Monday, December 10, 2007

Chairman Harper Gags Canada's Military

Achtung! From this day forward, requests for information and interviews must now be pre-cleared by the military with their political commisars, senior bureaucrats under the prime minister's office. It sounds awfully Stalinesque.

The Privy Council Office directive applies to all matters of "national importance," but is primarily focused on shaping information related to the war in Afghanistan.

The order was issued within the last two weeks and caps a determined effort by the Conservatives to assert more civilian control over the military, which has been seen in government circles to have too much influence in the conduct of the war.

Clamping down on public comment follows restrictions imposed earlier this year by the military itself on the release of documents under access-to-information legislation.

Smothering the political fire of the Afghanistan debate has been a principal aim this fall for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who effectively shut down opposition criticism in the House of Commons by appointing a eminent persons panel to review Canada's role beyond 2009.

"They want to turn the noise down," said one defence source.

A second official added that the military side was in the "information business" while the political side was "in the marketing business."

A retired colonel and expert in access-to-information said the military, the group that has been most effective in rallying support for Afghanistan and explaining the mission to Canadians, has been gagged.
"People should absolutely be concerned because these are our sons and daughters serving in Afghanistan," said Michel Drapeau, a lawyer and defence commentator.

"It leaves one with the impression of some sort of political manipulation or lack of transparency, where transparency should be absolutely necessary."

Lack of transparency? I don't think so. What could be easier than seeing through Stephen Harper?

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