Friday, June 03, 2005

Bill Graham: "Ich habe es nicht gewusst"

Minister Bill Graham's excuse in the Arar case:

"What surprises me is that this was not conveyed to me," Mr. Graham said. "I was not told."
What bothers me most is that, at the same time, he keeps defending his former officials:
"In the light of what we knew at the time, and the practices, the nature of what we were trying to achieve . . . I honestly believe that we did the best we could and for the best motives."
Of course, nobody wants to look bad when things turn ugly. But a "mistake" has been made which resulted in the deportation and torture of a Canadian citizen. Graham's "I was not told" cannot simply be excused, especially given the seriousness of the "incident". Graham was in charge and failed to help a Canadian citizen (yes, just someone like you and me). His reaction is of course not new:
When things go wrong, personal irresponsibility will eventually result in a complete denial of the impact of one's actions, and in holding others responsible. Denial was the predominant response for instance of the Nazis at the Nuremberg trials after World War II (Peter Steeghs-Center Point, TX).
Let's consider that Bill Graham is telling the truth and that he really didn't know this. A few follow-up questions immediately come to mind: "Being the minister of foreign affairs, shouldn't you have known about this?". "Did you ever ask your officials about this?"

U.S. demand was unacceptable

Indeed, the U.S. offer to "send Arar back to Canada in October 2002, but only if Canada promised to charge and imprison him" was unethical and (therefore) unacceptable. Nevertheless every possible action should have been undertaken to have the Canadian Arar returned to Canada safely. "Simply" rejecting the offer because "We have a Charter of Rights ... we don't have cause to arrest and press charges and put him in jail" is just another excuse for non-action when it was needed most. Really, why did Canadian officials not "tell" the U.S. officials that they were going to imprison him and later "simply" let him go because of the Charter of Rights? When there was a chance to get Arar back Canadian officials chose to stand up for the principle "we have a charter of rights" with the known outcome. Poor timing resulting in torture.

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