Monday, November 30, 2009

Harper uses our troops as a human shield

It’s not a new low for the Stephen Harper Conservatives, but rather a continuation of their import of the worst of the tactics of the U.S. Republican Right. The “you’re with us or you’re with the terrorists” rhetoric, the labeling of opponents as “Taliban sympathizers” or “un-Canadian” or “against the troops.” Basically, smear and appeals to patriotism substituting for policy and debate.

Over the weekend, however, Harper took his cheap political hectoring to a new low. Speaking about a Canadian Navy vessel, using serving sailors as political props for his photo-op, Harper launched into a baseless partisan attack against his political opponents, who have had the temerity to raise questions about his government’s handling of reports of torture of Afghan detainees:

"Let me just say this: living as we do, in a time when some in the political arena do not hesitate before throwing the most serious of allegations at our men and women in uniform, based on the most flimsy of evidence, remember that Canadians from coast to coast to coast are proud of you and stand behind you, and I am proud of you, and I stand beside you."
This was an attack unbecoming of a Prime Minister of Canada, and to do so aboard a naval vessel with our sailors as background is doubly disgusting. But it has been all too common a tactic by Harper, by Peter MacKay, by Conservative pundits and the Blogging Tory keyboard commandos: when under attack for their political decisions, hide behind the military and smear your opponents.

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear, once and for all, although it really shouldn’t be necessary: absolutely no one here is attacking or making allegations about our military members. Harper is slinging bullshit. The torture scandal is entirely political. This is about what members of the Harper government knew about allegations of tortured Afghan detainees, who knew it, when they knew it, and what action they took and why. Absolutely no one is questioning the decisions or activities of our men and women on the ground, in uniform. Just the Harper administration in Ottawa.

Indeed, if our troops have been put in a compromised situation here, if they may have turned over detainees who went on to face torture in Afghan prisons, then that is the fault of the politicians and civil servants in the Conservative government that ignored the warnings of Richard Colvin and others. It is the Conservatives that would have failed the troops, and that’s one reason why the opposition wants to get to the bottom of this mess.

But instead of investigating this, instead of looking for answers, or even admitting mistakes may have been made by his government, Harper and his ilk are inventing fictitious attacks against the troops. For Harper, the military is a convenient human shield. He can hide behind them and lob grenades at his political opponents, labeling any return fire as unpatriotic attacks on our soldiers, sailors and airmen.

It’s disgusting and unprincipled, and Harper, the Conservatives, and all good Canadians, should be ashamed of his behaviour. Our military deserves better than to be used as a human shield by a Prime Minister unable to fight his own battles.

Related reading:

Scott Tribe: Harper causes me to post twice on a Sunday - very rare
Jane Taber: Using the troops as props

UPDATE: Scott Taylor, a veteran and experienced investigative reporter on military matters with strong ties to the rank and file, rips into Peter MacKay:

Initially, MacKay charged that by retelling "Taliban lies" Colvin has essentially been fuelling enemies’ propaganda machine. When that tactic failed to score a hit, MacKay wrapped himself in the flag, curled up in the fetal position and pleaded for everyone to "stop attacking his soldiers." This is an emotionally charged issue for many of those who are justly proud of the service of our Canadian Forces, and MacKay claiming that Colvin is somehow attacking our military will immediately invoke their ire.

Although the manoeuvre was dramatically played out by MacKay, the fact is that no one engaged in this debate has alleged wrongdoing on the part of any of our troops.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

23 comments:

Michael said...

Ironic you should say that when the Liberals under various leaders have been using them as human punching bags for years.

Jeff Jedras said...

"I know you are but what am I?" A singularly stupid comment.

Michael said...

So now that its you guys on the attack regarding how an opposing leader supposedly "uses" the miltary instead of the other way around, the anaology conveniently no longer applies? How convenient.

Barcs said...

Do you expect them to not defend the troops when certain persons suggest that they are (atleast) complicit in committing war crimes???

I think your anger is directed in the wrong direction.

Jeff Jedras said...

More or less convenient then you completely ignoring the topic of this post while providing absolutely no evidence to back-up your "point"?

Jay said...

