FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Canada Apologizes for Not Aiding Its Captive Citizen

The story of Omar Khadr has always been one of the ugliest chapters of the ugly story of the US War on Terror initiated with the Congressional passage of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force and the ensuing invasion of Afghanistan.

Yesterday, Khadr finally won a measure of justice when the Canadian government apologized to him for its failure to defend him against his US captors and to seek his release from confinement at the US prison compound at Guantanamo Bay, and awarded him damages of $8.1 million as compensation for his years of suffering.

His vindication as a victim, and not a villain, was a long time coming.

It was in 2002, during the early days of America’s longest — and still ongoing — war against Afghanistan that Omar Khadr, a 15-year-old native of Canada, was wounded and then captured, still alive, and packed off to Guantanamo Bay, one of a number of child soldiers whom the US, under the Bush/Cheney administration’s rule-free War on Terror, held in violation of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty that was signed by the US and that is thus part of US law. It declares that all children under the age of 18 captured while fighting in wars are to be offered “special protection” and treated as victims, not as combatants.

Khadr’s story was never properly told in the US media, which simply lumped him in with all the other alleged “terrorists” held at Guantanamo. His 2010 “trial” — one of the few military tribunals actually conducted at Guantanamo — was a charade of justice which led to his conviction for murder and a sentence of 40 years, later commuted to 8 years, to be served in Canada, not at Guantanamo.

Khadr’s crime, according to his US captives? Murder of one US soldier, and the blinding of another, caused by a hand grenade that the young Khadr lobbed at them.

The truth? Khadr, who didn’t deny throwing the grenade but said he did it out of fear, not a desire to kill, was doing what any courageous wounded soldier in his situation would have done: defending himself, and taking out the enemy at the risk of his own life.

Khadr, whose father, Ahmed Said Khadr had brought his young son along with him at the age of 14 from Canada to help the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, had been killed in battle, leaving his young son alone with al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. At one point, the boy was in a housing compound identified by US troops as under Taliban control. They called in an air strike, and then entered the destroyed site to do a damage assessment. As they picked through the rubble — by one account executing some of the wounded fighters they found — Khadr, himself gravely wounded, was said to have tossed a grenade at them, killing US Sgt. Christopher Speer and blinding Layne Morris, another soldier accompanying Speer.

Had an American soldier done the same thing under the same circumstances and survived, he would surely have been awarded a major medal of some kind for heroism. Khadr, however, was charged with murder.

During Khadr’s ordeal at Guantanamo, where he was initially held in the prison camp’s facility for children, known as Camp Iguana, saw him grow through his teen years into adulthood, until he was finally, in 2012, transferred to a prison in Canada, and later, on orders of a Canadian court, released to home confinement in 2015.

Part of Khadr’s problem was that the ruling Conservative Party government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper showed no interest in helping its young citizen, despite the US government’s clearly being in violation of the Geneva Convention in holding him as a war criminal. Indeed Harper in 2010 called Khadr a “terrorist,” even as the country’s Federal Court at the time declared that his interrogation by Canadian intelligence officials at Guantanamo “offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects.”

The current Canadian government headed by Liberal Party Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, said of the settlement of his case, “On behalf of the government of Canada, we wish to apologize to Mr. Khadr for any role Canadian officials played in relation to his ordeal abroad and any resulting harm. We hope that this expression, and the negotiated settlement, will assist him in his efforts to begin a new and hopeful chapter in his life.”

While the current Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer termed the settlement “disgusting,” the current Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, said Khadr’s story carried two messages: “Our rights are not subject to the whims of the government of the day, and there are serious costs when the government violates the rights of its citizens.”

Khadr himself says he wants to get on with his life, and hopes that the government apology will help him to do that. He has apologized for Speer’s death, saying he is “sorry” for any pain it caused his family.

Meanwhile, while Khadr has been vindicated of the charge of murder he fought for 15 years, and no longer faces any risk of incarceration, he still has a default judgement for $134 million in damages that was ordered by a federal judge in Utah in a case brought by Morris and by Speer’s family.

An attorney for Morris and the Speers, David Winer, was reportedly in Toronto on the day the Canadian government’s settlement agreement and apology was announced, seeking an injunction to freeze Khader’s cash settlement — though many legal experts say it is unlikely a Canadian court at this point would agree to do that.

And while the Canadian government has now apologized for its role in this whole sorry affair, there is no sign that the US government, which is the one that illegally captured, incarcerated, tortured and tried as an adult this child soldier, will also do so.

More articles by:

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador   Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
July 19, 2018
Rajai R. Masri
The West’s Potential Symbiotic Contributions to Freeing a Closed Muslim Mind
Jennifer Matsui
The Blue Pill Presidency
Ryan LaMothe
The Moral and Spiritual Bankruptcy of White Evangelicals
Paul Tritschler
Negative Capability: a Force for Change?
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: ‘Social Dialogue’ Reform Frustrations
Rev. William Alberts
A Well-Kept United Methodist Church Secret
Raouf Halaby
Joseph Harsch, Robert Fisk, Franklin Lamb: Three of the Very Best
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail