Afghan detainees – the real issue

By Mischa Popoff on March 25, 2010

In politics there are issues you can bludgeon your enemies with, but every now and then an issue arises that through its repetition will turn against you because a deeper issue lies within it.

  What the Liberals and NDP fail to appreciate as they attack the Conservatives over the Afghan detainee issue is that at a visceral level Canadians just don’t care about Afghan detainees because they’re the enemy. There, I said it.

  It would be different if Canadians were torturing Afghan detainees. Recall the national shame when photos of Somalian Shidane Arone came out in 1993. Bad things happen in war, but Chrétien survived that issue and Harper will survive this one.

  It’s alleged that there’s a possibility that detainees are being “mistreated” at the hands of our Afghan allies; you know, the people we’re over there to protect. If our Afghan allies were torturing detainees that again would be different, but what’s alleged is mere “mistreatment” based solely on the testimony of the detainees themselves. Big difference.

  Of course Conservatives don’t dare point this out because they’ll seem callous. So they’re forced to pretend to share, at least somewhat, in the Liberals’ and NDP’s concerns for human rights until this blows over. And yes, it will blow over because the enemy in this case avows to subjugate, enslave and kill those who are, allegedly, now mistreating them. Think about that for a second.

  It must be difficult to feign sustained indignation when an Afghan tribesman gives a fat lip to a terrorist who just last week was threatening to kill him and his entire family, but so far everyone in Ottawa and the national media is managing just fine.

  Now here’s the deeper issue: combatants who face our soldiers in a war zone have only two choices: fight and die, or surrender and be treated well. No exceptions. The former isn’t considered “polite talk” in Ottawa; our soldiers have been assigned many peacekeeping missions over the years but Canadians know soldiers are trained to kill the enemy before the enemy kills them, and that our boys and girls in uniform have always been, and will always be, soldiers.

  The enemy in Afghanistan intends to kill as many of our soldiers as they can. As such, they are human targets for our soldiers until such time as they become detainees. They’re not a building or a munitions dump; they’re human beings who must be killed. There, I said it again.

  There’s a willful ignorance of the realities of war in Ottawa which has, so far at least, allowed the Opposition to pretend Conservatives condone the mistreatment of prisoners of war. If this was true then surely the same would have been true when the Liberals were in charge. It’s the same Allied soldiers on the ground, right? But much more to the point, who really cares? Haven’t these people heard of priorities?

  If the Opposition doesn’t stop with the false indignation over fat lips being inflicted on Afghan detainees by Afghans, they will pay a heavy price. Canadians don’t want their government to waste time ensuring that the same rights we enjoy are afforded to the enemy when the lives of our own soldiers and 28 million innocent Afghanis are at stake. Every terrorist that our soldiers capture, no matter what happens to him, is just lucky to be alive. ‘Nuff said.

  The Liberals knew our soldiers were in the business of killing the enemy when they got us into Afghanistan, and they knew our boys and girls were experts at this trade even when weighted down by bureaucratic rules of engagement. They still know this; they’re just having a hard time watching as their political enemies make the best of the bad situation the Liberals got us into.

  And now another Canadian diplomat with experience in Afghanistan has come forth to say she raised concerns about detainee mistreatment back in 2005, but her concerns were ignored. Let me think now… who was running the country back then? Wasn’t the Conservatives…. Hmmm, who could it have been?

  Like I said, there are deeper issues at stake here.

Mischa Popoff is a freelance political writer with a degree in history. He can be heard on Kelowna’s AM 1150 on Friday mornings between 9 and 10.

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