Harper will only succeed in tarnishing the military once again. Harper will sink for this and its up to him whether he wants to drag the military down with him. he seems happy to do such which is quite telling about his ideology. Harper will basically be saying at some point that the military is Conservative. Once you do that you officially have a banana republic government where one party is associated with the countries military. You know what happens form there on...

Jeff Jedras said...

Certain persons, Barcs? Let's at least name names here, shall we?

Secondly, if there is any complicity here for our troops, no one would blame them, and no one, NO ONE, is attacking them. They were acting in good faith, exercising the detainee transfer program put in place by their political leaders.

IF our troops were put in a position where they were unknowingly complicit in war crimes, it would be because of the actions (and inaction) of the Harper Conservatives. THEY would be the responsible ones, THEY would be the ones that failed the troops, and THEY would be the ones that would need to answer for it.

Maybe everyone who purports to care about the troops so much should be asking WHY the Harper Conservatives would put then in this position, AND THEN hide behind them when questions about the behaviour of the government is questioned.

Maybe you should redirect your anger, dear commenter.

Ted Betts said...

As Paul Wells pointed out in the current issue of Maclean's magazine, one of the most appalling parts of all of this detainee stuff is that, for people like Michael here, it is about scoring political points and not about the fact that some human beings were tortured and Canada may (or may not) have had something to do with that.

I really fail to see, Michael, how Liberal underfunding of the military has anything to do with when Harper found out about detainee torture and why he failed to do anything. It's worse than smoke and mirrors because there is a moral issue at stake here. We should not care if the opposition stands to gain from this because it is far more imperitive that we find out what happened.

A slightly more apt comparison would be to adscam: who cares if the Conservatives gained from the adscam attacks - in fact, they got government out of it - when it was far more important to find out what happened and who was responsible. The Liberals investigated themselves, Canadians didn't like what they saw and voted them out.

That's how a democracy - transparent and accountable and responsive - is supposed to be like.

Certainly not trying to prevent Colvin from speaking, going full out attack on him when he does, using soldiers to hide behind, lying about what you knew and when, not disclosing important documents because you claim security priority and then "leaking" severely redacted memos to a friendly press... and then this.

I honestly had some doubts about how much Colvin actually knew, i.e. I did not doubt his sincerity, but I wondered if he was really reporting on the whole story.

But the over-the-top reaction of Harper and his full on war with any investigation or even questions into this, has convinced me without any shadow of a doubt that there is something significant there that we don't know about.

New information - like civilian farmer suspects were brought in, claims were never even investigated, etc - convince me all the more.

Harper may want to up the ante by playing political football with our soldiers, but he just put too many men on the field.

Ted Betts said...

Barcs:

Who has accused any Canadian soldier of war crimes?????

I'm following this pretty closely and the one and only time it's come close is a journalist asking an independent expert whether any Canadian could be charged with war crimes if they delivered detainees to the Afghanis and they were tortured. The response, obviously, was only if they knew for certain the detainee was going to be tortured.

That's it.

So who did you read or hear making such an absurd accusation?

Jymn Parrett said...

Note how Michael, like most cons, does not provide any facts or examples to back up his claim.

Barcs said...

"Harper may want to up the ante by playing political football with our soldiers, but he just put too many men on the field."

Ow... a reference to the Grey Cup, and my teams last second loss..... now it's personal.. lol :)

(btw, today is the first day of the riders Grey cup march for the coming year.... lets get goin riders) :)


Jym, I believe Micheal was referring to post like this one. Asserting that others are simply playing politics on a particular topic don't seem to take into account that the post and the statements therein are designed to play politics with the same subject. But to reverse the spin as it were.

And Ted, it is a logical conclusion. Those at the top order that it be done, those on the ground do it. Given the knowledge from the ground troops, and all the reports out there from every agency... it must be atleast partially knowingly.

Noone person has done it directly (all in a single sentence),... but if you follow the chain of accusations against the government, its agencies, the military, and the various afghan counterparts. Looking at the big picture no other conclusion can be reached than Our troops, our government, and all its agencies were complicit in a conspiracy to turn over and let several prisoners be tortured.

A+B+C=D as it were. But please keep splitting hairs to spin it different.


Jeff: "no one would blame them" - Being ordered to do something illegal isn't a real good defense for doing it... especially in public opinion.

