After much prodding by other bloggers, I set this up for my own writings. The name is in honour of the two women that mentored me throughout my life on politics and intelligence issues, as well as being wonderful family members, now alas deceased. I hope to live up to their standards at this site.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Did the military override civilian authority and if so why and what does it say about CPC detainee policy?

Updated twice since original post, first mid Friday afternoon (Jan 25 08), second Saturday afternoon (Jan 26 08).

Man, I hate it when my computer crashes just when I finish a long detailed post and am about to publish it, I had a nicely written commentary about the latest developments in the ongoing Afghan detainee scandal all proofed and linked when it died, so this time I am going to keep it fairly short so as to hope this one will publish before such happens again.

It appears that the Harper government has managed to exceed the level of corruption (remember, my corruption concerns with the Harper CPC have always been in terms of abuse of power/position than in terms of theft of taxpayer dollars, which of the two types I find the former to be far more dangerous than the latter to a democratic society/system of government) and incompetence I had thought them capable of with this. I went first to the Galloping Beaver where I read this excellent post by Dave dealing with what Sandra Buckler, PM Harper's media controller/coordinator had to say on this. I then went to Impolitical where I found this article with this link telling us that this government did not know about the stoppage of transfers, indeed that it appeared the government was not happy about that change. So I went to the Globe and Mail to find this there.

In the end of my readings so far (I took a couple of days off of Canadian news because I had a mild cardiac event Monday night and thought I should stay away from things that overly enraged/excited me, which these days the government has a depressingly frequent tendency of doing to me) there are several aspects to the detainee issue that I find of great concern. However, I am focusing only on one aspect in this post, that being the stoppage of prisoner transfers, who ordered it and what this means when considering what the government has been saying about this since last November. For it is here that I see something truly worrisome (to put it mildly).

We have essentially two scenarios/situations here. One, the government has been knowingly lying to the Canadian people both in and out of Parliament since last November regarding the continued transfer of prisoners to Afghan authorities despite the concerns about potential Geneva violations, which is bad enough. This would indicate a willingness to lie to the public on an issue as serious as this, and an issue which to discuss does *NOT* compromise operational security as Dave at the Galloping Beaver makes quite clear in his writings on this topic. Traditionally we follow the Geneva Conventions when it comes to the taking and keeping of prisoners, and one of the first things that includes is notification of the other side through a third party who we have in our custody, so the argument the CPC likes to use about what it tells the enemy about our operations is patent nonsense. As to how they are treated being kept secret, the only way that makes sense is if you have reason to think that the treatment will enrage/inflame the situation, which if the Geneva Conventions are being followed properly is ludicrous. This would be bad enough if this is what has been going on, especially given that one of the favourite responses to this issue from this government to questioners (especially in the HoC) is to brand them as being more concerned for the well being of Taliban terrorists than of our soldiers, a fancy way of saying either you are with us completely or you are automatically/inherently with the terrorists, which is truly disgusting as an attack line as well as preventing any meaningful examination of the topic at hand, which is no doubt part of the reasoning why the Harper CPC uses this inflammatory rhetoric/approach.

However, it is the second of the two possibilities that really bothers me. Under that scenario we have the military acting unilaterally to override government policy on detainee transfers without telling the government that they have done so. Now, the only reason that would make sense is if the commanders on the ground felt that government policy on this issue was exposing their troops to significant/serious risks of violating the Geneva Conventions and down the road being charged for it, essentially that the current orders were de facto illegal orders *AND* that the commanders did not trust the sitting government to not override that change if they became aware of it. Stop and think for a moment about what that scenario would be showing. It would show a government more concerned with political coverage than policy. It would show really bad oversight ability by this government. It would show that this government is indifferent to being in violation of the Geneva Conventions, and is indifferent about putting our troops in a position where they could face such charges down the road, all so as to look like they are being "tough on terrorism and terrorists unlike the Opposition parties". Most troubling of all though it would show that the military does not trust this government to make legal policy that protects the soldiers in the field and that they felt it necessary to override the usual protocol of civilian authority calling the shots in military policy, something I cannot recall seeing happen in our society before (I could be wrong about that, is anyone thinks they know of another example of the military reversing and hiding the reversal of policy in a combat theatre I will add it as an update to this post).

So either way this government is showing itself to be unfit for office, either it knew and lied despite the inevitability that the lie would be exposed about the halting of the detainees (which makes little sense since that would have defused the negative reaction in the public and denied the Opposition parties a significant political hammer) or they did not know despite their oversight responsibilities (which on an issue which has been as hot as this one over the past year one would have thought any sane government would have kept a close watch over if only out of self preservation instincts) that the military changed the policy (likely because they feared that the government's policy would result in potential Geneva and even war crimes trials for Canadian soldiers down the road if they did not stop these transfers). That the military would feel the need to have to hide this from the government indicates they didn't trust the government to go along with this decision, which in turn indicates an appalling lack of judgment by the government in placing its political needs ahead of the honour, reputation, and expertise of those in uniform when it comes to such basics as the treatment of prisoners according to the law of this country. When the military overrides civilian authority you have a very serious problem indeed in a democracy, and that is why I hope the government has been knowingly lying all along rather than this second possibility, yet going by what is in the public domain to date the second appears to be more probable.

