I Want My Father Back You Sonovabitch

(9AM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

Emotional day today in Guantanomo tweetland. I’ve spent much of yesterday and today following along with the live tweet squad tweeting from the media pool on the Sentencing Hearing of Omar Khadr, the Toronto-born Guantanmo prisoner, now 24. The somewhat well known (in certain circles) “Child Soldier” who was shot and captured on July 27, 2002 in Afghanistan by U.S. Special Forces at the age of 15.

For a better take on the final plea deal a few days ago,  I’ll point you this article by Dan Gardner who concludes:

So what does the plea bargain really mean? Khadr has already spent one-third of his life in prison. He is being tried by a stacked military commission. He faces the very real possibility of spending the rest of his life in a locked box. And so, on Monday, after eight years maintaining his innocence, Khadr confessed. Sure. He’s a terrorist. Whatever.

A coerced confession is no confession. And if Omar Khadr’s confession cannot be described as coerced, the word should be stricken from the dictionary.


But today. Today was hard.

Today the seven person military jury heard a victim impact statement from the widow of US Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer who died as a result of that firefight that day in 2002, from the grenade that fatally wounded him.  They had two young children.

Tabitha Speer took the stand and, staring straight at Khadr, told him he would “forever be a murderer.”

Asked by the prosecution if she had anything to say to Khadr, she went back to July 27, 2002, when Khadr threw the grenade that killed her husband.

Speer’s unit had been engaged in a firefight with Khadr, who was 15 at the time, and other militants holed up in a compound in Afghanistan. According to a fact summary signed by Khadr as part of his plea deal with the Pentagon, the U.S. forces offered women and children in the compound the chance to leave.

“You had the choice, and you stayed,” Tabitha Speer told the military war-crimes court Thursday. “Looking at you today, I don’t know what your thoughts on that day were. It doesn’t really matter what your thoughts were.”

“You will forever be a murderer in my eyes. It doesn’t matter what you say from this day on,” she added, looking at Khadr, who sat at the defence table with his lawyers. “My children are good, loving, wonderful people. They didn’t deserve to have their father taken by someone like you.”

The widow also spoke directly to the jury of seven military officers and urged them not to be swayed by arguments that Khadr, the son of an al-Qaida leader who was groomed for militancy from an early age, deserves special consideration.

“Everyone wants to say he’s the child, he’s the victim,” Speer said. “I don’t see that. My children are the victims.”

She has had to raise her children on her own. The jury saw family photo’s and heard some of the kid’s own words in letters.

Tabitha Speer read a letter [now 11 year old] Taryn [daughter] wrote to Khadr. “Because of you, my daddy never got to see me play soccer or go to kindergarten,” the girl wrote. “You make me really sad … I’m mad at you.”

The widow also read a letter written by [now 8 year old] Tanner [son] to his father for a school assignment.

“Dear Daddy,” the letter begins. “Thank you so much for sacrificing so much for our freedom. I am very proud of what you did.”

In another letter, this time to Khadr, Mr. Speer’s son wrote: “I think that Omar Khadr should go to jail, because of the open hole he made in my family and for killing my dad …

Army rocks, bad guys stink.


Omar was about nine years old when his father left Canada and took the family to Afghanistan. I’ll have to read the book (or the wiki) for more of that background detail, but ultimately, when he found himself in that compound, those huts, on that day, not in a soldier’s uniform, age 15, there’s no telling what he was thinking. Maybe he was thinking something like ‘Army rocks, bad guys stink’ as the schrapnel lodged in his eye.

By the time it was all over, he was shot, half blind, and near dead, captured and taken into custody. Volumes have been written (and theres a new documentary as well) about his treatment, including being shackled, abused, tortured, and threatened with gang rape, in these eight years since. I suppose he may’ve watched or even played a few soccer games too down there on that island prison.


Unexpectedly, nearing the end of the hearing day, Omar (whose own father has since died as well, another very long and involved story) took the stand.

Khadr stood in the witness box and addressed Tabitha Speer, seated just metres away in the gallery. “I’m really, really sorry for the pain I’ve caused your family,” he said. “I wish I could do something to take this pain away from you. That’s really all I can say.”

Mr. Speer’s widow sobbed as Khadr took the stand, but when he stood up to apologize, she clasped the hands of the people beside her and shook her head.

Khadr delivered an unsworn statement, meaning he did not swear in court that his statements were true, and the prosecution didn’t have the right to cross-examine.

Khadr introduced himself to the court as a 24-year-old who likes sports and reading.

“My name is Omar Khadr. I am 24 years old. I finished eighth grade. My hobbies are sports and reading,” Khadr said softly as he took the stand, wearing a dark suit and tie.

“I decided to plead guilty to take responsibility for the acts I’ve done.”

Khadr said that he had suffered damage to both his eyes in the firefight in which he threw the grenade that killed Speer. Medical staff have told Khadr that he might eventually lose his vision completely.

He said his “biggest dream” was to leave Guantanamo Bay. “Being in this place, I’ve really known and understood the wonders and beauties of life that I haven’t experienced before.”

Khadr, who made the occasional grammatical error as he spoke, said his first wish upon being released would be to resume his education, and that he eventually hoped to be a doctor.

“I know what pain means. I would really love to relieve a person who is suffering from such pain,” Khadr said.


