Gitmo and Darfur

“Canada’s role in Gitmo grilling

Jul 16, 2008

There is a surreal quality to the images broadcast around the world over the past 24 hours of Omar Khadr’s 2003 interrogation in a Guantanamo Bay holding cell.

“Canada’s role in Gitmo grilling

Jul 16, 2008

There is a surreal quality to the images broadcast around the world over the past 24 hours of Omar Khadr’s 2003 interrogation in a Guantanamo Bay holding cell.

True, there are no visible torture scenes in this first glimpse of the notorious detention camp run by the U.S. military, no inmates being "waterboarded" to simulate drowning. Rather, what truly jolts the Canadian viewer is the realization that the whimpering from a despondent inmate, and the questions from a manipulative interrogator, come not from Americans or other foreigners, but from an entirely Canadian cast. All under American auspices.


Apart from a CIA minder, the participants are our own people – all speaking with an eerily familiar Canadian intonation while playing out their roles on an American stage, in a camp erected on Cuban soil: We see and hear an accused Canadian citizen, his CSIS interrogators and a foreign affairs official who duly reported back up the chain of command in Ottawa.


A child soldier wounded and captured at age 15 after being dumped in Afghanistan by his radical father, Khadr languished in a U.S.-run military prison while the Liberal government of the day played along – and then played dumb. After its half-hearted requests for consular access to Khadr were rebuffed, Ottawa decided that if it couldn’t beat the Americans at this game, it would join them, by sending Canadian interrogators to grind him down.


The Canadians apparently never laid a hand on him in Gitmo. They didn’t have to, knowing that the Americans had first softened him up with weeks of mental torture through sustained sleep deprivation. In this good cop-bad cop routine, the Canadian interrogators were willing partners with the Americans, complicit in the abuse of a prisoner who would likely never be found guilty of anything in Canada.


Indeed, it took the intervention of Khadr’s legal team in a Canadian court to force our national spy agency to back off the interrogations, and to require the release of the videotapes this month. His lawyers clearly expect the compelling images of a distraught and sickly Khadr, under interrogation at age 16, to stir Canadians’ compassion as much as their sense of natural justice. The question is how our politicians will act now that Canadians know what Ottawa has known all along.


The Liberal government of the day failed to protect Khadr in 2003. How much longer can Prime Minister Stephen Harper defend this discredited line when even the American presidential candidates have disavowed Gitmo? Every other Western national in Gitmo has been repatriated at his government’s insistence. Why not Khadr?”


 “Slow Motion Genocide

July 17, 2008


How long can the world avert its gaze from the genocide in Sudan?


The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court believes that, with 300,000 lives lost and 2.5 million people displaced, it is time to open our eyes. Genocide charges filed this week against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir accuse him of masterminding the systematic murder, rape and ethnic cleansing of the people of Darfur.


The genocide itself is not news. What is surely unique is how it is unfolding in slow motion – giving the world ample time to comprehend its impact and apprehend its architects. Yet Darfur has defied any political, military or peacekeeping solution to date. All of which makes the judicial route so important.


To be sure, there are doubters. Diplomats worry that the prospect of prosecution will deter Sudan’s president from ever making peace, let alone surrendering power. Indeed, there are real fears that an enraged Sudan will lash out at foreign peacekeepers and aid agencies desperately trying to ease the hardship of Darfur’s victims.


But the reality on the ground is that Bashir’s Islamist regime has long been sabotaging peacekeeping efforts by a force of 9,000 foreigners.


Sudan does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction, so the president will remain beyond its immediate reach. Yet an arrest warrant would have powerful symbolic weight, with real political repercussions.


And it would telegraph the message to other mass murderers that, ultimately, no one is above the law."

From Toronto Sun,July 18 2008

"Boy Soldier needs to face Canadian Justice, not that of US Military

By Michel Den Tandt

It’s not about Omar Khadr. It’s about us.

Are we a serious nation, a trusted ally, a respected player in the international effort to curb terrorist extremism? Or are we lackeys of the lame duck Bush presidency?

You can set aside much of what has been written and said about young Khadr, now 21, since the release of videos showing him sobbing in his prison cell at Guantanamo Bay. Forget, for example, the broad appeal to public sympathy.

Khadr’s father, Ahmed Said Khadr, was an al-Qaida bagman and buddy of Osama Bin Laden. His elder brothers have al-Qaida ties. Omar’s mother, Maha Elsamnah — whose plea for Omar’s release made headlines this week — famously was filmed by the CBC in 2004 expressing contempt and revulsion for Canada’s liberal society.

So, spare us, please, the exhortation from Ms Elsamnah that we "help any child in need, any child anywhere." Many of the 9/11, Madrid, London and Bali victims had children. Al-Qaida did not accord those children mercy. Ms Elsamnah, an avowed Islamist sympathizer, has little to teach us about mercy.

We can set aside, too, the breathless allegation that Omar Khadr was "tortured" in the run up to his interviews with Canadian intelligence officials in February of 2003, because he was deprived of sleep.

Beatings on the soles of the feet with cables, such as those suffered by Canadian Maher Arar during his imprisonment in Syria, are torture.

Sleep deprivation is unpleasant. It is not torture, as most fair-minded Canadians understand the term.

Here’s what we cannot set aside, though. Khadr was taken into U.S. custody in July of 2002, after a firefight at a compound in a village in eastern Afghanistan. He is accused of having thrown a grenade that killed a U.S. Special Forces trooper, Christopher Speer.

This was a military action, in a situation that’s as close to a battlefield as you are likely to get in an asymmetrical, urban war.

The U.S. government has branded all armed Islamists, whether they be airline suicide bombers or Afghan guerrillas, as terrorists. The truth is, there can be a difference. Engaging in combat with special forces troops is not the moral equivalent of blowing up a busload of tourists. Nor is it a war crime, as most reasonable people understand the term.

Moreover, the Guantanamo military commission preparing to try Khadr this fall likely is illegal, even under U.S. law. Guantanamo has been discredited to such an extent that even President George W. Bush now says he wants the prison closed.

Nobody believes that Khadr can get anything resembling a fair trial at Guantanamo now.

And there’s this: Khadr may be a hardened would-be terrorist today, after years of incarceration. But he was a child at the time of the firefight. That matters.
His father was an Islamist zealot and it appears his parents fed him hatred and extremism with mother’s milk.

As a boy he played with Osama Bin Laden’s children. Condemn the parents. Condemn the man, if as an adult he embraces hatred and violence. But a child coached by his elders to commit violent acts is nevertheless a child.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly: No matter how villainous he may or may not be, Khadr is ours.

Canada is not a bystander in the war on terrorism. We are active participants. Omar Khadr is a Canadian. That makes him our problem.

British citizens who were held at Guantanamo were long ago repatriated to the U.K., at their government’s request.So should Omar Khadr be returned to Canada, at our government’s request, to face Canadian justice."




Two editorial columns and an article from The Toronto Star are quoted below for the international readers of

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