Nov 19 2009

Why is the Political Opposition So Eager to Believe Our Enemies?

Canada is at war. It may seem hard to believe at times, given our remoteness from the conflict and the distinct lack of impact on most Canadians’ daily lives. But when our soldiers in Afghanistan are not helping provide schools, health clinics and training to the Afghan army, they are helping defend Afghan population centers against a predatory and nihilistic enemy. And when that thuggish enemy, who would surprise us more if they did not commit atrocities in a steady parade of head-splitting brutality, complains of ill treatment at the hands of our allies, the immediate response ought not to be tainted by political opportunism.

Should we believe allegations that Canadian soldiers were complicit in the torture of Taliban detainees? It’s sad to see Canadian opposition parties essentially taking Taliban prisoners at their word in a ham-handed effort to hit the Conservative government with… well, something.

Our enemy is well aware that the any hope for a pullout of international forces from Afghanistan, a prelude to a Taliban takeover, depends on a loss of confidence on the home front. As such, they will lie. They will make up stories of the most horrific abuse. They will lay out a scenario that rivals the blood and gore of a Rob Zombie film.

Being at war, our political representatives of all stripes have a duty to not use unproven allegations, presumably from the mouths of our enemies. Deep down, I suspect most Canadians could care less whether would-be suicide bombers and child-killers are rotting in a medieval-style dungeon, so attacking the Conservative Party with this issue is unlikely to change any votes either way. But this willingness to repeat our enemy’s propaganda may sap faith in the mission and as importantly, in our system of justice.

Fight the Conservatives on the economy. Beat them up on the environment. But it’s time to stop using the Taliban’s talking points to play politics.

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12 responses so far

12 Responses to “Why is the Political Opposition So Eager to Believe Our Enemies?”

  1. isabella mori (@moritherapy)on 20 Nov 2009 at 12:17 am

    jonathan, i can’t believe you are saying this; while we happen to have different political views, i’ve always seen you as moderate and levelheaded.

    this has nothing to do with enemies or not. i don’t think it takes a lot of imagination to surmise, or a lot to prove, that these acts against human rights have taken place, and may still be taking place. plus colvin, the person who has made the allegations over and over again (this is not exactly new news, is it?), strikes me as a reasonable person.

    yes, of course the opposition is making political hay out of this. that doesn’t automatically make it an unworthy cause. torture is unacceptable, regardless of who the victim is, and of who points it out. these are principles upon which civilized societies are built, principles that cannot be neglected because “our enemies” may (or may not) commit atrocities themselves.

    they are not OUR enemies. they are the enemies of a country in dire need of peace and democracy. our enemies, as the enemies of the world all over, are despotism, poverty, fanaticism, lack of education, misogyny and war.

  2. Justin Hofferon 20 Nov 2009 at 12:32 am

    Unfortunately, you have to wonder whether the left secretly is OK with what our enemies do to us. I don’t think they are, are just think they are blind doves, but it is still a legitimate question, one that all Canadians need to ask.

  3. wilsonon 20 Nov 2009 at 7:45 am

    The opps and media wanted the Canadian govt to rush to judgement immediately
    over ‘allegations of prisoner abuse’,

    and take the exact opposite position over ”allegations of terrorism” ,
    there the opps and media insist that evidence is not to be believed.

  4. Jimon 20 Nov 2009 at 8:20 am

    They believe our enemies for the same reason they pray for the economy to collapse.

    Lust for power at any price.

  5. jnarveyon 20 Nov 2009 at 9:01 am

    Hey Isabella. Of course I agree with you that torture is unacceptable. But my point is that no one knows at this point whether it actually occurred. Right now, these allegations are said to be coming from the prisoners themselves — members of a group sworn to brutalize the local population and fight to the death anyone who tries to come in from the outside to put a stop to it.

    And I must disagree with you that the Taliban are not our enemies. Undoubtedly, as part of a larger movement of radical extremists, they are the enemies of not just us or our allies, but all freedom-loving peoples. We can debate whether or not it’s necessary for us keep soldiers in Afghanistan (obviously, you know my position), but they remain the enemy in any case.

  6. Danon 20 Nov 2009 at 10:54 am

    The allegations are not being made by the Taliban, they are being made by on the ground diplomats and the red cross who are hardly our enemies.

