Desperate Pentagon files new charge against Omar Khadr, Guantánamo’s child soldier

12.7.07

Never ones to willingly admit defeat, officials at the Pentagon have responded to the recent collapse of the Military Commissions for Omar Khadr and Salim Hamdan by alleging that Khadr, who was just 15 years old at the time of his capture, after a gun battle in Afghanistan in July 2002, “related,” just a few weeks after, “that he had been told about a $1,500 reward being placed on the head of each American killed.” Although it was not made clear who had offered the bounty, Khadr allegedly replied to questions about how he felt about the reward by saying, “I wanted to kill a lot of American[s] to get lots of money.”

Astutely recognizing desperation when they see it, his lawyers have pointed out that this supposedly significant information has not been mentioned at all during the last five years, and have suggested, as Canada’s Globe and Mail reports, that it is “suspect, ‘superfluous’ to the appeal motion and designed to undermine public sympathy” for Khadr. His military lawyer, Lieutenant-Commander William Kuebler, told the Globe and Mail, “We’re not inclined to believe reports about what Omar said to interrogators,” adding that “the government seeks to vilify Omar based on information it coerced out of him as a 15-year-old boy recovering from critical wounds inflicted by US forces. It shows how desperate they are.”

Nathan Whitling, one of Khadr’s Canadian lawyers, has also spoken out, explaining to the Globe and Mail that his client’s companions had already been killed by US air strikes when a grenade –- allegedly thrown by Khadr –- killed a US soldier, Sergeant First Class Christopher Speer. He continued: “It is hardly convincing for the US to suggest that in the midst of this battle, and after the entire site had been flattened by 500-pound bombs and everyone else in the compound [had been] killed, Omar was lying under the rubble thinking about how to earn himself $1,500.”

As one respondent to the Globe and Mail’s article noted, “The case against Mr. Khadr, what there was of it, is descending into farce. He was a 15 year-old child soldier. He’s been incarcerated in solitary confinement for years, under heavy mental, emotional and physical strain. By now he’s probably confessed to assassinating JFK for the Cuban mob. If and when Mr. Khadr’s case gets into the civil courts, even the US civil courts, they will throw it so hard it will bounce.”

Omar Khadr's Military Commission in June 2007

Omar Khadr (left) during his aborted Military Commission hearing on 4 June 2007. The judge who threw out his case and has refused to reinstate it, Army Colonel Peter Brownback, sits on the far right (©AFP/Getty Images).

For more on Omar Khadr, see my book The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed.

One Response

  1. Mary says...

    This story is both disturbing and heartbreaking. Why are Canadians not responding? The story as I get it, is that a 15 year old boy (a teenager or boy, not a 15 year old man) was fighting with his friends and family. They were bombed by US military for hours..deafening, I am sure. Terrifying. Everyone else was killed…how totally traumatizing for Omar. I am sure he was told it would be different by his elders. I am sure he was in shock and exhausted if he threw the grenade…how clearly do you think he was thinking? Probably thought his death was near. He wished to be allowed to die after he was wounded but the US troops worked hard to save him so he could be charged. He was 15…so many teenagers make mistakes that are forgiven or brushed off because they are so young. One US soldier died, but it was a war situation?? He did not kill an unarmed civilian. And afterwards, he was put in a prison and has been in solitary confinement for 5 years..imagine yourself being in solitary confinement, for 5 YEARS! He has been destroyed, both physically and mentally…he has lost everything, and I am guessing many times has not wished to live but the US has made sure he has done just that. Absolutely disturbing. Have they not tortured him enough. I now can more easily understand how other countries see the US as terrorists and how easy one can confuse who the terrorists really are. And now possibly desperate stories of reward money? I can see how others can no longer see the US as America the Brave, America the Good and the True. Would “Good People” treat a 15 year old boy like this? How are wars to end and everyone to live in harmony if there is such persecution, such vengeance by the Good Guys? What happened to being merciful and to forgiving others, (especially a boy)? Are these to apply to only the US soldiers or to people on their side? The US is teaching the world how not to be merciful and how not to forgive, not to forgive even a boy. Sadly, I think the rest of the world is learning this too well.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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