It's not enough to bash in heads, you have to bash in minds
            

The National Post on Omar Khadr

I don’t usually agree with what gets passed off as news in the National Post, but today Jonathan Kay has an great summary of why Canada’s treatment of Omar Khadr is a disgrace. Bring Omar home.

Omar Khadr was a child soldier.

During the carnage that gripped Sierra Leone in the 1990s, the most terrifying crimes were often committed by gangs of children who’d been abducted by the Revolutionary United Front. Isolated from their family, and stripped of any sort of moral compass, these child brigades were renowned for such monstrous acts as hacking off the legs and arms of defenseless villagers. When the RUF’s war with the government ended, many of these children were assimilated back into civilized society. No one — in the West, at least — blamed them for what they had done. As in Sri Lanka, Congo, and other parts of the world where children are abducted and forced into combat, it is universally recognized that child soldiers are not morally culpable for their actions in the same way as adults. That’s why the Sierra Leone war crimes tribunal didn’t prosecute child soldiers — it prosecuted the monsters who exploited them. Can someone please tell me why this principle has not been applied to Omar Khadr, who was all of 15 when he allegedly threw the grenade that killed Sgt Christopher Speer of Delta Force in 2002?

What makes the case for Khadr especially strong is that he was essentially recruited into combat from birth — by his own flesh-and-blood no less. The true monster in the Khadr narrative is not Omar, but his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, an al-Qaeda lieutenant who moved his whole family from Canada to central Asia so they could share in the glory of jihad.

As a nine-year-old, Omar drank in his father’s Islamist propaganda — spending months by his father’s bed as the jihadi patriarch lay hunger-striking against Pakistani authorities, who’d arrested him on terrorism charges in 1995. Following 9/11, Ahmed (who, thankfully, was dispatched to his celestial virgins in 2003) enlisted his son as a sort of sidekick and maidservant to a jihadi cell hiding out in the Afghan outback. It was in this capacity that Omar tagged along with the pack of terrorists who would eventually be killed in the June 27, 2002 firefight that claimed the life of Sgt Speer.

I have spent today reading a lot of tough talk on the blogs about how Khadr should be “waterboarded until he stops crying” and such. I wonder if those same hawks could tell me how they would have turned out if they’d been told — literally, since the day they were born — about the necessity of jihad and the beauty of martyrdom; if, since early days, they’d been propagandized into believing that the West was waging a genocidal war against Muslims; and that military resistance was the only path of survival. Are we to expect some sort of inborn moral sense to activate — to tell us that everything being told to us by our own parents is wrong — even before one is old enough to shave?

I know about 20,000 former child soldiers in Sierra Leone who could tell you the answer to that question. And unlike Khadr, not one of them stands accused of “Violation of the Law of War.”

Omar Khadr probably didn’t kill anyone.

The U.S. government’s line on the events of June 27, 2002 — reported uncritically, for the most part, by the Canadian media — is that a cowardly Khadr popped up from the rubble in the aftermath of a firefight in the Afghan hinterland, killing a U.S. medic who was looking to treat wounded survivors. In fact, the grenade that killed Speer (who was fighting as a solider, whatever his training as a medic) was thrown when the four-hour long battle was still hot — and it is far from clear who threw it: Contrary to initial accounts, there was a second jihadi still alive when the fatal grenade was thrown — and since Khadr was badly wounded at the time, the second militant (who later died) seems the more likely candidate.

(We might also dispense with the idea that Speer was on a mission of mercy: Post-battle testimony from his battlefield companions suggests they were — quite understandably — more interested in shooting the wounded than healing them.)

My own view is that Speer may well have been killed by a grenade thrown by one of his comrades. (Reports from the battle suggest that grenades were flying thick and fast from both sides.) As the Pat Tillman scandal shows, the U.S. military sometimes goes to extraordinary lengths to cover up friendly-fire deaths. And in the Khadr case, his U.S. Department of Defense attorney claims, there is at least one instance in which a U.S. lieutenant-colonel retroactively amended and backdated a battlefield report to buttress the case against Khadr.

Even if Khadr did kill Sgt. Speer, he did so as a soldier, not a terrorist.

There’s little doubt that Ahmed Said Khadr was training his sons to be terrorists — the sort of people who blow up buses and restaurants, or who wear civilian clothing as they lie in wait to detonate explosives under vehicle convoys. But what Omar Khadr did on June 27, 2002 wasn’t terrorism. It was participation in a military engagement — a fact that can’t be changed merely by slapping a label like “unlawful combatant” on him.

Moreover, it was a military engagement fought on American terms: After U.S. soldiers sealed off the village encampment housing Khadr’s cell, they prosecuted the siege with about 100 troops, some of them Special Forces, as well as Apache helicopters, F-18 Hornets and A-10 Warthogs. You can say that Khadr was fighting in an evil cause when he was captured, but you can’t say that he was preying on the defenseless.

Even if you don’t buy anything I’ve written above, Khadr’s treatment still ranks as abominable.

