Yes there's an issue of Harper's secrecy fetish. Yes there's an issue of the supremacy of the House of Commons. Yes there's a question of contempt of Parliament. There are all those issues and they're all important but let's not overlook what's really in issue here.
The fundamental question concerns Canada's role in the treatment and apparent torture of suspects, Afghan nationals our forces detained and subsequently handed over to that country's brutal national security service.
The fundamental question arises out of a morass of contradictory and irreconcilable statements made by political leaders, military leaders, diplomats and others. Some say we acquiesced in the torture of our detainees by their security services. Others say we deliberately handed some over to the Afghan thugs so they would be tortured to elicit intelligence. Whether we indifferently handed them over or deliberately handed them over is a fine point and has real significance but, either way, our leaders may be complicit in torture and that's a war crime.
The fundamental question is whether our military or political leaders committed war crimes. Along the way this fight has acquired an unsavory partisan political dimension - both sides at various times and in various ways trying to wring advantage out of it. We on the opposition side need to be principled and disciplined enough to stay on issue, focused on the fundamental question. The Canadian public will quickly enough resent us if we don't. On these things you're suspect enough as it is without fueling unnecessary cynicism.
It's important, absolutely critical, that we ascertain whether we in fact committed war crimes or whether our leaders did that in our name. If it happened but we fail to unmask it, how on earth are we ever to stop it, to change course?
They say if you sleep with dogs you get up with fleas. In this case we're the eager-to-please junior partner to the senior partner that gave the world Abu Ghraib and Guantanimo. When you look up to someone like that you may come to emulate their behaviour. You may even pick up their bad habits.
Our senior partner has a well-deserved and deeply sullied reputation as a torturer. That doesn't mean that we have to accept their standard or their ways whether in the political or the military arena. To the contrary, by virtue of knowing what they have done, the extent and course of their depravity, it is incumbent on us to ensure that our honour is intact. When credible allegations are presented that our honour has been stained by our own leaders it is our duty to get to the bottom of them. And that is what this document battle is all about. If we lose focus on our purpose we don't stand a chance of succeeding. If we fail, our country, our military and our parliament will be the poorer for it.