Apparently, the government has something to hide... but what?
For supporters of the Afghanistan mission, one of the more disturbing realities of the conflict is its use--by both government and opposition--as a partisan tool.
This disturbing tendency aside, the fact is that, as it was initiated by the Liberals under Jean Chretien, escalated by the Liberals under Paul Martin, and maintained by the Conservatives under Stephen Harper, Afghanistan really is a non-partisan war.
Apparently not, if one takes recent comments by Liberal party defence critic Denis Coderre to heart.
"This is damage control pure and simple," said Coderre regarding the late release of a report on an investigation into the friendly-fire death of Private Robert Costall. "Let's call a spade a spade."
The report, completed on 8 March, was recently released, and concluded that the commander of American forces failed to adequately determine the location of Canadian forces defending Forward Base Robinson, resulting in the friendly-fire incident. An accompanying report regarding an investigation by Military Police was not completed until 8 June.
However, since the incident also involved forces from another country, it was actually incomplete without considering the conclusions drawn by an American inquiry, which, as it turns out, delayed the release of the report significantly.
Don't tell that to Denis Coderre, who doesn't believe that it would take five additional months for general Rick Hillier to sign it and consult with the American authorities. Instead, he insists that the Conservative government must have interferred with the process, and was covering up the report.
This, despite the fact that investigations carried out by the Canadian Armed Forces don't work this way.
"We don't ever intervene in investigations," said Department of Defence spokesperson Isabelle Bouchard. "We get the findings when they come through the chain of command. And even then the minister only gets an FYI."
Commander Mike Considine, speaking on behalf of the board of inquiry, adds more. "We were waiting on information coming from the U.S. investigation. The report had to be reviewed for national security issues, there was a legal review, the families -- both here and in the States -- had to be notified."
Coderre's counterpart with the NDP, Dawn Black suggests a conspiracy theory in which the government tried to delay the release to a week following a statuatory holiday. "When information is held back -- rightly or wrongly -- it leads to a perception of coverup," Black said.
Apparently, nothing -- not even the investigation into the death of Canadian soldier -- is too sacred for the opposition to politicize. The fact that the review process is a well-established procedure when dealing with inquiries into the deaths of Canadian soldiers abroad has failed to stop the opposition parties from trying to use it to paint the government as secretive and obfuscatory.
So, yes. One should call a spade a spade. Politicizing the war in Afghanistan is an entirely unacceptable political tactic, no matter who it is using it. Politicizing the deaths of Canadian soldiers is even more unacceptable.
Denis Coderre and Dawn Black should both be ashamed.