Friday, February 11, 2005

So you stick to your side, and I'll stick to mine

The Toronto Star takes a side on one particular member of the other side in the GWoT, and as usual it's a foolish one: Omar Khadr has a Toronto public library card. He likes chocolate. Like many Canadian teenagers, he can't spell very well. He is lonely. "Don't forgat me," he wrote his family in one letter. "Don't forget to writ." He is also the only Canadian still held at America's Guantanamo Bay prison camp. The U.S. says he fought in Afghanistan against its invading forces. It says he confessed to laying mines and that, in one fierce firefight, he threw a grenade that killed an American soldier. But he's so cute and childlike! No one who likes chocolate and spells badly could possibly be a terrorist! He also knows how to manipulate sympathetic fellow-travelers, with vague accusations of torture: One day, he says, his jailers tied his hands to a doorframe and made him stand for hours. Another day, he says, they shackled him hand and foot for hours in a so-called stress position, then used him as a human mop after he urinated on the floor. He says they threatened him with rape. I can believe the first point. Maybe the first half of the second. But the rest sounds like elaboration cross-referencing Abu Ghraib, which is too convenient by half. Funny how the assumptions of guilt and innocence are implied here, huh? Both sides are quoted as having equal credibility throughout the article. When one party has significantly more to gain than the other from an untruth, that's a bit suspicious. Eventually, the Canadians explained they were not there to help him. They were there to help the Americans. Later that year, two more Canadian officials came to see him. These ones, he says, yelled at him. They accused him of lying. They said they wanted more information. It seems that Omar did not co-operate sufficiently. The day after the last Canadian left, he was thrown into solitary confinement. The cell, he told his lawyers later, was "like a refrigerator." Please note: He's complaining about air conditioning. In Cuba. I wonder what that costs for the average Cuban? Meanwhile, at home, the Canadian government was picking its way through its own impossible contradictions. On the one hand, it disapproved of a Canadian minor being jailed by a foreign power under conditions that arguably contravene international law. No no no. You don't get to make vague intimations like that. Explain exactly how and why you think detainment at Gitmo, and what are more likely than not to be perfectly sound and non-abusive interrogation techniques, are a contravention of international law. Oh, and if you mention the Geneva Conventions in any way, given the context, you lose. But on the other, it wanted to avoid overly irritating the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush. Really? Could have fooled me. If the Canadian government has been making motions of slavering subservience to Bush in the last few years, I must have missed it. In March 2004, Jim Gould of Foreign Affairs' intelligence division visited him. He later reported, in a memo obtained by Khadr's lawyers, that Omar appeared to be "a thoroughly screwed-up young man. "All those who have been in positions of authority over him have abused him and his trust for their own purposes. In this group can be included his parents and grandparents, his associates in Afghanistan and fellow detainees at Camp Delta. ..." I'm sorry, but he'd have to be a lot more demonstrably incompetent than merely being a poor speller for that argument to be convincing. Throwing grenades at American troops is something a 15-year-old should be able to determine, by himself (and despite pressure from others), is likely to get him killed or imprisoned. That Daddy told him to do it is no excuse. The rest of this paragraph has been blacked out. But we know who else abused the trust of this 18-year-old Canadian. His own government. Ignorant, fatuous and blind is no way to go through life, son. Khadr doesn't consider the Canadian government "his," nor do the rest of his family, if their actions and public attitudes are any indication; all secular western governments are, to al-Qaeda and their loathsome supporters (no matter how adorably childish they may seem on camera) merely temporary obstacles to reviving the Caliphate. Does Omar Khadr (or any of the Khadrs) consider himself Canadian? I somehow doubt it. Despite that, I'll grant that he does warrant some amount of legal support from the Canadian government, by virtue of the accident that he's a citizen. But the precise measure he deserves was reached long ago.


Anonymous Colin Pye said...

The more honest critics of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp have conceded that the prisoners there have an anomalous status in international law, as they are neither civilians, nor common criminals, nor members of an organized state's military force.

But do they recommend constructive changes to international law to protect the prisoners whose fates so concern them?


Instead, they deliver sanctimonious lectures accompanied with much finger-wagging at the United States about the need to uphold the non-existent norms of international law regarding people with no status therein.

2/11/2005 01:25:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home