"put in a position where they were unknowingly complicit in war crimes" ... really? they stopped transfers several times while waiting for access to prisoners to resume. Someone on the ground was paying attention. There was alot of visits too... Unknowingly?? uh uh.

And finally, yeah I would like to know the real facts... but as we have observed now and in the past.... A committee of partisans where people are trying to score points (against the government or one of the other parties) is not a good place to find facts. Atleast unspun ones.

But don't worry, because Harper is the only one trying to spin the military and the troops... right?? ...."Harper uses our troops as a human shield"

Gayle said...

I wouldn't bother responding. To the Michaels or the Barcs of the world until they DO provide facts to back up their claim. Why should you be defending the opposition against spurious accisations?

So, Barcs and Michael, I look forward to you providing a single shred of evidence the opposition is attacking the troops.

Barcs said...

"Canadian troops afghanistan complicit torture"

Results... 1-10 out of 503,000.

Google even helped me out by suggesting "Canadian" instead of "Canada".




"absolutely no one here is attacking or making allegations about our military members."

... right....


Either the tory campaign to suggest that people are defaming our troops is bigger than we think..... Or people actually are talking along those terms....

Barcs said...

http://www.liberal.ca/en/newsroom/media-releases/17000_just-the-facts-afghan-detainee-timeline

Here gayle... from the liberal party website.

Seems like a lot of evidence that the orders would be illegal doesn't it??

Were the orders refused? Or did the people on the ground go along with them?

So,.. are they complicit in handing people over to be tortured? or did they do what they were supposed to and the case is built out of hot air?

One or the other.. which is it?

Ted Betts said...

So if there are so many Barcs, how come you still can't come up with a single quotation of anyone accusing our soldiers of war crimes?????

But you are half right. The tory campaign to suggest that people are defaming our troops is bigger than we think.

Gayle said...

Yeah Barcs. Took a quick look at that link and did not find anything about how our troops are to blame.


Maybe you missed it, but in Canada our government is in charge of the military.It appears you think the troops are somehow responsible for the decisions made by our elected officials.Actually, the military and the government are two different entities. .

The buck stops with the Prime Minister. It is time he takes some responsibilty instead of hiding behind the people who serve this country.

Gayle said...

What's next? Is Harper going to claim the LPC are attacking an innocent small business owner for printing the offensive 10%ers? Will the likes of Barcs always see fit to lay the blame on the people who follow Harper's direction, instead of blaming the person who is leading the parade?

I thought you conservatives were all about taking personal responsibilty?

Barcs said...

well to be sure Ted,.. some of the 503,000 I found were doubles.. I didn't feel the need to put them all here.

Here are some highlights (keep in mind I didn't ascribe single names before I suggested that people were doing it.... I don't care who they are.. they are doing it):

"Canada complicit in torture of hundreds of Afghan detainees"

"Canadian Diplomat Alleges Troops in Afghanistan Were Complicit in Torture."

"Canadian soldiers and military physicians face torture allegations ... say Canadians fighting in Afghanistan might be complicit in torture ..."

"Canadian mission participates in Afghan torture -- End the war now!"

"Canadian Gov/Military Complicit in Torture"

But that is only 5 out of more than 500,000... less than .00001%.


And once again you can split hairs and claim it is Harper that is doing it,... but I haven't seen him on the ground in Afghanistan handing the keys over.

Michael said...

More or less convenient then you completely ignoring the topic of this post while providing absolutely no evidence to back-up your "point"?

The title to your "topic" itself is Harper using the troops as human shields. My "point" is that Liberals' sudden new found concern for the military at such a convenient time, after years of cutbacks that bled our military white, is hypocritical.

I wouldn't bother responding. To the Michaels or the Barcs of the world until they DO provide facts to back up their claim. Why should you be defending the opposition against spurious accisations? So, Barcs and Michael, I look forward to you providing a single shred of evidence the opposition is attacking the troops.

And I look forward to you eventually figuring out that I wasn't talking about "the opposition attacking troops". I was referring to the general hypocrisy of Liberals accusing the PM of hiding behind the troops when the Liberals now lamely try to defend them after their government spent years slashing their budget to ribbons. Try going back and reading what I wrote and maybe you'll figure that out.

