Freedom/Privacy

"Help Me."

by Djerrid

Being 16-years-old sucks. But I could not imagine being that young while being interrogated for six years in Guantánamo Bay. But thanks to Canadian Omar Khadr’s lawyers, I don’t have to imagine it. I can watch it.

His lawyers released this video because they have no legal avenues to free him.  “The only way to get him released is through a political process,” said Nathan Whitling, one of Mr. Khadr’s Canadian lawyers. “So we are pleading in the court of public opinion.”

So far, no luck. Prime Minister Stephen Harper believes that there is a “judicial process” that should be followed through. “This should continue,” said his spokesperson.

28 replies »

  1. The problem here is that he was captured as an enemy combatant after throwing a hand grenade at US soldiers. We try 15 and 16 year olds in the US as adults for murder and attempted murder on a frequent basis and they sit in jail unable to make bail until their court date comes along. He is scheduled to face a military tribunal which is not quite the same as a civilian court but if he is going to try throwing grenades at our troupes I say let him rot until he is convicted then let him rot there for the rest of his hopefully miserable life.

  2. After allegedly throwing that hand grenade.

    “In February 2008, the Pentagon accidentally released documents that revealed that although Khadr was present during the firefight, there was no other evidence that he had thrown the grenade. In fact, military officials had originally reported that another of the surviving militants had thrown the grenade just before being killed.”

    (That is a quote from Wiki and here is the report that it draws from.)

    Being convinced of someone’s guilt on scant evidence and without a fair trial is the reason we have the 5th amendment. You know, so we don’t let innocent children “rot there for the rest of [their] hopefully miserable [lives]”.

    And “until their court date comes along” usually doesn’t take 6 years.

  3. I agree he deserves his court date but if you check there have been cases where a person has waited longer than 6 years for it. If he is found innocent then he should be released but if found guilty I stand by letting him rot for eternity.

  4. Also the report you site is all allegations by his defense attorney and not evidence. Let’s wait and see what comes out at the trial because the “report” and the video are both attempts by his defense to bypass the trial and use public sentiment, which is rightly against many of the actions at Guantanamo, to side step a trial and get his client out without him facing his day in court.

  5. Rho, the issue isn’t and never has been that we think you should throw flowers at those who are trying to kill us. The issue about the Bush administration’s rampant disregard for due process. Let’s unlawfully invade another country, and then if they try and do the same thing we would if we were invaded, throw their asses in a cage and leave them there forever.

    Ummm, no. There are obviously two parts to my equation – what we should do with captured enemy combatants and what we should do with Bush, Cheney, Rummy et al. But the key to what we’re talking about here is what you seem to acknowledge – let’s find out whether the kid is guilty of something or not and let’s do so in a timely manner.

    And six years? Without a trial (or in this case, I believe, access to counsel?) Would you be okay if somebody kept you locked up for that length of time and then let you go after you were proven innocent?

    We’re America. Isn’t it about time we started acting like it?

  6. For those who are interested, wiki’s page on Omar Khadr is very interesting and quite through.

    For instance, it references the Criminal Investigation Task Force’s report of the incident showing that the American forces shot first. (It was when one of the members of the Afghan Militia Forces stupidly walked up to the US forces yelling at them and demanding that they surrender, but hey.) It also says that Khadr was shot twice in the back while sitting on the ground and unarmed. They even have ghastly pictures of his wounds and him being treated by American forces.

    There seems to be a lack of empathy for the “enemy”. If an invading foreign army surrounded you and your family and shot at you, do you believe you would be justified in throwing a grenade at them?

  7. I’m kinda on the fence on this one. I’m with Rho if this guy is guilty. But I’m with Sam and Djerrid about a trial. The part that I’m struggling with, though, is how many rights do we give enemy combatants. How do we parse our Bill of Rights and Constitution so we can say “this set of rules works for Americans” and “this set of rules works for everyone else”? Obviously, we can’t just hand out the right to vote. But where is the line? Seems like the legislative and/or judicial branches should have hammered this out a century or two ago…

  8. Mike, I realize that we can’t necessarily afford enemy combatants every luxury we provide our own citizens, but a couple questions:

    1: We CAN abide by the Geneva Conventions, right?

    2: You say “if this guy is guilty.” How do we know that without a trial, exactly? Do YOU trust this administration on that one?

  9. Like I said, I agree with you about the trial. I also agree that 6+ years is excessive. My problem is with how we go about running the trial. That’s where the limits on rights come into play. Do Search & Seizure rules apply? If they do, then we can probably just let them all go now. I tend to be on the side of giving people more rights rather than less. But I also tend to want to keep our soldiers alive when we toss them into the battlefield, too.

    I confess I don’t know the Geneva Conventions enough to know if I agree with all the rules or not. If you have the time, point me to the appropriate sections and I’ll have a look. In the end, if we agreed to them, then we should either follow them, dissolve the treaty, or figure out how to update the rules. The first option assumes the convention is perfect in every situation. The second is politically improbable. The last is probably something we should be doing. But I suspect that would be unlikely as well in this environment.

  10. Anyone who’s been put in Guantanamo is most likely there because of bad association rather than pure guilt. The Northern Alliance in Afghanistan were paid money for any ‘terrorist’ they brought in.. regardless of this 16yr old kid (and don’t tell me he’s that cognizant of the choices he might have even made, he’s a kid and a kid in a war-torn country) being even guilty or not..the fact is that torture is NOT ok, never ever. If you can rationalize away the moral issue, then you can’t rationalize away the fact that people who get tortured do not make for very good sources of information, heck even the Israelis know that. As Dr. Sammy mentioned, the Geneva convention…don’t get me started. It’s not whether ‘someone’ agrees with the rules of the Geneva Convention, countries have signed on to abide by international standards of conduct during a time when it most counts. As someone who emigrated to Canada (and now lives in the US) I am glad that at least the court in Canada ordered the release of all the evidence.. here under the guise of ‘security’ blahblah it would have never seen the light of day..

    Gitmo is a disgrace and if there is a need to put people in court for crimes, then you can’t have you cake and eat it too. Bush and his ilks are just as responsible for the soldier’s deaths as the individuals who inflicted it on them.. but of course, in this country, the prevailing attitude seems to be ‘the end justifies the means’.. that is why there are standards (for those who lack morals); it never does.

    ok, stepping of my soap box into the kitchen..it’s dinner time! [g]

    Ingrid

  11. Rho and Ubertramp:

    Let me start first with a question for both of you: If one of our soldiers is captured in Afghanistan, Iraq, or wherever, would it be OK with you if that soldier were tortured, held without trial, benefit of counsel, contact with family, etc. for six years? Suppose that soldier was in the act of throwing a hand grenade at the enemy? Would that be enough to convict him of a crime? If so, what crime, under international law, would that be?

    I believe that’s really what we’re talking about, here. One soldier (militia) allegedly tried to kill another soldier. Generally, the world looks on that as soldiers doing their jobs; not as criminal activity.

  12. JS, that is the main psychological way to get around the killing of others; ‘we’ are soldiers, ‘they’ are terrorists, guerilla etc.. take your pick. Legitimacy vs illigitimacy..
    you make a good point but I don’t think that point will be accepted by the majority of Americans.. unfortunately, this country being literally geographically isolated, other ‘peoples’ were always considered to be ‘those people’ ..that mentality. Unrelatable and an unknown quantity. In Europe, with all the history that one has to learn in elementary and middle and high school (lots of history to cover, they start young), you know that it’s not just you vs them.. the players change and mix up.. ultimately what kids learn is that war against a neighbour was always for power of acquisition or medieval notions of superiority (Catholic Spain, ah inquisition..vs protestant heathen Dutch..80yrs!! )… we’ve heard all the propaganda crap and patriotic crap lines from ages past.. this country, being fairly young and juvenile in its outlook (speaking generally of course) has behaved like a adolescent playing with guns, being unable to understand true conflict and political nuances. As long as it’s long live the Empire, everyone feels safe..

    what happens ‘over there’ is literally too far away for anyone to appreciate. One week of the same endurance of war and bombing in this country like they experience ‘over there’ would humble the biggest loud mouth in no time. Luckily (since I live here and I know better , along with a minority of people) that won’t happen. But having to eat a little humble pie might go a long way in insuring international peace..

    oops…waayy of topic.. or was I?

    Ingrid

  13. Ingrid:

    I don’t think you were way off topic. Well, maybe just a little.

    Let me agree with you on a few things. Yes, one psychological way to get around killing of others is to make it a justified job, as with soldiers. I’m not saying it’s right, because that would make war right. I’m just saying that it’s currenlty legal under international law.

    I will also agree that we Americans are geographically isolated and that makes “those people” even more “those” than usual (but I would submit that, historically, Europeans have been very, very good at making others “those”). I will also agree that America acts like an adolescent country on occasion. We have not suffered in war (for the most part), and don’t have the deep abhorence for it that we should have.

    I’m going to disagree about the direction of my argument, though. I think it might convince one or two people. Maybe. One of the more gruesome moments in our own history was the terrible mistreatment of prisoners of war during our Civil War. We also had soldiers badly mistreated by the Japanese in WWII, and the North Koreans and North Vietnamese in those two wars. I don’t think the average American will stomach the mistreatment of foreign soldiers, but I also don’t think the average American thinks of any of the Gitmo prisoners as “soldiers.”

    But, you could be right. No way to know until you try it.

  14. OK,
    I’ll give you some insight on my perspective. I’m a disabled Vet with an older brother who is a Vietnam era vet and a yonger brother who is currently in the active reserves. Now there were a number of points made and I want to address more than one of them.

    First of all, I agree that six years is an excessive amount of time to wait for a trial and that it should have been held quicker.

    I also agree that Bush, Chaney, and crew should be held culpable for violating the Geneva Convention to which we have signed.

    I also agree that torture is reprehensible and should not be tolerated.

    I will even agree that he is inocent until proven guilty and deserves his day in court.

    But here is where I have an issue with your arguments:

    First calling him a soldier when he was not in uniform and used his appearance as a kid to get close enough to kill one of our soldiers with a grenade does not fit the definition of a soldier as provided by the Geneva convention instead it fits the definition of a spy or terrorist. So he is a criminal not a POW.

    Next, the argument that the report was changed, or updated I can believe and even envision a likely reason. If during a firefight someone is shot multiple times fleeing from grenading one of yours, and that is what he is accused of not of being shot while sitting unarmed, then it is easy to believe he was killed until you find out otherwise.

    Now do i believe he deserves torture, No. But if convicted I believe he deserves life without the possibility of parole doing hard time. that is actually lenient seeing as how the Geneva convention allows summery execution for spies, which is the category his actions would place him in.

    Now I admit my view is biased and colored by my own experiences during my military career and by seeing some of what was done to our troupes but I can only view life through the experiences I’ve had and that is why I hold this opinion and why I hold it so strongly.

    Please respond with your views and I will always respect them but by no means will I necessarily agree with them,then again I might.

  15. As a Canadian, living in the US, I have absolutely no issue with his being detained as an enemy combatant. I have some issues with regard to his length of incarceration before a trial, via tribunal or court. Given his background and family history I have little faith that in fact he was not on the battlefield to cause harm, as his father and older brother had done.
    However, I think he should be tried, and if found guilty, sentenced to a max penalty. When released, he should be outfitted with a tracking device that will lead authorities, should they choose to check on any more suspicious behavior, to his other accomplices. This tagging should be announced in the press so as to alert all his friends in the organizations that he has supported. The terrorists will take appropriate action. We can rest more easily, with our consciences clear, knowing that the death penalty will in fact be levied against anyone taken as an enemy combatants by the terrorists themselves.
    Since all the released combatants have returned to terrorist ways, this would seem to be apropriate. We even save the bullet costs.
    Sounds like a fairly modest proposal, no?

  16. Rho:

    By your definition, I believe the Americans at Concord and Lexington would not have been considered soldiers. Nor would many men in the Army of Northern Virginia, once their initial uniforms wore out. Nor would members of the French resistance, the Spanish irregulars who fought against Napoleon, Francis Marion’s group, John Mosby’s raiders, the Urkranian resistance, etc.

    Are all non-uniformed militias not soldiers?

  17. If you actually look at the Geneva Convention, it provides a good, fairly specific set of criteria for determining who is or is not an enemy combatant. As far as I can tell, Rho has a valid point about whether this young man fits those criteria, particularly since “who’s a soldier, who’s a terrorist” is growing murkier by the minute.

    But here’s the thing. Right after the list, there’s this:

    Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.

    In other words, if in doubt, the Convention applies. And I can’t believe that the interrogation process and secret hearings at Gitmo fit anyone’s definition of a competent tribunal.

    “He’s a terrorist because we say he is” is not enough.

  18. euphy saves the day (I filed the link to the conventions ‘somewhere’ but when you do a lot of filing, even online, you lose it..!)..

    To comment on Rho.. and I’m saying this with all due respect since the Dutch NEVER forget their liberation in ’45.. In war, there will never be clear lines of who kills who.. so often many MANY civillians get killed in the process, it fuels the fire of resistance. (speaking of which, the Dutch have been active in that during different time periods..OUT of uniform) If you consider ‘the uniformed soldier’ to have the only legitimacy of war acts, you will also attract the resistance. Whether as a soldier you were responsible for killing any civillians or not doesn’t matter, you are representative. If you invade another country, no matter what the rationale/excuse, you become an accepted target like it or not. To see it as a personal issue because you are a vet and you feel defensive towards all soldiers getting attacked, that has absolutely nothing to do with it. ‘You’ (speaking in general terms now Rho) are the invader. As such, you are never welcome. ‘You’ will always be the target, whether you have personal responsibility for someone’s demise or not.

    This boy could have most likely be inducted into resistance BUT he’s 16 yrs old, 15 when captured. A KID.. I know that in the US people are firm on revenge (imprisonment) rather than rehabilitation.. hence the overcrowdedness and low percentage of people getting out of crime. There are certainly people who should never see the light of day because I personally believe they are ‘born bad’. The majority however I do not believe to fit that bill. Situations/environments effect (sp?) the behaviour.
    As for this kid and his treatment, EVEN if he has killed a soldier, I’m sorry, but if you are invading a country, as opposed to defending your country at your own doorstep.. than that is what you can expect. Conceptually, I do not feel sorry for that situation. On a personal level, I feel sad for any unnecessary killing in this supposed war on terror, be they soldier or ‘terrorist’..

    How many US soldiers (and don’t forget the upper echelons with their decision making) are not responsible for the many collateral damaged civillians? Who will bring them to justice?

    Gitmo should be closed and open court cases should be pursued instead. Then, you can say honestly, these people are guilty vs the ones who end up being innocent. That said, it goes both ways..what about American soldiers who have killed innocent civillians? You can’t have it both ways..

    Ingrid

  19. Euphrosyne:

    Thanks for looking up the Geneva convention. That’s really helpful.

    The argument I meant to make, however, goes beyond that covered by signatories to a treaty. I’m sure that militias everywhere are not signatories. What I’m trying to get at (and badly, I’m afraid) is a lot like what Ingrid posted, above. There’s something fundamentally wrong about invading a country, then imprisoning, torturing, abusing, etc. people who fight back.

    Our own history began with people who fought back against not even invaders! The British at the time were out countrymen.

    The Soviets did the same things to mujahedeen they captured, so our actions are not without precedent.

  20. I was responding to Rho; I thought your point was abundantly clear already. It’s difficult enough to establish any clear moral imperative for the invasion of a sovereign nation; ignoring any and all standards for the treatment of those people caught in the conflict only degrades us, the invaders, further.

    Which does connect to the Geneva Convention in a very fundamental way, come to think of it – it was a valiant attempt to keep the key to the electroshock machine out of the hands of the sociopaths… So much for good intentions.

  21. I have never said nor implied that defending ones own country was not justified but the particular person we are discussing is not a citizen of Afghanistan, he is a Canadian citizen and so not a legitimate member of an Afghan militia.

    Like I said earlier Bush and Chaney should be held accountable for Iraq but you must all remember that not only the US but the UN signed off on the invasion of Afghanistan to oust Alquida and the Taliban, or does anyone believe the Taliban was a group that should have been left in power?

  22. Rho: I haven’t seen anybody defending the Taliban, either. But would you explain how, precisely, a Canadian citizen in that conflict had less standing re: the rules of engagement than an American soldier? Seems to me very few of our boys were wearing Afghani uniforms.

    As for leaving the Taliban in power, if that’s the standard it seems we have a lot of invading to do. Zimbabwe, North Korea, Syria, the list goes on. Who should we invade next?

