Thursday, November 19, 2009

CTV's Lowest Moment?

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.


LeDaro said...

"To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to sat of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true."
I believe Aristotle said that. Truth is very confusing in the real world my friend.

susansmith said...

Meanwhile the Harper talking point for Rememberance Day ceremonies is all about our men and women in the armed forces are fighting for "freedom" (but that is selective freedom for the privileged).

Torture is wrong under any circumstances - right folks?

Anonymous said...

Torture is wrong and following the Geneva Convention SAVES lives--on both sides. My Grandad was in Europe for five years and we talked about it alot. He'd be sickened by this. It's not a value of human life that anyone should hold. But I think alot of people here have been de-sensitzed since Abu Ghraib. As for Mr. Hawns' statement that they're 'trained to lie'--that sounds more like CPC modus operandi when you see how they distract, deny and obstruct on all files. When they're not doing that they're poisoning the well of debate. MoS, is it a fact that Correctional Service of Canada has employees in Afghanistan training and helping establish a system? I think I heard it reported on once or twice, but if so, why? None of this can end well. LK

Purple library guy said...

"Trained to lie", huh? Well I guess Tory staffers would know all about that.

The Mound of Sound said...

I'm not aware of just what Canadian Correctional Service staffers may be doing in Afghanistan but I'm sure it would have next to nothing of interest to Afghanistan's secret police, the actual torturers.

Here's a bit of trivia for you. When the CIA toppled Iran's democratically elected government and installed Shah Pahlavi in his place, who organized and trained the Shah's secret police, the Savak who made the Gestapo look like pussies? An American named Schwartzkopf - yeah, Norman's dad.

You're right, torture is wrong but it's always going to pop up. The important thing is that it has to be ruthlessly supressed if it's not to take hold like a noxious weed. You have to relentlessly prosecute not just the torturers but those who directed them and those who were complicit in torture. It's like gangrene. You have to amputate.

Jingles said...

In Canada we need to have a number of overseas television news hours. That way, we would be able to decipher what is true and what is not. While I was living in South Korea, I had available to me all the Korean stations and the English speaking station called Arirang, then there was Singapore, ABC Australia, CNN and CTTV9 China, Deutshe Welle Germany and BBC. I will not include American television in my complaint about Canada for their announcers are loud and not very polite except PBS.