Monday, November 23, 2009

Does Torture Matter?

A number of things are disturbing about the recent outbreak of the story concerning Canada’s role in the torture of so-called Afghan detainees. The first thing that comes to mind regarding the distastefulness of this story (other than the very fact of torture itself) is the fact that this story has been around for years but the media has largely ignored it. Anyone who was paying even the slightest bit of attention to the events in Afghanistan knew full-well that torture has been a matter of course in the prisons of Afghanistan ever since we began to prop-up what is a corrupt, undemocratic, essentially fascist state there. Until Mr. Colvin testified in front of a House committee, the media simply stayed silent on this issue and bought the line of the Harper Government that we have no hard proof and therefore torture must not be happening. Shame on the media one more time for largely ignoring a story until it becomes fashionable. By the way, all reliable sources tell us that torture is also routine in Pakistan, another Canadian ally, and no one talks about that story either. The media has also failed utterly to make it clear that for Government officials to be indictable for war crimes they didn’t actually have to have proof of torture. All that really matters is that detainees were handed over in the presence of a reasonable suspicion of torture. This is the part of the story that the government is most afraid of. Other distasteful elements in this whole story include the Government’s horrendous attempts at assassinating the character of Mr. Colvin as though suddenly this high-placed diplomat is a fool or a patsy because he has been willing to take seriously what everyone already knew.  Amnesty International has been an outspoken critic of the Afghan government’s use of torture so why don’t we see Peter Mackay stand up daily in the House of Commons and tell us that Amnesty International has no credibility and is being manipulated by the Taliban.

But by far the most disturbing thing about this whole story is the number of people, who have essentially don't really seem upset by the prospect of a few Taliban prisoners having been tortured because they are only Taliban, and the only thing that really matters is the idea of a cover-up. This is part of a disturbing trend since the events of 911 whereby groups of people are marginalized to the point that they don’t qualify for the very human rights for which we have supposedly been fighting. The fact is that this attitude is the very reason that this has been allowed to happen in the first place. People have systematically ignored the fact that torture has been happening because for far too many in the West the people of Afghanistan don’t really matter. Thousands of civilians have been killed, we have propped-up with military what Malalai Joya calls a photo-copy of the Taliban Government, we have stood by and tacitly endorsed torture, all in the interests of a geo-political struggle to assert Western power in a strategically important region at a strategically important moment in history. Until people realize that this war has never been about helping a few young girls attend school in Afghanistan, the torture that the media has ignored and that Mr. Harper secretly endorses won’t matter. 


Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Kirbycairo.

You write: "People have systematically ignored the fact that torture has been happening because for far too many in the West the people of Afghanistan don’t really matter".

I think that you will find this article very interesting as there are many parallels between what is happening in Australia and what we are experiencing in Canada:

Let me just make one quote directly from it:

"Shortly before Kevin Rudd (the Aussie PM, all words in parentheses were added by me only for clarification purposes), made that statement, American planes bombed a wedding party in Afghanistan. At least sixty people were blown to bits, including the bride and groom and many children. That’s the fifth wedding party attacked, in our name.

Unfortunately, some Canadians have allowed themselves to be spun the tale by the Harper govt that Canadians are in Afghan only for the right reasons.

Hoping that perhaps you can find something in the Aussie experience that you can further post on your blog as I think there are many similarities between the Aussie and Canadian experiences.

kirbycairo said...

thanks, I will take a look at that.