Canada’s ‘Whole Freaking Government’ Approach in Afghanistan

"Bonded in the crucible of the Kandahar mission, a new group of civil servants has emerged as the government’s go-to team for the most challenging and dangerous assignments of the day. Tougher, faster, more flexible, and more networked, these officials epitomize one of the most used buzzwords in public administration: whole of government.

"Having benefited from the Midas Touch of the Afghan mission, these fast rising civil servants have been dispatched to some of the most important and cutting-edge tasks in government. Many have put their conflict zone training and experience to work as Canada’s front line disaster response staff in Haiti, while others have been tasked with the extraordinarily broad task of planning the upcoming G8 meetings.

"And with military-style training, and a bit of the army’s can-do attitude, a new force of officials is forming into a quickly deployable cadre destined for the world’s hotspots."
– “Feds’ Go-To Team in Afghanistan Part of New Whole-of-Government Strategy,” Jeff Davis, Hill Times online, April 19, 2010

"So I said, you know, the NDS tortures people, that is what they do, and if we don’t want to have detainees tortured, we shouldn’t give them to the NDS."
Richard Colvin, testimony before the Canadian Military Police Complaints Commission, April 13, 2010

You know, it’s hard to believe Mr. Colvin, Canadian diplomat, and Mr. Davis, author of the Hill Times article, were writing about the same Afghanistan (the Midas Touch?! Is he talking about mufflers?!), and it’s difficult to believe they’re in the same Ottawa in the same universe. Of the two, Mr. Colvin seems to me to have the greater credibility: he uses short words in clear sentences I can understand, whereas the Hill Times describes in BureauSpeak an Alice-through-the looking-glass world where nothing is as it seems and in fact, Nothing is Everything, and Everything is what the White Queen says it is, and it’s all wonderful.

The Hill Times vividly portrays this fabulous "1C" world, where the "whole of government" approach is a shared delusion – folie à plusieurs (“madness of many”) or dependency psychotic disorder (DSM-IV) – in which defense, diplomacy, and development (the previously fashionable “3D” approach) seamlessly work together to build castles in the Ottawa air into which the "whole of government" moves and for which Canadian citizens pay construction costs. Other than that, the loss of connection between the "whole of government" and Canadian citizens seems complete; the "1C" world spins on its own axis into the "echelons above reality."

It’s pretty fantastic reading, particularly if you happen to be a Canadian citizen paying for the "whole of government," like we paid the bills for the Maher Arar disaster [.pdf], paying Mr. Arar over $10 million in damages (admittedly before the Canadian dollar reached parity with the American dollar), and the Commission of Inquiry over $15 million, the inquiry costs being well worth it in my opinion for the production of a fearless report that nailed the still anonymous officials in Canadian government for duplicitous, execrable, scrofulous criminal defamation ("Offenses Against the Person or Reputation," Criminal Code of Canada, Section 300) on the basis of no evidence, for which no individual government official has been held to account, but it’s a good start.

There is now a pretty good collection of evidence, even worse than I could have imagined, that the Canadian Forces’ chain of command in Ottawa was complicit in the unlawful transfer of prisoners in Afghanistan to the custody of the NDS (National Directorate of Security), which has a reputation that compares favorably with that of the Gestapo. This, for a loyal Canadian citizen, is difficult to believe, but it’s the only thing that explains the duplicitous, execrable, scrofulous, criminal behavior ("grave breaches" of Article 12 of the Third Geneva Convention, or Article 45 of the Fourth Geneva Convention; take your pick) of the Department of National Defense in trying to suppress all information (Obstruction of Justice, Section 139 of the Criminal Code of Canada) about what has happened to Canadian prisoners in Afghanistan.

Now, it looks like the Brits are in on it, too. And we know about the Americans. "Operation Enduring Freedom" is a military entity outside the bounds of any known law, national or international. It has not been sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council, it does conduct assassinations in Pakistan, and it does operate the prison at Bagram Air Base that is beyond the reach of any supervision, and to which prisoners taken by Canadian Forces in Afghanistan might well have been transferred, either directly or via the NDS, a sort of evil "prisoner laundering" scam in which the Canadians, the Brits, and the Americans might all be complicit, and it seems quite obviously to be a "grave breach" of the Third Geneva Convention that the Canadian Forces Theatre Standing Order 321A [.pdf] says with a straight face is the standard of care for prisoners in Afghanistan. And if you read Article 12 of the Third Geneva Convention, which seems to be relevant to this whole mess, the words are:

"Art 12. Prisoners of war are in the hands of the enemy Power, but not of the individuals or military units who have captured them. Irrespective of the individual responsibilities that may exist, the Detaining Power is responsible for the treatment given them."

So in Afghanistan, our "Detaining Power" is Canada, all of us, the whole freaking country, "regardless of individual responsibilities that exist." And that includes the "whole of government" – which, this time is not going to avoid answering for its individual responsibilities, particularly if they involve complicity in war crimes.

So if the Canadians knew what was going on with their transfers, and the Brits knew, and the Americans knew, it’s pretty hard to believe that ISAF didn’t know, and that therefore NATO didn’t know, and in fact the United Nations Security Council didn’t know, and that if they didn’t know, they chose not to know. The whole business of choosing not to see evil was pretty definitively dealt with at war crimes trials after Word War II, which didn’t go well for people in authority who claimed they didn’t know anything was wrong.

One of the reasons for the flagrant obstruction of justice by the current government in Ottawa might be that if the truth comes out in Canada, the truth will also come out about NATO, a lot of famous people might end up on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, or even better, Québec Superior Court, which conducted a successful investigation and prosecution regarding war crimes in Rwanda (R.C. Munyaneza, 2009 QCCS 2201) using the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act of 2000 [.pdf] and subsequent case law, and the world might never be the same.

Bring it on.

Author: Neil Kitson

Neil Kitson is a dermatologist and garment manufacturer in Vancouver.