Thursday, April 16, 2009

Has Somebody Finally Knocked Sense Into His Head?

From the Star, here's The Count:

He said he opposes use of any information suspected of coming from torture.

"No agency of the federal government should have any truck, trade, traffic, engagement with any form of torture. The critical point for Canada is that we must never use information derived from sources where we believe torture has been applied and the critical point, and we've fallen foul of this once before in the Maher Arar issue, we must never send any person, let alone a Canadian national, to a country, in this case it was Syria, where we have reason to believe torture will be applied."

"It's a question of our position as a defender of human rights. But it's also a question of simple prudence: what is extracted by torture is never reliable.
As far as I can tell, this is the first time Ignatieff has made that all-important point that I bolded. Up until now he's always defended "coercive interrogation" as sometimes necessary, even if it makes him feel all squirmy about its anti-democratic nature. He's written page after page after chapter after chapter defending the practice against its critics. He says it's odious, yes, but he has always left the door wide open to the argument that "it may be odious, but we need to do it to Preserve Our Freedoms." Often quite deliberately so.

So it is with no amount of surprise that I read this. To say "it's wrong, and it doesn't work" is more categorical than I had ever expected, considering how wedded to the practice he's seemed to be. Maybe he's finally got some good advice from somebody who knows what they're talking about. And, yes, maybe he's just splitting hairs about the difference between "coercive interrogation" and torture again. But I'll grant credit where credit is due.

Now if he can just write about the 2002 Iraq buildup without spending more time attacking those who were right about the war, he might be able establish some daylight between himself and Harper on foreign affairs. He might even attract those Canadians who like Obama's progressiveness, and are faced with the choice between the NDP and his own merry band of apparatchiks.

Edit: Yes, I'm aware of the strong numbers Ignatieff is currently enjoying. He can pretend to be all things to all people, without even having to formulate a policy let alone take a stand. This was the gift Bob Rae granted him: being able to take the Liberal helm without having to clarify what he'd do with it, and which people he'd alienate along the way. It won't last. His enemies won't let it.

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