Let us assume that Omar Khadr actually threw the grenade that killed Sgt Christopher Speer; that he did so as a cold-blooded killer, not as a soldier; and that his status as a child combatant is irrelevant — in short, that Omar Khadr is a murderer. Well then, how do we treat murderers in Western countries? Answer: We put them in jail. We don’t beat them; or move them from cell to cell every three hours; or terrify them with threats of pedophilic rape; or deny them appropriate medical care — all punishments that Khadr has endured — a litany of abuse so traumatic that, according to one piteous detail among many, he took to falling asleep at Guantanamo desperately hugging a Mickey Mouse book brought to him as a gift. In the space of six years incarceration, Khadr has endured more brutality than any ordinary jailbird would endure in 60.

That’s punishment enough. Please bring Omar Khadr home.

I couldn’t agree more. Well said.

21 Responses to The National Post on Omar Khadr

  1. I always wondered how Khadr could be charged with murder when he was in a battle situation being attacked by coalition forces and simply returning fire to defend himself and the rest of his group. This is a war against terror supposedly. Is someone on the other side defending himself against attacks guilty of murder? This is just part of the Orwellian misuse of language that also creates enemy combatants who may not claim to be protected under the Geneva Conventions.
    As the article also points out Khadr may not have thrown the grenade anyway. The other jihadi who was alive by the way was shot and Khadr was about to be shot as well except an officer decided that he would be a valuable asset for intelligence. That was his value to his CSIS interrogators as well.

  2. Yes the charges of Murder against Khadr never made much sense to me either. He killed a soldier while in a battle, that isn’t murder it is war.

  3. Certainly killing Omar on the battlefield would have been far less complicated, but it is far from certain that it would have been the right thing to do.

  4. “He killed a soldier while in a battle, that isn’t murder it is war.”

    It is a murder if the killer does not wear a uniform.

    “but it is far from certain that it would have been the right thing to do.”

    Avenging the death of a soldier murdered by a terrorist? What’s not right about it?

  5. It is a murder if the killer does not wear a uniform.

    Which results in the ridiculous situation we are currently in, and it ignores the reality of the vast majority of conflicts.

    Avenging the death of a soldier murdered by a terrorist? What’s not right about it?

    Ignoring the fact that I don’t accept that Omar was a murder or a terrorist when he encountered US forces (he was a soldier who killed an opposing soldier in battle), there are many situations where vengeance is absolutely wrong. As for Omar’s situation I wont pretend to know the relevant details to know if killing him on the battlefield would have been right or wrong.

  6. “Ignoring the fact that I don’t accept that Omar was a murder or a terrorist”

    The fact that you don’t accept it, when he was caught fighting for Taliban means one of two things. Either you don’t accept that fighting for a terrorist group makes you a terrorist or you don’t accept that Taliban is a terrorist group. Which one is that?

  7. Neither, I simply make the distinction between acts of war and acts of terror. A group like the Taliban, or al-Qaeda can be (and in fact were) involved in both.

  8. “Taliban, or al-Qaeda can be (and in fact were) involved in both.”

    Apparently, you do not understand the difference between an act of war and an act of terror. A person who pretends to be a civilian is a terrorist.

  9. So when Omar and his compatriots took up arms against an invading army they were terrorists? (Note: don’t take this to mean that the invaders weren’t justified in their invasion) By your logic were an army to invade Canada or the US ordinary citizens could not engage the invaders without being classified as terrorists, and were they to have any success against the invaders could be charged with murder, while the invading army could kill as they saw fit. Not to mention that the vast majority of armed conflicts involve groups without uniforms. What you are suggesting is a rather obvious double standard.

    But even if I were to agree with that point it still doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Are you suggesting that the US forces thought Omar was a civilian? Surely the battle that lasted for hours before hand must have tipped off the Americans that they weren’t dealing with civilians. As Jonathan Kay wrote:

    What Omar Khadr did on June 27, 2002 wasn’t terrorism. It was participation in a military engagement — a fact that can’t be changed merely by slapping a label like “unlawful combatant” on him.

    Moreover, it was a military engagement fought on American terms: After U.S. soldiers sealed off the village encampment housing Khadr’s cell, they prosecuted the siege with about 100 troops, some of them Special Forces, as well as Apache helicopters, F-18 Hornets and A-10 Warthogs. You can say that Khadr was fighting in an evil cause when he was captured, but you can’t say that he was preying on the defenseless.

    But all of this is really beside the point, the relevant international laws and treaties don’t make a distinction between child soldiers or child terrorists. Both are illegal under the law (and I am fully for prosecuting those that recruited Omar and the countless other children used by the Taliban and al-Qaeda), and both the law and historical precedents say that child solders (or terrorists) are to be treated differently than those over the age of 18.

    That is where we have failed Omar, and that is why we should be ashamed of our actions. Our laws must apply to everyone equally, even to those who we may despise.

