Friday, November 20, 2009

The Conservative propaganda machine goes to war

Yesterday was devoted to tearing down Canadian diplomat and intelligence officer Richard Colvin: "Tories work to undermine diplomat who blew whistle on torture." It may be tougher this time, they've gone down this road repeatedly over their tenure now. The various public servants they've steamrolled are being duly noted. Journalists are asking tough questions.

For example, if you didn't get a chance, listen to the audio of Peter MacKay scrumming with media. They sound quite skeptical of the government's smear job and I hope they don't give up. Listen to MacKay dismiss Colvin's testimony repeatedly as second, third hand information, despite the ridiculous nature of such dismissals. Unless a person witnesses torture in real time, it's not enough for Sheriff MacKay.

There is also an outrageously cryptic statement from MacKay when asked why, if Colvin is so suspect in credibility, he was promoted to an intelligence position at the Canadian Embassy in Washington: "I suspect that promotion took place long before he gave his evidence yesterday." What? What an outrageous implication from MacKay. Apparently Colvin would never get the post now given what he testified to on Wednesday. Foreign affairs and other public servants be warned. That's one of the ugly sides of this government and MacKay feels no hesitation in publicly demonstrating it.

Also in on the team strategy, apparently, General Hillier. Minimizing, dismissing, mocking. He never read any of Colvin's reports, of course not, why would we expect anyone in leadership at this point to say otherwise? None of them are responsible they just plausibly deny. And he attacks Colvin's qualifications, even though Colvin was the number two diplomat in Afghanistan:
“He appears to have covered an incredibly broad spectrum, much of which I'm not sure he's qualified to talk about.”
Great off the cuff insider sensational fare of the moment for the dinner crowd in Toronto but uninformed and an unwarranted hit.

The Globe provides corroboration to Colvin in an editorial today:
Peter MacKay, the Minister of Defence, and other Conservative MPs, have been impugning the solidity of Mr. Colvin's beliefs that many detainees have been tortured. Mr. Colvin does not stand alone in his conclusions; notably, Graeme Smith of The Globe and Mail, has assembled substantial evidence of such torture.
Smith spoke quite candidly about his experience on CTV's Power Play yesterday. He provides an interesting counter to Hillier, speaking of the harm that Canada's reputation suffers on the ground in Afghanistan as a result of our handing over Afghans to a tortuous regime. "I have met the men who have been tortured..." said Smith. He describes himself as "flabbergasted by MacKay's comments." Worth watching.

It's time to say a resounding NO to the politics of personal destruction the Conservatives are implementing in Canada. And a resounding NO to their propaganda machine. This is a real test.

Other related news, op-ed items:

"Colvin's no dupe."
"Our own little Abu Ghraib?"
"We need a public inquiry."
"Canadian officials discussed torture in 2006."
H├ębert: "MPs out of the loop on Afghan torture? Unlikely"[ed: Shouldn't that read "Ministers?"]

Other related blog posts on the torture issue:

July 9, 2007, "Tsk, tsk, General." Here's something Hillier or other military leadership should be asked about when they appear before the Afghanistan Committee (some next week). There is reporting that suggests Hillier was quite involved in documentation pertaining to detainees in Afghanistan despite his protestations:
The office of General Rick Hillier, Canada's top soldier, has halted the release of any documents relating to detainees captured in Afghanistan under the federal Access to Information Act, claiming that disclosure of any such information could endanger Canadian troops.

According to documents made available to The Globe and Mail, the Strategic Joint Staff, a newly created group that advises Gen. Hillier, has been reviewing all Access to Information requests about detainees since March, shortly after the detainee controversy first erupted.
More on that Strategic Joint Staff effort here: January 3, 2008: "If the Canadian public gets information, the Taliban wins."

September 22, 2007: "Afghan detainees missing."