If you're short of stomach-curdling experiences, visit CTV's website and watch the video of the Bob Fife/Lloyd Robertson banter on the Afghan torture story. You may come away convinced that FauxNews is alive and well in Canada.
The story of course, like all news stories, comprises a few key points:
- Canadian diplomats in Afghanistan knew that Afghan detainees handed over to Afghan security forces by Canadian soldiers were being tortured almost as a matter of course.
- This was reported to both diplomatic and military channels in Canada.
- Our second ranked diplomat in Afghanistan in 2006-7, Richard Colvin, repeatedly warned officials in Ottawa of this.
- Among those notified by Colvin were the "Big Cod", retired General Rick Hillier, and one David Mulroney, Harper's personal advisor on Afghanistan, more formerly known as deputy minister of the Afghanistan Task Force in the Privy Council Office.
- Ottawa's response to Colvin's warnings was that Canadian diplomats were ordered not to keep written records of any discussions of torture.
In other words, the detainees handed over (including a lot of innocents) were being tortured as a matter of course, we were notified they were being tortured, we did nothing to stop them being tortured, we took steps to conceal or eliminate evidence of being informed of the torture of our detainees, and then our political and military leaders publicly and repeatedly denied any knowledge of it.
Overall there is a strong suggestion that: A), they knew our force in Afghanistan was (likely unintentionally) complicit in the torture of detainees handed over to Afghan security forces; B) being presented with the imperative of promptly rectifying the situation they instead chose to enable its continuation, thus presumably making themselves complicit in the commission of war crimes; C) as evidence these decision-makers were truly aware of their complicity in war crimes, they ordered their subordinates to keep no written accounts of torture; and D) when the issue became public and despite prior knowledge they saw the problem as sufficiently troublesome as to publicly and persistently disavow any knowledge of it.
Those facts, if substantiated, raise a strong suggestion of very serious criminal conduct going straight up to the top echelons of the Department of National Defence and even the Prime Minister's Office. The allegations are that the powers that be condoned the torture of Afghan detainees, thereby rendering themselves complicit in the commission of very serious war crimes.
When I watched the Fife/Robertson dog and pony show it was another lesson in how much CTV has been transformed into the Conservative Television Network in the best traditions of FoxNews. They couldn't ignore the story so they handled it the very same way FoxNews would handle it - they carefully shaved the facts, added a full measure of Tory spin and kneaded the mixture into a putty of blandness.
Case in point. The role played in this saga by David Mulroney is critical to this story. Fife gave him but passing mention as a "senior bureaucrat" avoiding the direct link between Mulroney and Harper. Mulroney's relevance to this whole story is his role as Harper's personal advisor on Afghanistan.
Robertson added his dismissive footnote, pointing out that, after all, this is Afghanistan. Now I suppose you could take that more than one way but, to me, it came across as Robertson dismissing the gravity of the torture aspect by noting these people are barely better than animals anyway. In fairness, he didn't say that, but that's certainly the impression I was left with from what he did say.
The Tories, meanwhile, are acting predictably. MinDef parliamentary secretary, Laurie Hawn, dismissed the reports pointing out that the Afghan people are "trained to lie." These people are a disgrace to Canada.