An attack on the essence of democracy: the case of Omar Khadr

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      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.

      Andrew Lodge is a physician from British Columbia who is teaching at a nonprofit medical school in Nepal.


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      MARIA S

      Aug 7, 2014 at 5:36pm

      Wow, the most truthful piece of writing I have read in long while! I myself would like to hear the story of Mr.Omar Khadr. But once again (and not very surprising) the government is stripping him of his rights and of ours.The Canadian government did it before , by letting Omar Khadr rot in jail for years not having the sense to bring him back, lying to Canadians that his treatment was of a humane one and he was not being tortured and it is doing it again. Sometimes it really scares me seeing how far the government will go in stripping our rights to simply hide the truth.

      Dr. Jack

      Aug 7, 2014 at 7:26pm

      I admire Mr. Lodge for his work in Nepal, but he should stick with the facts, not fabricate them!!

      1. There is no proof that Omar Khadr was ever tortured, please provide proof!!
      2. Khadr did not fight an invading army. If he claims to be Canadian, there was no army invading Canada!
      3. He was in Afghanistan, fighting with the Taliban!!
      4. He did not throw a big grenade against soldiers. Having been hurt in a fight with the US Marines, he was injured and was crying for help. The Marines retreated and an unarmed medic volunteered to treat his wounds. At this moment Khadr threw the grenade killing the unarmed nurse!!

      Anyone who wants to dispute the facts, with facts, please step forward, provided my comment will be published!!


      Aug 7, 2014 at 7:49pm

      "Khadr's crime is unclear to me."

      What's the point of having The Onion if this is how people actually think?

      Martin Dunphy

      Aug 7, 2014 at 11:29pm


      I see his point exactly. And unless you've bought into the U.S. fairy tale of their illegally invading soldiers being "murdered" during a pitched armed battle while they were, presumably, just trying to handcuff some belligerents, you should too.
      Course, that's just me.


      Aug 8, 2014 at 12:20am

      The US is evil!!!! Waaaaah! Poor Omar was just a misunderstood youth! Waaaaah! Poor Omar is a victim f US Imperialism! Waaaaajh!

      Kadr was not protected by the Geneva Conventions and he should have been shot: had there been a long tab following the firefight he would have been. The US treatment was a violation of his rights and the conviction is ridiculous but he should have been released back in Afghanistan rather than returned to Canada. Kadr's actions that led to his capture are not praiseworthy in the slightest, he was a victim of a brainwashed herd but he had willingly joined another brainwashed herd. The anti-US crowd want to imbue Kadr with their unique brand of noble victimhood, glossing over or even justifying his armed presence at the battle itself. They desperately want him to be important and the title of this piece gives a sense of the author's desperation.

      We don't need to hear from Kadr any more than we need to hear from Bernardo or other incarcerated individuals. His story isn't unique except for his citizenship and pretending a teenager with a grenade is somehow "just a kid" is naive at best. Ask some vets who fought against the 12th SS what a teenage fanatic is like and I doubt you will hear many advocate a soft touch.


      Aug 8, 2014 at 8:59am

      Dr. Jack. That is not what happened. The 'medic' did not offer to treat Khadr's wounds. Sgt. Speer was a soldier, who took some additional training to be a medic.

      "After U.S. warplanes largely destroyed the compound with 250-kilogram bombs, ground forces stormed the ruins. Sergeant Christopher Speer, helmetless and wearing Afghan garb, was killed by a grenade blast. Sgt. Speer, a qualified medic, was part of assault team when he suffered fatal head wounds."

      Speer should have worn a helmet!
      There is no evidence that Khadr threw a grenade. No grenade fragments, no shrapnel, no bullets, nothing was presented as evidence. Khadr plead guilty so as to avoid a 40 year prison sentence.

      Before soldier go overseas, they are advised to update their will. Speer knew the danger.

      Rob Betty

      Aug 8, 2014 at 9:40am

      Dr. Jack to stick to the facts and not fabricate them, but then proceeds to present his own fabrications.

