Sunday, July 15, 2012

Omar Khadr And The Harperites

Nothing encapsulates what the Harper government is all about more than its refusal to allow Omar Khadr back into Canada. Certainly the government's reaction puzzles the Americans.The Canadian Press reported last week that:

One of Khadr's U.S. lawyers said last month he has been told American officials can't understand Canada's reluctance to ask that Khadr be returned home.

Lt.-Col. Jon Jackson said U.S. officials are frustrated by the delay of the return of the last Western national  held at the much-maligned U.S. military prison.

U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta signed off on Khadr's transfer in April, he added.

Khadr simply doesn't fit with the government's narrative on the Middle East. Despite the evidence, the Conservatives  -- who are certain that God is on their side -- have determined that Khadr is more than a convicted felon.. He is an alien.

But then so was Conrad Black. And his return was expedited. The contrast tells you a lot about Mr. Harper's commitment to justice. It's right up there with his concern for the environment.

God must be on Mr. Black's side.


Anonymous said...

What do you mean by "Khadr doesn't "fit with the government's narrative on the Middle East"?

ck said...

I'm more amazed with the public calling into radio talk shows when they talk of Omar Khadr.
I remember on CJAD, awhile back, when Tommy Schnurmacher on his "Gang of 4" discussed the topic. Amazingly, the right leaning former host, Kim Fraser, was the only one with the sane and rational views on that subject, yet Tommy and the other two, nor would the callers buy into that.

Basically, Kim's argument, which is pretty much the same as mine, was that young Omar Khadr went back to Afghanistan with his parents when he was only about 9 or 10 years old. Even prior to that, he only knew his father's views, twisted as they may be. Upon returning to Afghanistan, he was turned into a child soldier. Again, a) he didn't know any better and B) Even if he wanted to leave that army, not like the captain was going to pat him on the head and wish him a fond farewell.

She also went on to mention another former child soldier (forget his name) from Sierra Leone who had killed 1000s before UNICEF rescued him. He went on to write a book about his experiences and his long adjustment to civilian life. Public basically felt sorry for that particular child soldier.

What is the difference, really, between Omar Khadr and that former child soldier from Sierra Leone? One was rescued the other imprisoned.

Then on Newstalk 1010, I heard Tarek Fatah do his usual ranting. He says that Khadr must renounce everything he was taught and pronounce his love for all things Canadian before being allowed back in the country.

I thought that was pretty stupid. Why? Because, ironically, everything that has happened to Omar Khadr since imprisonment, along with his own gov't not willing to repatriate him, is probably reinforcing all that hatred for the West that he was taught by his parents and their Taliban friends.

Owen Gray said...

Romeo Delaire has written passionately about the fate of child soldiers, ck.

If anyone understands their situation, it's Dellaire. Unfortunately, the Harperites -- like all arm chair soldiers -- make judgements about war that are based on some vision of glory.

Khadr -- and Dellaire -- know that's a delusion.

Owen Gray said...

The government has eschewed the role of "honest broker," Anon. It is loudly pro-Israel. But it refuses to give other nations in the region the same consideration.

For these folks, allowing Khadr back into the country gives him a legitimacy which they believe amounts to a betrayal of Israel.

Anonymous said...

It may be the government refuses to bring Khadr back to Canada because of its close ties to Israel. But perhaps not. While Kadr's case is a dramatic example of what is unquestionably beurocratic callousness, it may not be an instance of religious bigotry - which is what your earlier answer seemed to imply.
It's worth mentioning that Kadr isn't the first, nor likely the last Canadian who will be carelessly abandoned to rot in some overseas jail. And speaking of rot, you could be the next Canadian to take up invisible residence in some exotic jail if you're accused of selling rotten potatoes to a country like Lebanon, for instance.

Owen Gray said...

Point well taken, Anon. The Henk Tepper case illustrates this government's lack of concern for all kinds of Canadians who run afoul of foreign legal systems.

It offers them no help -- unless they are former members of the British House of Lords.

Kirbycairo said...

To talk of Khadr as a child soldier is, I think, to buy too much into the narratives favoured by the Western nations. It should not be reduced to a question of Khadr being a child soldier. The question is why do Western nations believe that they can invade sovereign nations and then convict those who fight back of a crime?? American soldiers have killed tens of thousands of Afghans and claim moral righteousness. But if one American is killed it becomes an act of terror? To attempt to get Khadr off the hook because he was a child soldier is avoid the real issues which Westerners want to avoid at all costs.

Owen Gray said...

We Westerners have always been convinced of our own righteousness, Kirby.

Whether we were marching off to defend Jerusalem under Richard the Lionheart's banner, or convincing North American natives to do things for "the greater glory of God," we have had no trouble convincing ourselves that we had a burden to bear.

But Khadr's defense team argued that he was a child soldier. The Americans clearly do not want to bear the burden of holding him. Neither do the Harperites.

The anointed do not question their own virtue. But they have refused throughout history to admit their mistakes.

Lorne said...

For anyone quick to dismiss Omar Khadr, I strongly urge the reading of a book entitled A Long Time Gone, by former Sierra Leone child soldier Ismael Beah. Much more than the narrative of atrocities he committed as a child soldier, it is a powerful story of rehabilitation and redemption.

I guarantee that the book will deeply affect intransigent views.

Owen Gray said...

I've heard of the book, Lorne. I also seem to remember an interview on the CBC.

It is far too easy to sit in judgment on Khadr.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

The Harper government is mean spirited on many fronts. They invariable find themselves directed by the courts to do what should have been seen as right from the beginning.

