Friday, October 23, 2009

Michael Ignatieff: The Say Anything Liberal

Ignatieff makes misleading statements regarding Maher Arar

One sad trait that has become common of many politicians is the tendency to say anything to get elected.

In Canada, many people feel that politicians from the Liberal party are especially prone to this unfortunate affliction. After comments recently made by Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, this will likely become a more popular assessment of him.

Speaking to The Observer in September, Ignatieff suggested that Canada sent Arar to Syria to be tortured.

"Canada sent Maher Arar to Syria, and a court found that he had been subjected to extraordinary rendition, that his claims [of torture] were true and that he had delivered no intelligence to anybody," Ignatieff fumed. "It was a disgrace. So, we don't do it. Ever. Period. Off the table. We don't get other people to do our dirty work for us, and we don't do dirty work ever."

Those actually familiar with the Arar case will immediately recognize the problem with Ignatieff's statements. The problem is that they are categorically false.

Arar was not sent to Syria by Canada. In fact, Arar was sent to Syria by the United States as an act of "extraordinary rendition". They were, however, acting under false intelligence passed along by the RCMP.

Furthermore, no court of law has ever issued findings of fact in regards to Arar's case.

Ignatieff was making the statement in an effort to sweep away questions about The Lesser Evil, a book in which Ignatieff wrote on the topic of torture.

The essential theme of the book is torture as a moral evil. Ignatieff famously suggests that the western world may have to deal in evil in order to defeat the evil of terrorism, although Ignatieff noted the importance of understanding that torture is evil.

Ignatieff also seems to suggest that torture could be considered permissable if it were formally legalized.

Unsurprisingly, the controversy surrounding those comments has followed him ever since his entry into federal politics.

As Michael Byers notes, the Arar affair is a matter on which Ignatieff ought to be knowledgable enough to not make the kind of mistakes he's made in this case. "For him to get the facts wrong on the highest profile case of torture involving a Canadian citizen is deeply worrying," Byers said. "It suggests a certain lack of attention to detail, and perhaps even concern, on a matter that was engaging the Canadian public, a commission of inquiry, and courts in both Canada and the United States at the very same time that he was expressing opinions on torture in The New York Times."

Ignatieff indeed ought to full well know better about the Maher Arar case. On top of the flagrant errors made in his comments on the matter, there's one other thing that Ignatieff ought to have known.

When the United States deported Arar to Syria, the party that he now leads was in power, and governed during the entire time Arar was being held without charge in Syria.

Other bloggers writing about this:

Canadian Sentinel - "TS: Ignatieff Wrong Re Arar"

Victor Wong - "So, Did the Liberals Want Maher Arar Tortured, Mr Waffle?"

Hatrock's Cave - "Iggy the Wrong on Maher Arar"

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