      Here are a couple of the most egregious errors in fact in Dr. Jack's commentary:

      First, Dr. Jack states that there is no proof that Omar Khadr was tortured and asks for someone to provide it. I am happy to oblige.

      For starters, we might listen to on camera testimony by US soldier Damien Corsetti, one of Omar Khadr's guards in Bagram. Corsetti, who went by the nicknames "Monster" and "King of Torture", can be seen on film in the documentary "You Don't Like The Truth" detailing the torture techniques used on Omar Khadr. We hear Corsetti say "Looking back, yeah, it was torture."

      To support Corsetti's highly credible account we have the Canadian Supreme Court unanimous ruling in January of 2010 which, having been presented with a detailed account of Omar Khadr's torture claims, found that Canadian complicity in illegal interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay "offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects." They ruled 9-0 that Khadr's basic rights were breached by his own government - just Google it if you don't trust me. Surely an eye-witness account supported by a unanimous Supreme Court decision constitutes proof sufficient even for Dr. Jack.

      Second, Dr. Jack paints a picture that has Omar Khadr throwing a grenade at an unarmed nurse trying to treat his wounds. I would love to know his source for this! Even SUN Media doesn't claim that Sgt. Speer (the Delta Force Specialist tragically killed during the firefight on the day Khadr was captured) was attempting to administer care at the time the grenade was thrown. Sgt. Speer's death is tragic but he was a medically trained elite fighting soldier acting in a combat role that day. He was armed and he was participating in a military clean-up operation to secure the compound at the time of his injury. To claim otherwise is to disrespect his role as a trained military professional. You can refer to Christopher Speer's Wikipedia page for supporting references to these facts. It is also noteworthy that even the US Military never presented claims that Speer was acting as a medic at the time in their charges against Khadr.

      The only thing I find to agree with in Dr. Jack's comment is his plea that we "stick with the facts". I have done so here.

      Helen Sadowski

      Aug 8, 2014 at 11:05am

      "Waaaah" says that Omar Khadr wasn't protected by the Geneva Convention. He should do some research and check his facts.

      Let's read what Romeo Dallaire said in a speech to the Senate Canada on Omar Khadr: "Canada has been the world leader in drafting and promoting the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, specifically addressing child soldiers. This convention entered into force in 2002 and has been signed by 130 countries.

      That same year, Canada again led the charge in developing that optional protocol, and now 150 countries have signed to it.

      This protocol prohibits the use and recruitment of children under the age of 18 in armed conflict.

      The Optional Protocol led to the drafting of the Paris Principles, which clearly established the definition of a child soldier. I have read this definition in the chamber previously, but I wish to do so again simply to remind us:

      Any person under 18 years of age who is compulsorily, forcibly or voluntarily recruited"

      Omar was 15 years old and so was protected. It can't be any plainer, as Romeo Dallaire himself states. Canada has violated its agreement to protect child soldiers when it remained silent as Omar was tortured and set up for conviction in a "kangaroo court". Many people also don't know that the US made up new crimes in 2006 that are not recognized by international law and then applied these retroactively to 2002 when Omar was captured. That's not justice. As well Canadians should know that no US citizen would ever have to face a Military Commission like Omar did, because it is illegal, one's civil rights are ignored. So why would it be okay for a Canadians citizen to be subjected to that process. Shouldn't the Harper government respect out citizen rights just like the American government does for their citizens?


      Aug 8, 2014 at 12:05pm

      Child Soldier. Detained illegally during an Illegal war. This whole thing is a joke. Perhaps there's no proof of torture but if you watch the videos of him in Gitmo its pretty obvious terrible things were done to him. Then again is there any proof that he threw the grenade that killed? Other then the testimony of soldiers? Soldiers make mistakes. Bombing the wrong people or killing reporters with Apache gunships for example. Responsibility for the devastation caused by these wars have to be realized before law and order have any legitimacy again. Did I mention child soldier?