A Tortured Plea

I know this sentiment likely goes against the grain of conventional “liberal” thought, but I have to admit that I’m absolutely bored to death with the incessant interrogations of government officials of late by the media and opposition MPs about the issue of torture.

While it may represent a serious character flaw on my part, I have to confess that I simply don’t care. Likewise, I’ve been utterly wearied over the past several years to the point of complete disinterest by all of the mawkish rhetorical hand-wringing on the part of our liberal American friends about the alleged torture of “detainees” captured in their farcical “Global War of Terrorism.”

Here’s International Trade Minister Stockwell Day trotting out a mundane litany of “good news” from Afghanistan, describing all of the so-called achievements virtuously realized by our presence in that country, most of which simply beg to be mocked for their ridiculous fraudulence; but instead, he’s put in the relatively comfortable position of coolly deflecting the tenacious questioning of reporters about… alleged torture of some putative Taliban fighters captured and detained several years ago.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I condone torture by any means — or “enhanced interrogation” (if that’s how one wants to more politely describe simulated drowning, intimidation with vicious dogs, extended sleep deprivation, degrading acts of humiliation, enforced stress positions, not to mention all manner of psychotic mind-games) — especially in the case of probably witless, hired “insurgents” or even, as frequently seems to be the case, perfectly innocent civilians inadvertently swept up from the countryside in the fray, but this obsessive focus on “torture” (of which there’s little doubt it occurred in horrifically mismanaged Afghan jails staffed by sadistic thugs) really seems to take away from the broader questions regarding the vastly more important issues concerning the nature of our involvement in this shabby little war.

The media and the opposition parties are like a ferocious pack of dogs in pursuit of an irresistibly meaty bone when it comes to the matter of “torture” (if nothing else, the very word itself is an arrestingly sensational attention-grabber). But enough already! Why not simply admit that mistakes were made, evidently corrected to the best extent possible in a laudably professional manner by our military forces on the ground and move on to more substantive issues about the highly dubious purpose and utterly misguided objectives of the war itself. This constant, microscopic focus on the treatment of a handful of prisoners several years ago and the subsequent bungling and/or possibly deliberate cover-up of potentially embarrassing information surrounding it by Conservative hacks is not only pointless, but beyond tiresome.

I seriously hope that when parliament reconvenes after the holidays, Ignatieff can sharply refocus the Liberals’ offensive to press the government in such a way as to gain an absolute, unwavering assurance that our relatively small military presence will indeed be withdrawn entirely in 2011 rather than persisting in the current line of futile inquiry about allegations of “torture” that are all too easily prone to being characterized as willfully impugning the moral integrity of the Forces for partisan advantage.

In other words, please get a little more politically savvy… If the Conservatives have so much fabulously “good news” and terrific “gains” to report about our efforts in Afghanistan, well then run with that — declare “victory” and get the hell out of that abysmal sinkhole at the first available opportunity.

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28 Comments

Filed under Afghanistan War, Michael Ignatieff, STEPHEN HARPER Govrnment of Canada

28 responses to “A Tortured Plea

  1. TofKW

    “Why not simply admit that mistakes were made, evidently corrected to the best extent possible in a laudably professional manner by our military forces on the ground and move on to more substantive issues about the highly dubious purpose and utterly misguided objectives of the war itself.”

    Actually I’ve been saying this all along. Harper & his gang should have just let the inquiry go ahead, admit mistakes were made, half-heartedly adapt a few recommendations from the inquiry, fire a few junior ministers, and it will all be forgotten in short order.

    But they didn’t.

    And now the focus is not so much that torture by the Afghan police happened (does anyone doubt it did?) but rather the cover-up, lies and constant spin from the Harper government. Again as I’ve said earlier, these things take on a life of their own.

  2. Indeed. It’s always the contradictory lies and pathetically obvious dissembling that fuels these grubby controversies and keeps the ball rolling in the media…

  3. Navvy

    It’s strange that the media can’t seem to take a slightly wider look at this. If we went to Afghanistan to stop things like torture, what the feck are we doing there fighting to protect a government that tortures people… indeed today we find out that we were literally defending a governor who tortured people as a hobby.

