Omar Khadr: Growing Up In Gitmo (Updated x 3)

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cross-posted from The Dream Antilles


Omar Khadr at age 14 (in 2000)

Omar Khadr (born 9/19/86) is a Canadian who has been imprisoned in Guantanamo in connection with the alleged killing of a US soldier during a battle in Afghanistan in 2002.  At the time of his capture by US forces, Khadr had been shot three times and was near death. Khadr was 15 at the time, a child soldier. He will be 22 in September. He has been detained in Gitmo for more than 6 years in essentially solitary confinement.  Today some video of his interrogation was released in Canada.

The video is here via BBC.  It is not of good quality, but the audio works.  It is revolting.

Please join me in Gitmo

The NY Times reports:

Video recordings released Tuesday showing interrogations of the only Canadian held at the Guantánamo Bay detention center in Cuba provided an unprecedented glimpse inside the compound.

The mood of the detainee, Omar Khadr, just 16 years old at the time of the interrogations, in February 2003, swings between calm and indifference to rage and grief in the recordings, which were released by his lawyers.

The video footage,… snip… shows Mr. Khadr pleading with a Canadian intelligence agent for help and, at one point, shows him displaying chest and back wounds that had still not healed months after his capture in Afghanistan.  …snip…

They show Mr. Khadr, who is accused of killing a United States soldier in Afghanistan during a battle in July 2002, being questioned by an unidentified member of the Canadian intelligence agency.

In all, about seven hours of recordings were given to Mr. Khadr’s lawyers, but the lawyers released a selection of only about 10 minutes of video recording on Tuesday.

Khadr has said he was abused by American interrogators both at Guantánamo Bay and in Afghanistan. With regard to the videos released today, Khadr apparently thought that the Canadian agent had come to help him.  Later, he realized that the agent was only there to extract information from him:

Much of the material released shows Mr. Khadr – who is wearing an orange uniform – sobbing and repeatedly saying, in a moan, “Help me, help me.”

In the interrogation, Mr. Khadr says he wants to return to Canada, but the agent suggests that the situation is so good in Cuba he might want to stay there himself.

“The weather’s nice,” the interrogator, whose face was electronically obscured, said. “No snow.”  …snip…

At one point, [Khadr] lifts his shirt to show the agent the wounds on his back and stomach that were still not healed.

The agent, however, is unmoved. “I’m not a doctor, but I think you’re getting good medical care,” he responded.

Later, a sobbing Mr. Khadr said: “You don’t care about me.”

That’s quite an understatement.  

Many details sure to provoke outrage and shock about what has happened to Khadr are here in a Wiki, which notes his factual innocence of the killing, a Rolling Stone feature story, and Lisa Lockwood’s excellent essay yesterday.

The capture, detention, yes, torture, and long term, solitary confinement of a child soldier, Omar Khadr, is the face the United States has put on display for all the world to see. This is the face of the Global War On Terror.  This was an utterly mortifying display of barbarism before the video was released.  And now, a small part of a very long detention can be viewed across the world in all of its inhumanity and obvious brutality.  If there were any justice at all, Omar Khadr would be released.

According to the Times:

Amnesty International and several Canadian groups have been pressuring the Canadian government to ask the United States to return Mr. Khadr to Canada from Guantánamo Bay. Last week, however, Prime Minister Stephen Harper again rejected those calls.

Nathan Whitling, one of Mr. Khadr’s Canadian lawyers, said that he hoped the airing of the videos, which were prominently featured on the morning new programs of Canadian television networks, would change the government’s mind.

“The only way to get him released is through a political process,” Mr. Whitling said from his office in Edmonton, Alberta. “So we are pleading in the court of public opinion.”

I’m disgusted by Khadr’s further confinement at Gitmo and want it to be viewed and weighed across the world in the court of public opinion.

Maybe that’s where we can be of help to Omar Khadr.  Maybe by spreading the word and writing and sending emails we can do something to galvanize public opinion about this case and ultimately free Omar Khadr.

Update: 7/15/08, 2:30 pm: AP has this:

A Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs report said Canadian official Jim Gould visited Khadr in 2004 and was told by the American military that the detainee was moved every three hours to different cells. That technique, dubbed, “frequent flyer,” was one of at least two sleep deprivation programs the U.S. military used against Guantanamo prisoners. Detainees were moved from cell to cell throughout the night to keep them awake and weaken their resistance to interrogation.

The document also says Khadr was placed in isolation for up to three weeks and then interviewed again and noted in an aside that at least one of his interrogators “seemed to be trying to intimidate (Khadr) or force (him) to talk rather than trying to cajole him into cooperation.”

“What you see in the video is a teenager begging for help and what you see is an interrogation that violates U.S. law and any international law concerning the rights of children,” said Wells Dixon, a lawyer for the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents dozens of Guantanamo prisoners. “If this is the way a teenager in Guantanamo has been treated, you can just imagine how anyone else has been treated.”

