KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Canada still can't account for at least 50 prisoners it captured and turned over to Afghan authorities, several sources say, frustrating efforts to put to rest concerns the detainees were subject to torture.
Canadian sources offered a benign explanation for their disappearance, blaming the Afghans' shoddy record-keeping and suggesting the detainees have likely returned safely to their homes.
Canada's own diplomatic reporting has already warned of complaints that captives are sometimes killed inside Afghan prisons.
“Extrajudicial executions, disappearances, torture and detention without trial are all too common,” a report last year said.
The sort of thing that could be happening to prisoners we've turned over to the Afghans is reflected in the story of a wealthy Afghan farmer whose brother and another man were arrested in his fields close to a highway where a roadside bomb had gone off, killing one Afghan police officer. The surviving officers arrested the man's brother and the other man, and took them to an illegal prison (one of many, apparently) in Kandahar. The man was able to ransom his brother, but the other man, having no wealthy relatives to save him was found in a gutter, practically flayed, with his throat slit.
This happens to people arrested by underpaid police officers who most likely come from one of the powerful warlord groups that make up "Afghanistan's New Government," and which embody that culture of violence and criminality. The Afghan citizen had some final words for the reporter:
"These problems will belong to the Canadians in the end,” he said. “You have friendships with killers.”
On the very same day that this excellent, sobering reporting appeared, the Globe & Mail's editorial board (containing, I hear, the infamous Marcus Gee, a man whose stenographic talents rival those of the Washington Press Corps) produced a vapid, ridiculous lead editorial about how we have to "stay the course" in Afghanistan.
Why? Why must we continue to create enemies, capture some of them, and hand them over to be flayed alive? The Globe editors don't really have much to say:
There is a strong case for extending the deployment of Canada's troops in Kandahar itself. it is a dangerous place. It is also a place where this country, through the bravery and sacrifice of its soldiers, has been able to make a difference in the world.
I think somebody got confused. That's not a "strong case." That's a weak case. What? If I go into a roadside bar to ask for directions and I find it's full of cannibal bikers I should stay because I've found myself in a dangerous place? Maybe I could "make a difference in the world" by becoming a statistic or something. What the hell is this vague euphemism, "make a difference in the world"? Why don't these dimwits come right out and say what they mean?
Glenn Greenwald had a good critique of the purposefully vague nature of imperialist rhetoric. In one of his screeds, sorry-assed Jonah Goldberg had this advice for dealing with the increasingly stubborn Iraqi insurgency:
As a matter of analysis and prescription, I'm all in favor of the war in Iraq becoming less "liberal" -- as you folks are using the term around here -- and more realistic, i.e. ruthless. No fan of "liberalizing" Iraq can be against winning there first. (Greenwald emphasizes things differently.)
Happily, Greenwald had the time and the clout to call Goldberg on his bullshit. What did he
mean by the US being more "ruthless" in Iraq? Blasting entire civilian neighbourhoods to rubble to root out insurgents? Killing suspected insurgents and displaying their mutilated corpses as grim, graphic warnings to anyone seeking to resist the American occupation?
When pressed, Goldberg bleated the following:
But, what I mean by ruthlessness . . . is a single-minded determination to win.
That's it. He clarifies his gassy machismo with mewling cliche. Greenwald devastatingly rips this to shreds:
By "single-minded determination to win," does that mean we bomb more indiscriminately, forget about ethical restraints, break the law, re-instate the draft, raise taxes to pay for a larger military? Who knows. He won't say. They never do, because their real goal is to sound tough and avoid admitting error ("the Iraq War isn't a failure; not at all. We just need to stiffen our spines, take the kid gloves off, and commit ourselves to a single-minded determination to win").
Obviously, the Globe & Mail editors know they can't get away with that sort of shit in Canada (yet). Rick Hillier and the Harpercons have tried and failed. So they have to talk about what we can positively in vague euphemisms that don't break down to anything at all.
"We have to stay until the job is done." What job? How do we know it's done? What do we need to do to finish the job? How long is this supposed to take? "The long haul"? What the hell does that mean? Commit to something dammit! You're supposed to be the "personal responsibility" monopolists after all!
There are more pathetic rationalizations in the editorial. It remains the case that the above useless generalities was the core of the "strong case" for our staying; that Afghanistan is dangerous and that we can make a difference in the world by staying.
They also say that we owe it to our allies to stay. We started something, we should finish it. This is hypocritical bullshit. We violate the UN Treaty daily with impunity. We abandoned Kyoto. Military commitments (especially imperialist projects like this one) should have no higher standing than any other commitments. And we're only officially "committed" to 2008 anyway.
They say that we owe it to the Afghan people to stay. More nonsense. The implication is that we're staying there rebuilding the country and destroying the Medieval insurgency that is trying to frustrate these efforts. The reality is that we're spending only one-tenth of our resources on reconstruction. 9/10ths of our efforts are dedicated to fighting, to making enemies, to calling in NATO airstrikes that wipe-out entire villages creating more enemies. We've taken sides when there are no real good sides to take. Karzai is a weak US puppet. The warlords in his government have been given immunity for the past crimes against humanity, and they're committing new ones in the present. We've reneged on promised levels of reconstruction aid. We've conducted a disastrous anti-heroin crusade, destroying the economic hope of thousands of families. We turn over the people we fight to rogue police who hold people for ransom and who torture their victims to death.
Certainly we owe something to the people of Afghanistan. It certainly isn't what we've been doing up to now though.
They argue that we need to stay in Afghanistan for our own national security. This is laughable garbage. Control of Afghanistan does not a world power make. The Globe knows this. They mean that we have to defeat "terrorism." But terrorism is a response to something else. And the truth of the matter is that since the Taliban has grown in strength because of the anger created by our broken promises and violence, it's actually the case that we're LESS safe the longer we stay in Afghanistan, because we've created more individuals who might get it into their heads that Canada is their enemy.
This should all go without saying. This Globe & Mail editorial was one of the most miserable pieces of utter stupidity ever to grace its pages. And that's saying a lot after all.