07/03/2012 12:02 EDT | Updated 09/02/2012 05:12 EDT

Military Torture Story Was all For the Sake of Selling Papers


By shutting down the inquiry into whether Taliban prisoners were tortured when turned over to Afghan authorities by Canadian soldiers, the Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC) did only what was sensible.

The whole ruckus was an issue hyped by the Globe and Mail whose repors on the MPCC decision referred to the Harper government being "rocked by bombshell allegations" five years ago that Canada knowingly transferred prisoners to be tortured.

"Rocked by bombshell allegations," indeed!

What rubbish. To the Globe's surprise and disappointment, no one really gave a damn about happened to captured Taliban fighters once they left Canadian custody. These guys were ambushing, blowing up, killing Canadian soldiers in the Kandahar region of Afghanistan, and when our troops moved in on them they often hid their weapons and protested that they were simple farmers.

No evidence was presented that Canadians abused or tortured prisoners. We turned them over to Afghan authorities -- which was exactly the right, thing to do. Our troops were in Afghanistan not as colonialists, not as occupiers, but there to help restore something resembling peace and order and then go home. It would have been folly for Canadians to start erecting prison camps.

Anyway, eight military police officers whose conduct was under examination, have been cleared and the whole matter filed away as it should have been -- and would have been if the G&M hadn't had a bee in its bonnet, intent on rooting out scoundrels it believed were in our military.

Rather than anything mindful of a cover-up by the federal government, the reaction was one of bored resignation. A "here we go again!" attitude. And the public yawned at the non-story.

The MPCC was established after the torture death of a Somali youth in 1993, which led to disbanding the Airborne Regiment which, ironically, would have been ideally suited for combat in Afghanistan.

Although Canada has withdrawn combat troops from Afghanistan, the record of our troops has been exemplary. The ponderous Rules of Engagement before firing weapons made their job impossible at times, and allegations of torture were never levelled at Canadians.

Eager Canadian human rights zealots and the Globe and Mail seem to feel that somehow we should not have turned prisoners over to the Afghanis because they might be tortured by their countrymen.

If that was the case, perhaps these purists should have lodged complaints against the Afghans who were trying to thwart the Taliban from regaining power -- which is likely to happen now that the alliance is breaking up.

Nothing was gained by the probe, but maybe $3- to $4-million was wasted on the investigation-cum-persecution of military police, and a report that is well over 500 pages long. All for naught.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association and Amnesty International will join the Globe in venting displeasure at the results of the "bombshell allegations" of five years ago, that caused barely a ripple on the Canadian psyche.

Plaudits to the Canadian government for resisting pressure to make scapegoats of Canadian soldiers.

Acrimony between the federal government and the Military Police Complaints Commission -- presuming such acrimony exists -- is unfortunate, because their goals are similar: To ease wrinkles in the military and deal with genuine abuses and not fabricated issues like Afghanis torturing fellow Afghanis.