Friday, December 11, 2009

Patriotism being the last refuge of scoundrels

10:00 sunrise
15:48 sunset
Photo of Richard Colvin from thestar.com

I stole the title from Jeffrey Simpson's article in the globe today.

I was so thrilled to read about
this protest, this morning. More than 35 former ambassadors are expressing their disapproval with how the conservative government has been treating diplomat Richard Colvin. If you aren't familiar with the story, Colvin worked in Afganistan for the Department of Foreign Affairs and then at the Canadian Embassy in Kabul. This fall he appeared before the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan where he said that Canada did not monitor detainee conditions in Afghanistan and that detainees transferred by Canadians to Afghan prisons were likely tortured. Worse still, he said that his reports were ignored and he was eventually told to stop putting the reports in writing.

It appears that the Candian government did not take these reports seriously and they have been basically claiming that what Colvin has said isn't true and that there has been no proof of abuse or torture in situations where Canadians transferred prisioners to Afghan prisons.

The accusations are, of course, serious, and I don't want to ignore the issue of prisioner abuse. However, what is most unpalatable to me is what the conservative spin machine has been doing to counter Colvin's statements. Colvin has been accused of being unpatriotic, unsupportive and generally not being credible. It's ridiculous and embarrassing. As was written in today's Edmonton Journal (and this article is generally pro-Harper, let me point out), "Demonizing any Canadian who sincerely questions foreign policy or illuminates our mistakes around the world is the stuff of bush-league opposition losers, not a mature government in its prime. Strength shouldn't be confused with bullying or character assassination with tough, spirited debate.”

Nothing irritates me more than when the government (any government) skirts a question by personally attacking the person asking it. But the tide is changing and I think Minister McKay might be out of a job in the next week or so. I can only keep my fingers crossed that we remember this little event when it comes to the next federal election.

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