Thu 3 May 2007
Omar Khadr was a name I was perhaps not familiar with when I was living in Canada. While I’m sure I heard the news stories at the time, his name was not one I would have been all that familiar with. I wonder even now how many Canadians know this name. They should.
Khadr was born in Canada in 1986 (maybe 1985). His parents are Canadian citizens of, I believe, Afghani descent. His dad seemed to be an associate of Osama bin Laden and he moved his family to Afghanistan in the early 1990s. Omar, along with the other Khadr children, was likely given military traning as a child. In 2002, during the US led war in Afghanistan, Omar Khadr was caught in a firefight with American troops. He allegedly threw a grenade which killed an American soldier. Khadr was himself injured and saved by US troops who then arrested him. He was sent to Guantanamo shortly thereafter. He is the only Canadian in Guantanamo, and he was sent there when he was fifteen years old.
He has now been charged by the US Defense Department with murdering an American medic, attempted murder, conspiracy, spying and providing material support for terrorism. Some articles on the recent charges here and here.
My first issue: How the hell can the Americans distinguish between “terrorism” and “war” in the middle of a WAR. While defending the Taliban wasn’t all that wise, surely it’s understandable for someone to chuck a grenade at a bunch of soldiers with guns who want to kill you? Or is that just me?
My main issue right now is this. David Hicks was fairly big news here in Australia for ages before he was charged with similar, though lesser, crimes than Khadr. Other than the news of his original arrest and imprisonment, Khadr doesn’t seem to be on the Canadian cultural radar at all, and he really should be. Whether he’s guilty or not, Khadr should be on the lips of every Canadian diplomat in the US. Canadians should be pressuring Harper for his release to Canada where we can deal with him. Blair brought Britons home from Guantanamo, why not Harper? Or even Martin back in 2004?
Am I just missing the Canadian “uproar” being so far away? As far as I’m aware the Canadian government has made no approaches to the US regarding Khadr’s future. There were protests here for Hicks’ release from Cuba long before his guilty plea. People wore “Bring David Home” t-shirts. Why isn’t there the same outpouring of anger in Canada? Help me out here!
Artwork by Banksy.