Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dear General Natynczyk, ... You've confused me.

Hunh. No sooner do I post the results of a morning's work and I find out that it's old news.

11:50 a,m.
And here we go! The CDS is up -- and, as predicted by Colleague Fitz-Mo, he begins by citing his May 2007 statement on that whole prisoner-who-wasn't-a-prisoner transfer-that-wasn't-a-transfer controversy that showed up in the Globe this week. He's had his staff look into the incident again -- not that it hadn't been thoroughly looked into already -- who discovered new information that appeared to contradict his initial statement.

Wait, is he saying that the section commander report suggests that the individual in question was in Canadian custody before being transferred to the Afghan authorities? That's what it sounds like.
11:54 a.m.
So after getting a "bad feel" off this Afghan, and subsequently searching him, and photographing him, the Canadian military handed him over to Afghan custody "in good faith." No, he doesn't know why he didn't find out about this before today -- thus causing him to inadvertently provide incorrect information in his most recent statement -- but he's going to look into it.

Read it anyway. There's some interesting stuff at the end. (What do I think happened re: Natynczyk changing his story? I think the military police officer and the two other officers whose testimony Natynczyk directly challenged simply said that they would not stand for their professionalism to be questioned in such a brazen fashion, simply to cover the ass of the dunder-headed Peter MacKay.)

So, it turns out that when a Canadian military police officer writes in a report that a prisoner was detained by Canadians and handed over to the Afghan authorities, and this is confirmed by the sworn testimony of two other officers, ... it doesn't mean anything.

Gen. Walter Natynczyk, Canada's chief of defence staff, told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday that Canadian troops questioned the man who was picked up during operations in Zangabad. But it was the Afghans who took him into custody, Natynczyk said.

"We didn't take this person under custody," he said.
Notes from a military police officer suggest the prisoner was captured by Canadians and turned over to the Afghans, and his account is backed up by the sworn testimony of two other officers.

Natynczyk said those officers weren't on the ground in Kandahar at the time of the incident.
Nor was the military police corporal who wrote field notes about the incident, he added.
"He wasn't there at the event, he was there after," he said.

Pardon me, but what the fuck is the point of having these men write up these reports if they're to be dismissed as being "second-hand sources"?

So, how does Natynczyk know what happened?
Natynczyk said that in order to learn the truth on the ground, he spoke to the Canadian platoon commander responsible for the operation and the battalion commander at the time in Afghanistan. Both men denied their troops captured the prisoner, he said.

Of course, General Natynczyk's whole testimony is "second-hand" since we're to take his word that these unnamed field commanders disagree with the OFFICIAL story.

It's bad enough that we're not to trust what the CF says it's doing in Afghanistan in its official reports. We now have to reconcile Natynczyk's assertion:
Natynczyk said if Canadian Forces had detained the suspect, they would have brought in the military police, taken the man into close custody, moved him to Kandahar Airfield, then have him go through a medical assessment and tactical questioning.

With what this evidently military blogger writes:

The one guaranteed way you could make a hard-bitten Canadian duty officer blanch was to tell him that an Afghan had been taken into Canadian custody, as opposed to Afghan custody, with all the extra work THAT entailed.

In practice, the situation was avoided whenever humanly possible. Instead in late 2008 and early
2009, most detainee responsibilities were invariably handed off by Canadians to the closest thing to an Afghan authority figure that they could find nearby: police, Afghan army, a passing civilian district leader... -- who was encouraged to take over that responsibility right at the point and time of capture. Any remedy to avoid the appearance of taking them into our national custody for even a minute was pursued. Only working "jointly" with Afghans in this way would have allowed the pro-Government forces as a whole to collect detainees when they had to without triggering those national reporting and followup requirements. (It had other potential advantages from an Afghan capacity-building and national sovereignty point of view, too, obviously.)*

Intelligence value or circumstances of capture could not serve as a consideration in which country
took possession; there was no time, really. If Canadians took people into our custody long enough to figure out who they were authoritatively on our own, well, we'd have just made them Canadian detainees by default, regardless of how that inquiry then turned out.

So, again General Natynczyk, I'm confused. I don't know who to believe. The official story and the detailed account of buck-passing as standard operating procedure, or your own "second-hand" testimony from unnamed field commanders who you claim you spoke with.

FWIW: The blogger, "flit" who I quoted at length from above, had this to say to justify this criminally sloppy handling of prisoners:

You've got to recall, of course, that all the alternatives at the time seemed worse. Canadians did not want to run a detention cell at Kandahar Air Field -- not enough troops, bad optics -- and all that would have done in any case was defer the inevitable transfer to an Afghan authority for a time... what were we going to do otherwise, take detainees home to Canada with us?

Cry me a river. Guess what folks? If you don't want to spend the money to do the job properly, you ought not to be getting involved in the first place. Similarly, if you don't want to expose yourself to war crimes charges, it's probably best to make sure that you don't put yourself in the position where you might commit war crimes. The harpercons gave away BILLIONS in tax cuts, to no good effect to Canada's productivity or overall economic well being. Some of those billions going towards a joint-prison system with the British and the Dutch probably seems like a good idea to harper and his ilk right now.


no_blah_blah_blah said...

The deeper people look, the worse it looks. Sigh...

The best way to avoid all these problems is just to not start a war. Oddly enough, the International Criminal Court doesn't prosecute the crime of "aggression". I suppose that it doesn't want to criminalize a "traditional" foreign policy option, which is silly. "Traditionally", people died in droves from bacterial infections... I don't exactly see anyone wanting to go back to the days before antibiotics.

The International Criminal Court should declare aggression/starting a war to be a war crime or crime against humanity. It wouldn't necessarily deter any warmongers, but it would be a powerful statement.

thwap said...

No blah,

They had that. The Kellog-Briand Pact I believe.

no_blah_blah_blah said...

Thanks! The name rings a bell, but it has been a while since I last took a history course.