The Bruce Carson scandal is growing by the day. Today, the Toronto Star reports that the disgraced former Harper adviser played a key role in this country's foreign policy: "Carson was the Prime Minister's point man on Canada's mission in Afghanistan and was provided sensitive information about the military mission despite his criminal record."
That's right, Bruce Carson, who served as a senior adviser to Stephen Harper despite a criminal past that includes multiple fraud convictions, was the prime minister's right hand when it came to managing this country's most significant military engagement since the Korean War. More from the Star article:
"...starting in 2007, Carson was a regular participant in daily telephone briefings on Afghanistan involving senior officials from departments such as foreign affairs, defence, RCMP, justice and corrections.
'It was evident to all the departments that he was the main player, Harper's point man on the file,' said one source familiar with the briefings. 'He was given the most sensitive file to work on... it's not like he was working in the mailroom.'
While Harper has a national security adviser, it was left to Carson, chief policy analyst, to stick-handle the Afghan file on a daily basis. His focus was usually on how the mission was being communicated here in Canada rather than on developments in the field, the source said.
'The PMO micromanaged the whole thing,' the source said. 'They were always a bloody handful to deal with.'
Back in 2007, when Carson started work for Harper on Afghanistan, the detainee abuse and torture scandal was beginning to fully emerge. Human rights advocates argued that the Canadian army's policy of handing over detainees to abuse and torture constituted a violation of Canadian and international law. We now know that a convicted criminal was helping 'micro-manage' the Harper government's response.
Bruce Carson's job was to help Harper keep a lid on real discussion and debate about the war, something the Harper government still places a premium on. (The U.S. Supreme Commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, also puts a big emphasis on tightly controlling information and media coverage of the war. Rolling Stone recently published a chilling expose of the 'Petraeus doctrine' in Afghanistan.)
Carson's Afghanistan connection reveals the hypocrisy of the Harper Conservatives' rhetoric of law and order -- both at home and abroad. He was in many ways an appropriate spin doctor for the war in Afghanistan: a criminal advocate for a criminal war.
Canadian complicity in torture is only the tip of the iceberg of corruption and lawlessness in Afghanistan. The puppet regime Canadian forces and NATO work to prop up has been described even by an American official as a "vertically integrated criminal enterprise."
The Karzai government is full of warlords with long histories of brutal war crimes. President Hamid Karzai's brother, Wali Karzai -- the most powerful man in Canada's main theatre of operations, Kandahar -- has been linked to drug trafficking and accused of turning a blind eye to revenge killings within his own extended family (and all this while receiving cash from the CIA, as reported in the New York Times).
Then there are the almost routine crimes against civilians -- airstrikes that have massacred wedding parties and children collecting firewood, and so much other 'collateral damage' of occupation. And added to this there were the horrific "kill team" photos which recently came to light, grisly evidence of murders of Afghan civilians committed by U.S. troops.
None of these crimes of war in Afghanistan have figured as election campaign issues thus far -- even though the detainee scandal was widely cited as one of the reasons for Harper's most recent prorogation of parliament.
Polls show that a large majority of Canadians were opposed to extending Canada's military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2011. But thanks to a long-standing Harper-Ignatieff coalition of sorts on the war, the government was able to push through an extension to 2014 without so much as a vote in the House of Commons.
It is well past time for this war to make some election headlines.
This weekend is a North American wide day of action against the war in Afghanistan. There will be rallies in a number of Canadian cities and towns. Find the one near you, and help break the silence on this criminal war.
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