Stephen Harper's commitment to "transparent" governance is becoming daily more transparently fraudulent.
As a new week begins, we learn that Harper's "Conservative" government intends to wage a campaign of obstruction against those who seek answers concerning the still-festering Afghan detainee fiasco. Peter Tinsley, the chair of Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC), wishes to launch a public inquiry into the handling of the detainees, believing that he requires the power of subpoena in order to access the kinds of documents that the government has been unwilling to release. The government is refusing to grant Tinsley's request for an independent investigation, arguing (fatuously) that detainee transfers is "a military operation which does not form part of the 'policing duties and functions' for which the MPCC has oversight". Of course, prisoners of war have been the responsibility of military police since time immemorial; putting a man in grey pyjamas and making sure he gets his daily bread and water is not, nor ever has been, a combat operation.
We cannot help but be impressed by the CPC's gall: their attempt to impersonate people in possession of the slightest shred of moral authority is almost convincing. Sadly, Canadians remember only too well how lustily the CPC spat unconscionable, vicious slurs against anybody willing to lend credence to the well-documented allegations that our Afghan "allies" were torturing their prisoners, allegations that were ultimately credible enough for our military (who stopped the transfers last November). You will search the public record in vain for the CPC apology to all those it slandered for raising concerns that the Armed Forces later conceded were legitimate. Given their record of snarling mendacity, the CPC cannot expect Canadians to take them at their word about anything.
Detainee transfers have resumed. Once again, we are putting POW's into the hands of the untrained, undisciplined "soldiers" of a nation riven by tribal rivalries and unfamiliar with even the most basic instrumentalities of judicial due process and rule of law. We have a right to know what went wrong last year and to be given assurances that things will not go wrong again. Even the stridently pro-war hacks of the Manley commission felt compelled to deviate from their core mission (of "independently" telling Harper what he wanted to hear) in order to denounce Harper's secretive, uncommunicative approach to the Afghan conflict. Harper had an opportunity to overcome his political reflexes and signal a new era of openness, honesty and respect by allowing the light to shine on what was (and is) a dark time in our foreign-policy history. Instead, he obeyed his instincts and once again displayed his apparently illimitable contempt for the Canadian public and its values.
As prime minister, Paul Martin launched a public inquiry into the activities of his party's Québec wing. What would have been, under the more cautious and canny Chrétien, a merely internal review carrying manageable electoral consequences turned into a devastating circus that crushed the Liberal Party nation-wide. Throughout it all, Paul Martin never uttered a single regret; he clearly felt that he had done the right thing, despite the disaster.
When even such a mediocrity is capable of evincing an heroic level of political integrity by respecting the public's right to know in selfless disregard of the political costs, so much more may we demand from a man who clearly considers himself an ethically peerless political messiah.
We must offer, then, what Stephen Harper would surely consider a most deeply excoriating rebuke: Mr. Harper, you're no Paul Martin.