This is also not the first time this government has tried to blame the military for actions it was responsible for, just remember the flap over media coverage of the repatriation ceremonies of our dead soldiers from Afghanistan a few months after they came to power. I documented this in two post at Saundrie here and here. You would think this government would have learned better by now, but that is one of the hallmarks of this government, it doesn't learn because it already believes it knows all the right answers regardless of what anyone else may think no matter what their qualifications/expertises. This is a very bad situation indeed, even by the standard of failure and hyperpoliticization of the CPC government. More and more it looks like in foreign policy and especially where our troops are concerned this government is exactly like GWB's. They use the military as a political prop/tool for partisan purposes, provide minimal to no support resourcewise, and try to hide the costs of the war/conflict from the domestic audience/public while calling anyone with any questions let alone criticisms of government military policy as anti-patriotic/terrorist sympathizers, etc. That kind of jingoism is not a hallmark of Canadian society, although it is of American, and that this government and especially this PM clearly practices such speaks volumes as to where he comes from in this, and it is not rooted in anything remotely resembling Canadian rooted/based thinking.

I have been avoiding blogging about the detainee issue because it is something that truly offends me beyond the ability to keep my anger/rage under control when I write about it. It was in no small part why I stopped here last year. However, I cannot continue to not document this issue here anymore, especially not now when such serious an issue as the military overriding civilian authority to protect the troops from legal repercussions appears to have happened. That is something I would never have expected to see in this country, and the anger and shame I feel at the government that has placed us in apparent violation of Geneva Convention protocols cannot be easily put into words. For a party and government that shouts about how it and only it respects and values our military their behaviour since coming to power has been putting the lie to that assertion and then some. If anything this Harper CPC government disrespects and holds in contempt the military more than any prior government than I have seen in my lifetime except of course for the political partisan ways they can use them as props and as a weapon to try to hurt their political opposition, that appears to be the only value the Harper CPC sees in our military. Shameful doesn't even begin to cover it IMHO.


As of 2:05pm EST The Globe and Mail is reporting that Sandra Buckler is backing off her original comment about the government not being informed, however when asked to clarify if that meant then the government did have knowledge of the halt of transfer she refused to say. Here is the link to the article for all to read and evaluate for themselves. I would be giving credit to Jimbobby because he raised it in comments except that I had returned to Saundrie to add this update when I found his comment. Still though I didn't want him thinking I was slighting him so I thought I should mention that too. Thank you for the consideration JB even though I had already found the article, it is still much appreciated.


This article in the G&M (h/t to Impolitical) now makes it impossible to believe that this government had no idea about the stop of transfer of detainees from right after the military changed its policy. Impolitical in this post underscores exactly why that is, and I agree with Impolitical's reasoning here completely. Both are well worth the read IMHO. This explains how the appearance of the military keeping a government as well known for micromanagement as this one out of the loop on this policy change was able to go unchallenged for several hours in the national media as well as making it difficult to impossible to believe the government was not lying about this back when it was sliming the Opposition for being more concerned with the well being of Taliban/terrorists than they were about our soldiers in and out of the House of Commons last November. I think this government has pushed the military and civil service just about as far as it is going to be willing to take it, as Impolitical notes this means we should start seeing more and more leaks of what this government has been doing all it can to bury, and it will be its own fault (not that they will see it that way of course, no they will blame it all on the liberal media conspiracy against Conservatives and the Liberal civil service out to get them it won't be because the CPC did anything wrong, nosiree not at all) that this is happening to them.


Blogger JimBobby said...

Whooee! Good boogin', ScotianFeller.

The detainee thing gets my blood boilin', too. Today, I spent some time on teh G&M boards. There's still a lotta numbnutses sayin' they don't care about POW treatment on accounta the Talibans would do worse to us.

NEWS FLASH!! Buckler's backin' away. G&M has it.

Fri Jan 25, 03:27:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Dave said...

Good post!

You see, the thing is, they have to be lying.

If they continue to suggest that the CF is operating autonomously then they look like they've lost control.

If they declare that they didn't get the information from the CF in a timely manner, then internationally they look like the Beverley Hillbillies.
If they truly did not know, then they have no idea how to run government.

I don't believe any of the above is the case. I think they couldn't handle the embarrassment of being SO wrong and ran for the bunker.

Sat Jan 26, 01:33:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Scotian said...


