The Unending Punishment of Former Guantánamo Prisoner Omar Khadr

23.12.18

A screenshot from a video of former Guantanamo prisoner Omar Khadr on December 13, 2018, outside the court in Edmonton where he was unsuccessfully seeking a loosening of his bail conditions.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

Canada, contrasting itself with its neighbor to the south, the United States, likes to present itself as a beacon of justice and fairness, and yet, when to comes to the high-profile case of its citizen Omar Khadr, who was held at Guantánamo for nearly ten years, the Canadian government’s behavior has been almost unremittingly appalling.

Khadr was a child — just 15 years old — when, gravely wounded, he was seized by US forces in July 2002 after a firefight in Afghanistan, where he had been taken by his father. However, instead of treating him as a child who was not responsible for his own actions, and rehabilitating him, rather than punishing him, according to the terms of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflicts, which entered into force on February 12, 2002, and to which both the US and Canada are signatories, the US treated him appallingly, and, when Canadian agents were sent to Guantánamo to interview him, they failed to uphold his rights as a Canadian citizen.

The Canadian Supreme Court eventually delivered a powerful ruling regarding the violation of his rights, and, under Justin Trudeau, the government finally made amends for its behavior, paying him $10.5m in Canadian dollars (about $9m in US currency) in July 2017, following similar payments to other victims of Canada’s shameful post-9/11 behavior — a number of Canadian citizens of Syrian origin who were tortured in Syria (and in one case, that of Maher Arar, kidnapped in the US first, and then sent to Syria for torture) with the full collusion of the Canadian authorities.

This decency regarding Omar Khadr only came about after protracted bad treatment by his home government, which refused to press for his release from Guantánamo, and, when he accepted a plea deal in his trial by military commission in October 2010, refused to bring him home promptly under the terms of that deal, which gave him one more year in Guantánamo followed by seven years’ further imprisonment in Canada.

In fact, it took nearly two years before he was returned to Canada, and, when he was returned, the Canadian authorities then held him for as long as possible in a maximum security prison, only relenting in August 2013 when, as I described it in 2014, “Canada’s prison ombudsman Ivan Zinger, the executive director of the independent Office of the Correctional Investigator, said that prison authorities had ‘ignored favorable information’ in ‘unfairly branding’ Khadr as a maximum security inmate.”

In January 2014 he was moved to a medium security facility, and in April 2015 he was finally granted bail, moving in with his attorney Dennis Edney, who had cared for him for many years as though he was his own son.

On his 29th birthday, in September 2015, a judge eased his bail conditions, allowing him to visit his grandparents, and agreeing to have his electronic tag removed, and two years later, on his 31st birthday, he was allowed internet access, although bans remained on his ability to travel freely within Canada, or to meeting his sister Zainab, a controversial figure who, in the past, had expressed support for al-Qaeda. At the time she was reportedly living in Sudan with her fourth husband, but was planning a visit to Canada, but Justice June Ross, who is dealing with his bail conditions on an ongoing basis, “refused to remove restrictions stipulating” that he can “communicate with his sister in English only and in the presence of a court-appointed supervisor, his lawyers or bail supervisor,” as CBC News Edmonton described it.

This was despite the fact that Khadr, in a sworn affidavit, had pointed out, ”I am now an adult and I think independently. Even if the members of my family were to wish to influence my religious or other views, they would not be able to control or influence me in any negative manner.”

Now 32 years old, Khadr applied on December 13 for further changes to his bail conditions, requesting to be allowed to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform the hajj (which would require him to be given a passport), and to speak unsupervised with his sister, who is now living in Georgia.

Outside the court, he said, “When I initially asked for bail, I didn’t expect it to take this long. My sentence initially should have ended this past October, but here I am.” He added, “This is not the first time my life has been held in suspension. I am going to continue to fight this injustice and thankfully we have an actual court system that has actual rules and laws.”

He did, however complain that the Canadian government “has put this court in a position where it has to enforce a judgment and a ruling that was derived from torture, the same torture that the Canadian government has apologized for.”

