Canadas "Abu Ghraib" Media Circus

#1
It looks like it may be Canada's turn in the "Abu Ghraib" spotlight.


Document war
The government continues to zigzag

Mar 31st 2010 | OTTAWA | From The Economist print edition

WHEN Stephen Harper, Canada’s Conservative prime minister, abruptly prorogued parliament in late December his opponents charged that he wanted to avoid awkward questions about how Canadian forces in Afghanistan handled detainees. With parliament finally sitting again last month, the Liberal opposition complained to the speaker of the House of Commons, Peter Milliken, that withholding this information was a violation of parliamentary privilege. Mr Milliken is unlikely to rule on this until after the Easter break. But meanwhile the government on March 25th deposited with the house several boxes containing 2,500 pages of unsorted and heavily edited government documents.

This amounted to another zigzag from Mr Harper on the issue, which concerns whether officials knew that some of the detainees handed over to their Afghan counterparts might be tortured. The Conservatives argued that making the material public would compromise national security. But the government then asked a retired Supreme Court justice, Frank Iacobucci, to review all documents going back to 2001 (when Canadian troops first went to Afghanistan under a Liberal government) to determine what could be released. The document dump seemed to pre-empt Mr Iacobucci’s review. But the hundreds of fully or partially blacked-out pages highlight the monumental task he faces.

The government has a point on the need for some confidentiality. For example, releasing everything might identify, and compromise the safety of, Afghan informants who told the International Committee of the Red Cross about the abuse of prisoners. It might also release confidential information passed to Canada by other governments. The opposition says committee members can review all the documents privately and decide what to release. But there are no agreed rules for how to do this. Nor have there been any negotiations among the parties about how to approach the task. Some in Ottawa question whether members of the committee from the separatist Bloc Québécois can be counted on, even if sworn to secrecy.

On the other hand, the opposition distrusts the open-ended nature of the national-security argument mounted by the government. Opponents accuse Mr Harper of running a rather secretive government, blocking requests under the freedom of information law and gagging ministers on many issues.

Even heavily edited, the documents make it clear that mistakes were indeed made in Afghanistan. It took time to develop a system to track prisoners and ensure they received proper treatment. But the documents also paint a picture of the difficulties Canadian forces faced in Kandahar in 2006: soldiers were being killed by roadside bombs, and the force lacked facilities to hold prisoners. Had Mr Harper simply admitted as much at the outset, the issue might quickly have faded away. It may yet do so. Precedent, or rather the lack of it, suggests that the speaker is unlikely to order the release of secret documents without the government’s approval.

Mr Harper inherited the Afghan mission, but has promised to end it next year. At a meeting about the Arctic in Ottawa this week, Hillary Clinton, the American secretary of state, urged Canada to keep at least some of the troops beyond that date, albeit to train local forces. But the Afghan deployment is unpopular and Mr Harper leads a minority government. That counts for a lot.

http://www.economist.com/world/americas/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15818954
Edited to clarify the title
 
#3
Milton_Jones said:
Yeah, Canuckistans abu whatsit would consist of denying them colour satelite tv and timmy's
Perhaps but some incidents in Somalia involving abuse of prisoners that led to the sad demise of its Airborne Regiment may suggest otherwise. Such things can happen in ANY military if leaders get complacent.
 
#4
jumpinjarhead said:
...Such things can happen in ANY military if leaders get complacent.
I agree, but I thought the Canadian controversy is mainly about the alleged mistreatment by Afghan national forces (ANA/ANP) of detainees transferred to them by Canadian forces ... an allegation which has also been made against other ISAF contingents ... but is not about direct mistreatment by the Canadians themselves.
 
#5
The opposition parties like the Liberals are eager to paint our soldiers as monsters and not as the heroes that they are,to fire up their base just to score some political points,they're a fcuking disgrace ever since Trudeau came to power.
 