    I obviously disagree with you Red, largely because I believe this issue will contribute to public distaste for the mission.

  4. Navvy — If that’s the outcome of the “debate” then I’m fine with it, I guess, but I still think it misses the point, which in my opinion should be a brutally honest assessment of what a shambolic, completely futile mess this failed state is at present, and moreover is most likely to be for the indefinite future.

    As harsh as it may sound, I’m quite firm in the belief that the best course of action would be to simply get out and let the Afghans sort things out for themselves. If that means a return of the Taliban, well so be it. Or if, more likely, it means a continuation of some kind of nasty civil war, that course of events should be allowed to play out without any interference by meddlesome outside powers.

    As for this harebrained idea of “training up” the Afghan Army and National Police Force, it’s an absolute joke. The Russians did the same thing and had a huge indigenous military force… all of which quickly deserted or took their “skills” (and equipment) to various ethnically sympathetic warring factions immediately after the Soviets left. Does anyone in their right mind imagine it would be any different in a year and half when the Americans are set to start drawing down their troops?

    Will the National Army and police forces spontaneously rally around a hopelessly corrupt, feeble and inept central government… a bankrupt puppet regime cast adrift by its international sponsors? I rather doubt it.

  5. Ti-Guy

    The last thing that occurs to me when dealing with this story is wondering what the Liberal Party should be doing.

    I’ve been working with the assumption that this is the government and whatever it does is of interest to me. That includes a multitude of topics from the goals and objectives of this mission, to the cost of it, to the treatment of the detainees, to how it (unsurprisingly at this point, I know) turns every criticism into a squalid circus of lies, dissembling and character assassination.

  6. Navvy

    I’ve been working with the assumption that this is the government and whatever it does is of interest to me.

    There seems to be this idea that there’s a finite amount of media space and it is being wasted on the torture coverup (because, as TofKW has said several times, that’s what the issue is these days, not the torture itself) to the exclusion of… other stuff. Yet I can’t go to a news site without reading about Don Cherry or Tiger Woods. I’m not exactly sure what else the story should be.

  7. Ti-Guy

    I’m not exactly sure what else the story should be.

    Well, as I alluded to, the security and development goals and objectives of the mission and how exactly the Government is lying about those. 😉

    For me, this isn’t really so much about the detainee abuse. It’s about how this goddamn government has spent almost four years campaigning on the public dime, has delivered absolutely nothing and screwed up what we already had.

  8. Harper must thank his lucky stars every day… not only for the fortuitously timed global recession, but more specifically for the magical gift the putative “Coalition” provided to him last year that not only afforded him an almost completely free reign to shower the country with patronage (aka “stimulus”) largesse, but moreover the ability to eventually reel it all back in through severe cuts to government programs and services that will in due course be deemed as “non-essential” in the name of fiscal prudence. It’s absolutely fucking brilliant.

  9. Ti-Guy

    Harper can thank his lucky stars that around 25% of the Canadian electorate are moral imbeciles. That should be clear by now.

    We are not entirely the country we think we are.

  10. What… Are you suggesting that we don’t fart rainbows? I’m shocked at your cynicism!

  11. Ti-Guy

    Well, I never expected an exceptionally high degree of moral rectitude from Canadians (or anyone else) but I figured exiling Canadian citizens and torture (and I’m not just talking about Afghanistan here) would exceed the limits of what normal, decent people would put up with. I see that I was mistaken.

    It’s not the fact that these things have occurred; it’s the fact the Conservative rank-and-file doesn’t have much of a problem with them. And it’s not a result of them just ignoring the issue: it’s the rationalisations, the excuses and the outright lying that they are engaging in to defend this government’s actions. One has to take one’s moral corruption rather seriously to even bother to put in the effort.

    I used to think moral imbeciles like Ezra Levant were exceptional among Conservatives. Now I see they’re the norm.