His other long-term lawyer, Nathan Whitling, told Justice Ross, as the Canadian Press described it, that “his client has been a ‘model of compliance’ and should have his bail conditions loosened.” He said to the judge, “There is still no end in sight. Mr. Khadr has now been out on bail so long and has an impeccable record. My goodness, when is this going to end?”

Whitling also pointed out that Khadr’s appeal against his conviction in the US, in which he has pointed out that he only agreed to a plea deal because he could see no other way of ever getting out of Guantánamo, “hasn’t ‘moved a single inch’ while his client has obeyed all the conditions of his release.”

Judge Ross reserved her decision until December 21, stating, “There’s enough unprecedented aspects to this application that I’m going to take some time to think about it.” The Edmonton Journal noted that, in the hearing, she explained that “there were two main issues at play in Khadr’s application to vary bail conditions: deleting five sections pertaining to travel and contact with his older sister Zaynab, and an application to allow his bail to be changed to parole.” The newspaper added, “Federal and provincial Crown prosecutors opposed the changes.”

Judge Ross also “acknowledged that Khadr has successfully reintegrated into the community, and that he has ‘excellent’ reporting habits when it comes to notifying his bail supervisor about changes in residence, employment or travel.” She also pointed out that he had “moved into his own home in 2016, and began living with his wife the next year,” following a marriage that was deliberately kept low-key.

However, the court also received a report submitted by a psychologist who stated that “the conditions on his movement and contact with his sister were ‘exacerbating’ his post-traumatic stress disorder and making it difficult for him to move on with his life.”

However, Judge Ross evidently ignored this assessment, and ultimately turned down Khadr’s requests. As the Associated Press described it, she ruled that there was “no evidence of hardship or conditions that are needlessly onerous,” although she did acknowledge that his feelings about being in what he described as “legal limbo” were “understandable.” The Edmonton Journal added that she “also said her decision is not ‘etched in stone’ and that Khadr’s lawyer could apply to change his bail conditions in the future.”

As the Edmonton Journal described it, “She acknowledged Khadr’s desire to complete the hajj … but said that he as yet has no firm plans to make the journey.” She also that, in future, Khadr “could apply to the court to allow him to apply for a passport to make the trip, which would then be surrendered to his bail supervisor.”

Outside the court, Khadr “declined to comment” on the ruling, while Nathan Whitling “said they would review the application and consider their next steps.”

Over half his lifetime since the fateful day that he ended up in US custody in July 2002, Omar Khadr’s long journey to freedom still has no end in sight. If the eight years of his sentence are over, why do Canadian officials continue to impose so many obstacles to his ability to live freely and to travel freely?

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from six years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, the resistance continues.

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, The Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

36 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, looking at how Canada continues to punish former Guantanamo prisoner – and former child prisoner – Omar Khadr. Seized at the age of 15, and held for ten years at Guantanamo, he was sent back home in 2012 and freed on bail in 2015, but even though the eight years of the sentence he was given at Guantanamo in exchange for agreeing to a plea deal came to an end in October, he is still subjected to court-ordered restrictions on his liberty. On Friday, in Edmonton, Justice June Ross, who has been supervising his bail conditions since 2015, and has, over that time, allowed him to travel within Canada to visit his grandparents, to have his electronic tag removed, and to have internet access, refused to allow him to travel internationally, or to have unsupervised contact with his sister, who lives in Georgia, and who, in the past, has expressed support for al-Qaeda. As Omar said in 2015, ”I am now an adult and I think independently. Even if the members of my family were to wish to influence my religious or other views, they would not be able to control or influence me in any negative manner.”

    As I ask at the conclusion of my article, “Over half his lifetime since the fateful day that he ended up in US custody in July 2002, Omar Khadr’s long journey to freedom still has no end in sight. If the eight years of his sentence are over, why do Canadian officials continue to impose so many obstacles to his ability to live freely and to travel freely?”