Note how Michael, like most cons, does not provide any facts or examples to back up his claim.

What "claim" was that? That Liberals are hypocrites when it comes to their sudden new found love of the military? Or is it my "claim" that the Liberals gutted our military? Because if it is the latter, I can waste both of our time filling this page with links proving that.

..........for people like Michael here, it is about scoring political points and not about the fact that some human beings were tortured and Canada may (or may not) have had something to do with that.

Right, and after every single "scandal" the Liberals have tried to make stick (and failed miserably by they way), this little witch-hunt is in NO way politically motivated. C'mon pal, many Canadians were born at night, but they weren't all born last night.

Michael said...

I really fail to see, Michael, how Liberal underfunding of the military has anything to do with when Harper found out about detainee torture and why he failed to do anything.

Like I said before a few times already; it speaks to a general level of hypocrisy among Liberals when they say the Tories are "using" our troops when they've done worse.

As for what "Harper found out"? He probably knows about as much as THIS organization that Liberals everwhere were touting as backing up Colvin's claims -

http://www.canada.com/news/Cross+rebukes+diplomat+over+Afghan+torture+allegations/2282914/story.html

It's worse than smoke and mirrors because there is a moral issue at stake here. We should not care if the opposition stands to gain from this because it is far more imperitive that we find out what happened.

"A moral issue?" You're right about one thing; it is not only about how the Opposition can benifit or not from this latest "scandal." Now say we do "find out what happened." Can you honestly say with a sraight face that Canadians are REALLY going to give a s**t about what happens to Taliban scum after they are turned over to the Afghan government? Do you REALLY think the voters want what they are going to see as ANOTHER politically motivated witch-hunt in the form of a public inquiry when at the commitee three respected generals that were involved gave completley contrary testimony to Colvin, when another diplomat that was involved is now contradicting Colvin, and when even now Red Cross officials are rebuking Colvin? When after wafers, body bags, sexy cancer, H1N1 scare mongering, giant cheques, Olympic torch relays, insurance policies, Olympic/Tory logos; "scandals" that the Liberal party browbeat everyone with that went NOWHERE, do you REALLY think people are going to give a s**t about Liberal hand-wringing that the Afghan government beats up a bunch of terrorists that blow up children's schools, throw acid in women's faces, and murder people for wanting freedom; things our soldiers are dying to prevent?

Well.........good luck with that.:D

Ted Betts said...

Yes, Michael, I absolutely do think that Canadians care if their government is lying to us, suppressing evidence, gagging witnesses, using our soldiers as props and shields to cover their own screw ups. I think Harper knows this which is why he is going all out, scorched earth policy, to protect himself.

As for the Liberal cuts to the military, what would you say about someone who full on supported those cuts and then later claimed to be more supportive of the troops? Would you say that his support was more about optics than genuine?

“I do not intend to dispute in any way the need for defence cuts and the need for government spending cuts in general. …I do not share a not in my backyard approach to government spending reductions.”- Stephen Harper, Hansard, May 23rd 1995.

barclaym2 said...

"I thought you conservatives were all about taking personal responsibilty?"


yup.. so if people think it is wrong... why would they do it... even if the big meanie told them to?


Further, I don't "ever remember saying "Harper is right". As I recall I was arguing the media/opposition/others spin isn't right.

I knew your math skills were pretty basic gayle... I just didn't realize how poor your reading comprehension was.


Ted... how does cutting spending across the board.. all departments differ equate to "damn the troops"??

Gayle said...

"I was referring to the general hypocrisy of Liberals accusing the PM of hiding behind the troops when the Liberals now lamely try to defend them after their government spent years slashing their budget to ribbons."

There is no correlation between the two. This is a tiresome argument from a group of people who have nothing else to hang on to. The fact that necessary cuts were made at a time when the federal deficit was spiralling out of control and the people in this country had other priorities does not mean the liberals are A-OK with our troops putting their lives at risk for their country and do not care if our government puts them at more risk by turning a blind eye to torture.

I guess Harper does not support women because he cut funding to SOW, yes?

Barcs - my reading comprehension is just fine. But nice try spinning it otherwise.