Not to minimize the egregious wrongs committed by the Afghan police/military against their own countrymen in their own country -- but why are we supposed to care?
I suppose I'm at the limits of my compassion here. These detainees are the same people responsible for the caskets draped with Canadian flags. It isn't a tea party; it's war. I don't want Canadian soldiers participating in torture, but neither do I expect them to lose sleep about it if the prisoners they hand over are subjected to it.
The Opposition parties and other bloggers are citing Article 12 of the 3rd Geneva Convention which states:
Prisoners of war may only be transferred by the Detaining Power to a Power which is a party to the Convention (. . . ) if that Power fails to carry out the provisions of the Convention in any important respect, the Power by whom the prisoners of war were transferred shall, upon being notified by the Protecting Power, take effective measures to correct the situation or shall request the return of the prisoners of war. Such requests must be complied with.The upshot being that the Afghans haven't signed on to the Geneva Convention, so the detainees should never have been transferred in the first place, but since they were, Canada bears the responsibility for their alleged abuse and must request that the detainees be returned to Canadian custody if they can't assure 'humane' treatment.
Okay, so if Article 12 applies, then does Article 17?
Each Party to a conflict is required to furnish the persons under its jurisdiction who are liable to become prisoners of war, with an identity card showing the owner's surname, first names, rank, army, regimental, personal or serial number or equivalent information, and date of birth. The identity card may, furthermore, bear the signature or the fingerprints, or both, of the owner, and may bear, as well, any other information the Party to the conflict may wish to add concerning persons belonging to its armed forces. As far as possible the card shall measure 6.5 x 10 cm. and shall be issued in duplicate. The identity card shall be shown by the prisoner of war upon demand, but may in no case be taken away from him.If these detainees are not card-carrying soldiers, should Canadian soldiers even be allowed to capture them? After all, they might be using the weapons of war, but they aren't soldiers if they haven't got those cards, right? They're just armed civilians. Prove they're not. They'll tell you -- they're just poor fellas . . . minding their own business . . . the guns and bombs are for protection.
How ridiculous it is to apply old fashioned ideas about rules of war -- y'all think old fashioned ideas about marriage and family can be pitched out the window because times have changed, perceptions have changed, the reality and understanding of right and wrong has changed. Why are you so wedded to the Geneva Conventions and their constraints, when as much as any social institutions have changed with time, so has war.
Does the Geneva Convention even apply here -- with Canada not being an invading belligerent force, but in effect an associate force in what is almost a civil war? Can Canada expect to dictate the terms on which it gives over captured insurgents to the host power? What does the Convention say about a country's treatment of its own.
As a nation, we ignored the former Taliban government when they beat and execute women in soccer stadiums. We continue to quietly watch the annihilation of entire ethnic groups in the Sudan and the rape and murder of the civilian refugees in Kenyan camps. But when it comes to they guys caught trying to blow up our troops or destroy Afghan villages -- those guys are worthy of our particular attention. G-d forbid a Taliban insurgent in a war zone might be mistreated by his own countrymen -- if he was first captured by a Canadian.
Such a principled stand. Don't you just feel so smug and superior?
Just wait until this new generation of Canadian warriors gets their write up in the Canadian War Museum. Our Veterans from Bomber Command haven't fared well with the keepers of our military history. Those who do the judging are unwilling to look at the big picture while they luxuriate in that soft, self-indulgent, peacetime, pedagogic castigation of conflict.
The Geneva Conventions were written during times of conventional warfare. They assumed all parties would play by the rules, and would accept the consequences if they didn't. There can be no assumptions about the enemy in Afghanistan, and yet our soldiers still live by the Conventions. The shrill, hypocritical cry of 'humanity' from the sidelines underscores the deep disaffect between our sensibilities and the real world.
In a perfect world, the Geneva Conventions would be a quaint remnant of history, but in our world they are antiquated handcuffs that no longer apply. But rather than face modern reality, we smear our soldiers. In an attempt to scandalize a sitting government, we are demoralizing our troops.