“Not my department,” says Harper

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s insistence that the torture of prisoners Canada hands over to Afghan authorities is a problem for Afghanistan, not Canada, calls to mind Tom Leher’s lyric about rocket scientist Wernher von Braun’s apparent indifference to the consequences of his work on Germany’s World War II V2 rocket:

Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?
‘That’s not my department’, says Wernher von Braun.

In fact, as Bob Rae points out in the same Globe and Mail article, transferring prisoners with the expectation they may be tortured is a violation of the Geneva Conventions – a war crime, in other words.

The blithe indifference to torture shown by both the Harper and Martin governments is a marked departure from the international standards Canadians are accustomed to upholding. But it pales by comparison with the US approach. Salon’s Glenn Greenwald (here) and the New York Times (here) have chilling recapitulations of the US torture and subsequent seven-year imprisonment at Guantanamo, without charge, of Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Hajj, during which he was interrogated not about terrorism but about Al Jazeera’s operations.

Says Greenwald:

The due-process-free imprisonment of this journalist by the U.S. government was ignored almost completely by the American media (other than Nicholas Kristof), even as it righteously obsessed on the far shorter imprisonment of journalists by countries such as Iran and North Korea (hey, look over there at those tyrannical countries – they imprison our journalists!!!!!).  Aside from al-Hajj, we’ve imprisoned numerous other journalists without charges in Iraq — and continue to this day to do so — including ones who work for Reuters and the Associated Press.