Friday, December 18, 2009

Coverups vs Crimes continued

I am still mystified.  I have been asked by reporters about Canada's detainee crisis.  The essential nugget of the story is whether and when did Canadian soldiers know that the Afghans they picked up and then turned over to the local Afghan authorities were being abused.

The mystifying part is that the current government has been essentially denying knowledge of this possibility/reality--that detainees might be abused once they are turned over.  Everything anybody knew about Afghanistan would tell them that this was a real possibility.  And it seems to be the case that denials occurred long after journalists revealed that abuses were going on.  See the handy interactive timeline attached to this article.

I think a bit of honesty would have gone a long way--that there are few good choices when it comes to detention in Afghanistan.  How about saying this: "The US option is out due to American mistakes/abuses of the past decade.  Canada has no capacity, so folks were turned over to the Afghans. When it became clear that folks could be abused and the monitoring system was not working, we developed a new one.  Not a perfect one, and there are still problems that we are trying to resolve.  We have occasionally held up transfers (as they did when I was in Afghanistan in Dec 07) when things looked especially bad.  We have put more effort into the prison system but this is a work in progress."

Nope, denial.  To be clear, Canadians did not abuse these guys, but turned them over to those who did.  And this is not the US-style of getting others to do their dirty work, but simply the challenge of operating in a country that does not share the same values/practices.

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