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Calling all Liberals (particularly the Nervous Nellies in caucus), it’s time.

First we have this:

The Harper government’s position that it was not aware the military had suspended the transfer of prisoners to Afghan custody fully unravelled Friday as the Prime Minister’s communications director retracted comments she had made to that effect, while the Opposition claimed it was briefed on the policy change two weeks ago.

And then we have this:

Sources at the Defence Department said military commanders were livid at the assertion and insisted the government was informed “promptly” after the transfers were halted.”I can’t give you dates and times right now, but it was soon after,” said a source with knowledge of the briefings. “There have been a […]

Some holes in the “we didn’t know transfers had stopped” defence? (Update: PMO retracts “military didn’t tell us” claim)

Ok, so the Conservative government is now claiming they weren’t aware of the Canadian Armed Forces having stopped the transfer of detainees to the Afghanistan authorities (even though most of us agree that it was a GOOD thing this happened, the Harper government seems embarrassed by it – maybe because of all those “You’re all Taliban lovers” attacks it hurled at the opposition parties when it was asked to halt the transfers after the allegations of prisoner abuse first came up).

Courtesy of the sharp eyes of Jimbobby, however, we find this story in the Ottawa Citizen about the testimony at the Federal Court involving the Amnesty/BCCLA lawsuit:

We didnt know! Honest! Its the military’s fault! (or its to the military’s credit).

The Conservative government’s latest claim about the detainees issue is a whopper; they are claiming both privately and publicly that they had no idea that the transfer of detainees had ceased in November, and it was the Canadian Armed Forces and their commanders that made that decision.

There are 2 scenarios that are possibilities here; neither very good. The first scenario is that the Conservative government is telling 1 big fib to the Canadian people about this. With the control-freak style that Harper and his PMO uses to run things, you can’t help but be sceptical about this claim of being unaware of this major detail. The other scenario is that if this is true, then it was the Canadian military who got scared that they were violating the Geneva Conventions and did all this behind the government’s back, which means the military didn’t buy all the bluster coming out of Ottawa at the time that everything was fine and dandy and no one needed to worry.

To be honest, I’m almost inclined to believe the Conservatives that it wasn’t the government who ordered the transfers to stop, because as myself and others have said, we’ve been puzzled why they would keep this action secret all this time, when it would have garnered them some grudging respect from their political opponents for doing the right thing, and probably defused the issue back in November. With these denials of any knowledge of this, they’re appearing to run from the issue and slough it off onto the military, and by this action, they appear to think the halting of transfers is a BAD thing, and they appear to be trying to disavow any knowledge of this (do they think their hard-core supporters will call them wimps for trying to stay within the terms of the Geneva Convention?)

One of the talking points of some of our Blogging Tory colleagues has been to say that the government should be deserving credit for ending these transfers, rather then being slagged for keeping it a secret. That point is highly debatable, but I would say even that point is completely destroyed if the government had nothing to do with it. Rather, it’s the Canadian military who should be lauded for doing the right thing. As for the Conservative Government, Impolitical has it right when she says they have shown “an absolute abdication of responsibility of their civilian oversight of the military on a fundamental issue. And conduct demonstrating utter contempt for the Canadian public’s right to know that the issue was being handled properly.”

We’re going to be seeing fireworks in the House of Commons in QP on Monday, you can be sure.

You might want to go over to Galloping Beaver and read Dave’s article about why he thinks Sandra Buckler and the Harperites are full of it by trying to shuffle responsibility of this onto the military. As a former military guy, he would know the relationship between the civilian government and the military it purports to be in charge of. I recommend reading his column.

FURTHER [email protected] 11:20am: Even if the Cons. didn’t originally know about the Canadian Armed Forces decision to halt transfers in November, it certainly had found out between then and a couple of days ago, when it delivered its submission to the Federal Court that transfers had halted in November.  If so, they still sat on the information and only released it in trying to get Amnesty and the BCCLA to drop their court case. Does that show they wanted to keep the decision by the Armed Forces hidden so they could try to continue to bash the Opposition as “Taliban lovers”, or that they were embarrassed by this change in plan, which was apparently behind their backs, as they claim? More questions then answers at this point. Bottom line is the Conservatives look deceitful either way.

