Omar Khadr : America’s Bitch

 

By A.B. Thomas

On Monday, October 25, 2010, the American government proudly announced that a deal hadbeen struck in the trial of Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who has been held at Guantanamo Bayfor the past eight years. Though the majority of the plea agreement has not been made public, it has been stated that Omar Khadr will serve eight years in prison, and after a year he canpetition to serve the rest of his sentence in the Canadian prison system. The plea agreement is to five warcrime charges against him, including murder and supporting terrorism in Afghanistan. As part of the statements of facts, Khadr “admitted” that he was an unprivileged enemycombatant (acivilian who is not a legitimate enemy soldier and therefore is not protected underany POW legislation), essentially abdicating the American government’s responsibility ofdelaying Khadr’s right to the justice process that is purported to act as quickly and fair as possible.

My sympathies go out to Tabitha Speer, the widow of Sgt. 1st Class Speer, they truly do. The Washington Bureau Chief for CTV, Paul Workman, has reported that Mrs. Speers’ testimony “will buttress the sentiments that some of her late husband’s colleagues have previously shared with jurors: that his death devastated the soldiers and family he left behind” (1). Nevertheless, how many Afghanis have lost fathers, husbands, sons, daughters, wives, grandfathers, grandmothers, grandsons, great grandsons, great grand daughters, grand daughters and friends from American actions? Pain and loss is part of war, Sgt. 1st Class Speer, colleagues, friends and wife can’t be overly devastated, the possibility of death is an overt condition of serving in the armed forces, especially when the civilian public doesn’t support the incursion.

Who is Omar Khadr?

In the American propaganda machine would have one believe is that on July of 2002, during a four hour firefight in an Afghan compound, U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer was injured by a grenade, 12 days later he died from that injury in a hospital. Omar Khandr, then 15, was the boy who threw the grenade and soon afterward was captured by U.S. Forces. In his plea agreement, Khadr also admitted to being involved in to other ‘murders’, neither of which had been brought up in the eight years that he has been held captive by the American Armed Forces (Khadr’s Canadian Lawyer, Dennis Edney on the day of the plea agreement announcement is quoted saying that this confession to the two other murders “that no one had ever suggested Omar had committed” …“confirms that he [Khadr] would have admitted to the killing of John F. Kennedy if doing so would have got him out of Gitmo” {2}).

Omar Khadr was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1986.  His father, who was believed to be a financier of al-Qaeda by CSIS (the Canadian Security Intelligence Service), Ahmed Said Khadr, moved his family back and forth between Canada and Pakistan over Omar’s younger days. In 1996, Ahmed moved his family to his NGO office in Afghanistan, though the family did come back to Canada several times.  In 2002, Omar moved to a group home for men and took a trip to Khost with several of the men who were associated with a senior member of al-Qaeda who required a Pashto translator.  The American base near by intercepted a phone call from the area that Omar and the other men were and sent a seven man team to investigate.

Originally the American reports on the incident would claim that the American patrol was ambushed, but it would be changed to being discovered at the location.  It is hard to discern the truth about the following events of the fire fight, who took the first shot or how many insurgents there were actually in that area; it was a civilian area, with children playing before the shooting began.  When the fire fight did begin, the American forces were over a hundred strong and heavily armoured. Even American accounts differ on the role Omar Khadr had, the end result was that Sgt. 1st Class Speers died as a result of a grenade attributed to being thrown by 15 year old Omar Khadr, and that Khadr managed to survive the ensuing calling in of two Apache helicopters to strafe the area, though he had two wounds to his back and a piece of shrapnel had permanently blinded him in his left eye.  One of the Americans who discovered Khadr reports that the wounded boy asked that the American kill him, which he was about to do when another American soldier from a different unit vetoed. Khadr was given on site medical attention then transferred to Bagram.

