Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bring Omar Khadr Home

Bring Omar Khadr Home

By John S. Hatch

Yo, Harper—this is an open letter to you.

Wait a minute. That’s no way to address the Prime Minister of a great nation.

I’ll just call you Steve. Is that ok?

I hope you had fun with your good buddy George at Rusutsu and discussed all sorts of important matters regarding poverty and the poorest of the poor. Did the caviar go down ok? That’s good.

That George is such a kidder, isn’t he? One almost forgets the indelible blood all over his hands. He introduced you to President Umaru Yar’Adua of Nigeria one of the most corrupt countries on earth. The election was massively fraudulent, just like both of George’s. “Good man,” George said. Well, it takes one to know one, I guess. But careful, Steve—Bush is down to two lapdogs now that Tony-boy is gone, he might be looking for a third, and you might be it. Being a Canus Lapus for Bush (who many consider to be in the same league as Hitler, Pol Pot and Idi Amin) can be bad for one’s political career, let alone one’s dignity. Up to you, but if you’re going to sniff around George, maybe you shouldn’t do it from the Office of Prime Minister.

But that’s not why I’m writing, Steve.

About six years ago Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen then fifteen years old, was captured by American troops in Ayub Kheyl Afghanistan. After dropping five-hundred pound bombs on the house in which he and others were hiding, Khadr was shot three times in the back.

An American soldier prepared to murder him, but was restrained by a superior.

An American died in the previous fighting, and as Khadr was the only ‘insurgent’ survivor, it became convenient to blame him for the killing, although no evidence of this was forthcoming.

Under international law and convention, a fifteen year old cannot be considered a soldier (much less an ‘unlawful combatant’ which has no legal standing whatsoever), and cannot be held or tried for war crimes.

Nevertheless, Mr. Khadr was imprisoned first at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, then at Quantanamo in Cuba.

Over the six year period of his confinement, Mr. Khadr has undergone numerous forms of torture. These include but are not restricted to:

Being hung from a doorframe for hours in spite of his wounds;

Being ‘short-shackled’ in painful positions for hours;

Being sleep-deprived for twenty-one days in preparation for interrogation by Canada’s own CSIS (which then turned over information it gained to the Americans);

Being held in solitary confinement for long periods;

Being repeatedly threatened with rape.

He was interrogated by Joshua Claus who was removed after killing another prisoner named Dilawar. He beat him to death. Dilawar was later found to be completely innocent.

As far as a fair trial is concerned, the Department of Justice already directed that there be no not-guilty findings. Even military lawyers on both sides have described the process as a sham that makes Stalin’s show-trials look positively fair. The government has admitted that in many cases there will never be a hearing, and the prisoners will never be released. Better to bury them than admit to mistakes.

Steve, other civilized nations such as Britain, Australia, Germany, etc. have intervened with the US to save their citizens from America’s illegal deadly clutches. Children have been raped with various implements by American troops, CIA, or mercenaries.

Children have been taken and held as hostages, and sometimes tortured. Many other people have been tortured to death or otherwise murdered. In some cases prisoners were tortured for long periods so that their screams would serve to sleep-deprive others. Two birds with one stone, so to speak, good ol’ American ingenuity. If some poor soul manages to end his misery by committing suicide, it’s considered ‘an asymmetrical act of war’. We know, and even the Americans admit that many of the people imprisoned at known sites (and this includes an estimated 2500 children as young as nine) are completely innocent. It would follow that innocent people are also being held at the so-called ‘black’ sites. In spite of all this and the atrocities at Quantanamo Bay, your government has steadfastly refused to intervene in Mr. Khadr’s case, even when being urged to by Amnesty International, UNICEF, the Canadian Bar Association, and others. You even tried to blame the previous government for Mr. Khadr’s predicament. That was pretty unconvincing, and even cowardly.

As with so many people caught up in America’s self-induced hysteria, Mr. Khadr’s imprisonment is illegal. His torture is not only illegal, but despicable, and offends and threatens every value we hold dear as Canadians.

Steve, to paraphrase a not very great man, ‘You’re either with us or you’re with the evildoers’. In trying to wash your hands of the imprisonment and torture of Omar Khadr, an innocent Canadian, you’ve made it clear who your friends are. History may judge harshly. I hope so. A Prime Minister who countenances illegal detention and torture because his ‘friend’ is the perpetrator is one who has abdicated his responsibility, and does not represent me.

Have a nice day.

John S. Hatch is a Vancouver writer & film-maker.