Friday, November 27, 2009

Torture Resonates with Me

I am responding to an editorial by Peter Worthington on November 26 in the Edmonton Sun that issues of torture would not resonate with the Canadian public. I would like to go on record that this issue does resonate with me, and I am deeply ashamed of our military and our government. Until the news of this latest cover-up came to light, I was in support of Canadian presence in the war in Afghanistan. I was convinced by an ethical giant in our country, Sen. Romeo Dallaire. His position for being there is that we were invited through United Nations. Dallaire’s lesson, which I am unsure we have fully accepted in this country, is that we must never step away from a moral fight. Oppression, if it is allowed to exist, degrades all of humanity; even if it is perpetuated in the farthest corners of our world.

Worthington in his editorial suggests that “…as long as our own guys don’t indulge in abuse, we don’t have much control over what Afghans do…” and “Nor should we put ourselves in a position where we dictate cultural behaviour.” Tolerance of abuse is not cultural. It is always wrong - even if we are not participants but passive observers. With that reasoning, the world allowed the Rwandese genocide to continue unabated, ignored.

Besides the murky moralilty of turning a blind eye to torture, I am also deeply concerned that this information was first covered up, then denied. I can guess at the motivation. Our leaders wish to maintain the Canadian mythos of an army that extends the olive branch and works with the locals to improve conditions to raise confidence in democratic intervention. With this shameful breach in ethics, however, the locals know the truth. The Canadian soldier has an olive branch in one hand and a blindfold in the other. How could the common people trust that anything can be any better in their country, if we have given away the moral high ground?

The only resolution is for our government to come clean, take it’s licks, and reform. I also wonder if the trust has been breached in Afghanistan to such a degree that we might consider withdrawing.

I borrow the picture from General Brock's blog.