The Omar Khadr situation is appalling and a national shame on us all. Canada has obligations toward citizens, whether individuals personally like them or not. Also, Canada has signed the UN protocols on the rights of the Child and the recognition of how child soldiers should be treated. Canada is the only western nation that did not go to bat for its citizen (s) in the US gulag and get them early release.

In a fair trial Khadr would have had a case for aquittal. After years of saying nothing a soldier finally came forward to say he was not the last man standing. There was an adult fighter alive when they entered the room. The case was based on the fact that Khadr was the one to murder the soldier because he was the last man standing. Reasonable doubt would have required an aquittal. Khadr plead guilty because the military commission was not a fair trial and he might have gotten 4o years in jail. The plea deal allowed the US to save face, get an embarrassing case dealt with. Canada was asked and agreed to have him serve his sentence in Canada after a year more in the gulag. It seems it will take the courts to direct the government to honour its agreement. I read the Omnibus crime bill had a change in the law that made it eaier to deny help to Canadians in foreign jails. One wonders if this was a "general Law" aimed at just one person, Omar Khadr. How cynical would that be. It would be as cynical of them appealing the decision of the court that allowed doctor assisted death including the exemption on the year's delay for implimentation for the woman who brought the case. The government wants to stop her right while appealing, the general aspects of the decision. How cruel and cynical is that. It would not surprise me if she prematurely ended her life before the government gains the "stay".

Owen Gray said...

Your comment is an excellent summary of the facts in the Khadr case, Philip. Unfortunately, facts have no value so far as the Harper government is concerned.

One wonders what would happen if a Conservative MP ran afoul of some foreign legal system.

e.a.f. said...

Romeo Dallaire has a petition going to bring Omar Khadr back to Canada.

I have written both harper & my M.P. requesting Mr. Khadr be brought back to Canada. Mr. Khadr is a Canadian citizen & as such should have the right to come into Canada regardless of what the harperits want.

If this were to continue which Canadian citizen would be refused entry back into our country should they leave. This is what they do in third world dictatorships when they want to keep the opposition out. I'd suggest Mr. Mulcair not leave Canada or whomever the harperits don't like. They might not let you back in. You see if they can do it to Mr. Khadr, they can do it to any one.

The only reason Omar Khadr was charged was because the Americans wanted him charged. Mr. Khadr was a child solider. As such he should have simply been brought back into Canada. We are all aware Canada has brought young people into Canada because they were child soliders & offered them a chance at life. I don't know why harper won't do it for a Canadian citizen.

Vickier & Stevie are much more of a threat to my safety than Mr. khadr. stevie is dispicable.

thwap said...

Lots of good comments here. I only want to point out the irony of the USians mystification about the harperites' refusal to take Khadr.

This is the same country that refused to shut down Guantanamo and house its inmates in super-max prisons in the USA.

Apparently the Guantanamo inmates are not only "guilty" of whatever it is the US gov't hasn't yet charged them with, ... they're also super-villains for whom an American super-max penitentiary is child's play to escape from. (As opposed to Camp Gitmo.)

Owen Gray said...

I can't add anything to what you have said, e.a.f. -- except that this is one person they don't want to let back into the country.

They made an agreement with the U.S. They should honour it.

Owen Gray said...

True, thwap. there's more than enough irony to go around.

Both Canada and the U.S. have tied themselves in knots trying to justify Gitmo.

Anonymous said...

The New Villain at Guantanamo Is Canada

"Canada’s hesitation has had a dangerous ripple effect at Guantanamo. The chief U.S. prosecutor, Brigadier General Mark R. Martins, has wisely sought to reach plea bargains with detainees willing to testify against inmates considered higher up the al- Qaeda ladder. By leaving Khadr in limbo, Canada has jeopardized similar deals with other inmates."

"The military tribunal system, after reforms in 2009, is finally starting to work, and the new emphasis on plea bargains is a big reason why. But that progress is at risk so long as Canada leaves Omar Khadr in his Cuban limbo."

Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the link, Anon. Is it any wonder that our international reputation is in the dumpster?

Beijing York said...

Omar Khadr's case is a travesty on all fronts.

The trumped up charges in a theatre of war, including the incessant repetition of his purposely targeting a "medic", was all propaganda. I used to read the Voice of America dispatches from Afghanistan in the early days (2002-2003) and the altercation that involved Khadr was soberly reported as a firefight after the US had bombed the village and Special Ops did a door-to-door search and seizure. The report listed the number of enemies dead and wounded (Khadr being the only survivor inside the compound). And US outcome included one injury and one death (grenade tossed over the wall at the oncoming troops).

I think that while they tortured Khadr at Bagram Airport, where he was first detained, they discovered that they had a "celebrity" captive. At that point the PR machine went into over-drive. The Canadian government of the day took little issue with these machinations given the taint of their past dealings with Khadr's father. If I recall, they basically tried to bury the story. But it resurfaced and at that time it became a useful propaganda tool to help bolster support for Canada's participation in the War on Terror. Khadr became the poster boy of terrorists in our midst.

Owen Gray said...

The Harperites and some of their supporters -- like Ezra Levant -- have done their best to paint Khadr as untrustworthy and dangerous, Bejing.

If they let him back in, they are going to have to recant that narrative.

Anonymous said...

Khadr can rot in hell with Jack Layton for all I care.

Owen Gray said...

You're not alone in your opinion. But that doesn't mean your opinion has the ring of truth.