February 08, 2008

Khadr illustrates peril of rushing to judgment

I am so proud of the Canadian Press these days! Rah! Maybe the basic sense of Canadian justice as written by the fine truly international reporting by our journalists can carry the torch of justice to a new generation of readers. Walkom is always good - he even goes out on a limb as far as do on many many "stories" and developments; I am constantly amazed since I came up here how well done his stories are; no superficial reporting from this guy.

So glad to see him writing about this painful and troubling topic.

I've said it before, I'll say it again - Omar Khadr was just a child! I don't think, based on what I know as the mother of two sons in that generation, that he is to blame for his own demise. These young men - whether American, Canadian, Palestinian, Egyptian, Afghanistani, Uzbek or whatever - can be held responsible for a world that is so confusing - the media is one of the prime contributors to the current death of a planetary soul. The young cannot be blamed. It is our job to HELP THEM, not curse child soldiers.

So much pain has resulted from the American power elite's decision (CHOICE!) to go and continue to grow poppies in Afghanistan - so much pain.

And while I'm on my soapbox . Let me just say, I am totally tired of the sick and disgusting Mr. Harper. FOR SHAME, Mr. Harper, for SHAME!! Before condeming this young man and his family to an awful existence, you could have done an investigation yourself - you could have made Canada look like the human rights stronghold it actually is. The Man in the Street condemns you Mr. Harper. I talk to my fellow Men in the Street, Mr. Harper, and we all agree that you are the worst representative of our values ever to hold the job of Prime Minister. You are in for a Very Big Suprise. We will turn out in great numbers at the polls to get rid of you. You're only fooling yourself - much like that cowboy President of a certain banana republic to our south.

Can someone explain to me, please, btw the way how a man shot in the back can be considered much of a threat, let alone be throwing grenades ? I'd like to speak to the medics that treated Omar after he was shot. I'll bet they've got a tale or two to tell. Why doesn't someone ask them??


When 15-year-old Omar Khadr was captured in Afghanistan six years ago and shipped to Guantanamo Bay, few of his fellow Canadians gave a damn.

There were no rallies for him, no petitions. Politicians kept a discreet silence. Liberal MP Irwin Cotler now wants the federal Conservative government to bring Khadr home and treat him as a child soldier. But six years ago, there is no record of then-attorney-general Cotler making such a demand.

But that was then. Since 2002, the saga of Omar Khadr has provided an object lesson in why due process matters, why political leaders should have the guts to stand up for principle and why it is important not to rush to judgment.

Because now, thanks to a slip-up by U.S. military prosecutors, the world has learned that Khadr may not have committed the act that is the basis for his incarceration. He may not have thrown the grenade that killed U.S. Army medic Christopher Speer.

Even before this week's revelation, the U.S. case against Khadr was fraught with problems. For Afghanistan in 2002 was a complex battlefield, one in which U.S.-led troops (including Canadians) continued to face off against forces loyal to the ousted Taliban government.

In July of that year, U.S. forces launched an all-out ground and air assault against a compound containing hostile fighters. In any similar battle (including guerrilla conflicts like the Vietnam War), a fighter detained after such an assault would have been treated as a prisoner of war. In any similar conflict, a captured Canadian would have been returned home to face treason charges.

But U.S. President George W. Bush insisted those taken in Afghanistan not be given prisoner-of-war status and not be sent home, but instead be treated to jail and so-called "coercive interrogation" techniques. Khadr has said those techniques included shackling him in painful stress positions and using his head to mop up urine.

With the interrogation over, his trial has begun, a trial that even Khadr's U.S.-appointed military lawyer dismisses as a joke. Under Guantanamo rules, Khadr can be convicted as a war criminal on the basis of both secret evidence and evidence gleaned under torture. Even in the unlikely event of acquittal, he may not be released.

And now we find that maybe he didn't kill anyone after all.

When Khadr was captured, the U.S. government story was clear: since the young Canadian was the only enemy soldier in the compound found alive, he must have thrown the grenade.

It now seems, according to the written testimony of the unnamed U.S. soldier who was first into the shattered compound, that two enemy fighters were alive when that grenade was thrown.

The U.S. soldier, OC-1 in a transcript mistakenly released to reporters, says that after the grenade was lobbed, he saw two figures – one lying wounded on the ground, the other seated and facing away from him. OC-1 shot the wounded man in the head, killing him. Then he shot the one facing away from him – Khadr – twice in the back. OC-1 says he assumes Khadr threw the grenade. But he doesn't know because he didn't see.

So we are left with a story much less clear-cut than it first seemed. Omar Khadr entered the public consciousness as a dangerous murderer. It now seems he may have been just a kid who for whatever reason (parental coercion? his own bad judgment?) ended up getting shot in the back.

Thomas Walkom's column appears Thursday and Sunday.

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