Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Buck passing at year end

Give your head a shake at the latest from the PM: "Torture issue Afghan problem, not Canadian: PM." Harper is moving to put great distance between Canada and the Afghan government over handling of detainees. It's all their responsibility, Canada really has nothing to do with it, according to hands-off Harper, who is becoming quite comfortable in that role on the international scene it appears. In his year end interview to TVA, he had this to say in a herculean buck passing effort (apparently he says this during the full CTV year end interview too, yet to be aired):
“The allegations are not being made – I hope – against Canadian soldiers,” Mr. Harper said in a year-end interview with the French-language television network TVA. “… Our diplomats reformed the transfer system. We are speaking here of a problem among Afghans. It's not a problem between Canadians and Afghans. We're speaking of problems between the government of Afghanistan and the situation in Afghanistan. We are trying to do what's possible to improve that situation, but it's not in our control.
The obligatory use of the troops as a shield, of course, that's his well-established m.o. at this point. But this now is rather remarkable chutzpah, trying to say that his government's actions in 2006-2007 that have been under the microscope are irrelevant. He's spinning the problem now as an Afghan-on-Afghan construct and hoping that polls move his way. But polling on who is benefiting from the political handling of torture allegations is obscene, the allegations should be pursued irrespective of any such numbers. International actors won't care about Mr. Harper's domestic political calculations.

Back to the main issue here, Harper knows that as part of our Afghan mission, we have Geneva Conventions obligations with respect to the transfer of detainees. That if we know that there is the risk of torture by Afghans, we should not be transferring them to Afghans. Then once we've transferred, we have ongoing obligations to correct the situation if we're notified of torture allegations. So it's in an ongoing manner, by virtue of our role there, that we are inextricably connected to what he describes as an Afghan-on-Afghan problem. His government, as the civilian leadership exercising control over the military has ultimate responsibility for overseeing that we act in accordance with those standards. Canada can't shirk like Mr. Harper is doing, pointing fingers at Afghans and trying to erase his government's accountability.

That he's spinning these obligations away like just any other routine political matter, it just seems immoral. There's no sense of higher purpose here, Mr. Harper is fatally preoccupied with finding the latest crafty political escape hatch, no more, no less.

If there's any comfort to be found for anyone watching Mr. Harper day in and day out, it's that increasingly, voices are speaking up against his excess. The latest today,"Who's next on Harper's smear list?" The Conservatives may smugly feel they are getting away with it all but the voices are multiplying as good people are being smeared and lines are being crossed.