Khadr in the rubble

Interrogations of Khadr began when he regained consciousness about a week after he was airlifted to the U.S. base located at Bagram, Afghanistan. While in Bagram, Khadr, according to Khadr, was what amounts to torture with such things as having his hands tied above a door frame for hours, flatulated upon, not allowed to use washrooms.  The man who was the chief interrogator, Joshua Claus, would later plead guilty to multiple charges after an investigation showed the death of a detainee to be homicide. (5)

Omar Khadr’s treatment did not improve when he was transferred from Bagram to Guantanamo Bay. According declassified accounts of 450 prisoners and their Lawyers, including Omar Khadr, there were serious abuses taking place (6).  Abuses such as solitary confinement for periods exceeding a year, sleep deprivation for days, weeks, and in at least one case, months, threats of transfer to a foreign country for torture purposes, deprivation of medical treatments for serious conditions, having their backs being stomped on or their heads being hit on hard objects and objects inserted into their anus’ during strip searches.  The accounts also mention that Omar Khadr was often interrogated with a bag over his head with barking dogs in the room.  Khadr claims that back in 2003, 21 days before CSIS arrived to interview him, he was deprived of sleep and moved to a new cell every three hours in order to “make him more amenable and willing to talk”.  Khadr also has said that at one point in 2003 an American interrogator was so enraged by Khadr’s lack of “cooperation” that he had Khadr handcuffed to the floor for a long period of time and then dragged back and forth in a mixture of his own urine and pine oil, then not given a change of clothes for two days afterwards.

The Canadian Effort…or the lack of

In an article published by The Star in 2009, “CSIS Failed in Khadr case, review finds” (3), The Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), a Canadian watchdog agency, reported that CSIS failed to take in consideration Khadr’s age and allegations of abuse when they interviewed the boy twice before a federal injunction prevented further interrogations.  CSIS, while not personally interested in Khadr, were looking for information on his father’s whereabouts though soon afterwards Omar’s father would be killed in Pakistan.  The SIRC report was created after tapes of Khadr’s interrogation by CSIS were put onto the web (4).  At the time of the reports release, the chair of SIRC, Gary Filmon said, “In Canadian society, there is a long-standing recognition that young people should be treated differently than adults because they have not attained certain decision-making skills and therefore require special protection and guidance…[it is] vital for CSIS to demonstrate that it has the professionalism, experience and know-how required to make the difficult decisions that arise when carrying out operations abroad – particularly if confronted with situations similar to that of Mr. Khadr”. The response from CSIS on the findings was that it was not aware of the abuse used by U.S. interrogators (40 days of interrogation sessions that lasted up to eight hours a day which began at the U.S. base in Bagram then at Guantanamo Bay)

There are several things that makes Omar Khadr unique, other than he is one of the few being detained in Guantanamo Bay who actually has had a trial. The first is that he is and was the youngest detainee in Guantanamo Bay. Secondly, he is the last Western citizen to still be held at Guantanamo Bay though numerous agencies such as Amnesty International, UNICEF, The Canadian Bar Association, family, and other humanitarian organizations had aggressive campaigns for the Canadian federal government to repatriate Khadr to Canada, the Canadian federal government actually fought for the opposite. The mainstream media always has at least one news story a month on the Canadian government’s efforts in the name of justice in other countries when a Canadian citizen has been detained, arrested and charged with an offence in another country.  Omar Khadr – the federal government did not even look towards the South.

Since Khadr’s capture and imprisonment in 2002, The Canadian federal government has refused to seek any action in Khadr’s favour though in April of 2009 the Federal Court of Canada ruled Khadr qualified for the protection entailed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Quite the contrary, the Canadian federal government appealed this ruling, which once again produced the result that Khadr’s rights had been violated.  The federal government still refused to follow the court’s decision and took the case before the Supreme Court of Canada, which in January 2010 upheld the ruling of the two previous courts: Omar Khadr’s rights had been violated. While the Supreme Court did not order the federal government to seek Khadr’s return to Canada, it would seem that this should have been the federal government’s onus to do so; but they did not.

It is was an understandable decision back in 2002 and the beginning months of 2004; The federal government under the Liberal Party were far too busy shuffling federal tax dollars to Quebec companies to be concerned that a Canadian citizen, and under the legal age, was being abused and detained by the American Armed Forces.  With an election in 2004 there was supposed to come political change, according to the spiel spewed from the new Conservative government led by Stephen Harper; there would be federal responsibility and accountability. It turns out, much like every other political promise the federal Conservatives have made, that isn’t a statement worth the 30 second sound bite that was played over and over and over again during the election run.

