Wrong, even in wartime

There isn’t another country on Earth that will stop in the middle of a war and accuse itself of war crimes.

There isn’t another country on Earth that will stop in the middle of a war and accuse itself of war crimes.

That would be as likely as a superstar soccer player stopping play to penalize himself for a handball, seconds before his team scores a goal to secure their nation a spot in the World Cup.

These things just don’t happen. Except in Canada.

Millions of Canadians were embarrassed last week by testimony that Canadian officials in high office turned a blind eye while our forces turned their Afghan prisoners over to torturers.

On the scale of human crime, that’s slightly higher up the scale than the French team cheating at an international soccer match, although fewer people around the globe (especially in Ireland) will get upset about it.

Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin told MPs on Wednesday that he had warned as early as 2006 that people arrested by Canadian Forces in Afghanistan were being turned over to Afghan jailers who would torture them.

Too much of a diplomat to use the word “coverup,” he nonetheless made it clear enough that senior bureaucrats discouraged the use of written documents concerning Colvin’s reports.

So today, the minister of foreign affairs and all the lackeys he can muster — including retired Gen. Rick Hiller, who was leading Canadian Forces at the time — can accuse Colvin of “howling at the moon.”

The same way Thierry Henry can say that the ref never blew the whistle, both Gen. Hillier and Defence Minister Peter MacKay can say they never saw a memo that Afghan detainees under Canadian care were being tortured.

The ref never blew the whistle, so the game goes on. There is no written evidence of a memo and Richard Colvin is now in charge of security planning at our Washington diplomatic headquarters.

The man MacKay and all his lackeys called a dupe of the Taliban is a major planner in the Canadian war on terrorism. Go figure.

Colvin took the word of “people who throw acid in the faces of schoolchildren and who blow up buses of civilians in their own country,” said MacKay — in Parliament, where you cannot be prosecuted for libel. (No ref, no whistle, no crime.)

Not to mention Colvin accepted the testimony of his own eyes when he saw the scars where the electrodes and whips were used.

People come out of those Afghan jails as “empty husks,” according to outside eyewitnesses. Many cannot talk, some cannot even control their bowels.

If you’re a fool like Colvin, you might conclude that men who go in as warriors and come out like that were tortured in the meantime.

And you might conclude that handing your prisoners over to people who do that sort of thing is a war crime. Fools like that end up in Washington in the back seats of big black limousines, being ferried to secret meetings with high government officials, in charge of global tactics against terrorists.

If you find this whole thing embarrassing, remember we are still at war. That makes a difference. Only the losers get charged with war crimes.

If anyone thinks this hurts Canada’s ability to preach to the world about human rights, the world better think again.

Name one country, anywhere, that has the courage for this level of self-examination during war, where all the people of the country can discuss our culpability (or lack thereof) of not fighting by the rules, while the fight is still on.

If Chinese leaders think they can smirk while Prime Minister Stephen Harper clears his throat on human rights on his visit to that country, that only speaks to the cynicism of the Chinese.

If you want to see a true test of national credibility on human rights, you’re seeing it here.

Nobody expected Thierry Henry to call himself on a handball in a World Cup qualifier.

Only Canadians believe right is right and wrong is wrong, even during war.

Greg Neiman is an Advocate editor.

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