Thursday, December 03, 2009

Briefly, on torture redactions and on Chinese rebukes

I'm in the busy period of the holiday season so time for blogging has been limited of late. I would though like to make two brief comments on recent events.

First, the Heavily Redacted Torture Documents that the Conservative government has been releasing in an attempt to make it seem like they're not hiding anything while still hiding plenty. Their excuse, national security, seems rather dubious to many observers.

Let's take a big leap of faith for a moment here, and suspend rational thought, and posit that both sides are acting in good faith without political motive: that the opposition want to get to the bottom of serious accusations, that the government has legitimate national security concerns around full disclosure, and that neither is motivated solely by political aims (embarrass the government, or hide the government's culpability.)

There is a way around this. During the Paul Martin government he had each of the opposition party leaders sworn in as members of the privy council. This gave them high security clearance so that, in theory, they could be briefed on confidential and secret matters of national security.

So, IF the government isn't just hiding to hide misdeeds, and if the opposition isn't just out to score points, WHY doesn't the government call in the opposition leaders and brief them. Show them the full, uncensored documents. If the documents show no cause for concern, then we move on. If the documents do raise serious issues, then they continue to call for a full public inquiry.

Of course, such a solution would require all sides to put politics aside and behave like adults. So let's not hold our breath.

Second, China's Premier Says Bad Things About Stephen Harper. Frankly, I largely agree with Wen Jiabao on the substance of his criticism of Harper's China policy. Nevertheless, the episode leaves me feeling sympathetic towards Harper, not China.

As the saying goes, "no one can hit my brother but me." So when the leader of a country like China takes a shot at our PM I'm going to be pissed, even if that PM is Harper. It's an instinctive defensive, nationalistic reaction.

Besides, to offer the criticism behind closed doors is one thing. To do it in public was a total dick move by China.

As for the opposition, including my Liberals (hi Bob!), you'd be wise to constrain your comments to legitimate criticisms of Harper's China policy. Saddling up beside a Chinese government with a history of human rights abuses, of oppressing its people, censoring the press and the Web, and so on, just to buttress your political attacks ... that's just another dick move, frankly.

To coin a phrase, We can do better...

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Barcs said...

On China, I don't think I can say it as good as David Akin. He walks the line very well.

On the "torture allegations" .. I sort of agree with you... but I do not understand the need to believe 1 diplomat,.. but not others of his colleagues , Amnesty international, the red cross, and several generals.

I can agree with you that we can turn over documents to see them examined. But I think a single Judge, or 2 or 3 would be better suited. (and also eligible for said security clearance) And not as much of a security risk as... some of the people you mentioned.

Even if you swore the political leaders in,.. they wouldn't be able to tell anybody anything beyond.. yes or no. Which.. really is all we hear from them now. A few pieces of paper wouldn't change the opposition narrative that the Tories are bad. Nor will we have a way to see whether they are truthful in there assertions or just continuing their narrative. (unless you swear in all of us too)

Give the evidence to someone who doesn't have an agenda...

Jeff said...

barcs, first it's not one lone diplomat vs. everyone else. There are plenty of people and other evidence that supports his story.

Second, I think the leaders can be trusted, but you mention judges...that would be the point of a judicial inquiry, a judge and panel with clearance. The MPCC also in theory has clearance, but they've been stonewalled.

In theory, though, if everyone puts aside politics, my proposal works. Leaders look at docs: if it's kosher, we all move on to other ways that Harper sucks. If there's fire behind the smoke though, then there's a judicial inquiry.

Barcs said...

"In theory, though,if everyone puts aside politics, my proposal works."

I am not sure I have ever seen that happen. I don't know why it would in this case.

Inevitability, 4 leaders would enter the room, look at the documents, and all 4 would step out claiming that their exact version of events that they went into the room saying was spot on.

It doesn't matter which 4, it doesn't even matter whether it was Harper, Dion, Martin, Chretien, Mulroney, Clark, Trudeau, you or me who had the original story and let others look at what was behind the door.

If it doesn't happen without people who have an agenda involved... then there is no clarity, no level heads, no unvarnished truth.

The Rat said...

What is it about China that gets Liberals all wet and horny?? Yeah, they are a major trading power which is more of an indictment of the West's willingness to ignore human rights abuses than an endorsement of the communist way. But whya re we begging, truly begging! to be given approved destination status? Are we really so willing to overlook the horrid implication of that Chinese policy simply to reap a monetary benefit? Could anyone in Canada imagine a government telling you where you could or could not go for vacation, publishing a list of approved destinations?

Sucking up to China seems to me to a dirty little game and one Canada should avoid.

CanadianSense said...

Another great post and well reasoned. Thank you.

Jim said...

I have tried not to weigh into the torture debate too much due to the rage I feel because in my opinion the opposition, and by extension, the political left in Canada seem focused on running down our military, intent on giving Canada her Vietnam with a little Nuremburg thrown in.

As an ex-CF member, my feelings on this are beyond words.

The party that wished for a deeper recession and hoped the the H1N1 flu would be more severe to forward their agenda, now wants to label Canada as war criminals.

I would be fine with an inquiry or a judicial review AFTER our mission ends, but to rake this up now has effectively underminded twhat is left of our mission in that hellish country...And I dare say, put our brave troops at greater risk.

I have read the documents available and two things strike me.

Firstly, all detainees are accounted for. If the Afghanis were hardcore torturers, do you think this would be the case?

Secondly, the accusations that I have read mention some face slapping and a very few whacks with an extension cord.

Maybe Canadians need to harden the fuck up! I suffered worse discipline from my ex-Navy father growing up.

As well, when an inquiry is granted, I can hardly wait to see how much is pinned on the Liberals and the hap-hazard way they handled the mission in A-stan.

They sent our troops over there in green combats FFS! As well, remember, Canada got Khandahar due to Mr Dithers inability to make a decision.

Yep, Libs will wear plenty of this pitiful political move.

And all you Libs willing to ramp this up for political gain can all rot in hell.

Conservatives are always accused by the left as hating Canada. I guess the real truth as to who has no respect for Canada and her institutions is pretty clear lately.

It became even clearer to me after all the lefty glee after Jintao's comment.

Jim said...

*correction, that was Jiabao's comment.*

My mistake.

marie said...

The party that wished for a deeper recession and hoped the the H1N1 flu would be more severe to forward their agenda, now wants to label Canada as war criminals.
Jim Looks like you swallowed the Kool Aid the Cons fed you. Think rational and you may come up with a different theory. Maybe a little closer to the real truth for a change.

Jim the political left as you put it is not running down the soldiers but running down the Government who deserve to be criticized. Its the PM and his parrots who are hiding behind the soldiers like the cowards they are.

Using them as a human shield and your eating it all up.

And Jim, my feelings on this government's actions are beyond words also so don't feel alone.

archivist said...

Fair enough Jeff, but it's all part of a larger pattern of international goof-ups. From the Colbert Report to jokes about being in the loo, this guy trips more than he walks upright. The China rebuke speaks for itself within a greater context of diplomatic amateurism.

Sure makes us crave a PM with an international savvy and reputation, doesn't it?

CanadianSense said...

Michael B,

do you mean being reported arriving 120 seconds later than OBAMA for a photo by CBC, CTV as a goof up?

or the accusation and apology by the PM for an aid forwarding the wrong information?

Regarding the popularity of the PM (nationally)

do you have any international polls to back up your claims regarding our global reputation being damaged or worsening?

We all can agree under no circumstances will the opposition praise Canada or the progress of current government.

"Canada has demonstrated a better record than others in living up to its G8 commitments,” Fox said.