Apparently, Harper and the Conservatives were far too busy developing their plot to muscle developing nations’ governments into adopting his Christian values as policy. Forcing nations to adopt a maternal care package with the string attached that any funds given to that nation cannot be used for the purpose of abortions though in some of these nations abortion is legal.  Fortunately for Harper the only statistics that matter are the ones reported by the “official” departments of a country – the woman dying in the shadows, pieces of shredded uterus protruding from her blood and dirt clotted vagina from an illegal back alley abortion only to the rodents that will feast on the soft meat of her eyeballs when she is too weak to move any longer.

Perhaps Harper and the Conservative Party were distracted by their play toy, Haiti – after all its all sort of new to the Canadian way of doing things.  In the past, Canada was seen as a safe haven for blacks to go to when fleeing the tyranny of slavery.  I suppose the mentality could be that in order to garner superpower status in the eyes of big brother America, there has to be some paralleling of history. What better way to show the American foreign policy makers that Canada deserves its place in the playground by showing that it can enslave an entire nation to produce cheap products for the American market without having those pesky human rights activists denouncing them?  The American think tanks must be amazed at how easy it was for Canada, under the guise of “foreign aid” to usurp an entire nation under the noses of the United Nations. Maybe Harper and the Conservatives are too selling out the Northern territories from underneath the indigenous peoples whose lives are dependent on that land.

Ironic, isn’t it – a man such as Harper who proudly professes is personal objection to the existence of homosexuality based on his moral beliefs has no qualms with  taking a front row seat and watching as the American government sodomizes a member of the country  to whose citizenry he is supposed to represent on a global scale. Regardless of the reasons of the indifference to Omar Khadr, King Harper and his Conservative party have only succeeded in sending out this message to the world: Omar Khadr – he ain’t white, he ain’t Christian, so we don’t give a shit.

So Omar Khadr pleaded out his trial, what’s the big deal?

There is one or two hitches to the trial and sentencing of Omar Khadr that should set alarm bells off for the most stringent of patriots.  Throughout the years, the American government has used the term “unprivileged enemy combatant” as their excuse for their apathy and sadistic indulgences against not only Omar Khadr but others – the military equivalent of reasoning that its okay to throw a bag full of kittens into a pond to drown because “it’s best” for the kittens. The rationalization, one assumes, is that as a privileged enemy combatant, Khadr would have been 5 star accommodations, a pricy lawyer and season tickets to the Bluejays home games (unless that’s considered torture under the Geneva Convention), or more realistically treated as a human being. The problem with this is that recently the United Nations classified Omar Khadr as a former child soldier – emphasis on soldier.  That classification would surely suggest that he was indeed privileged and that in times of war, soldiers happen. United Nations undersectratary-general Radhika Coomaraswamy wrote recently that Khadr’s situation is “a deep concern for all of us in the international community working on the issue of children and armed conflict…the cardinal principle behind these practices is that child soldiers should not be prosecuted or face criminal charges.  The International Criminal Court by statute will not prosecute children under the age of 18 years for war crimes or crimes against humanity” (7). It is unfortunate for Khadr that the American government only abides with United Nations actions when they have

The second hitch is the “psychiatrist” that the prosecution of Omar Khadr used, Dr. (used very liberally) Michael Welner to give the military jury his opinion of whether Khadr is a risk. Welner testified that Khadr was “was proud to have killed an American soldier” then gave the opinion that Khadr was thought of as “al-Qaeda royalty” because of doing so. It is fortunate that there is a cross examination process, especially in Omar Khadr’s case.

Welner openly admitted that he spoke to Nicolai Sennels before submitting his report on Khadr. Ordinarily it would seem rational that a professional bounces off his thoughts with another professional in order to ensure that their conclusions are reasonable.  The problem with Welner’s choice is that Nicolai Sennels, a Danish psychologist, is a racist.  It is Sennels belief that “Muslims suffer from the effects of inbreeding…and children raised in Islamic families are taught aggression and criminality through the Qu’ran” (8). There can be no expectation other than Welner to give the jury and prosecution that Khadr is “extremely dangerous” and a” radical jihadist”.  Under cross examination, Welner also admitted that in the seven hour interview earlier this year with Khadr that he did not focus on whether or not Khadr could be safely released back into society and that there were no psychological tests to determine “future dangerousness” in the context of an Islamic extremist.