#6
hackle said:
jumpinjarhead said:
...Such things can happen in ANY military if leaders get complacent.
I agree, but I thought the Canadian controversy is mainly about the alleged mistreatment by Afghan national forces (ANA/ANP) of detainees transferred to them by Canadian forces ... an allegation which has also been made against other ISAF contingents ... but is not about direct mistreatment by the Canadians themselves.
First let me make it clear I am not trying to sully the Canadian forces in any way but was only sympathizing to the extent they get similiar media treatment as did US forces generally for crimes of a few. As for your point about Canadian troops not being directly involved, the law is that a capturing force is responsible for captives they hand over to others for detention.
 
#7
jumpinjarhead said:
hackle said:
jumpinjarhead said:
...Such things can happen in ANY military if leaders get complacent.
I agree, but I thought the Canadian controversy is mainly about the alleged mistreatment by Afghan national forces (ANA/ANP) of detainees transferred to them by Canadian forces ... an allegation which has also been made against other ISAF contingents ... but is not about direct mistreatment by the Canadians themselves.
First let me make it clear I am not trying to sully the Canadian forces in any way but was only sympathizing to the extent they get similiar media treatment as did US forces generally for crimes of a few. As for your point about Canadian troops not being directly involved, the law is that a capturing force is responsible for captives they hand over to others for detention.
Thanks for that re not sullying Canadian forces in any way. I appreciate that and of course accept what you say.

Over here we are aware of the responsibilities of the Detaining Power under the Third Geneva Convention, but the situation still isn't comparable with Abu Ghraib.

In my view we should be slow to blame troops (as opposed to their government, which should certainly be engaged with such issues) for transferring detainees to the lawful recognised security forces of the host nation.
 
#8
hackle said:
jumpinjarhead said:
hackle said:
jumpinjarhead said:
...Such things can happen in ANY military if leaders get complacent.
I agree, but I thought the Canadian controversy is mainly about the alleged mistreatment by Afghan national forces (ANA/ANP) of detainees transferred to them by Canadian forces ... an allegation which has also been made against other ISAF contingents ... but is not about direct mistreatment by the Canadians themselves.
First let me make it clear I am not trying to sully the Canadian forces in any way but was only sympathizing to the extent they get similiar media treatment as did US forces generally for crimes of a few. As for your point about Canadian troops not being directly involved, the law is that a capturing force is responsible for captives they hand over to others for detention.
Thanks for that re not sullying Canadian forces in any way. I appreciate that and of course accept what you say.

Over here we are aware of the responsibilities of the Detaining Power under the Third Geneva Convention, but the situation still isn't comparable with Abu Ghraib.

In my view we should be slow to blame troops (as opposed to their government, which should certainly be engaged with such issues) for transferring detainees to the lawful recognised security forces of the host nation.
I agree completely and by my reference to "Abu Ghraib" did not intend to put the situations on a par in any substantive sense but only to the extent the media tends to paint with a very wide brush and accuse, try, convict and hang all in a headline. That was the reason I used the term "spotlight."

Having seen how our military (and especially my service) is so often attacked in the media coverage of various incidents often without regard to the facts or the rights of those involved, I would not intentionally ever do that to any other service of our allies. At the same time and as I have repeatedly said elsewhere, I do not in any way condone criminal conduct by US forces or any other military for that matter and believe when such things occur they need to be quickly and thoroughly investigated and the "chips" should fall wherever the evidence leads.
 
#9
jumpinjarhead said:
Milton_Jones said:
Yeah, Canuckistans abu whatsit would consist of denying them colour satelite tv and timmy's
Perhaps but some incidents in Somalia involving abuse of prisoners that led to the sad demise of its Airborne Regiment may suggest otherwise. Such things can happen in ANY military if leaders get complacent.
The abuse of prisoners issue is something I will read about with interest. As for the Canadian Airborne Regiment....... We didn't see newsreel film of dead Cannucks being burned and the bodies towed along behind "technical" cars while the Airborne were there. And lets not forget that we are dealing with people (Somali's) who took the whole population of wimmin and children from the town of Hargeisa and machine gunned them all to death on top of a nearby hill. I am not saying that I condone the Airborne regiments activities but it sure as hell got the Somali's attention.
 