    They are also not aimed at our armed forces, (no one is accusing our soldiers of engaging in it) they are aimed at senior diplomats and administrators in Afghanistan who refused to take any action when faced with overwhelming evidence. They are also aiming to find out how far up the turn the eye mentality went.

    The victims were allegedly not only hard core “taliban”, but regular afghans detained by the forces.

    The opposition is asking for a judicial enquiry into why on the ground warnings were not acted on.

    Frankly, your statements and that of the conservatives imply that torture is fine, as long as we do it to our enemies. That because we are engaged in a military conflict we should remain silent and not question our leaders. We’ve had enough of that sort of nonsense in the last 100 years.

    If our allies are involved in torture, how then are they or us morally different from the Taliban? Because they torture women and our allies were only torturing men?


    If we are going to justify our presence in an armed conflict based on humanitarian purposes, we must uphold the rule of law. If we are saying we are at war, we must uphold Geneva conventions. Our failure to do so not only undermines our legitimacy, but weakens our support amongst the people we are supposed to be protecting.

    We must act questions, and not to be ashamed to do so.

    That our current government, instead of taking these allegations seriously, turns arounds and accuses the opposition of being sympathizers for asking questions is absolutely ridiculous. The government is the one making this a partisan issue, by failing to do their job. Question period is the appropriate venue for asking these questions.

    This is a serious matter, and should be treated seriously, especially if there were instructions in the diplomatic process to ignore allegations.

    Your comments are indicating that you don’t believe we should be asking these questions, because it would undermine our case for being there. So in essence, you are saying that Canada’s role in Afghanistan is so important, that we must hide what is happening there from Canadians.

    If these allegations are false, propaganda, then why try and suppress them? What is wrong with investigating them? Why won’t the government acknowledge that these are huge concerns and call an inquiry?

    If Canadian diplomats were hiding information from our government, then frankly, we need to purge those diplomats from our core. If the government received these allegations, and failed to act, then it is a political issue.

    From everything I see, the government appears to have something to hide.

  7. Dan Hilbornon 20 Nov 2009 at 11:36 am

    Asking for an investigation is not siding with the enemy.

  8. jnarveyon 20 Nov 2009 at 11:42 am

    Hey Dan. Just to clarify, I’m not disagreeing with an investigation. But many members of the political opposition, both among the leadership and the rank and file seem to be saying that the Conservatives are already guilty beyond reasonable doubt of a coverup — when in fact, so far we just don’t know if there ever was anything TO cover up. It’s ALL allegations.

  9. Robon 20 Nov 2009 at 11:45 am

    This much is true:” that the Taliban are not our enemies. Undoubtedly, as part of a larger movement of radical extremists, they are the enemies of not just us or our allies, but all freedom-loving peoples.”

    and the Libs and Nippers do not imo care for truth they seek only power. The lame stream media cohort are more interested in damaging the government than understanding we are at war.

    If a crime has been committed justice should be pursued but cut the hyperbole.

  10. zamprellion 20 Nov 2009 at 12:51 pm

    What you’re saying would make some sense if most of the detainees had in fact been Taliban. Then, they would have reason to lie. The innocent farmers and merchants rounded up on exactly zero evidence, though? Not so much.

    PS. Most Canadians bloody well do care if *anyone* is rotting in a medieval-style dungeon. Those who don’t are nothing more than brutal, nihilistic thugs.

  11. isabella mori (@moritherapy)on 20 Nov 2009 at 1:41 pm

    thank you for hosting this discussion, jonathan.

    did you hear the CBC radio interview this morning about this topic?

    perhaps we could look at these two statements:

    “the afghan people are our friends, and we want to help them deal with their enemies, the taliban.”

    “the taliban are our enemies.”

    i don’t think the two are the same. the fact that SOME taliban came over and committed the atrocities of 9/11 in new york also does not imply that ALL taliban in afghanistan are the enemies of canadians.

    btw, i am conflicted over our involvement in afghanistan but from what little i know, i am more for our involvement than against it. all in all, i am under the impression that we are helping not hindering.

    still need to think about the idea of whether it gets too abstract when we we say that concepts are out enemies. stay tuned :)

  12. […] my vancouver blogger friend jonathan narvey has a discussion about the current allegations that the canadian military looked the other way when people they had detained in afghanistan were transferred to afghani prisons where the canadian military knew, or should have known, that the detainees would be tortured. please see jonathan’s article and various comments, including two from myself, here. […]

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