A few days ago, I was delighted to speak to Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio, in what was our 29th interview (available here) since he first sought me out over four years ago, but our first interview since June this year. Scott particularly wanted to discuss “You Don’t Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantánamo,” the harrowing documentary about Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen and former child prisoner, which is based on footage of his interrogations by Canadian intelligence agents in the summer of 2003, when he was just 16 years old.
I attended a Q&A session after a London screening of this film back in June, and also took part in a discussion about it on Press TV (available in two parts here and here), so I was pleased to be able to revisit it, especially as the story of Omar Khadr is so central to the injustices of Guantanamo, and also because, barring any last-minute horrors on the part of the Obama administration, he is due to be released from Guantanamo to Canada on October 31.
Khadr was only 15 when he was seized in July 2002, after a firefight in which he allegedly threw a grenade that killed a US soldier — although serious doubts have been expressed about whether he actually threw the grenade, as he was apparently unconscious, face down, and half-buried under rubble at the time, and his lawyers claimed that the initial reports of the firefight were amended afterwards to incriminate him.
The whole story of his treatment, as I told Scott, has been disgraceful, both on the part of the US administration under George W. Bush and also under Barack Obama, and also of the various Canadian governments over the last nine years. America initially abused him under President Bush, but last fall hit a new low under President Obama, when Khadr agreed to a plea deal in his trial by Military Commission, signing a disgraceful document in which he accepted responsibility for the actions he took when he was 15, in a situation in which he had been placed by his father, and accepted that he was an “alien unprivileged enemy belligerent,” who was not allowed to engage in combat with US forces under any circumstances.
America, disgracefully, may have abused a child and, just as disgracefully, have unilaterally criminalized warfare for its enemies, making “war” against the US into a “war crime,” but Canada does not come out of this story any better, having consistently neglected Omar Khadr, despite his Canadian citizenship, as the footage of the interrogations, shown and discussed in this film, demonstrates – especially in the sections in which Omar weeps uncontrollably when he realizes that he has been betrayed by the country of his birth.
The blunt truth is that the Canadian government — and many Canadian people — have been content to blame Omar for the perceived sins of his father, Ahmed Khadr, an alleged fundraiser for Osama bin Laden, who was killed in Pakistan in October 2003, and to ignore the fact that, when it comes to the rights of child soldiers in other conflicts, Canada has led the way in calling for rehabilitation and not punishment, but when it comes to Omar Khadr, the only response has been hypocrisy and cruel indifference.
It was great to speak to Scott again, and I hope that, if you have 20 minutes to spare, you can listen to the show. In addition, if you’re interested in seeing the film, please check out the website, and please also feel free to check out my archive of articles about Omar Khadr here.
And this, for your information, is how Scott described the show:
Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files, discusses the film You Don’t Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantánamo about child soldier and Canadian citizen Omar Khadr’s interrogation in Guantánamo; Khadr’s travails in Afghanistan, where he was nearly killed by a US airstrike then captured and accused of killing a medic; the US government’s decision to treat child soldiers as regular prisoners in contravention of international norms; and how military commissions have made it a war crime to fight against US invasions and occupations.
Andy Worthington is the author of 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) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
On Facebook, Monique D’hooghe wrote:
shared and dugg
George Kenneth Berger wrote:
Thanks, Monique and George, and everyone who’s shared this. I really do recommend the film if you can see it. And hopefully, very soon, we’ll have good news about Omar’s return to Canada, and, I also hope, further news that the Canadian government accepts that his rights have been sufficiently trampled on by his home government, and that, as a result, he will be released rather than serving the remaining seven years of the sentence negotiated in the US as part of his plea deal. He has suffered enough.
And for a poignant reminder of that, see: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2010/11/01/a-childs-soul-is-sacred-omar-khadrs-touching-exchange-of-letters-with-canadian-professor/
David J. Clarke wrote:
Nice to have a voice with the face. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the Harper government to show compassion – these are extremely Right Wing, Old Testament fundamentalist Neo-Cons posing as Conservatives who have staged a coup with stealth and deception. Despite the fact that crime rates have fallen across the country they are rescinding Judicial discretionary privilege, legislating longer sentences and trying to roll back the clock on enlightened measures such as the Safe-Injection Site in Vancouver, B.C. And this is just for starters. This is a dark cabal led by a sociopath with utter contempt for the Judiciary and the Fourth estate.
Thanks, David, for the excellent analysis, which, in a world of citizens who were fully awake, would lead to serious agitation in Canada. In the real, sleepy world, however, I agree that it’s not worth holding my breath, but it’s not entirely in Harper’s hands, however much he despises the judiciary, because the highest courts in the land ruled that Omar Khadr’s rights were violated by the government. That may have meant little when he was held in US custody, but I think it will be more difficult for the government to brush aside when he is in Canadian custody.
Additionally, I’m hoping that someone in Canada is seriously considering how to establish a “Free Omar Khadr” campaign if the government puts up a fight, and looks intent on trying to imprison him for another seven years. That would be 16 years in total for being a juvenile in a war zone, which would be a disgrace.
David J. Clarke wrote:
It is a disgrace. And you are right – there is a sliver of hope: the supreme court recently ruled against the Harper government’s attempt to shut down the Safe-Injection Site and the Harm Reduction program that has proven to be effective in reducing the spread of HIV and AIDS as well as delivering health care to those most in need. Khadr’s case has provoked sympathy from progressives but there is also a legion of myopic, vengeful thinkers who, for whatever latent psychological reasons, are motivated to support the government’s ‘Tough on Crime’ mantra regardless of the principles of justice and the ramifications for the future.
Thanks again, David. And how sad that these myopic, vengeful people are everywhere. I thought we were supposed to better than that. It’s not what Christ had in mind, and yet these people claim to be Christians.
David J. Clarke wrote:
In fairness, the religious right is not confined to Christians, it also includes immigrants who have brought with them their own conservative values as well as many who believe the framing of ‘The War on Terror’ to be an attack on Caucasian identity and dominance. And then there are a host of scenery munching and basically mean-spirited individuals whose toxic vision compels them to constantly seek out the culpable ‘other’ to blame and vilify who are always ready with the pitchforks and flaming torches. The self-righteous are a multifaceted congregation!
You’re right of course, David. I’m not sure why, at that particular moment, I was obsessing about Christians. Intolerant people are our nemesis in whatever guise they appear.
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