There, ladies and gentlemen, is your terrorist. Convicted terrorist and murderer.

But wait, there’s more, just a little.

This week, it was revealed that, while in detention at Guantanamo, Khadr read Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela’s autobiography. Paraphrasing Mandela, Khadr said being in prison gives a person a long time to think about things.

“I’ve had a lot of time to think about things … you’re not going to gain anything from hate,” Khadr said.

At one point, one of Khadr’s military appointed defence lawyers asked him if he’s still angry.

“Do you carry any anger or hate in your heart, Omar?” Lt. Col. Jon Jackson [defense attorney] asked.

No,” Khadr replied.

“No.” Simple answer. Just … “no”.

War is hell.

see also my Oct 25 post on the announcement of Omar’s guilty plea here

crossposted to Wild Wild Left 10/28/10 evening


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  1. over here to attorney Dennis Edney…

    Dear Dennis:

    I’m writing to you because sometimes there are things you can’t say, but rather write on paper, and even if I were to tell you you won’t understand. So anyway here are the things:

    First: About this whole MC thing we all don’t believe in and know it’s unfair and know Dennis that there must be somebody to sacrifice to really show the world the unfairness, and really it seems that it’s me. Know Dennis that I don’t want that, I want my freedom and life, but I really don’t see it coming from this way. Dennis you always say that I have an obligation to show the world what is going on down here and it seems that we’ve done every thing but the world doesn’t get it, so it might work if the world sees the US sentencing a child to life in prison, it might show the world how unfair and sham this process is, and if the world doesn’t see all this, to what world am I being released to? A world of hate, unjust and discrimination! I really don’t want to live in a life like this. Dennis justice and freedom have a very high cost and value, and history is a good witness to it, not too far ago or far away how many people sacrificed for the civil right law to take affect. Dennis I hate being the head of the spear, but life has put me, and as life have put me in the past in hard position and still is, I just have to deal with it and hope for the best results.

    Second: The thought of firing everybody as you know is always on my mind so if one day I stop coming or fire you please respect it and forget about me, I know it is hard for you. Just think about me as a child who died and get along with your life. Of course I am not saying that will or willn’t happen but its on my mind all the time.

    Dennis. I’m so sorry to cause you this pain, but consider it one of your sons hard decisions that you don’t like, but you have to deal with, and always know what you mean to me and know that I will always be the same person you’ve known me and will never change, and please don’t be sad and be hopeful and know that there is a very merciful and compassionate creator watching us and looking out for us and taking care of us all, you might not understand these thing, but know by experience they have kept me how and who I am.

    With love and my best wishes to you, and the family, and everybody who loves me, and I love them back in Canada, and I leave you with HOPE and I am living on it, so take care.

    Your truly son,


    26 May 2010 at 11:37am

  2. emptywheel is so much faster, and better, than me…! 🙂 (hers posted at 6:14PM, I just now saw it)

  3. ….and Cheney….and Obama.

    • David R on October 29, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    every soldier who has ever killed someone else’s father, husband, brother, sister, mother, wife, etc., had to face the surviving relatives in a court of law, to attempt to explain with whatever justifications they have why they have destroyed a human life and left his or her loved ones grieving?

    Or even better, every politician!

    The sheer level of irony involved in attempting to prosecute a (child) soldier of a foreign land for (possibly) killing an invading soldier, when that invasion was itself justified as an attempt to pro-actively defend our own land just boggles the mind.

    But what am I saying?  I’m forgetting the nature of the time in which we live.

    America, Fuck Yeah!!!

    • banger on October 29, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    to U.S. imperialism and deter future resistance to Imperial policies. The neoconservative movement made it very clear in the 90’s that this was their suggested policy direction.

  4. It used to be that there was no such thing in US Courts.  The first case I think arose in Tennessee when somebody in the family of somebody who was murdered was permitted to speak at the sentencing of the shooter.  The case went to the US Supreme Court, which approved such  testimony.  After that, it has been everywhere.

    The idea for victim impact testimony was that victims needed a voice.  It was felt that prosecutors were not capable of conveying to the court what the impact of a crime might be.  Funny, they seemed to do a pretty good, emotional job conveying that in cases I was involved in.  But, anyway that’s where it comes from.

    Yes, it’s dramatic.  And gut wrenching.  And utterly predictable.  You know what’s going to be said and usually how.  Its extension to Khadr’s case is a perfect example of what this is all about.  In a way, it’s about saying to the sentencing judge or tribunal, look at all of this suffering, how dare you show any compassion?  

  5. amayeda:: Closing arguments in #Khadr hearings will start tomorrow at 9am; jury will be excused today; only half day in court today


    amayeda::  Jury of 7 military officers in #Khadr hearings has been excused for rest of day


    amayeda:: Later this morn, #Khadr defence and prosecutors to debate instructions to be given to military jury before they deliberate on K’s sentence 41 minutes ago via TweetDeck

    twitter link

  6. this footage of Omar Khadr’s lawyer Dennis Edney giving his very moving speech to a small crowd at Montreal’s Festival du Nouveau Cinema on October 14, 2010, following the premiere screening of You Don’t Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantanamo…. go.

    h/t to skdadl at FDL/ew.

  7. read michelle shephard T-Star  

  8. rosenberg this evening

    The Pentagon has scheduled a flight to take home all war court participants, but Khadr, on Monday afternoon.


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