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Just Another Travesty

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On the 25th of May, 2000, the United Nations adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession A/Res/54/263: Optional Protocol on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in conflict. 


Among other things, the Protocol defines children as anyone under 18 years old. It states (Article 6) that such children should be "-demobilized or otherwise released from service," and should be accorded "-all appropriate assistance for their physical and psychological recovery and their social integration." In other words, child soldiers are not to be held responsible for their indoctrination, but are to be assisted and rehabilitated. Omar's father was killed by the US military in Afghanistan, and his older brother is also a sympathetic supporter of the anti-US forces. So are millions of others, some closer to home.


The UN Protocol has the force of International Law, and is binding upon the United States as well as Canada. 


In July 2002, Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen was captured in a bombed out house near Khost, Afghanistan. He was the lone survivor after the US military dropped a 500 pound bomb on the house, and then fired upon the survivors. He was fifteen years old at the time, thus falling under the United Nations definition of a child soldier with a right to proper care and rehabilitation. He was shot three times in the back, and only the intervention from a superior officer prevented a soldier from firing a bullet into Khadr's head in retaliation for the death of Sgt. Christopher Speer, a medic who was killed by a grenade. As Mr. Khadr was the only one left alive, the US military decided to blame him for the death of Sgt. Speer, even in the face of almost certain knowledge that he did nothing.


Mr. Khadr, denied adequate medical treatment for his wounds, was taken to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, where he spent three months before being transferred to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. At Bagram one of his interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus was implicated in the torture/murder of an innocent man named Dilawar ("-A Taxi to Nowhere").  Six days earlier another man named Hallibullah was also tortured to death. At Bagram there were no rules, and no mercy. Bagram boasted a US Army Specialist Damien M. Corsetti, known as "-The Monster' and "-The King of Torture" by his friends and colleagues. He liked to stick his naked penis in the faces of bound prisoners and threaten rape. Presumably in the furtherance of freedom and democracy. He received an honorable discharge from the army.


Declared an "-enemy combatant' (a categorization dreamed up by Dick Cheney's office and devoid of any legal status, meaning, or standing) Mr. Khadr was denied any rights under the UN Protocol or the Geneva Conventions, and was subjected to torture. He was fifteen. Torture included being hung from a door in handcuffs in spite of his unhealed wounds, being short-shackled in painful stress positions, being sleep-deprived for months, and being repeatedly threatened with rape. (Always rape, and forced nudity, those favorites of the depraved.) The Canadian Supreme Court  found that Khadr's human rights had been violated, as had international prohibitions against torture. The United States Senate Armed Services Committee found that the US government had been involved in a "-pervasive culture of prisoner abuse."  We know that many people died under torture. Names and causes of death are a matter of public record. Manadel al-Jamadi; General Monsoush; Nagam Sadoon Hatas; Abdul Jaleel; Mohammed Munim Izmerly; Dilar Dababa--all registered homicides, although the US Military likes to claim "-natural causes" even in the face of fatal injuries. But we don't know the exact number. Probably hundreds, possibly more. Rape was threatened, and we know it was delivered. If not to Khadr, to many others. Men, women, and boys. Americans sodomized boys in defense of democracy and in furtherance of the idiotic war on terror. This is a matter of public record. There are videotapes.


After years of abuse beyond the rule of law or the exercise of ethics, Omar Khadr was finally charged with murder, conspiracy, and spying. In December 2008 the charges against him and five others were mysteriously withdrawn, and then reinstated some weeks later. The reason is thought to be that this would allow the other five, claiming to be 9/11 "-masterminds" (a highly doubtful prospect) to plead guilty (previously denied by a military judge), to receive the death penalty, to become martyrs, and afford the Bush Administration something passing as a "-victory" in the war on terror. Never mind that they all suffered torture as well, thus rendering any guilty pleas vacant.


In the Orwellian world of Military commissions, aside from the hysteria, rumors, lies, false confessions, resignations by prosecutors disgusted by the corrupt process in which not guilty verdicts are expressly prohibited (how's that for the concept of a fair trial?), we also have unidentified witnesses, such a "-Lt. Col. W', "-Agent 11' (who claimed Khadr confessed, but then destroyed all her notes), and "-Soldier #2."  The government's own witnesses cast fatal doubt as to whether Mr. Khadr was guilty of anything, let alone murder (and please recall that America is fighting two undeclared wars begun by two illegal invasions--are they "-undeclared combatants?").  Never mind, it required a Canadian Supreme Court ruling to get the Canadian government to hand over evidence it had to Khadr's lawyers. And at Guantanamo, when despairing prisoners managed to take their own lives, the suicides were declared by the US "-asymmetrical acts of war," with unfortunate America as the victim. Unarmed suicide bombings. Logic fairly groans.


How is it that every other Western nation with prisoners at Guantanamo (and elsewhere) has managed to repatriate their citizens with the exception of Canada? And this in spite of the UN Protocol on child soldiers and the certain knowledge that Khadr was tortured, repeatedly and over an extended period? Why does Mr. Harper have to be so petty, so small?


President Obama, in keeping with a promise to close Guantanamo and other dungeons and to end the vile practice of torture, has suspended Mr. Khadr's trial for three months, as well as those of others while a review is conducted. And still, when Defense Minister Peter MacKay uttered a mildly optimistic statement as late as January 21st, 2009, within minutes he was being corrected by shrill Harper spokesman Kory Teneycke with the same tired old line that Mr. Khadr faces "-serious charges'. Yes. Thank you. We know. In a kangaroo court that would make Stalin blush. Not guilty verdicts ruled out a priori.


During Mr. Khadr's many interrogations, an unscrupulous FBI agent, Robert Fuller induced him to "-identify' Canadian Maher Arar as possibly having been in a safe house in Afghanistan in September or October 1991. In September of that year Mr. Arar was in the USA, and in October he was under RCMP surveillance in Canada. Never mind, the next day, Sept 26, 2002 Mr. Arar was scooped up and sent to Syria to be brutally tortured for ten months before being released without charges, explanation, or apology, a shameful episode on the part of the Americans and the RCMP. CSIS doesn't come off much better with regard to Khadr. Canada apologized and offered compensation. The Americans can never admit they made a mistake and still consider Mr. Arar a "-terrorist'. Confessions and accusations under torture (or the threat of torture) can bring disastrous results to innocent people.


The Harper Government's abandonment of one of its own citizens in crass obeisance to what it perceives as America's wishes is a craven betrayal of Canadian values. To have looked the other way while America tortured, to have given up what was a mere boy to the institutional terror, cruelty and sadism rampant in places like Bagram and Guantanamo is to dishonor Canada, the United Nations and the civilized rule of law. Perhaps Mr. Harper needs to be reminded that Mr. Bush is gone, now, and the eight-year nightmare is over, if not the aftermath. He needs to unpucker--George's sorry backside won't be back. And perhaps George W. Bush is not the only one who should fear the harsh judgment of history. Stop the insanity. Bring Omar Khadr home.

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I'm a Vancouver writer and film-maker. I have written extensively on political issues, mostly involving American foreign and domestic policy, and also issues in common with Canada such as the ongoing Omar Khadr case. My favorite outlets are OpEd (more...)
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