#10
eodmatt said:
jumpinjarhead said:
Milton_Jones said:
Yeah, Canuckistans abu whatsit would consist of denying them colour satelite tv and timmy's
Perhaps but some incidents in Somalia involving abuse of prisoners that led to the sad demise of its Airborne Regiment may suggest otherwise. Such things can happen in ANY military if leaders get complacent.
The abuse of prisoners issue is something I will read about with interest. As for the Canadian Airborne Regiment....... We didn't see newsreel film of dead Cannucks being burned and the bodies towed along behind "technical" cars while the Airborne were there. And lets not forget that we are dealing with people (Somali's) who took the whole population of wimmin and children from the town of Hargeisa and machine gunned them all to death on top of a nearby hill. I am not saying that I condone the Airborne regiments activities but it sure as hell got the Somali's attention.
I sympathiz(s)e with your points. A couple of observations--with respect to the horrific treatment of the noncombatants, it is generally the rule (notwithstanding the unjustified accusations against our forces generally by various anti-war/anti-"west" groups and individuals) that the US, UK and our traditional allies typically go to "war" against the "bad guys" who usually have no qualms about such things.

As for the specific incident that mushroomed into the scandal that ultimately brought down such a fine regiment and a number of officers, it was in fact a brutal and fatal beating of a teen-aged thief. This then was compounded by a "cover up" of sorts. These aspects went beyond the sort of aggressive force protection that you are alluding to.
 
#11
Thanks for the amplification. As I said, I don't condone what happened. But there is no doubt that the Somali`s thought twice before screwing with the cannucks.

And I agree that the bad guys will often claim that US, Brit and other forces use inhumane tactics when such is not the case. As an example I was present immediately after one of the breakouts of IRA scum from the Maze prison. At the time the media, especially the `Republican`` media were screaming about the brutal treatment of the escapees by the army and prison officers. It was all horse crap.
 
#12
eodmatt said:
Thanks for the amplification. As I said, I don't condone what happened. But there is no doubt that the Somali`s thought twice before screwing with the cannucks.

And I agree that the bad guys will often claim that US, Brit and other forces use inhumane tactics when such is not the case. As an example I was present immediately after one of the breakouts of IRA scum from the Maze prison. At the time the media, especially the `Republican`` media were screaming about the brutal treatment of the escapees by the army and prison officers. It was all horse crap.
Regrettably not much new under the sun in that regard. Be careful out there and enjoy some nước mắm pha for me. :D
 
#13
Aha, nước mắm pha, or rotten fish sauce, as I once heard it described. An acquired taste, but once the taste is acquired, its very good with the likes of Gỏi cuốn as you will indeed know. Careful is my middle name, I am a devout coward!
 
#14
The thing that is usually over-looked in the western media is that we find such things far more shocking than do people in Afghanistan and Iraq. Most of them just shrug their shoulders and say 'well, that's what happens in prison, isn't it?'.
 

OldSnowy

LE
Moderator
Book Reviewer
#15
Edward_Jellington said:
The thing that is usually over-looked in the western media is that we find such things far more shocking than do people in Afghanistan and Iraq. Most of them just shrug their shoulders and say 'well, that's what happens in prison, isn't it?'.
This is quite correct. Oddly, to me at least, what is happening is that legislation such as the ECHR - EU Convention on Human Rights - is now considered, by our Courts, to be extra-territorial. This means that we must ensure that, if we are to hand over anyone to a foreign Justice system, that they will treat them in the same way as would a Euro system - and in most of the world, sorry, that is not going to happen, and probably never will - and there are many cultural/political/practical/even religious reasons for this.

