IS THIS CANADA’S ABU GHRAIB? Harper and O’Connor Can’t Escape Afghan Torture Scandal

There are, to be sure, significant differences between the torture scandal currently engulfing Ottawa and the one that rocked the Bush administration three years ago. There are no gruesome photos and, unlike the U.S. abuse of Iraqi detainees, the torture in Afghanistan is being done by Canada’s local allies.

But in many ways this scandal is equal to the outrage of Abu Ghraib. With the photographic evidence of the abuse in Iraq, even old Donald Rumsfeld could not have pulled the straight-faced performance of Stephen Harper and Gordon O’Connor in the House of Commons this week.

Faced with the shocking accounts from Afghan detainees featured in The Globe and Mail this week, Harper had the audacity on Tuesday to dismiss the reports as “allegations of the Taliban.”

Graeme Smith, The Globe and Mail correspondent in Afghanistan (and, by the Prime Minister’s appalling logic, a Taliban spokesperson), conducted weeks of research touring “medieval nightmare” prisons and interviewing 30 detainees. Smith recorded accounts of beatings, electric shock, whipping, freezing and starvation among the methods employed by the security forces to which Canadian soldiers turned over their detainees.

On Wednesday, The Globe and Mail delivered the knockout punch to Harper’s and the Conservatives’ evasions and denials. The headline summed it all up, “What Ottawa doesn’t want you to know: Government was told detainees often faced ‘extrajudicial executions, disappearances, torture and detention without trial’.”

A 2006 report on Afghanistan compiled for Foreign Affairs Canada provides proof that the Conservative government knew about all of this, contrary to everything O’Connor and the PM have been saying for months – and what they, incredibly, continued to assert in the House this week. Key passages of the Afghanistan report were blacked out, but The Globe and Mail obtained an original copy. The censored content, what Ottawa didn’t want us to know, includes the following passages: READ MORE

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