Coverup

It appears that not only was the Conservative government not revealing to Canadians or misleading the House about the halting of prisoner detainees last November, but their advocates in court were either unaware that the government had done this, or worse, they knew, but were misleading the Federal Court in an effort to fend off the lawsuit demanding that transfers be stopped:

More than a month after it stopped handing prisoners over to Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security, the Harper government sent a senior general to give a sworn affidavit in the case brought by Amnesty and BCCLA. Brigadier-General André Deschamps, chief of staff to Canada’s Expeditionary Forces Command, which runs the counterinsurgency operation in Afghanistan, asserted that Canada would have to quit fighting if it was barred from transferring detainees.

Well, Canada hasn’t been barred (yet) from turning over detainees, but we certainly haven’t “quit fighting” since November 5 when we halted prisoner transfers, now have we? This claim looks like bunk, but wait, there’s more from the general:

He also said, in his Dec. 14 affidavit, that more Canadian troops might be killed if detainee transfers were halted.
Listing a long series of possible embarrassments and defeats, Gen. Deschamps, outlined what he said would be the dire, war-losing consequences should Canada be barred from turning prisoners it captured on the battlefield over to Afghan security forces.

This at minimum looks like alarmist rhetoric designed to try and scare the Federal Court into continuing to allow these transfers. At any rate, the Federal Court judge remembers (or was reminded) what this fellow originally claimed in his affidavit and wants him back in for a repeat questioning by the lawyers of Amnesty/BCCLA and possibly even herself. If this General testified and said what he did knowing already that the Conservatives had halted the transfers without telling anyone, I’m no lawyer, but if this doesn’t put him in peril of being charged with perjury, at the very least it doesn’t help the government’s court case at all, and it does lead to some serious questions as to whether anyone in the Conservative government had told him to say all this under oath.

I don’t get Harper at all; if he had revealed back in November that Canada was concerned enough to halt transfers, he would not only have defused this issue long ago, he and his government would have (after being reminded about all those “the opposition loves the Taliban” claims) been given some credit for doing the proper action in light of these allegations.

I’m guessing that in the Conservatives mind, revealing this decision was a sign of showing weakness, and Harper and his Cons certainly have gone around trying to claim they’re “tough” – tough on crime, tough on national defence, tough on the anti-terrorism front – but this time their macho attitude, and the fear of losing that appearance over actually doing the right thing, may cost him and his government dearly.

Harper and Cons halted prisoner transfers without bothering to tell anyone and while dissing the opposition.

The Canadian people really need to thank Amnesty International and the BC Civil Liberties Union for taking the Conservative Government of Canada to court to try and stop Afghan prisoner transfers. For without that court case, the documents they obtained in the course of that court fight that showed the Conservatives KNEW there were credible cases of torture going in with prisoner transfers in Afghanistan never would have seen the light of day, and without that document being revealed, who knows when the Government of Canada would have admitted that prisoner transfers were halted in November without any announcement, which they only divulged because they were involved in this court […]

So let me get this straight..

We paid John Manley 1400$/day and the other panelists 1000$/day (admittedly they didn’t do this job 5 days/week) to produce a report that was almost identical to what Mr. Manley already had written in October of 2007, with only minor changes to it so as to not overly criticize the Karzai government?

As Kady O’Malley says at her blogsite at Macleans, “it does raise the question of whether Manley had already made up his mind long before he took the job.”

I think the question has already been answered, Ms. O’Malley. Many of us long suspected that Manley was picked to be the head of a hand-picked panel to ensure […]

Afghan detainees continue to be tortured, and the Cons. continue to try and hide it.

Gee, now why would they try to hide these documents, do you think?

