Wednesday, December 16, 2009

At last, a scandal.

The Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin has staked his entire reputation on the outcome of the hysterically-named "torturegate" spectacle unfolding in Ottawa, so he should be expected to fight fierce and shrewd. And fair play to him. In the story so far, a casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that the federal cabinet and the senior echelons of the Canadian Forces are riddled with war criminals, and that this Colvin guy is some kind of folk hero. He's winning.

The problem is that as the fight gets dirtier, and deeper into only-one-of-us-gets-outta-here-alive territory, it's becoming exceedingly difficult to discern what Colvin purports to reveal as fact from his characterizations and opinions of those purported facts. And it doesn't help that he tends to put spins on things in an increasingly too-transparent effort to make his own case appear more credible than it might otherwise be.

As in his account of a March, 2007 inter-agency meeting he attended in Ottawa, in which he offered to the "12 to 15 officials" around the table his opinion of the Afghan intelligence service, the NDS, thus: "The NDS tortures people, that's what they do, and if we don't want our detainees tortured, we shouldn't give them to the NDS." Colvin then claims: "The response from the Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM) note-taker was to stop writing and put down her pen."

I take it that we are invited to infer from this that some stenographer had been intimidated into taking pains to ensure that no trace of such revelations ended up in the official record. But it seems to me just as likely that Colvin's persistently-uttered, strongly-held and widely-emailed opinions about the general wrongness of federal detainee-transfer policy were immaterial and irrelevant to the meeting's proceedings, and were maybe getting just the tiniest bit tiresome, besides.

But there is something that screams off the pages of his latest testimony, and it cannot be left to stand unexamined. Colvin quite clearly insinuates that his one-time boss, Arif Lalani, Canada's former ambassador to Afghanistan, is both a coward and a liar.

As in: "For example, Ambassador Lalani instructed that we not report that the security situation was deteriorating. This followed an embassy report to Ottawa in which we noted that the Afghan Minister of Defence judged security to be getting worse - a view shared by our allies, and corroborated by violence trends and other metrics. Nevertheless, Mr. Mulroney sent instructions via Ambassador Lalani that we should either not mention the security situation at all, or to assert that it was getting better. The ambassador accordingly sent a report in which he said security was improving."

This goes far beyond the substance of Colvin's complaints so far, which have been more or less along the lines of 'Everyone ignores me' or 'No one takes me seriously' or "No one listens to my advice.'

I'm finding myself increasingly on the side of the NDP's Paul Dewar, in this respect: Instead of trolling through allegations and spin-meistering and recriminations and grievances about who might have been less than assiduous about which complaints about what alleged incidents based upon which dubious or reliable evidence regarding things that may or may not have happened three years ago, maybe there should be a federal inquiry after all, but it should take a much closer look at what the hell is really going on, right now.

Update: Now the Swedes are embroiled in a scandal of their own. An internal military document has come to light, written by the Swedish army's Gender Field Adviser, Captain Krister Fahlstedt, revealing that Sweden's Afghanistan Force FS17 specifies that on-base massage services should be provided exclusively by men.


Blogger IceClass said...

Strange thing:I get the same Spidey Sense tingle reading Colvin's statements as I do dissecting the latest misdirection from Save Fluffy Inc.

Very odd.

6:02 AM  

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