Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Weighing In On The Afghan Prisoner Issue

Source: CTV News: Tories Fire Back on Afghan Detainees, Anger Opposition

This post has been a long time coming, which is why I think I've taken time to consider what I want to say. As all of you are aware, our Prime Minister prorogued Parliament back in December. He claimed it was necessary to the next stage of the 'Economic Action Plan'; while opposition parties claimed it was to muzzle and shut down the committee responsible for looking into questions over the handling of Afghan detainees.

Now, given the firestorm of debate that erupted over the Afghan detainee issue; the testimony and attempts to discredit Richard Colvin (despite Conservatives being elected after the fall of the Martin Government promising unparalleled protection for whistle blowers), and the refusal of the government to hand over unredacted documents at the request of the opposition...I think it's clear to see which argument carries more weight. After all, before the Afghan detainee problem, we never once heard the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, The Minister of Public Works, Minister of Industry...etc, talk about how the next phase of the Economic Action Plan was a temporary proroguing of Parliament with a new throne speech in the Spring.

So, let's assume that yes, Harper shut down Parliament because of the potential problems that could come from the inquiry over the treatment of Afghan detainees after they were handed over to Afghan authorities by Canadian troops.

With Parliament shut down until March, but opposition parties still being vocal and organized about letting Canadians know the actions of this government, Harper has resorted to his usual tactics: bashing the opposition. And how is he doing this? Is he going to buy time on Canadian Television stations to address the nation and explain his government's actions? Is he going to take out ads on television, print and radio and explain the government's position?

No, by the looks of it, he's going to send out his message with our own tax dollars. Yes, the notorious ten-percenters are back. According to the image at CTV News (see the source link), a black and white mailer with a photo of Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff surrounded by quotes of 'questionable nature' are on their way to homes throughout Canada; with the standard poll of which leader/party is right on...question.

And what is the message that our Prime Minister is sending? He is sending the message that Ignatieff, and all the opposition parties, are attacking Canadian Troops. Not that they're attacking the actions of the Afghan Security Forces who have tortured detainees; not that they're attacking the government for refusing to release files under the guise of national security; but no, that opposition parties are attacking the men and women who are on the front lines and risking their lives.

This is a standard tactic we saw back in the days of George 'You're Either With Us or Against Us' W Bush.

Harper and his team are trying to sow the message that anything that questions our mission in Afghanistan, is questioning the troops who are serving there. This is a common argument among Conservatives; that you either support our troops or you don't. You either support what they're doing unquestioningly, or you might as well root for the terrorists.

By trying to create this black and white picture of how the world operates, Harper is hoping to escape criticisms by putting the actions of his government on the backs of our men and women in uniform. Which, is in my opinion, highly unacceptable.

It should come as no surprise that I don't support Canada's role in Afghanistan. But, and listen carefully, that doesn't mean I don't support our troops. Canada has a long history as peacekeepers, a history that I am proud of. So, when Canada joins active combat missions rather than keeping with it's tradition of peacekeeping, looking after civilians, and being involved in reconstruction efforts...I find myself wishing that we would stick to the humanitarian aspect of war.

Not that Canada doesn't have a militaristic history; given events such as Vimy Ridge, but over time we did indeed become a peacekeeping nation. That's why we don't need to spend 1/2 of our revenue on the military, and that's why Canadians don't need to take a combat role in a conflict that we didn't start.

So, with that said, you can see how it is possible to support the troops by wishing them well and safety overseas; but still be opposed to the job that they're performing. The two are mutually exclusive, separate things not one in the same, as Harper and his supporters would have people believe.

With that cleared up, we can get back to the issue at hand. Harper's Government is trying to sell us a message with our own tax dollars, a message which is highly misleading and completely inaccurate. A message, which hopefully, Canadians will be able to see right through.

The fact of the matter is, we need a government that is willing to take the blows that are coming to it. Harper has effectively pulled the schoolyard equivalent of taking his ball and going home because someone kept insisting that he was offside when he scored the last point. Simply walking away from the issue and attempting to discredit the opposition leaders by claiming they are against Canadian Soldiers is not going to work, and is a distasteful tactic. We need, and deserve, a government which will work with the opposition and take a stance on difficult issues instead of walking away and hoping the issue will just go away over time.

Thankfully, given Conservative poll numbers since the proroguing of Parliament, it seems like Harper is going to have to answer to this issue and others when Parliament resumes in March. Hopefully, we'll get some answers, and even more hopefully, the Liberal sound and fury over this issue will not signify nothing by having them back down when the House is back in session.

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