Update: 7/15/08, 3:50 pm: Canada’s The National Post has this:

The interrogations took place over four days from Feb. 13, 2003, at the U.S. naval base in Cuba following Mr. Khadr’s transfer from detention in Afghanistan the previous October.

Sitting in a folding chair on the first day, Mr. Khadr ate a burger and drank a soda, according to one report, whose author said he could not hear what was being said.

Mr. Khadr “mumbled and had his head down” on the second day, the author said. The detainee also would “not look at his interviewers.”

The author said when the Canadian officials asked Mr. Khadr why his demeanour had changed, he replied: “Promise you’ll protect me from the Americans.”

Mr. Khadr also said he had been tortured while detained in Afghanistan, the U.S. official wrote, and said everything he had told the Canadians the previous day “was a lie.”

The Canadians asked Mr. Khadr if he’d spoken with anyone the previous night, and Mr. Khadr “denied anyone coached him,” the U.S. official says. “He covered his eyes and began to cry heavily.”

Update: 5/15/08, 5:20 pm EDT:  An elegant, forceful column in the Canadian newspaper National Post by Jonathan Kay gets it perfectly right:

As someone who otherwise considers himself one of the War on Terror’s noisiest Canadian cheerleaders, I submit that the bleeding hearts are right on this one: Omar Khadr needs to come home.

Here’s why:

Omar Khadr was a child soldier. During the carnage that gripped Sierra Leone in the 1990s, the most terrifying crimes were often committed by gangs of children who’d been abducted by the Revolutionary United Front. Isolated from their family, and stripped of any sort of moral compass, these child brigades were renowned for such monstrous acts as hacking off the legs and arms of defenseless villagers. When the RUF’s war with the government ended, many of these children were assimilated back into civilized society. No one – in the West, at least – blamed them for what they had done. As in Sri Lanka, Congo, and other parts of the world where children are abducted and forced into combat, it is universally recognized that child soldiers are not morally culpable for their actions in the same way as adults. That’s why the Sierra Leone war crimes tribunal didn’t prosecute child soldiers – it prosecuted the monsters who exploited them. Can someone please tell me why this principle has not been applied to Omar Khadr, who was all of 15 when he allegedly threw the grenade that killed Sgt Christopher Speer of Delta Force in 2002?

What makes the case for Khadr especially strong is that he was essentially recruited into combat from birth – by his own flesh-and-blood no less. The true monster in the Khadr narrative is not Omar, but his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, an al-Qaeda lieutenant who moved his whole family from Canada to central Asia so they could share in the glory of jihad.

As a nine-year-old, Omar drank in his father’s Islamist propaganda – spending months by his father’s bed as the jihadi patriarch lay hunger-striking against Pakistani authorities, who’d arrested him on terrorism charges in 1995. Following 9/11, Ahmed (who, thankfully, was dispatched to his celestial virgins in 2003) enlisted his son as a sort of sidekick and maidservant to a jihadi cell hiding out in the Afghan outback. It was in this capacity that Omar tagged along with the pack of terrorists who would eventually be killed in the June 27, 2002 firefight that claimed the life of Sgt  Speer.

The whole column deserves to be read.


Skip to comment form

  1. closing Gitmo, ending illegal extraditions, closing the black sites, restoring habeas corpus.

    Thanks for reading.  You know what to do.

    • pico on July 15, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    I keep thinking I’ve reached my limit on what can enrage me, but a fucking kid kept in Gitmo for what’s almost a third of his life.   What the fuck is wrong with us?

    If he did kill a soldier, my heart certainly goes out to that soldier’s family for the pain they must have felt and continue to feel.  There’s nothing more horrifying than finding out a loved one has been taken from you suddenly.  But the notion of doing irreparable psychological (if not physical) damage on someone who we’d legally consider a kid just tears me up.

    • Edger on July 15, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    that George Bush is the terrorist?

    • geomoo on July 16, 2008 at 3:02 am

    Thank you for writing this.  I wanted to write something, but I’m suddenly too sad to say much.  I’m grateful for people like you.

  2. overcome with emotion and grief.

    I CANNOT believe we did all of this to a child of 14 years old and onward.  Were these Americans doing this?  And, look at the psychologists that “guided” them — I am so sickened in my heart, I can hardly write.  [Valtin:  Have you read this?]

    That “child” WILL never be the same EVER!

    *  *  *  *

    And think about this, WITHOUT TORTURE and, maybe, a little hope, the kid revealed an ENTIRE HISTORY!  (To his attorneys!)

    It hurts so much to know and see what we have become — reading this story, amongst so many, is as though a sword is piercing my heart.  And, I pay taxes for this?

  3. He was indoctrinated by his family, one that he loved deeply, had his convictions indoctrinated thereby, but, not an “evil” person, just a young man wanting to help his family!

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