What is does provide is a very useful stick to beat the Government/Army with, for those who, for other reasons, do not either like our activities in foreign countries, and/or just hate the military. It also provides certain legal areas with a large fund of 'cases', all of which are eligible for Legal Aid, to keep te wolf from the (Matrix) Chambers doors.
 
#16
Edward_Jellington said:
The thing that is usually over-looked in the western media is that we find such things far more shocking than do people in Afghanistan and Iraq. Most of them just shrug their shoulders and say 'well, that's what happens in prison, isn't it?'.
Don't get your point here at all. You seem to be saying that because the locals are wont to brutalise/murder each other that we should join in or at least not get overly upset if some of our people do the same thing?
 
#17
Steven said:
Edward_Jellington said:
The thing that is usually over-looked in the western media is that we find such things far more shocking than do people in Afghanistan and Iraq. Most of them just shrug their shoulders and say 'well, that's what happens in prison, isn't it?'.
Don't get your point here at all. You seem to be saying that because the locals are wont to brutalise/murder each other that we should join in or at least not get overly upset if some of our people do the same thing?
Don't think thats at all what hes implying. More OUR Western Media make it a generalised witch hunt that is aimed at the WHOLE organisation rather than a few rotten apples. And yes it is used to score cheap points against the military as an institution, whether it be UK/US/Canadian, rather than acknowledge that in every society there are a few idiots who don't know where to draw the line.

Likewise a stated above, th emedia don't see what leads upto an incident, a good example being 18-19 yr old Brit squaddies filmed beating 16-19 yr old Iraqi 'children', yet no one commented on the Brit soldiers being petrol and pipe bombed moments before by these very same 'children', who due to their culture probably expected worst treatment, as they would receive off their own native forces.

If a Somali brutally kills someone from a different tribe, his tribe EXPECT to have retaliation against them, so are not surprised or shocked when it happens, until they realise the Western Media will make a massive deal out of it.

Not saying any of these incidents are right, but in context of the environment they happen in, they are veiwed as normal and expected. Some of these cultures only understand and respect force.

Yes we have laws and standards, but we shouldn't besmirch an entire Army/Regt because of a few incidents.
 

OldSnowy

LE
Moderator
Book Reviewer
#18
Steven said:
Edward_Jellington said:
The thing that is usually over-looked in the western media is that we find such things far more shocking than do people in Afghanistan and Iraq. Most of them just shrug their shoulders and say 'well, that's what happens in prison, isn't it?'.
Don't get your point here at all. You seem to be saying that because the locals are wont to brutalise/murder each other that we should join in or at least not get overly upset if some of our people do the same thing?
Please stop trying to shift the discussion. The question here does NOT concern any allegations of CA Forces molesting anyone.

It concerns the conduct of the Afghans AFTER the CA have handed prisoners to them. Comparisons with Abu Ghraib are specious at best.
 
#19
OldSnowy said:
Steven said:
Edward_Jellington said:
The thing that is usually over-looked in the western media is that we find such things far more shocking than do people in Afghanistan and Iraq. Most of them just shrug their shoulders and say 'well, prison, isn't it?'.
Don't get your point here at all. You seem to be saying that because the locals are wont to brutalise/murder each other that we should join in or at least not get overly upset if some of our people do the same thing?
Please stop trying to shift the discussion. The question here does NOT concern any allegations of CA Forces molesting anyone.

It concerns the conduct of the Afghans AFTER the CA have handed prisoners to them. Comparisons with Abu Ghraib are specious at best.
Fair enough. Just answering a point.

When you know or at least have a reasonable belief that any prisoners you hand over are going to be mistreated because "that's what happens" do you not share any of the blame?

Can you just wash your hands and have a clean conciense?
 
#20
The real point here is that prisoners were handed over to the legal authorities of their own nation. At that point they were teated (one assumes) in a manner consistent with the laws and customs of that nation.
What real alternative course of action was there?
They were not handed over to some random group of militia.
 

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