  12. I have to admit to being somewhat shocked reading the posts of our friend “Canadian Cynic” this weekend and his exploration of the Conservative mindset in this regard. To be honest, I haven’t been following the blogs much these days, so my speculation that right-wingnuts would be reflexively unsympathetic to charges of torture wasn’t based on evidence, but more just a logical prediction extrapolated from their frequently demonstrated attitude of mean-spirited indifference to humanitarian concerns of any sort. Colour me surprised that they would more than fulfill my lowest expectations in terms of their callous moral depravity.

  13. billg

    Problem is…the 25% of us moral imbeciles really have no where to park our vote. I really cant go back to the Liberals because, well, they have become a left of left whimsical party who can really only yell BOO and SCARY when push comes to shove..the seat totals and Poll numbers prove I’m not the only one thinking that. I’ve pretty much seen the same thing out of Stephen Harper as I’ve seen in the past from Trudeau, Mulroney and Chretien…spin, deflect, lie then spin some more, so, I cant say its anything new to me. Is Harper lucky? Maybe. Probably a little. Or maybe he understands that the same 25% of moral imbeciles who will support a Liberal government will support a Conservative government if you govern from the middle.

  14. TofKW

    “…they have become a left of left whimsical party”

    billg, you make a number of good points. But I must ask you, and I’m being quite serious, aside from Bob Rae and maybe Justin Trudeau, who exactly is the left-wing of the LPC anymore? I find it rather silly to call them left of the left, especially when the faux-Conservative party is really nothing more than neo-liberal economic policy masked by empty populism, with an equal measure of social conservatism to keep the religious-types in line. There is no proper tory-conservative party anymore in this country, and there has not been for many years now.

  15. I can’t disagree with Bill (other than with regards to his lame pretense that the Libs are “left of left”)… but in terms of his general sense of disaffection with the parties currently on offer, he’s spot on.

    I’d like to see a truly “progressive Conservative” party emerge once again from this present debacle. I think the Brits might have something of that order that will unseat the ossified Labour Party in the next election and it could well be argued that Obama represents much the same political attitude of pragmatic moderation.

  16. Ti-Guy

    Problem is…the 25% of us moral imbeciles really have no where to park our vote.

    You don’t have to change party allegiance to criticise or condemn what the government is doing. Governance isn’t just a matter of voting in an election and then going to sleep until the next one. That was the point of my last comment.

    I was vocal in my criticism of what happened to Maher Arar during the last Liberal government and before that, I made it clear that if the Liberals dragged us into Iraq, I would never vote Liberal again. I meant it too.

  17. As for this harebrained idea of “training up” the Afghan Army and National Police Force, it’s an absolute joke. The Russians did the same thing and had a huge indigenous military force… all of which quickly deserted or took their “skills” (and equipment) to various ethnically sympathetic warring factions immediately after the Soviets left. Does anyone in their right mind imagine it would be any different in a year and half when the Americans are set to start drawing down their troops?

    Exactly.

    The reality that both the Americans and Canadians are in denial of, is that Afghanistan isn’t a country the way we are or even France and Germany are. It’s an artificial entity put in place by foreign powers, and like many unstable third world countries has a population that is far more defined by tribe and language than “nationhood”.

    There is no way these people are going to put their country ahead of their ethic group, tribe or warlord. It makes as much sense as putting Mexico’s interests (as a NAFTA partner) ahead of ours.

    We’re trying to hold something together that isn’t meant to be held together. Like Yugoslavia and Iraq, the only way it could possibly work is under a strong and nasty dictator, but Afghanistan doesn’t have the infrastructure to centralize authority in a way to make that work.

    On an individual level I feel awful for the women of the country, who according to most accounts made significant gains in access to education and medical care from 2001-2005, but that is starting to fall apart even now.

  18. billg

    Sorry…the Liberal policy of late has been left of left…the Liberal Party is still there it just needs someone to pull it back. The Conservative Party is all over the map, and, maybe enjoying governing so much they are forgetting why they were elected in the first place. After an election Canadians will for the most part trust a Liberal or Conservative government to run the country with fairness and respect to all citizens, and, I believe its a trust that has very rarely been abused….dont screw around with absurd new taxes and dont steal money for your own purposes and your pretty much good for a decade. Which is why H1N1gate and Torturegate
    mean very little.