  10. “So when Omar and his compatriots took up arms against an invading army they were terrorists?”

    You mean Omar the Canadian? The one who cries like a little bitch because he wants to go home to Canada? Yes they were. They weren’t a part Afghani national army. They were part of the Taliban. The occupiers of Afghanistan. Do you know that Taliban has more Afghani blood on their hands than Soviets and NATO troops combined? That shitheads was not protecting his country from the invaders. He was helping a gang of thugs to control someone else’s country.

    “By your logic were an army to invade Canada or the US ordinary citizens could not engage the invaders without being classified as terrorists”

    If those ordinary citizens did not wear uniforms, pretended to be civilians by day and took up arms by night, you bet your ass.

    “Are you suggesting that the US forces thought Omar was a civilian?”

    Not at the time he was throwing grenades at them.

    “It was participation in a military engagement”

    If we accept that as a given, if he were a member of the military, he shouldn’t be getting any trials. He should be confined until cessation of hostilities, i.e., until the war on terror is over. You can’t have it both ways.

  11. I am not defending the Taliban for anything they have done, as you seem to imply, I am simply stating the reality of war is that fighting is frequently not contained to ‘official armies’. The tortured legalese used by the Bush administration on this issue simply doesn’t match with reality.

    If those ordinary citizens did not wear uniforms, pretended to be civilians by day and took up arms by night, you bet your ass.

    Were the member of the french resistance terrorists? By your logic they would be considered terrorists but they are not. If Canada were to be invaded any ordinary citizen who pretended to be civilians by day and took up arms by night would be considered a hero, not a terrorist. Your logic simply doesn’t reflect the reality of the situation.

    Not at the time he was throwing grenades at them.

    What about in the long battle that preceded the grenade toss (and it is still very much up in the air as to who threw the grenade)? To say that he was pretending to be a civilian is to ignore the facts of the battle.

    if he were a member of the military, he shouldn’t be getting any trials. He should be confined until cessation of hostilities, i.e., until the war on terror is over. You can’t have it both ways.

    I almost agree with you there except for two important facts. First children POWs are not treated in the same manner as adult POWs. International law recognizes child soldiers are victims and they are treated accordingly.

    An adult POW could be kept until the war in Afghanistan is won, or lost (though neither of those terms have been properly defined yet), but keeping him until the war on terror is won (which also hasn’t been defined) would be keeping him detained indefinitely, because you cannot win a war against a tactic, and that is precisely what terrorism is.

    But all of this is besides the point, the laws and treaties regarding child soldiers don’t make the distinction you are trying to make. Any child (no matter the circumstances) used in hostilities is considered a child soldier, and Omar certainly meats that criteria.

    The bottom line is that all I am asking for is that Omar be treated like the child soldier he is. I am asking for both Canada and the US to live up to the international treaties they signed.

  12. “I am not defending the Taliban for anything they have done, as you seem to imply”

    Not at all. I’m saying that Taliban is not acting in military capacity not only because they do not wear uniforms, but because they are not the legitimate representative of Afghani people.

    “Were the member of the french resistance terrorists?”

    To a degree. But French resistance did not represent a gang of thugs who ceased the power in France before Germans came.

    “If Canada were to be invaded any ordinary citizen who pretended to be civilians by day and took up arms by night would be considered a hero, not a terrorist.”

    So were American revolutionaries, but some of them clearly used terrorism as a tactic.

    “An adult POW could be kept until the war in Afghanistan is won”

    If he was adult enough to fight, he is adult enough to be in jail.

    “but keeping him until the war on terror is won (which also hasn’t been defined) would be keeping him detained indefinitely”

    Tough shit.

    “because you cannot win a war against a tactic, and that is precisely what terrorism is.”

    OK, let’s call it a war with Islamofascism.

    “I am asking for both Canada and the US to live up to the international treaties they signed.”

    My only hope is that if this fuck ever gets out your family will be the only one he blows up. Then we might continue this discussion from a slightly different perspective.

  13. If he was adult enough to fight, he is adult enough to be in jail.

    You may feel that way, but that isn’t what the treaties that both Canada and the US signed say.

    My only hope is that if this fuck ever gets out your family will be the only one he blows up. Then we might continue this discussion from a slightly different perspective.

    And with that last comment, you have lost your privilege to post here.

  14. We sure are!

    I love how Mr. Moderate Muslim (as his name would imply) was so quick to wish violence towards my family.

  15. MAS, for someone whose name indicates you are a moderate you sure are quick to wish violence on those you disagree with. Ironic isn’t it?

    Anyways, because of your repeated threats you have been banned from commenting.

  16. It looks like they are different ones, with different names – mine was “American Muslim, not Muslim-American” but, when looking over the Blogger account, the blog listed was … “Muslims Against Sharia”. ;-)

    Oh – and yes indeed … it is very “Muslim” of them to use such basest profanity (F****k this and all that).

    Bunch of right wingnut brownshirt, *posing* frauds. ;-)

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