An attack on the essence of democracy: the case of Omar Khadr
The Canadian government won't allow Omar Khadr to speak. Numerous media outlets have requested to interview him. They have repeatedly been turned down, most recently the Toronto Star. Why have these efforts been denied?
To recap, Khadr was a child soldier fighting in the Afghan theatre. He was captured in a firefight after having killed an American soldier with a thrown grenade. Khadr was also injured during the exchange. He was 15 at the time.
He was then transported to Guantanamo Bay where he spent 10 years while being tortured. He was subsequently tried and pled guilty in exchange to be transferred to Canada to serve the remainder of his sentence. He now languishes in a Canadian jail. His lawyers allege that had he not pled guilty he would effectively have agreed to spending the remainder of his life in jail.
There are a few problems with this.
Namely, the scenario itself.
If I was a 15-year-old kid caught in a firefight and I had a grenade and there were a bunch of heavily armed people trying to kill me, I would throw that grenade. I would challenge anyone to do otherwise.
The fact that the people attacking him were from an invading army makes the situation all the more nefarious.
That he was a kid makes it even worse.
That's beyond the fact that his testimony came from Guantanamo Bay, a well known hellhole, and occurred under severe duress.
The obvious crime here is the treatment of prisoners. We know that the existence of Guantanamo is a war crime. There was routine torture. The very place is grotesque in that it is on Cuban territory.
Moreover, the Americans, Canadians, and the remainder of the coalition of the willing bombed the hell of out of a country—Afghanistan—that was already reduced to rubble prior to that and then have the audacity to accuse others of wrongdoing is the ultimate of chutzpah.
However, Khadr's crime is unclear to me. Unless we consider warfare in general a crime. In which case every person who has thrown a grenade or shot a bullet or dropped a bomb in war is a criminal. Including many Canadians. But instead of throwing our soldiers in jail, we pin medals on them.
Publication bans regarding prisoners are not unheard of. But in Khadr's case, such a ban raises serious questions. A child soldier. Tortured. In an illegal prison. It is a bizarre decision to say the least.
So why can't we hear what Khadr has to say? If he is a crackpot, let him expose himself. If he is a terrorist, intent on the destruction of western civilization, we should also hear about it. After all, he will freed in the next few years.
You can think what you will about Omar Khadr. What he did reflects on him. What we, and our friends to the south, have done and continue to do to him reflects on us. And it does not reflect well.
Beyond the treatment meted out on Khadr, not allowing the media access to him is an affront to press freedom of fundamental essence to any functioning democracy. Why can't the Toronto Star and other media outlets interview him?
And why can't the Canadian public hear what he has to say? It is our tax dollars that are keeping him in jail, convicted by a foreign government of a crime based on testimony derived from torture while he was imprisoned in a legal black hole condemned by human rights groups around the world.
What is the Canadian government afraid of?
I want to hear his story. Many other Canadians do as well. We need to hear his story. We should not be afraid of it.