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Maha Hilal wrote:

    Thanks for this Andy! I just wrapped up writing a piece on this yesterday so hopefully it gets out soon. This case is so depressing 🙁

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    It’s the micro-management of aspects of Omar’s life that gets me, Maha. Since he was granted bail, he’s evidently been able to lead a normal life in many ways, but still the state insists that it’s acceptable to impose conditions on him as an “enemy combatant” that have no basis in any national or international laws or treaties whatsoever. It’s something I hope to focus on in greater detail in 2019.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Toia Tutta Jung wrote:

    Thank you for that, Andy. It’s a shameful treatment to give someone who’s been doing all he can, to live a normal life.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, exactly, Toia. Good to hear from you!

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Asiya Muhammad wrote:

    Pretty much all of those who have been released, still have their lives restricted in some way.

    Many remain Stateless, many have had their families refused visas to allow them to see their loved ones again.

    In one case, visas were refused for parents to visit and one parent died, never being allowed to see his son again, since he was kidnapped.

    Many remain without paperwork to enable them to lead a normal life.

    The individuals psychological torture is deliberately continued, even a decade later, and that is also extended to their families, all of whom have their lives constantly inconvenienced. there is nothing called a “normal” life after Guantanamo.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for your perceptive and relevant comments, Asiya. The continued persecution of former prisoners is something I’m intending to focus on in 2019.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia R Scott wrote:

    I read something London Guantánamo published and it’s heartbreaking and infuriating to see they don’t leave him alone!

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    It will be an ongoing struggle, Natalia, but eventually, I think, the Canadian government will lose, because Omar’s lawyers can argue that he served a sentence, and that post-sentence punishment is unacceptable. Ironically, “enemy combatants” who were never charged or tried still have less rights.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Sanchez Montebello wrote:

    And, yet… The war criminals who started this whole thing (based on a FALSE FLAG operation called “9/11”) STILL WALK FREE. Chucklenuts Bush has recently been elevated to near “Sainthood” status here in the U.S. only-because he now looks ten times smarter than the Orange Buffoon who currently occupies the Oval Office. We are ALL living on the other side of the looking glass, now. Those poor men who were wrongfully-imprisoned in Guantanamo will never be able to fully-recover from their years of torture and abuse. Even “I” have “anger issues” because so many of my fellow countrymen are simply careless lumps of flesh and will never do anything to help change their world in any positive or spiritually-uplifting way. I am so, so sorry for what has happened to Omar and all the rest of those poor men. And I am so, so sorry for others who don’t give a damn about anything except themselves.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for your thoughts, Sanchez. We are through the looking glass indeed, in so many ways, in the “dark side” that Dick Cheney promised to take us to after 9/11.

  12. arcticredriver says...

    Thanks for covering Omar Khadr’s story Andy, I think it is an important one.

    I think his attempts to be issued with a passport was a long-shot. It is routine for individuals on bail to have to first surrender their passport.

    Stephen Harper’s Conservatives tried, and failed, to lean on judges, to enforce a racist line against Khadr. I am going to have to disagree with you a bit Andy, the Justin Trudeau Liberals can’t be held responsible for failing to effectively lean on Judge Ross, who should be treated as if she was independent of pressure from the executive branch.

    My google news alert on him informed me that he won’t be attending nursing college next term, after all. That is sad. The report said the stress of his legal battles with Tabitha Speer and Layne Morris was proving too distracting.

    Omar has said that he wants to be able to have the life of an ordinary Canadian. I rooted for him to be able to do so, but I always thought it was unlikely. If he were to embrace being a public figure I think he could be a powerful advocate for tolerance and human rights.

    Have you been following the case of Mathew Golsteyn? I’ll put the details in another message, in case you think it doesn’t fit in this thread.

  13. arcticredriver says...

    Mathew Golsteyn’s case has in common with Omar Khadr’s that they are both charged with murder.

