Canada The Callous and Cold: Get Omar Khadr Freed Now!

This whole situation with Omar Khadr is so repulsive, shameful and depressing. Thinking about how this poor kid from Toronto has been treated makes me, as a Canadian, feel so embarrassed and sad. All his rights have been violated, he's been abused, tortured, held for six years (so far), long periods of which have been in solitary confinement, he faces a sham trial that would make the Soviets proud, and he was just 15 years old when captured, yet Canada has done absolutely nothing to help him. In fact, as we now indisputably know, the Canadian government has been an active participant in this whole tragedy. And so I ask: What sort of nation have we become anyway?

And I don't just mean our pathetic Canadian government either. No, I'm also talking about the 38% of Canadians who, in the new Angus Reid opinion poll, say they want Khadr to remain in Guantanamo (only 37% want him repatriated). That's right, 38% of Canadians not only endorse the use of illegal prison camps where torture has been widespread and habeas corpus is just some term in a crossword puzzle, they also endorse a Canadian citizen being held illegally and tortured. And not just any old Canadian either, but rather one who was a child when captured. Who are these people and what has this country become, Alabama?

It's bad enough that the Canadian government, for 6 straight years now, has refused to try to bring Khadr home from that American gulag there in Cuba, making him the only remaining Western citizen still held there. All other Western governments, and many non-Western American allies as well, have successfully worked to have their citizens released, but Canada hasn't even tried. Ignoring the pleas of the Canadian Bar Association, Amnesty International, UNICEF and many others, our government has simply done nothing.

And there he was on our TV screens the other day, our beloved Prime Minister Stephen Harper, coldly telling the press that "the legal process in Guantanamo Bay must be allowed to run its course". Since when does the government of Canada recognize monkey trials? Since when does our country accept the idea that the Geneva Conventions can just be thrown aside whenever found to be inconvenient? And since when exactly did Canada stop looking out for its citizens?

What was especially upsetting and infuriating about the video released this week showing Khadr being interrogated at Guantanamo is that it was Canadians, not Americans, doing the interrogating. Canadian government workers. Not there to stand up for his rights, not there to demand he be returned to Canada, not there to express sympathy about his recent torture, and not there to help in any way. Well, besides helping the Americans try to get information out of their "vicious evil Canadian terrorist" detainee. And the Canadian interrogators went back six times in total in 2003-04 to interrogate Khadr... and then pass everything on to their American buddies in the CIA. I mean, how low can you get?

It's truly heartbreaking to watch the moment in the video when Khadr breaks down, realizing that the Canadians aren't there to help him at all and he's all on his own. And then you remember that that was 5 and a half years ago now and we've left him there to rot ever since. What a great, noble, classy country this is. Man, am I ever proud to be a Canadian!

What next, are we going to help the Chinese interrogate Canadians locked up in the gulag system they've got set up over there? Maybe we could help them break people such as Canadian Huseyincan Celil, sentenced to 20 years on bogus charges of "terrorism". Why not? What makes American illegal prison camps any better than those in China? Think about it.

The Americans may have been in a state of mass hysteria in the years after 9-11, but Canada has no excuse whatsoever for contributing to Khadr's shameful treatment. A Canadian citizen, a Canadian child soldier, a Canadian victim of torture, and the only remaining Western citizen at Guantanamo...and Canada does nothing.

Yes, he's accused of killing an American soldier, something the Americans say he admitted to - after they tortured him - and something his lawyers strongly contend to be untrue. But even if he did throw a grenade in a battle, so what? He was there as a child soldier. And child soldiers are to be rehabilitated, not prosecuted. Here was a kid raised by his radical, al-Qaida-supporting father and then taken away from his home in Toronto to Pakistan and then on to Afghanistan. This isn't someone who ever had any choice. Brainwashed and then placed in great danger by a demented dad, this isn't a kid worthy of hatred, this is a kid worthy of everyone's deep sadness and pity.

