Sunday, January 25, 2009

Harper's Khadr gaffe

Just wanted to add a point or two on Harper's latest on Guantanamo Bay, as reported by Canwest Friday: "Khadr was not a 'child soldier': Harper."  I think this was a gaffe from the freelancer in chief.  Note that this comes from a television interview. When unscripted, that's when Harper goes down rabbit holes that aren't necessarily helpful for him on any given issue. When he's pushed by reporters, he tends to commit errors like his inflammatory "gala people" whopper during the election. Like his "this is a good time to buy stocks" whopper. This seems to be a similar kind of remark.  He's not that good unscripted.  

Why would he stick to this hard line position now, after all? It's hard to imagine why he would want to keep going down this road.  Obama is likely coming here in February and all reasonable speculation tends to think that Khadr's repatriation is going to come up.  Yet here's Harper, the last western leader to enthusiastically support Guantanamo still out there on his limb. His comment that Khadr was not a child soldier is, after all, exactly what the Guantanamo military commission ruled with respect to Khadr at the end of April.  So he's still parroting the Bush administration's position.  Despite this week's developments which saw Obama's executive order to close the place.  Despite the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Canada is a signatory. And despite the advice of his own lawyers in the Department of Justice.  How is this helpful?  It's just obstinate.

Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae said it is "preposterous" that Ottawa is defending the Guantanamo military tribunals even when the United States has stopped them.

"The only guy now in the world who seems to believe in Guantanamo and military tribunals is Stephen Harper," Mr. Rae said.
"They've been in denial for so long," he said. "It's like a Monty Python sketch: This is a dead tribunal."
MacKay and Rae perhaps got to Harper and led him to publicly take a position that's not helpful in terms of the relationship with the Obama administration at the moment.  MacKay in particular likely caused this "who's the boss" moment.  A moment demonstrating once more how incapable he can be of demonstrating foresight and flexibility as a leader.  He flubbed the economic update in the fall and has been acting ever since to correct his mistakes.  He's doing the same thing on Khadr.