Agreed, they are lying, the only question is exactly where and by how much? There is no good answer for what we have seen over the past three days from this government on this matter, and when lying to the public is the least dangerous of the explanations available then you know it is really bad. What bothers me is I cannot shake the feeling that there may be real fears within the military that this government is quite willing to expose them to Geneva violations solely to preserve its image of being "tough on terrorism". Now granted most military folks I have known always worry more about the enemy behind them (REMFs, Brass, etc) than in front of them (after all, they aren't pretending to not be attacking them) but this government I fear may be taking it to entirely new levels.

This is a situation which really worries me, and as I said the anger it engenders in me is severe, for it feels like Harper and company are pissing on my family's heritage and honour with what he has done, and even mine even though I only wore the uniform of a Sea Cadet and never made it to Reserves/Reg Forces (Naval of course) because I tore my knee apart when I was 19. I find myself glad that the two women for whom this blog is named/dedicated after are not alive to see this, it would truly break their hearts, especially the one from the intelligence community, which given she was the one I was always closest to in all of my family including parents/siblings is not something I generally ever feel.

Thanks for stopping by Dave and for your approval, it is always nice to have the confirmation from someone that knows the service from the inside and confirms that my read is a reasonable one. That matters to me as I try to stay within reality to the best of my ability when I write my comments/tomes.

Sat Jan 26, 03:32:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Tomm said...


You said:

"...Agreed, they are lying, the only question is exactly where and by how much?..."

Do you have information that others have been lied to about this? Did the incorrect answers have any link with what the government considered still confidential information?

Without answers to these questions, you sound like a conspiracy theorist (over whether we are keeping detainees or giving them to the Afghan officials).

Remember that the actual answer would have been considered a "good news story" by both the media and the opposition parties.


Sat Jan 26, 09:07:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Scotian said...

Scotian said...


Fair warning, you can make comments here on my posts all you want, but you will not be getting any response from me. You have already proven to me at RT's that you are not willing to argue in good faith, and I refuse to waste my time with those that will not disagree in an intellectually honest and consistent manner. However, I do not believe in censoring unless extremely hateful and/or disruptive patterns of behaviour have been demonstrated. However, just because I do not believe in silencing voices arbitrarily does not mean I feel any compulsion/obligation to respond to just anyone that comments here either.

So please, feel free to offer your commentary, and if anyone else wants to discuss it with you, well that is fine by me. However, I will not be one of them. If this disappoints you, well too bad, you made this bed so you get to lie in it. So have fun, as aside from warnings that you are being overly disruptive/offensive to others here you will not be hearing directly from me again in my comments section.

Sun Apr 01, 12:55:00 PM 2007

I only repeat this now because I was silent/dark here for many months to remind Tomm and to let others know why I will not be responding to him here no matter how civil he appears. He has already made his bed with me in that regard elsewhere and not just based with the way he has argued with me either but many others as well. He seems like nice enough person but he is too much like the target audience of Harper's speech about how what you feel to be true/reality being more important than what statistics/facts show to be the accurate reflection of reality for my tastes to choose to try to argue with. Beating my head against that kind of mindset does my health no good, and it is not like it is all that stable to begin with.

Sat Jan 26, 11:11:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Tomm said...


Fine. Don't respond. I actually almost started my comment with that sort of caveat.

Let's look at the chronology of the circumstance. I know you have already, so this shouldn't be a problem. Please note how I unfold it.

There is a big whoop-de-doo in the House about torture of detainee's. It almost cost O'Connor his job. The Canadian government cuts a deal with the Afghan government to try and ensure that we don't end up being the enablers for some little torture chamber.

We find out last November that this isn't going so well. We actually walk away with "proof".

The commander takes the information and makes a field decision to stop handing detainees over. The government (for reasons that aren't clear) never makes this public knowledge.

It comes out in a court case. Sandra Buckler in the PMO says a couple weird things about it, eventually just backing right away from the topic and mutters soemthing about not responding to operational stuff. Dion tells the world that he knew because he was briefed and if he knew than surely Buckler knew and was lying.

That's what happened. Where is the screaming big issue? Why should the media care about this for more than one article? What was Dion trying to do?

This does not appear to have any nefarious sides whatsoever. The only thing I can think of is that these guys gotta loosen up with information, but that's pretty much the story.

Of course, you can always call Buckler a liar if you want. But if we start doing that, let's have a public inquiry and see how many people have lied to the media in the last 10 years in Ottawa.


Sun Jan 27, 01:23:00 AM 2008  
Blogger 900 ft Jesus said...

Buckler lied. She didn't "misspeak" whatever the h that means. The military said they kept MacKay & Bernier informed.

So not only do timelines clearly show Buckler lied - and as Comm. director for Harper, she lied on behalf of the CONs., but the military confirms she lied. Or perhaps tomm wants to say the military is lying?

Buckler lied to all of Canada. Harper, MacKay, and Bernier lied last Nov. when they kept going on about the transfer agreement as though it was still being practiced when they knew for weeks it had been on hold.

The big screaming issue is lack of transparency on a very serious issue.

Tue Jan 29, 03:45:00 PM 2008  

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