One Last Thing

The Omar Khadar Case

Time for a Lesson Learned Analysis

With the latest, but by no means last, chapter now concluded in the long running Omar Khadr saga following his guilty pleas and sentencing, it’s a good idea to reflect on how these events came about and why so we might be able to prevent them in the future.

U.S. Defence Press Operations, Pentagon, on Oct 31, 2010 shows a file photo of Omar Khadr constructing an IED.

First things first; because Omar Khadr was physically (and deliberately) born in Canada, he is entitled to the benefits of our citizenship which is the real reason why Canadians even know his name. Khadr is part of a self described ‘Al-Qaeda family’ whose parents acquired Canadian citizenship and thereafter used it in ways most Canadians would think should result in its revocation. A change to the Citizenship Act would be required to make that possible in the future. Lesson One.  

Among the loudest, and oft repeated, claims cited by Omar Khadr’s well scripted advocates is that he was a ‘child soldier’ and thus the American authorities were morally akin to Darth Vader for prosecuting him under their Military Commissions Act. Khadr was, in fact, only 15 when in July 2002 he was captured following an armed battle between US forces and the al Mahdi fighting unit his father Ahmad had created and enrolled him in. U.S. Army medic, Sgt Christopher Speer, was killed when a grenade was thrown as he checked the scene for casualties. Khadr’s lawyers have always denied their client threw this grenade but their supposed evidence of the impossibility of this allegation itself exploded during the only day of actual evidence at his trial.

Readers will recall that his lawyer promptly fainted thereafter causing a six week delay in proceedings during which the plea bargain deal was made. Supposition aside, Khadr plead guilty to the ‘murder’ of Sgt Speer and as well to four other ‘conspiracy’ counts which boil down to being part of Al-Qaeda and helping the Taliban and making and planting roadside bombs targeted against NATO forces. The fact that a video of him making and planting those bombs was found and entered as evidence (after running on 60 Minutes) was something Khadr’s defenders preferred not to discuss while shrieking his innocence.

The concept of ‘Child soldiers’ comes from the brutal practice of kidnapping, raping and drugging young children by West African warlords who then used the deranged kids for their own thuggish purposes. That ain’t Omar Khadr. Having said that, is there any doubt that he is what he is… and did what he did... in no small measure because of how he was “raised” by his Islamo­fanatic parents? If he’d have been planting bombs in Ajax instead of Afghanistan we’d have still arrested and prosecuted him but you can bet that we’d have paid much closer attention to the evil influence of his parents including by prosecuting them under s. 215 of the Criminal Code for failing to provide the ‘necessaries of life’ as parents. We might also ask some pointed questions about where the army of child welfare workers on the public payroll were when the indoctrination of him and his siblings was going on. Those questions have relevance today. Lesson Two.

Omar Khadr was clearly a low level foot soldier with a high level family pedigree. Back in 2002, to have captured someone whose family dinner guests and associates included the world’s most wanted terrorists and whose knowledge included how money was raised abroad and transferred, how safe houses and training camps were set up and run, who had attended them was an intelligence coup to say the least. Not to have interrogated him would have been nothing less than dereliction of duty and that goes for the gentle CSIS and DFAIT interviews of him in 2003 and 2004.

People tend to forget that the U.S. was not obliged to prosecute him at all as, having clearly established he was an enemy combatant, the US Supreme Court (Hamdi v Rumsfeld –2004) had authorized him being held until the ‘end of hostilities’. See ya in 50 years Omar. Unlike terrorists like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who has plotted and directed the murder of thousands of non combatant civilians, Omar Khadr was engaged in battle with opposing military forces when captured. By choosing to criminalize the process of what to do with him, the US created a procedural and public relations scenario from which they are only now emerging. Lesson Three.

Finally, right wing commentators to the contrary, leaving him in U.S. custody until the end of his sentence means his ultimate return to Canada almost certainly without supervision which is a very bad idea. Bringing him back while we have lawful parole supervision authority, with the ability to generate admissible evidence for post warrant expiry supervision orders (810.01 CC) if necessary, is our new ‘homegrown’ reality. Lesson Four.
Stay tuned for the next chapter – because you know it’s coming!

Scott Newark is an Associate Editor at FrontLine Security. This commentary is published with permission of www.ipoltics.ca
© FrontLine Security 2010