I hear his name whispered everywhere I go. So why write about him and offend someone this morning?
As an immigrant to Canada, I am sensitive to the fact that the whole world is not aware of who Omar Khadr is, so here, is a brief, and probably flawed summary of his story.
As early as this week, the Canadian government settled with Omar Khadr, for $10.5 million dollars, which has many people shaking their fist and posting obscenities of disgust.
Omar Khadr was born in Canada. In 2002, when he was fifteen years old, along with his militant father, he went to serve as a child soldier in ‘the cause’ for Afghanistan. When the United States invaded Afghanistan in their response to the tragedy of September 11, 2001, he willfully engaged their military and found himself in an firefight. He was captured and spent the next ten years of his life in the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison, and has openly admitted his guilt in having thrown a grenade that killed a US soldier.
While in Guantanamo Bay, he was interrogated by both Canadian and US intelligence. Upon his release, and controversial return to Canada, he sued the Canadian government for having his Charter Rights violated. He sued and proved that he was subjected to torture, and that both governments were implicit.
South of the border, the widow of the slain US soldier has in the last few years successful won her lawsuit against Omar Khadr and had probably resigned herself to the fact that you cannot get blood from a stone. Or can you?
At the time, Omar Khadr didn’t have any money, but as recently as this week, it seems his luck might have changed.
I find all of this very fascinating.
It is fascinating because of the many people I encounter that are so engrossed in the story and have entrenched their positions on this side or the other, of the decision.
I put myself on neither side. I realize that unconsciously I probably stand somewhere, but I’ll leave it at that.
Here are some thoughts to ponder.
- Did Canada get a bargain? Omar Khadr’s case went before the Supreme Court of Canada, and there was enough evidence presented to show that indeed his rights as a Canadian citizen were violated. He wanted $20 million, but got half. Did we get a bargain?
- Some would raise the objection that he forfeited his rights as a Canadian citizen, the moment he decided to fight for the enemy. Is that really the case though? Our distinguished Canadian General, Romeo Dallaire, believes that a child soldier is and always will be a child soldier. He has certainly encountered a multitude of them, while commanding the failed UN peace keeping mission in Rwanda, in 1994.
- If the Canadian government knew the decision of its own Supreme Court, is it worth fighting itself? Is it worth it, for the sake of public opinion to not only pay what you owe, but also cover the cost of impending years of legal drama?
- Is this a story about justice or a story about money? I’m not sure. I’m not even sure if in the end, he will get to keep any of ‘his’ money. I hope he has a good lawyer, because he will need one. He will spend a lot of his money fighting to keep it, in the US courts.
- Why has this story captured our imagination? Why are we so angry? Why are we so quick to pick a side? Could there be a hint of something-something in our thoughts? Do we secretly fear but openly tolerate the Muslim community? Deep down, when no one is watching, do we consider this story as evidence that we have the right to fear them? Isn’t this just a big I told you so?
I find this fascinating.
I am not a lawyer and I am not a journalist. I don’t have the privilege to be a Muslim, nor the honour of being an American. I am a Canadian citizen, and I have a citizenship card to prove it. It also presents unalterable anthropological evidence that once upon a time, I did indeed have some hair!
Omar Khadr in the final analysis is just a story.
I choose to focus on a different one. One that involves people I know, and lives I can impact. It’s not like anything I think or do in this case, will make any difference, except make everyone angry.
I choose to write a different story. I will walk away from this particular one, and simply call it fascinating.
There are many stories to explore.
Tell me yours.