As far as the idea that child soldiers should be rehabilitated, this isn't just something I read in passing somewhere, this is something that's been going on for real in many countries, particularly in Africa. My sister, Liz Marshall, a documentary filmmaker, was actually in the rehabilitation camps for child soldiers in Sierra Leone back in 2000 making a documentary for War Child Canada. These camps were full of kids who had killed a whole lot more people than the one person Khadr is alleged to have killed. But, like child soldiers in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere, none of them were being prosecuted. Why? Because they were kids for fuck sakes! They were being rehabilitated. They weren't responsible. The adults who sucked them into the situation were. It's a no-brainer really.

Well, at least for everyone besides the Canadian Prime Minister, three successive Canadian governments and the 38% of Canadians completely void of all compassion and common sense.

Mike Cowie (Oredakedo)
Thursday, July 17th, 2008


To read an earlier piece on Omar Khadr click here: The Canadian Abandonment of Omar Khadr Rant


And for another, more recent, Canadian rant try this: Finally An Apology: The Canadian Native Residential Schools Rant


Or try this: It's Called Conservativitus: The Pity The Conservatives Rant


Or this: John McCain: An American Hero My Ass!


Or this: A Delusional Dictatorial Demagogue: The Mugabe (and Mbeki) Rant


Or this: The Obama Rave or The Audacity Of Hoping For The Obvious Choice


And of course there's this: The Wright Stuff: The Jeremiah Wright Rave


And even this: History Has Spoken: Bush Finally Seals The Deal


And for lots more on politics visit the Politics Homepage


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Canada: The Callous and the Cold.

Thank you for summing up the sorry state of Canadian ethics so well. It's so disheartening to see how easily people turn their backs upon decency, empathy, and humanity. Not to mention rule of law. These days "might makes right" has replaced all other codes of conduct in how America and Canada regards international law. Ethical treatment of prisoners "guaranteed" by the Geneva Convention has become a sick joke. With doublethink that'd make Orwell spin in his grave, it seems merely by calling captives something other than "prisoners of war", the powers that be can justify torturing helpless human beings. To Harper and his ilk, human rights and laws are simply meaningless rules which can be ignored through finding the right loophole. When did trading away our decency become a mere word game? When did we start becoming the bad guys? And why doesn't anyone care?

Guantanamo terror camp

Once again Mike you have exposed the horrible state Canada is in. Smacks of another era doesn't it! I would never have believed when I was a kid and sang Oh Canada in school, with pride, that we Canadians would tolerate anything like what has been happening. Thats what you get when the prime minister is kissing the U.S. presidents ring (and being the polite Canadian I am, I won't say ASS) When Canadians are not protected, and fought for in foreign countries, it is not only disgusting, it's frightening! I watched in horror, this poor scared,hopeless kid try to make the interrogator listen. My heart goes out to him. Maybe Mr. Bush should be incarcerated there for all the helpless men women and children he has killed in the middle east and all the poor American soldiers he has used as cannon fodder for his insane, horrific reasons. I am not happy to be a Canadian now, as we all suffer for the sins of our leaders. I am proud that I am not afraid to speak out, like you Mike. Keep it up!  A CANADIAN MOM

Omar Khadr

What is really ironic in this disgraceful situation is that if the kid were a US citizen incarcerated in someone else's gulag, the American government would be raising hell and demanding that he be repatriated. I have heard that the Canadian government (or governments, since the Liberals were in lack-of-power in 2001 and thereafter) is essentially punishing Omar because his family, Canadian citizens all, are pro-Al Qaeda. Compassion and common sense are not Tory values, but come on, guys, being human isn't so bad. You should try it.

child soldier Omar Khadr

I believe that Canada was a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child back in the late 1980's. In addition, we sponsored a United Nations conference in Winnipeg in 2000 or 2001 to deal with issues of children and war. We became signatory to the refusal to accept child soldiers, and General Romeo D'Allaire was involved in this initiative. With these two Conventions signed, Canada should have been one of the first countries to protest the presence of child soldiers in Guantanamo, and most certainly should have brought back Omar Khadr several years ago. Your piece reflects my views precisely. DCM