Welner also testified that having a clause in the plea agreement that would allow Khadr to return to Canada to serve his out the remainder of his sentence after a year is a “poor” one (9). Welner stated that Omar Khadr is a risk because he is a very bitter angry young man – duh, you think? He went on to explain that the reason Khadr was a bad idea was that Canada did not have a “deradicalization” program, and given the status that his time in Guantanamo Bay, Khadr could emerge as an al-Qaeda leader. Does the United States have a deradicalization program? If they do, it is a dismal failure.  One just has to look at the overt racism towards people of the Muslim faith.  Better yet, if Welner is with Sennels in the belief that Islam is a genetically directed disease, then would not Christian Fundamentalism be considered a mental issue?  To look at a practical application of this deradicalization process on a wider scale, why wouldn’t such a program be used in the American Penal system? Surely the beliefs of entitlement involved in murder, arson, destruction of property, torture, rape and other acts of sadism –   while standard procedure for any  American military operation if you look at data from Somalia, Haiti, Iraq and Iran but frowned upon if done without a uniform  –  would be similar to the action of those Islamic extremists and terrorists. According to a study done in 2006 (10), there is a 52% likelihood of a paedophile to re-offend, 40% for a rapist.  Surely the use of deradicalization program that worked would solve the re-offend percentages,  but there is no such thing as a deradicalization program, is there Welner?

Omar Kadr getting battlefield first aid

Was and is Omar Khadr an Islamic extremist? It’s hard to say, there is enough proof to show that his father did support the insurgents, which back then would have been called Afghani rebels, until they chose not to bow to the American will.  It can be certain that considering that young Omar was exposed to the horrors of what was happening, he would have formed some sort of opinions on the situation.  Was Omar a hardened warrior or a frightened boy caught between two sides fighting for keeps? With both the alleged and admitted torture techniques, it can be said that the son paid for the sins of the father, played out for the amusement of American military egos. Think of the case of Omar Khadr like this:  If there was a grenade lying around, people were shooting at you, would you not use what you had at your disposal to survive? In a situation that happened in 2002 in Khost, Omar Khadr did not set out to murder Sgt 1st class Speers, the Americans brought the fight to a collection of mud huts, it was an instinct mechanism, deadly, but considering the barrage of violence going on, it is what it is.  Omar Khadr has spent eight years without rights, without his own government looking out for him, being abused, losing his sight in one eye and who knows what impact the wounds from Khost will play in his ability to live.  It’s time to throw out the plea agreement and let Omar go free, he has suffered ten fold for the actions he took within the space of thirty seconds when he was 15.  If the American military is not satisfied then there is one question that they should answer: Are American soldiers to be held accountable for the deaths they have caused? Soldiers die, that’s what they are trained to understand as a possible consequence, if Omar Khadr is to be condemned as being an al-Qaeda soldier rather than being at the wrong spot at the wrong time, then the American military should expect with the withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan to surrender many of their troops to those governments for war crimes. Or is this simply a case, to take a tip of the hat to the great Mel Brooks line, “It’s good to be American”?

(1) http://news.sympatico.ctv.ca/home/lawyer_says_khadr_could_be_rehabilitated/df2fbec4

(2) http://news.sympatico.ctv.ca/home/khadr_happy_he_killed_us_soldier_court_told/4a5098b7

(3) http://www.thestar.com/comment/columnists/article/667089

(4) http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7334763303184936763

(5) http://www.pegc.us/amicus/abuse_cases/abu_ghraib_trials.txt

(6) http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2006/07/10/khadr10072006.html

(7) http://www.chroniclejournal.com/news/cp/world/un-seeks-release-former-child-soldier

(8) http://news.sympatico.ctv.ca/home/psychiatrist_says_khadr_is_al_qaeda_royalty/477d2fb1

(9) http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/americas/omar-khadr-is-al-qaeda-royalty-and-a-grave-risk-psychiatrist-testifies/article1774602/

(10) http://www.vnews.com/sexcrimes/recidivism.htm