A month ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time Peter MacKay , and Minister of Defence at the time Gordon O'Connor all denied ever seeing any of the 16 reports "circulated widely throughout the Foreign Affairs and Defence departments and also shared with senior military commanders in Ottawa and Afghanistan" warning that Afghan authorities were abusing detainees handed over by Canadian forces.
How did they all manage to miss all those reports from Richard Colvin, the second in command of Afghan reconstruction at the time? we asked ourselves, somewhat rhetorically.
Murray Brewster, CP :
Canadian diplomats in Afghanistan were ordered in 2007 to hold back information in their reports to Ottawa about the handling of the prisoners, say defence and foreign affairs sources.
The instruction — issued soon after allegations of torture by Afghan authorities began appearing in public — was aimed at defusing the explosive human-rights controversy, said sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
There was a fear that graphic reports, even in censored form, could be uncovered by opposition parties and the media through access-to-information laws, leading to revelations that would further erode already-tenuous public support.
(Ed. : Yeah. Requests for boots to wade through blood and feces will do that.)
The controversy was seen as “detracting from the narrative” the Harper government was trying to weave around the mission, said one official.
“It was meant to put on happy face,” he added.
The instruction was passed over the telephone by senior officials in the Privy Council Office and reinforced in follow-up conferences between Ottawa and Kabul, as well Ottawa and Kandahar, sources said."
Military Police Complaints Commissioner Peter A. Tinsley, chair of the derailed hearings looking into this, and Richard Colvin, First Secretary at the Canadian Embassy in Washington and the diplomat who sent those 16 reports three years ago, will be witnesses at the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan today.
With 6 Cons, 3 Libs, 2 Bloc, and 1 NDP on the committee, the Cons will go for that elusive war crimes 'happy face', aided in no small part by the looney antics of Laurie Goldie Hawn(Con), but Paul Dewar(NDP) uses his scant ten minutes questioning time on this committee brilliantly.
It's listed as a public meeting - wonder if they'll change that? - see you back here later after I've watched it.
UPDATE : A big storm passing through here is intermittantly knocking out the power and making listening to the committee rather difficult so in the meantime here's what others have reported :
The wonderful Murray Brewster/CP :
"[Colvin] says all of the prisoners Canada handed to Afghanistan’s notorious intelligence service in 2006-07 were tortured — and many of them were likely innocent … farmers, truck drivers and peasants "in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"In other words, we detained and handed over for severe torture, a lot of innocent people."
In a blistering indictment of Ottawa’s handling of prisoners, Colvin said the Red Cross tried for three months in 2006 to warn the Canadian army in Kandahar about what was happening to prisoners, but no one would “even take their phone calls."
He said he was ordered not to write about prisoners, and soon afterward reports from the field began to be "censored" and revised to the point where diplomats could "no longer write that the security situation in Afghanistan was deteriorating."
"all of the prisoners" That's new.
Interesting also that Gordon O'Connor's bogus and already debunked Red Cross alibi in the House was not only not an alibi but he made it while the Red Cross was attempting to bring the torture to his attention.
"Colvin said Canada was taking six times as many detainees as British troops and 20 times as many as the Dutch.
He said unlike the British and Dutch, Canada did not monitor their conditions; took days, weeks or months to notify the Red Cross; kept poor records; and to prevent scrutiny, the Canadian Forces leadership concealed this behind "walls of secrecy."
He said the most common forms of torture were beatings, whipping with power cables, the use of electricity, knives, open flames and rape."
Parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs Peter Kent said "since the new transfer agreement was signed, the government has received no complaints of torture."
L. O. fucking. L.
Kady liveblogs the committee.
WED 10:00PM PST- Colvin speaks to the committee live on CPAC right now.
Wow. More of the smearing of witnesses we've come to expect from the Cons in committee.
~ Cheryl Gallant. Although Richard Colvin took pains in his opening statement to make clear that he had nothing but admiration for the brave Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan, none of whom to his knowledge had anything to do with torturing Afghans, Cheryl Gallant used her allotted time to lecture Colvin on how Canadian soldiers had nothing to do with torturing Afghans. She also chastised him for "fanning the flames of outrage" and lectured him on how "planting stories" is in the "Al Qaida handbook". Wanker.
~ Laurie Goldie Hawn, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay. Colvin never witnessed torture first hand - so take that, Red Cross. Torture was probably self-inflicted and isn't it suspicious that of all the public servants who were bullied out of testifying by the Cons, Colvin is the only one with the guts to torpedo his own career by coming forward. Yes, Goldie, obviously Colvin is up to something. Wanker.
~ Peter Goldring. Ditto Goldie but more pompously. Wanker.
~ Jim Abbott. Ditto Goldie, plus if our record-keeping and monitoring of prisoners was so bad, how do we know any of this even happened? As Kady pointed out in the link above, Abbott clearly thinks this is his 'Columbo' moment on committee.
I don't know how to explain their shocking behavior other than to guess they all saw the movie High Noon as kids and somehow thought Gary Cooper was the bad guy, taking the townspeople for their role models instead.
Will the rest of Canada stand up for Richard Colvin? He's going to need it.