Tuesday, July 25, 2017

About Omar Khadr

As we all know by now, Omar Khadr sued the Canadian government for $20,000,000 as compensation for their role in not only allowing, but participating in his torture and prolonged incarceration without a fair trial in Guantanamo Bay. We all must have heard by now that the Supreme Court looked at the responsibility in law of Canadian authorities toward citizens imprisoned abroad and determined that the government of Canada failed to extend required protection to Khadr. The short conclusion has been that the current government decided to settle out of court and an offer of $10,500,000 was agreed upon.

The Conservative opposition seemed immediately to detect an opportunity: simplify Khadr’s personna as just-a-terrorist, re-brand the settlement as a reward for terrorism and the voter base could be easily caught up in a round of righteous indignation. Andrew Scheer called it “disgusting,” Michelle Rempel slammed the settlement on Fox News, and in the Wall Street Journal, Peter Kent accused the Canadian government of “falling all over itself to turn a terrorist into a multimillionaire.”

It worked. Polls showed that the majority of Canadians bought into the Conservative line. Home run.

As is so often the case these days, facts are selected or rejected based on whether or not they support a viewpoint. Khadr was ten when his doctrinaire father, an Al Qaeda supporter, took him to Afghanistan to fight on the side of a resistance movement justifiably called a terrorist insurgency. He was fifteen when the building he and Al Qaeda operatives were occupying was bombed by the American military and most of the inhabitants killed. Khadr survived that bomb attack as well as two bullet wounds to his chest and may or may not have thrown the grenade that killed Sergeant Christopher Speer as he entered the bombed-out building to “mop up.”

Khadr was spared; a medic was charged with keeping him alive so that he could be interrogated and he was flown to Bagram Airfield where he took three months to recover from his injuries. He was next flown to Guantanamo where he was tortured repeatedly until he eventually confessed to throwing the hand grenade. Canada knew that prisoner torture was rampant in Gitmo and despite Khadr’s being a Canadian Citizen (born in Toronto), was a child and could therefor confess little because he knew little, Canadian intelligence cooperated with the Gitmo apparatus, interrogating him mercilessly for hours and turning over their meager yieldings to Khadr’s persecutors.

That a 15 year-old would defend himself with whatever he could find when knowing that soldiers are coming to kill him can hardly be justifiably brushed aside. No American soldiers were tried and convicted for killing the dozens of insurgents in the building and if that’s because it was a war, then Khadr’s throwing of the grenade (if he did) would also be an act of war.

If what we’re hearing today is the level of discourse that characterizes conservatism in Canada, then heaven help us. To elect people to office with such a slim understanding of “how things work . . . actually,” would be tantamount to making the witch doctor the Minister of Health, the snake- oil salesman the chief pharmacist. To realize that Scheer, Rempel and Kent would set out deliberately to twist, over-simplify, the news in order to enrage and energize voters is an even worse prospect than the possibility that they are ignorant of the real story.

It’s happened in the USA . . . very recently; it could happen here.
As to the amount of the settlement, I have no informed opinion on what the right amount would be, if any. I know that even a moderately skilled athlete in professional hockey, baseball or basketball can earn more in a year than I have in a lifetime. The logic of the relationship among work, play, celebrity and commerce and the remuneration they draw has always been enormously flawed . . . in my opinion. Given the past, Omar Khadr is bound to have a rough go when he seeks to fit in, find meaningful work, earn a living. Perhaps $10,500,000 is justified on that ground.

It’s taxpayers’ money, that’s true. About 29 cents per person.

For a blow-by-blow summary of all the events pertaining to this case, Click here for a pretty good start.

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