Wednesday, March 17, 2010

In Tyee: If It's An Afghanistan Scandal You Want. . .

As you might imagine by its name, the House of Commons Special Committee on Afghanistan is supposed to provide advice to the House of Commons on Canada's role in Afghanistan. But there is a problem. The MPs who dominate the committee say the committee's job is actually not to provide advice to the House of Commons on the pressing matter of Canada's role in Afghanistan.

I am not trying to be funny.

The committee has 12 members drawn equally from government and opposition benches, which is one reason why it's gotten nowhere since it was established in March 2008. The committee was handed a specific mandate to travel to Afghanistan and to neighbouring countries and to issue frequent recommendations on how Canada is doing and what Canada could do better.

The committee has done none of these things.

Think about that for a moment. Canada has been a leader among the 43 countries with soldiers in Afghanistan under the NATO-led, UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force. Among more than 50 donor countries, Canada has been a leading contributor to Afghanistan's reconstruction. Canada has a "special" parliamentary committee on Afghanistan, and it has never even been to Afghanistan.

It hasn't done a thing Parliament has told it to do, and yet the loudest howls you hear from the committee are about the government's contempt for Parliament. You could say it's been utterly useless, but that wouldn't be quite fair. The committee has served a purpose. It has kept the more slovenly members of the Ottawa press corps titillated by the fantasy that if they just sit there like stenographers long enough, eventually they'll get to type the name of a Conservative cabinet minister into the same sentence with the words "war criminal."

This is what you get when the sinister manoeuvres of petty partisanship array against statesmanship and the public good. That's what this story is about. It's a story that not a few Ottawa politicians are banking on you being too stupid to notice. . .

The rest here.


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