Compelling evidence that Canadian-transferred detainees are still being tortured in Afghan prisons emerged Monday from the government’s own follow-up inspection reports, documents it has long tried to keep secret…“Under the chair we found a large piece of braided electrical cable as well as a rubber hose,” reads the subsequent diplomatic cable marked “secret” and distributed to some of the most senior officials in the Canadian government and officers in the Canadian military. The Globe and Mail has established that the report of the case is recent, written after a Nov. 5, 2007, inspection of the National Directorate of Security prison in Kandahar. That was six months after a supposedly improved transfer agreement was put in place to monitor detainee treatment…the new documents provide specific evidence of torture and abuse of specific detainees known to have been handed over by Canadians and subsequently interviewed by Canadians.

What does this show? Harper and the Conservatives can no longer claim reports of torture and beatings are “Taliban propaganda”. It also shows this government knew of these reports and desperately tried to keep them secret, so it wouldn’t face additional scrutiny as when this first came out, and cost Gordon O’Conner his job as Defence Minister.

What else does it mean? Canada is apparently under this government knowingly violating the part of international law known as the Geneva Conventions – I am sure Harper and MaCkay have heard of those, though apparently they dont care a whit about violating international law. I can put it no better then what Impolitical did at her site:

(The Conservatives) just don’t get it that it doesn’t matter who the detainees are. It doesn’t matter if they’re Taliban. Canada adheres to the rule of law. We don’t torture and we don’t hand over prisoners to be tortured. Because if we do, we’re violating international law. We’re becoming the ugly force we’re supposedly trying to fight against.

I also agree with her that this is yet another reason to be urging the Liberals to stop being hesitant about bringing the government down. Do we want Canada to be following in the footsteps of George Bush and his band of Republicans, with their callous disregard of the rule of law, who don’t think employing torture on its captives are a bad thing, or do we want to act like a civilized nation, as we have for many years before Harper and his neo-conservative Bush-loving bunch took over, and do we take a stand and say that this is un-Canadian to be knowingly handing over prisoners that we know are going to be likely tortured, and violating international law?

There are many reasons to bring this government down now – add another to the list. Don’t wait for the Budget, Mr Dion and Liberals. Take them out ASAP, before they do any more damage to Canada’s reputation abroad, and to us as a nation.

I wouldn’t mourn at all..

…if their brand of posting finally has caught up to them and subsequently resulted in them getting sued and/or led to the removal of said sites from the blogosphere. It would make it a much less wingnutty place online (though I’m sure the “fans” of said sites would just migrate somewhere else)

I see that the realization of what they done has sunk in to at least one of them, but I’ll be honest; I still believe the lot of them deserve to get sued by Mr. Warman for initiating an online smear campaign against a man who was described by the CJC as “honourable” and the target of unnecessary […]

Elizabeth May guestblogs on the Linda Keen/Gary Lunn nuclear fiasco at Scott’s Diatribes.

(Foreword: There have been many comments on the blogs over the firing of Linda Keen in the middle of the night and the circumstances surrounding it. One of those was from Chris Tindal, Green Party blogger and candidate who I met at the Progressive Blogger BBQ in Toronto last August. I casually asked Chris out of the blue if Green Party leader Elizabeth May would like to express an opinion on the Keen firing and how Gary Lunn and Harper have handled the situation in an op-ed on a blog. A day later, Ms. May contacted me and was pleased to do so, so my thanks to Chris for arranging […]

The question every opposition MP should be asking Maxime Bernier in QP…

…when it recommences should be:

“Mr Speaker, I would like to ask the Foreign Affairs Minister whether he believes waterboarding is torture or not.”

If the answer to that question is yes, waterboarding is considered torture, the followup question should be: “Mr Speaker, if the Minister believes waterboarding is torture, and we know for a fact that waterboarding is standard operating procedure for interrogations in the US and at Guantanamo Bay, why was the US removed from this list that the Foreign Affairs Dept. developed for our diplomats? And isn’t all this flip-flopping by the Minister really political cover to stop people from asking if the Foreign Affairs Dept believes […]

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