    Golsteyn was a Captain, in the Green Berets, in February 2010. He was given temporary command of a re-inforced USMC platoon, and de-facto command of the battalion of non-Pashto Afghans, in one of the larger operations in Helmand.

    During that battle he saw two Marines get killed by a booby-trap, or maybe it was an IED triggered by an unseen observer. Apparently he swore to find, and kill, the bomber. He rounds up suspects, and a local elder fingers one of them, Rasoul, says he is a Taliban bomber. Later, after the suspected bomb-maker is captured, he sees the informant, who tells Golsteyn he now fears for his life, and the lives of his family.

    Andy I know you know this, your readers may not all know this however. The legal choices open to Golsteyn are (1) release Rasoul into the custody of the Afghan security agencies, or law enforcement agencies. Since around 2007-2008, the US has handed the Bagram facility over to the Afghans, as it is their country, and most of the captives are Afghan citizens. Golsteyn later tells investigators he decided not to do this, because his experience has been that suspects handed over to the Afghans may be quickly released, and return to the battlefield, or, in this case, retaliate against his informant. (2) try and make a case to his superiors as to why Rasoul should be kept in US custody; (3) release Rasoul, and let his informant worry about his own security.

    What Golsteyn does is kill his prisoner, even though he has been disarmed, and thus is not an imminent threat. This is both a violation of the Geneva Conventions, of the so-called laws and customs of war, of Army Regulation 190-8, and various other US laws and regulations.

    One of the most disturbing things about Golsteyn’s case is that both the Washington Post and New York Times report that Golsteyn told investigators he killed Rasoul in spite of him not being named on the list of individuals GIs were authorized to kill, even if doing so would otherwise violate the normal rules of engagement. Golsteyn told investigators he thought the normal rules of engagement were problematic.

    I don’t think any US official would back up Golsteyn’s description that the US maintained a list of individuals that GIs were authorized to assassinate, killing them even if doing so would violate the rules of engagement. The USA maintains the Joint Prioritized Effects List, which, according to Anand Gopal, and others, GIs treat as an unofficial, defacto “kill or capture list”, where an informal clue is given to the GIs as to whether HQ actually wants the named individual to be captured, or if they want him to be described as KIA, even if he tried to surrender.

    If the USA did maintain an official list of individuals who could be assassinated, with impunity, they Golsteyn could have lobbied to have Rasoul placed on it, and then only killed him once HQ had backed him up.

    Like some other killings that would have otherwise escaped scrutiny, this one first came to official notice when Golsteyn applied for a job with another agency. There have been a handful of questionable deaths that came to light when a GI, or former GI, with a previously clean record applied for a post DoD job with a Federal Agency, like the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, or in Golsteyn’s case, with the CIA. Applicants are routinely polygraphed. Prior to their routine polygraph they are routinely told they will be asked if they were ever involved in a crime that they got away with. It is implied that if they own up, during their polygraph, to illegal activity like swiping chocolate bars from the local store, or trying marijuana, when they were teenagers, it won’t affect their employment, but if the past illegal activity comes to light, after they are hired, they may face severe penalties.

    Just as with those earlier cases, Golsteyn considers his extrajudicial killing as equivalent in seriousness to sampling marijuana, and tells the polygraph examiner about it.

    Because there is a paper trail, the Army can’t ignore the killing, and starts an investigation. The investigators conclude that Golsteyn did murder Rasoul, and led a conspiracy to cover up the murder. But his fellow conspirators — also war criminals in my opinion — clammed up, or lied. Since there is no physical evidence the formal inquiry recommends he not face charges. A letter of reprimand, that would be career-ending is left in his personnel file. He has his Silver Star stripped from him. He is given, (or maybe agrees to) a “general discharge under dishonorable circumstance”. He has his Special Forces tab removed from him. But he is not charged.

    In 2014 and 2015 high profile defenders speak out for him, Duncan Hunter a veteran now in Congress, and Bing West, a former Deputy Secretary of Defense, a warhawk, and author, who was embedded with his unit at the time of the killing.

