medieval king.
If we needed any evidence that
In both cases, there was clear knowledge that torture would occur, and no steps taken to prevent it.
That 2005 deal, put in place during Paul Martin's Liberal government reign, also illustrates how far we've drifted from our European allies in NATO, who insisted on considerably more stringent monitoring of detainees they handed over to Afghanistan.
All this suggests a chasm between the values traditionally espoused by
Globe and Mail columnist Lawrence Martin wrote last week that the "new
That sort of subordinate role is clearly what the Harper government, as well as some elite military and media types, have in mind for us.
But it doesn't seem to be what the Canadian public is willing to accept.
This Afghan saga reminds me of the case of Maher Arar, the Canadian engineer tortured in
It seems that, while our political leaders may be comfortable accommodating Bush, most Canadians have yet to develop a taste for toadying.
Linda McQuaig is author of Holding the Bully's Coat: