Comment: Canadian complicity in international crime

Re: “Cash for Khadr is not justice,” editorial, July 5.


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Seldom, thankfully, does this newspaper publish an editorial as misleading and misguided as this. The unfortunate commentary missed the more important questions Canadians face in respect to relations with the U.S.

By the second paragraph, the subject is terrorism. Omar Khadr was not a terrorist. He didn’t own a suicide vest. In 2002, he was a 15-year-old in a small Afghan village near the non-existent border with Pakistan, in a house surrounded by 100 U.S. troops who called in 500-pound bombs on the dwelling.

He was not an “enemy combatant,” a quaint term invented by the U.S. to cover its human-rights abuses and rejection of international law. He was plainly a soldier.

The editorial observes that conditions at Guantanamo were harsh, and that the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that evidence against Khadr had been obtained using oppressive measures. True. Similar conditions and measures also characterized the Spanish Inquisition. Guantanamo was, and is, an illegal centre for torture. Even the U.S. review of practices there admits that.

Continuing the misleading narrative, the editorial alleges that the basis of Khadr’s lawsuit was that Canadian officials who visited him three times did not do enough to protect him. That is a bit of an understatement.

In fact, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service sent agents to assist the U.S. in interrogating him, and shared information — all after publicly stating, and apparently convincing this newspaper, that their visits were to check on his welfare. The International Red Cross, CSIS is not.

Khadr eventually became the last western citizen rescued from Guantanamo, trading his digs there for the luxury of a maximum-security prison in Canada. Since being freed, Khadr has accepted his treatment with far more dignity than has been afforded him until now.

Finally, after ridiculing Khadr’s claims with a level of sarcasm equal to that I employ here, the editorial observes that Khadr wants money, and the widow of the U.S. sergeant does not. In fact, as she was perfectly entitled to do, Tabitha Speer filed a $20-million wrongful-death suit against Khadr in the U.S. An obliging judge awarded her $134.2 million. Wrongful death suits seek money for families.

On the subject of court awards, Canadians might want to recall another $10-million settlement resulting from complicity in U.S. torture policy. Remember Maher Arar? He got to participate, with Canadian help, in the “rendition” program, and instead of returning home to his family in Montreal, spent 10 months under torture in Syria.

The editorial concludes with the familiar line that Canada is “sending the wrong message” to allies and terrorists. Refusing to acknowledge that Canada joined the illegal war in Afghanistan to avoid U.S. pressure to send troops to the even more blatantly illegal war in Iraq; refusing to admit that Canadians turned over prisoners to be tortured; downplaying the international disgrace of Guantanamo.

All this sends just the right message to terrorist recruiters. These matters also send a message to allies, principally the U.S. The message is that Canada remains on call to join in the next futile military adventure.

In fairness, the dutiful outrage over compensating Khadr for his ordeal is only a whisper compared to the volume of the message sent by the obscenely escalating Canadian military budget, all to purchase weaponry enabling Canada to play its usual second fiddle in the campaign to bomb the world into peace.

Khadr is not being compensated for killing Sgt. Christopher Speer. He is being justly compensated for being subject to treatment that is grossly inconsistent with the values we celebrated so proudly just a few days ago.


William S. Geimer is a retired lawyer and a member of the Vancouver Island Peace and Disarmament Network.

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