    Then, in 2016, Golsteyn agrees to be interviewed as part of a series Fox News was doing. During this interview (I transcribed it) Golsteyn clearly admits killing Rasoul.

    His 2016 admission triggers a second inquiry, which resulted in him being recalled to active duty, in spite of his discharge, so he can be court-martialed, instead of being tried in a civilian court. I am not sure I understand this, as Steven Green was tried in a civilian court, because he had already been discharged, and wasn’t eligible for a court martial.

    How this relates to Omar Khadr, and the other Guantanamo captives, is that the Geneva Conventions require the USA to use the same courts, the same rules of evidence, to charge their own soldiers for war crimes as they use to charge and try the prisoners they hold. I think it is pretty clear that a different standard has been used with Golsteyn. They weren’t prepared to try him based solely on his original voluntary confessions. But the USA was prepared to try Guantanamo captives, Like Omar Khadr and Majid Khan, when the only evidence against them were confessions wrung from them during torture.

  14. Tom says...

    While I’m glad that Khadr is starting to make progress in his life, keep these points in mind:
    There is no cure for PTSD.
    There’s no one healing formula that applies to all trauma survivors (despite what the govt. and MOD might tell you). It’s like the old opening. There are a million stories in the big city. Different people, different causes of their trauma, and different rates of healing.
    I’ve never met or spoken to Khadr. But despite that, I have several things in common with him. I too am a torture survivor. I have ultra severe PTSD that will never go away. The longer you go in trying to face your trauma pain head on, the more debilitating it becomes. Sadly, for some it’s too much and they kill themselves.
    I hope he keeps going and finds some type of inner peace.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Great to hear from you as always, arcticredriver. I didn’t mean to suggest that Justin Trudeau and his administration bore responsibility for Justice Ross’s decisions; as in the UK, it is important to remember that the judiciary is often capable of demonstrating that their decisions are based on legal precedents, and not on political pressure.
    While I also understand that individuals on bail are made to surrender their passports, Omar has now served his sentence, and so is in the curious world of the “enemy combatant”, who has no fundamental rights, and is essentially reliant on the whims of his government regarding the extent to which he will, for example, be allowed a passport, or intrusively scrutinised. In 2019 I’m hoping to at least start a conversation about how, internationally, we need to be restore fundamental rights to “enemy combatants” who have been held at Guantanamo, because it genuinely seems to me that imprisonment at Guantanamo (and the decisions taken by the CSRTs) render them, uniquely, as people without any fundamental rights that the rest of us can still more or less take for granted if we live in countries that claim to respect the rule of law.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Very interesting, arcticredriver. As well as exposing hypocrisy regarding the treatment of prisoners and soldiers when it comes to alleged crimes, you have also highlighted a grey area regarding how, fundamentally, the tendency of the authorities is to turn a blind eye wherever possible to soldiers during wartime killing people suspected of crimes, even if those deaths don’t occur under acceptable circumstances – in combat, for example. I think the grey area is particularly noticeable when it comes to ‘trigger-happy’ soldiers killing unarmed civilians while on patrol, or while undertaking house-by-house security checks, for example.
    What you have also highlighted, however, and which I really should try and look into, is the existence of the Joint Prioritized Effects List, which functions as a kind of ‘kill list’, knowledge of which, it is suggested, is widely available amongst the rank and file militia. Given how poor US intelligence has been demonstrated to be time and again, the existence of such a list – ad its apparently widespread, casual dissemination – looks like yet another powerful and chilling demonstration of institutional post-9/11 lawlessness on the part of the US.

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for your thoughts, Tom. Good to hear from you, and thanks for the reminder of what PTSD involves.
    You may have seen arcticredriver’s comment that Omar has said that “he won’t be attending nursing college next term”, because “the stress of his legal battles with Tabitha Speer and Layne Morris was proving too distracting”, which I thought was rather upsetting news, as he has previously expressed such enthusiasm for training to be a useful member of society.
    arcticredriver also noted, “If he were to embrace being a public figure I think he could be a powerful advocate for tolerance and human rights”, and I tend to agree, although obviously everything he undertakes depends on the extent to which he can channel and manage his trauma.