  23. Rho:

    I have great respect for you opinions and feelings on this matter, but it has been quite common, throughout history, for militias to include foreigners. For instance, not all of the Minutemen were native born, nor were a number of other Revolutionary War partisans. Mosby’s group included a German.

    I just have a hard time throwing someone in prison without trial for being in the middle of a fight and, well, fighting. Heck, I have trouble throwing anyone in prison without trial for anything, because it means being accused is being guilty.

  24. Rho, sorry to leave you hanging. I’ve been super busy at the lab today. I’m still here, in fact, for at least a couple more hours. Nothing like a 16+ hour day counting cells. I’m pretty much on your side in this. Although I’m not a vet, you might remember I come from a military family with multiple links to present and past conflicts.

    I’m not sure I buy the uniform argument. There will always be people involved in wars like this that don’t have uniforms. Hell, poverty is the main reason it’s such a mess out there to begin with. A uniform doesn’t even enter into the equation for many (if not most) of the local combatants.

    I like your argument about “using his appearance as a kid” as a means to an end. However, if we’re going to use this in any sort of court, going after the “kid” is the wrong target. If anything, we should go after the organization that put the grenade in his hands. Unfortunately, in this case, the “organization” is an ill-defined, multi-headed beast. And I’m not exactly sure how the Geneva Convention handles witnesses/collaborators with a 99.9999% flight risk. How do we handle that in the US? Take the 5th and bail until the court charges you with obstruction? That just ain’t gonna work in a war situation.

    JS. To answer your question, yes, I definitely have a problem with our soldiers being held over there for years on end w/o trial. But it’s a war. I suspect the only reason it doesn’t happen much to our soldiers is because one of two things happen: 1) our guys are killed and dragged through a city and/or displayed on the local TV channel, or 2) we go in and get them out. I’m not saying that’s necessarily how it should be, but that’s how it is.

    I can already hear several people in this thread (especially Dr. Slammy and Euphro) coming back with, ‘Well, if we’re going to act like terrorists, then the terrorists have already won.’ To a large extent, I agree. Yes, by all means, we should be held to a much higher standard and I applaud everyone who is constantly insisting we raise the bar. That’s what’s great about a democracy. But if you’re equating being forced to listen to Barry Manilow 24/7 to having your head sawed off, I don’t know what to tell ya.

    If we had a magickal truth serum, I’m sure we’d be using it. For now, we are trying everything we can, within ill-defined limits, to keep our soldiers alive and the rest of us safer. I agree that we sometimes step over the line. I applaud everyone who’s making it their job to hang out our dirty laundry for all to see. I’m just not sure that this has been the case with this particular kid.

    Ultimately, the quagmire we are wading through now is due to the fact that we are trying to apply humane rules to something that is inherently inhumane. We’re trying to define logical rules to a situation that defies logic. That’s not to say it’s not a worthy pursuit, just that it’s a bitch to do.

  25. Hurrah for mobile S&R. 🙂 Haven’t set up the internts at my new house yet.

    Euphro, yes, I think so. We haven’t started to threaten to kill people for cartoons we don’t like. Yet. 🙂

  26. I don’t know if anyone’s still here, but I’d like to offer a similar situation for comparison. During WW2, Germany invaded and occupied a good part of France. A member of the French Resistance, if captured, and assuming he or she was not turned by the Gestapo, was subject to the following: summary execution; torture and eventual execution; or transportation to a concentration camp, which was usually, but not always, a death sentence.
    The U.S. has invaded and occupied Afghanistan. An accused civilian resistant is subjected to torture and a lengthy and torturous imprisonment that he is told might never end: a virtual death sentence, and to some, death might be preferable.
    Obviously, there are many ways in which these compared things are not symmetrical; Afghanistan is not France; The U.S. is not Nazi Germany. But the similarities are enough to make me very uncomfortable about what Bushco is trying to do to this kid, and with the vengeful support of millions of Americans. I’ll note something else: this kid is accused of throwing a grenade that I believe wounded one or several U.S. soldiers; he’s not charged with killing any U.S. soldier.

  27. NoOneYouKnow:

    I think I’m tapped out on this thread, but I think you deserve a response since you took the time to write. I mentioned the French Resistance, above, so of course I agree with you.

    Thanks for your input.

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