Monday, November 23, 2009

Harper damage control strategy unfolding

The elements thus far of the Conservative damage control strategy on the Afghan torture allegations and their lack of action appear to be:

1. Let Peter MacKay wear it.

2. Have the Prime Minister avoid it.

3. Manage the House of Commons Afghan Special Committee by attempting to disrupt the testimonial schedule, pushing for Conservative friendly witnesses to appear pronto.

4. Release government statements suddenly that incredibly now include details that have been heretofore untold to the Canadian public. Only when they are under the gun, fighting to keep a political storm under wraps, do they deign to release such information. The statement includes information on the halts to detainee transfers referenced on the weekend by General Natynczyk. In other words, they were forced to speak to it given his disclosure. Notably, the halts seem to have occurred three times in 2009 and once in November of 2007. None during 2006 or early 2007 when Colvin's warnings were made. That's remarkable.
Since the May 2007 Supplementary Transfer Arrangement was implemented, Canada has temporarily paused transferring detainees once in November 2007 and on three occasions in 2009. The first two pauses in 2009 were related to allegations about treatment, the last pause was related to access to facilities. All three pauses were for brief periods of time. The first allegations in 2009 were investigated by Afghan officials and appropriate corrective actions were taken. In the latter case, Afghan officials moved quickly to restore unrestricted access to facilities. When Canadian officials were satisfied that the original concerns were appropriately addressed, the transfer process resumed.
The problem of ignoring Colvin's warnings throughout 2006 and 2007 is unaddressed. There are additional details there regarding present Canadian policy on detainee allegations and it reads like a lawyerly defence to "command responsibility" allegations.