Canada’s Guantanamo

Published on Dissident Voice, by Eric Walberg, November 24th, 2009. – Linked on our blogs with Eric Walberg – Canada.

A scandal erupted last week in sleepy Ottawa with the revelations of Canada’s chief diplomat in Kandahar in 2006-07, Richard Colvin, who told a House of Commons committee on Afghanistan that Afghans arrested by Canadian military and handed over to Afghan authorities were knowingly tortured. His and others’ attempts to raise the alarm had been quashed by the ruling Conservative government and he felt a moral obligation to make public what was happening.

The startling allegations — the first of their kind from a senior official — have caused extreme embarrassment to the government, which has more than once stated categorically detainees were not passed to Afghan control if there was any danger of torture. Canada has 2,700 soldiers in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, the hotbed of the insurgency, on a mission that is due to end in 2011. 

Warnings to Colvin to keep quiet were not enough to cow him and he calmly told shocked MPs that he started sending reports soon after he arrived in Kandahar in early 2006 to top officials indicating the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) was abusing detainees. “For a year and half after they knew about the very high risk of torture, they continued to order military police in the field to hand our detainees to the NDS” … //

… Current Canadian politics occasionally provides a touch of humour to the inanities of Western moral hypocrisy. Remember the travel ban imposed by the Conservative government on UK MP George Galloway this spring, apparently because he is a terrorist. The Conservative government denied it had anything to do with the decision, that it was entirely up to the Canada Border Services Agency. Or the current furore over US lesbian soldier Bethany Lanae Smith, whom a Canadian judge insists be granted refugee status, overturning an Immigration and Refugee Board ruling. Not because she rejects the illegal US wars and occupations, but because she was harassed by male US soldiers and resented their taunts and/or untoward advances.

The recent haemorrhage of US war resisters coming to Canada has been resolutely staunched by the pro-war government, in line with its fervent support of US/ NATO wars. But in the interests of political correctness the government may well allow Smith to stay, unlike her more principled fellow soldiers, male and female, who defected to Canada out of conviction, and who were sent back to the US to face jail terms.

Will there be any consequences to Colvin for his embarrassing revelations? Word has it that the hitherto promising career of the former second-in-command in Afghanistan and current high-level diplomat in Washington is over. Remember the fate of UK ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray from 2002-2004 whom the Foreign Office tried to declare noncompis mentis, and who resigned, supposedly in disgrace. His altercation with the empire sobered him and made him a committed anti-imperialist. At his site, he even posts an update of US-caused deaths in Iraq, now at 1,339,771.

If Colvin’s career as a diplomat is over, he can still take a page from Murray ’s post-FO career book. His expose of Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov as one of the world’s most eminent torturers, Murder in Samarkand, is now being made into a feature film. He has been awarded multiple prizes for promoting world peace, ran for parliament against his former boss foreign minister Jack Straw, and is a witty and incisive commentator on the internet, PressTV and elsewhere. He is currently rector of his alma mater the University of Dundee. There is life after the death of diplomatic service. Murray quips, “Being a dissident is quite fun.” (full text).

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