Thursday, December 10, 2009

"Interro-Gate" continues to haunt the Cons... but to what effect?

Well, General Walter Natynczyk now admits that at least one prisoner handed over to the Afghan authorities was tortured, The pressure for an inquiry is growing, so on the surface it least it would appear that the Cons are in a bind. But are they? Bruce Anderson certainly thinks so:

A while ago, I wrote that there would need to be more evidence to corroborate Mr. Colvin and a process by which that information came to light, in order for this issue to create political consequences. Both of those conditions have been met, and while Copenhagen, Christmas and the Olympics will all give breathing space to the government, the government is now faced with a risk-filled dillemma.

If an inquiry is inevitable, they should avoid looking as though they were dragged kicking and screaming into it. If they gamble that stonewalling will work, they may lose that gamble, and look like they cared too little about doing the right thing to safeguard the international honor of Canada.

On the other hand John Ibbison thinks there will be no long-term consequences for the government:

Objectively, the abuse of Afghan detainees is hugely important. Canadian soldiers and officials might have been complicit in violating the Geneva Conventions. Their political masters were cavalier, at best, or negligent, at worst, in how they handled the matter. Heads should roll.

But politically, this is an issue that doesn't resonate outside Ottawa. The revelations haven't moved the polls. The Liberals are in what is turning into typical disarray. Firing Mr. MacKay is the one thing Mr. Harper could do that would undermine his own party while helping to unify his opponents.

You think Stephen Harper is nuts?

I wonder. Ibbitson's article rings true in a lot of ways; the government can stonewall for quite a while, and as Anderson concedes, the timing of this is potentially quite convenient for Harper and his cronies, with first Christmas and then the Olympics as convenient distractions. But contrary to what Ibbitson implies, we're now seeing polls suggesting that Canadians don't believe the government's claims that they knew nothing of what was going on. How much effect this will have on people's voting intentions remains to be seen, though. And Michael Ignatieff hasn't got a whole lot of credibility on this issue either:
To defeat evil, we may have to traffic in evils: indefinite detention of suspects, coercive interrogations, targeted assassinations, even pre-emptive war.
He wrote that five years ago, in the New York Times.

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