Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois: Canadian soldiers best interest
By Barry O'Regan
The ongoing battle between the Conservative government by the opposition leaders of the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois over Afghan detainees rights makes many wonder whose interests are best being served? Is it the opposition parties, political brownie points to bring down the government or the Taliban who rely on our human rights as a society to protect them to fight another day? One wonders if a politician had their own son or daughter over there fighting to stay alive or dying in Afghanistan would march to a different tune? A tune in which a Taliban's dial tone from a cell phone determines the fate of a Canadian soldiers best before date! As a former soldier myself, we in the military have a saying, "If you are not behind us, you are most welcome to stand in front of us". The Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois represent Canadians as well, Canadians who have family currently serving in Afghanistan, how come they are not speaking for us, but seem to always enjoy speaking for the terrorists?
Have the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebcois asked the families of the slain sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters who served in our Canadian armed forces, including those who serve(d) over there what their take is in all this, perhaps just to get a better perspective? A better perspective would be a fact finding mission for all of them to fly to Afghanistan and ask the bereaved civilian who have lost countless family members by the Taliban who routinely blow up elementary schools, or kill indiscriminately. Certainly there are two sides to any story. The Taliban even have their own side of the story.
The Taliban, 25,000 strong, could have a meet and greet with our Canadian opposition parties over there, though a cap on ransom demands must be established first. This in case the Taliban decide to make them their featured guests, permanently.
Canadian troops have a difficult task trying to determine who is the enemy and who is friendly as the Taliban fighters dress the same and blend into the populace, with no identifying markings who they are. Canadian soldiers are not that lucky. The Geneva convention I,II, III for soldiers in combat only applies to Canadian soldiers, which the Taliban clearly ignore.
When Canadian soldiers are in a firefight in a village, the danger to them is threefold. The Canadian soldier is easily identifiable by their uniform, the Taliban are not.
A Canadian soldier hesitating to shoot in a firefight can never tell if that person is friend or foe when the populace dress alike. That moment's hesitation means the difference between that soldier coming home alive or in a body bag. The Taliban on the other hand never have to worry about such trivialities, they shoot anyone who crosses in front of their gunsights. Advantage, Taliban 1, Canadian soldier 0.
The Taliban, if outnumbered in a firefight, discard their weapon, blending into the faceless crowd, knowing the Canadian soldier will not shoot indiscriminately and voila, the Taliban live to fight another day. Advantage, Taliban 2, Canadian soldier 0.
Canada's role in the transfer of prisoners under the 1949 Geneva convention "prisoner of war treatment" though the Taliban are not recognized as soldiers in the traditional sense were to be brought to the ruling Afghan government. The Afghan government signed an agreement with Canada the Taliban detainees would not be tortured and humanely treated, with all the rights accorded to prisoners under the Geneva convention IV "Civilians in time of war".
Canadian troops do not have a sound local knowledge of the culture or coming and goings of the Afghan people, especially when tribes are so widespread from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
For Canada to ensure each and every detainee were treated humanely would require Canada to guard these detainees at the Afghan prison. Canada's military role is not as a jail guard. Pulling a soldier as jail guard leaves one or more civilians or a fellow soldier without protection this soldier could have provided. If the Red Cross or Geneva convention officials feel so strongly, perhaps they can insist on a permanent presence at the prison, somehow I doubt they relish being put into harms way as Afghan prisons are known as targets by the Taliban who do not follow the rules of not kidnapping or killing Red Cross workers or Geneva convention officials.
Canadian and U.S. troops not knowing local friend from foe, handing over prisoners to a government or their military makes good sense when it was agreed beforehand prisoners would be treated humanely. This act allows the Canadian soldier to do what they were intended to do, protect the greater good from being killed by the Taliban, such as innocent men, women and children who also have a hard time distinguishing friend from foe. That is the intended purpose of the Canadian soldier.
It certainly seems crystal clear the Afghan government may not like having their sovereignty restricted by Canada, Geneva convention, Red Cross or anyone telling them what they can and cannot do with detainees, that includes method of interrogation. International pressure being directed at Canada for the atrocities conducted by a foreign government certainly gives the Taliban the advantage once again. Taliban 3, Canadian Soldier 0.
Is the solution to have Canada build a prison in Afghanistan or Canada to guard detainees? Goodness, what a "Bullseye" that would make for our fighting sons and daughters all centred at one location, trying to protect not only themselves and the local civilians from a prison Taliban firefight, but the lives of the prisoners as ancillary casualties from the dozens of rocket propelled grenades that will rain down upon them.
One can be sure the Liberals, NDP and the Bloc Quebecois, armchair military strategists all, would be safe at home out of gunshot range knowing Canadian troops gave their lives to uphold their misguided beliefs of ensuring the safety of prisoners over civilians. A stretch perhaps? But if one is to ensure humane treatment of prisoners, what other recourse is there, but to guard them with our own troops?
Perhaps Canada could have it's own Gitmo, a Canadian defence lawyers nirvana, tying up Canadian courts for generations to come, with a bullseye for politicans, special interest groups, terrorist organizations at home and Canadian taxpayers alike.
Should Canada redirect it's energies and begin a putchz of the Afghan government in order to satisfy the rules of engagement? The Geneva Convention would have something to say about that, not to mention Canada would now be fighting the Taliban, Afghan forces and their allies.
The Geneva Convention, the Red Cross with all it's good intentions will never be able to enforce it's will on a third world soveriegn government, it didn't work in Vietnam and it certainly won't work with Afghanistan.
Will a 2011 troop pullout put an end to Afghanistan's torture and human rights violations? One can assume the NDP, Liberals and Bloc Quebecois think so, since it was the previous Liberal government in 2001 who entered into this war in the first place and human rights violations under their watch was just as prevalent.
There is a reason why it is called "War is hell" and the Canadian pullout in 2011 cannot come soon enough.
Calling for the resignation of Defence Minister MacKay and the slandering of the Conservative government and the men and women who are fighting for the freedoms, based on the actions of a clearly corrupt Afghanistan government is akin to placing blame on the Canadian people who clearly had good intentions in helping prevent the oppression and killing of innocents in Afghanistan as well, but are limited to dealing with the lesser of two evils.