Monday, May 07, 2007

Simple answers to stupid questions.

Eric Margolis of the Toronto Sun asks:

How did Canada, one of the world's most respected, law-abiding nations, become a party to the torture of prisoners in Afghanistan and a violator of the Geneva Conventions?

Easy, Eric ... this is how.

This has been another installment of "Simple answers to stupid questions."

. Some commenters have taken me to task for blaming the Cons when it was the Liberals who signed the initial agreement. Let me explain why I think that argument is a dud.

Yes, it was the Liberals who signed the initial detainee agreement, and it was a stupid agreement, for which the Liberals should be roundly ridiculed. But ... even though it was a stupid agreement, it didn't have any immediate and obvious horrible consequences. Yes, the agreement sucked, but it didn't appear to be causing any harm at the time.

It was only under the Cons that the consequences became obvious; therefore, it was their responsibility to deal with it. If the Cons had been smart, they would not only have pointed out how stupid the Libs had been, but would have continued with something like:

"Unlike the Liberals, we believe in the rule of law and the Geneva Conventions, and we promise to make sure that detainees are treated decently. Canada has always been a beacon of fair play, and we want to make sure that reputation is preserved."

Or something like that. In short, Harper could have made the Libs look like douchebags, while claiming the mantle of morality for himself and cementing his reputation in the international community. Sadly, it hasn't worked out that way, has it?

In cases like that, you can point fingers but the real test is how you fix the fucking problem! And it's now obvious that the Cons are interested only in assigning blame, and had no interest in fixing things.

The original detainee agreement is not what's damaged Canada's rep worldwide. What's made us look like contemptible thugs is the way Harper and his cronies have dealt with the situation, which was to simply ignore it and lie. At that point, Harper gave up whatever moral ground he might have had.

The Libs may have been responsible for that initial, stupid agreement, but it was under Harper that its actual consequences became disturbingly obvious, and it was Harper's government that made it clear it didn't give a shit about those people.

In the movie "Rising Sun," Sean Connery explains to Wesley Snipes one way that the Japanese differ from Americans (paraphrased):

"The problem in America is that everyone simply wants to assign blame and people have to apologize. With the Japanese, they just fix the problem. Then no one has to apologize".

Exactly. Sure, give the Cons their moment to point out how stupid the Libs were when they signed that initial agreement. And now that the gloating moment is over, it's time to fix the goddamned problem. Sadly, the Cons have been spending all their time doing that first part, without moving on to the second part. And that's why, at the moment, it's their fault.


John Connor (Sean Connery): 'The Japanese have a saying, "Fix the problem, not the blame." Find out what's fucked up and fix it. Nobody gets blamed. We're always after who fucked up. Their way is better.'


Greg Fingas said...

Sorry, but have to call BS on that one.

Remember that the original detainee agreement was signed before the election took place, meaning that the potential complicity in torture already existed under the Libs. The difference now is that the issue is actually getting attention since all three opposition parties care about human rights, whereas a Con opposition would have been muddying the issue by asking "why is the government bothering to care about detainees rather than shooting suspected Taliban sympathizers on sight"?

thwap said...

Couldn't agree more. T'was the Libs who got us in there, taking prisoners with no one to hand them over to but the warlord government and the US army.

But as The Jurist says, the Cons are worse. When the Lib politicians were trying to ascertain what happened to Arar (with significant prodding from the NDP) Harper was actually asking 'why are we wasting our time worrying about a terrorist?"

Ti-Guy said...

I'll gladly put the blame on Chretien and Dithers, but I think those two actually believed Canada would be dealing with people who'd simply forget centuries of culture and embrace the humane treatment of prisoners.

They were rubes. But pro-torture Conservatives are worse.

thwap said...

I said as much. Take my Arar example. But to answer Eric's specific question, "how did we get into this mess?" ... well, ...

If you have a specific question about Gustafsen Lake for me, I'll be happy to answer that one too.