  19. Ti-Guy

    Sorry…the Liberal policy of late has been left of left…

    Life must be wonderful when you don’t have to be specific about what you mean. When words don’t have to have any meaning at all.

  20. take_dead_aim

    i commend Red Tory for this thread. He’s saying what alot of us don’t want to admit. from reading responses on here there’s alot of you that i honestly believe would change your vote from whatever your favored party is if this scandal was taking place on their watch instead of the conservatives.

    But as red has pointed out, truth of the matter is most Canadians don’t care. We’re a selfish society, and our lives tend to be filled with the day to day struggles that are not really true struggles when we look around this globe to find the real definition of ‘struggle’ (present company included).

    i voted conservative and frankly this is the kind of spin of a topic that i attributed to other political parties, particularly the one that consider’s itself the natural governing party of Canada.

    I do feel my vote is lost right now, because i don’t for a second think that another party would be reacting differently right now. that doesn’t make it right (too many converative voters thinks it does) but it does make me wonder if i should go back to declining my ballot.

  21. Navvy

    …dont steal money for your own purposes…

    Don’t look now bill, but reality just went zooming past at about 300 km/h.

  22. billg

    Other then taxing everything that burns fuel, and, attempting to provide 10% of Canadians with subsidized Daycare what exactly is the Federal Liberal policy’s Ti-Guy? I kind of thought the left of left Liberal policy was a given considering the depths in which the party has sunk in attempting to re-invent itself. And Navvy…if it wasnt for taking Federal money and laundering it in Quebec the Liberals would still be in power…was that the reality you were talking about? Canadians are far more comfortable with a Liberal government then a Conservative one, so, try to imagine the ineptness it takes to lose not one but two federal elections, and, closing in on a third! Goes back to the meaningless left of left word theory I guess.

  23. Ti-Guy

    what exactly is the Federal Liberal policy’s Ti-Guy?

    Well, before they were rudely interrupted by this gang of rednecks, the Liberals were doing a number of different things: after keeping the country together, eliminating the deficit, paying down the debt, securing the country’s banking system, they were moving on to promising to diversify Canada’s trading relationships (good luck!), committing to educational excellence (by endowing the Canada Research chairs, for example), staying out of pointless imperial military adventures and moving on to childcare and addressing the issues of aboriginal Canadians.

    All the Harpies have is “NO!”

  24. TofKW

    billg if you think the Liberal’s green shift was bad (which is nothing compared to the tax which the Green Party has devised under previous leader Jim Harris – and the one I think we should have adopted as it called for serious reductions in personal income tax) wait ’til you see what the CPC’s cap & trade scheme looks like.

    Also, you seem to forget the 60 billion deficit that Harper has stuck us with, how exactly are we to balance that? If you think selling crown assets and serious budget cuts are all that are needed to be done, I have some primo beachfront property in Tuktuyaktuk for sale.

  25. billg

    Ok…that was five years ago Ti-Guy…is that it?
    The LPC is back to the Kelowna Accord, a National Daycare program and yelling Stephen Harper is scary? The middle has been taken away by a PM who is not even Conservative anymore, and, the Liberals are led by a man who, if everyone was honest is more Con then Liberal, and, the NDP is fighting against a new tax in Ontario and BC.
    My head hurts.

  26. Navvy

    The Liberals are lead by a Conservative but are left of left? Mixing up talking points bill?

  27. Ti-Guy

    Why are people like you so cranky, billg? Not just cranky about things that are important (like torture, and environmental degradation and economic dislocation and decaying democracy, etc.) but just…cranky?

    I could live forever and never figure that out.

  28. Guzzeuntite

    OK. New rule in the comments section:

    Everyone — but EVERYONE — must be as cheerful and positive … and, gosh darn it … as nice as Ti-Guy.

    I promise to do my best. You can just call me Mr. Ex-Crankmeister.

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