"Only upon leaving Europe were the journalists informed of the final destination. They were warned in a briefing by security officials that they risked arrest and prosecution under the National Defence Act and the Official Secrets Act if they did one of two things: mention the prime minister's itinerary during the next layover, or describe the location of that layover to anyone. Reporters were told they could wind up in handcuffs for breaking the rules."
Nine months after Stephen Harper's trip, Liberal leader Stephane Dion and deputy leader Michael Ignatieff went to Afghanistan to meet President Hamid Karzai. While there, Helena Guergis, Conservative MP and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, informed the press that, "I think [Dion] should apologize to our troops while he is touring the PRT." Dion was scheduled to visit the PRT - the Provincial Reconstruction Team - twelve hours later.
Said opposition MP Andrea Matrosovs: "In her petty attempt to criticize the efforts of Mr. Dion and Mr. Ignatieff, she put their lives at unnecessary risk, revealing in advance that they would be leaving the base to visit the Provincial Reconstruction Team in the south where Canadians are working."
"Ms. Guergis complains Mr. Dion didn't go soon enough, but then insists it takes time for the department in which she works to plan these trips because of the necessary security. Her flippant comments then undermine Mr. Dion's security. That's shameful.
It was also dangerously incompetent.
Helena Guergis may not be terribly bright, but her actions speak volumes for the incompetence of the Harper government. And after the visit in question by Dion and Ignatieff, revelations from that visit, were just as alarming.
Harper was in over his head, as he tried to control the war and it's messaging. It became more about public relations than the safety of our soldiers or the Afghan people. And by aligning himself with the corrupt Karzai government, he undermined attempts to win favour with the locals.
Much of what Michael Ignatieff reported in January of 2008, has since been validated by others.
Harper failing to lead Afghan mission: Ignatieff
January 27, 2008
CTV.ca News Staff
Recent gaffes surrounding the military transfer of Afghan detainees shows how badly the Harper government is mishandling the Afghanistan war, Deputy
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says.
"The very least you can say is that Canada's soldiers deserve better civilian leadership than this," Ignatieff told Question Period on Sunday .... Ignatieff said he was concerned about Prime Minster Stephen Harper's mismanagement of military operations there .... said that the public and Parliament have not received "honest
answers" from the government ...
The comments stemmed from a series of public miscues following the release of the Manley report on the future of the Canada's mission. In November, the Canadian military stopped transferring detainees to the Afghan military after diplomats found clear evidence of torture. But the Harper government stayed silent on the subject until the facts came to light last week in government documents filed in a lawsuit by human rights groups opposing the handling of detainees.
Sandra Buckler, director of communications in the Prime Minister's Office, this week blamed the military for not telling the government that the practice had changed. She later claimed she "misspoke." The opposition has accused the government of not revealing the change mainly to protect itself from embarrassment.
Military leaders have reportedly been furious, saying they kept the government in the loop. Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier both declined to appear on Question Period.
... NDP Leader Jack Layton told Newsnet on Sunday that two cabinet ministers now appear to have lied to the House of Commons on the Afghan detainees issue (NDP defence critic) Dawn Black asked on Nov. 14 whether prisoners were being transferred -- and that they shouldn't be, given the evidence -- and the minister didn't tell the truth," he said.