  18. arcticredriver says...

    Andy, here is a good article that deals with how GIs used the JPEL, the “kill or capture list”, in 2009. Terror comes at night in Afghanistan

    Weeks after the raid, the family remains bitter. “Everyone in the area knew we were a family that worked for the government,” Qarar says. “Rahman couldn’t even leave the city because if the Taliban caught him in the countryside they would have killed him.”
    Beyond the question of Rahman’s guilt or innocence, however, it’s how he was taken that has left such a residue of hate and anger among his family. “Did they have to kill my cousins? Did they have to destroy our house?” Qarar asks. “They knew where Rahman worked. Couldn’t they have at least tried to come with a warrant in the daytime? We would have forced Rahman to comply.
    “I used to go on TV and argue that people should support this government and the foreigners,” he adds. “But I was wrong. Why should anyone do so? I don’t care if I get fired for saying it, but that’s the truth.”

    Mathew Golsteyn would complain to the CIA, that, in 2010, the rules of engagement were too restrictive. He complains prisoners turned over the Afghans organs of justice are frequently seen again, on the battlefield. That may mean that articles like Gopal’s had some influence, and some restrictions were put on GIs

  19. arcticredriver says...

    Another article by Anand Gopal, on the Night Raids…. Tomgram: Anand Gopal, Afraid of the Dark in Afghanistan

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the links, arcticredriver – and happy new year. What a disaster America’s foreign occupations are. 17 years now in Afghanistan, and yet America still seems to be as inadvertently wedded to losing hearts and minds as it was right back at the beginning. I’ve told you before, perhaps, about how, when I met Anand prior to the publication of his book, his summary of the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was that they decisively snatched defeat from the jaws of victory after fairly swiftly overthrowing the Taliban and decimating al-Qaeda, by staying on and getting bogged down with the kinds of unscrupulous warlords who helped to fill Guantanamo with inappropriate Afghan prisoners from the summer of 2002 until November 2003, when ordinary prisoners stopped being sent to Guantanamo. And then, of course, they ended up filling Bagram with inappropriate prisoners instead. I was always shocked at how many Afghans who had worked with US forces ended up at Guantanamo because their rivals had lied about them and the Americans had no overview whatsoever of what they were doing.

  21. Anna says...

    Thank you for the update Andy. Maybe most of all shocked by the fact that the legal battle with Mrs Speer is ongoing and so devastating that it stops Omar from following his dream. I will never understand how any one can be so full of hate as to want to ruin the life of a kid who may not even have killed her husband to start with. And even if indeed he did, it evidently was in self-defense as a frightened kid. Not to mention the fact that he has already been sentenced for this presumed crime and served his sentence. And here we join Arcticredriver’s tale: if it had been an Afghan killed by an American grenade, there would have been a thorough investigation to make sure it was not friendly fire, as may well have been the case with Omar.
    As for the Golsteyns, he must be the tiny tip of a huge iceberg. I remember a quote from a Polish soldier after a few colleagues of theirs had been charged with unlawfully killing civilians in Nangar Khel. They were serving together with US army in Ghazni, sharing bases and patrols and this guy complained that (I quote from memory) ‘Some US soldier had been killed by an IED, so when his colleagues on patrol saw two Pashtuns walking along the road, they shot and killed them. They never faced any charges for that, while we do.’ Apart from the horrifying implication that criminal behaviour by others should justify our doing the same, that incident being so casually mentioned suggests it was not all that much of an exception. And all their and the CIA’s never ending ‘training & advisory’ mission there achieves, is instilling the same attitude in the Afghans they train : https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/31/world/asia/cia-afghanistan-strike-force.html.
    In general, I highly recommend a Belgian documentary about the governmental arms trade & corruption now available off-line on AJE:
    https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/specialseries/2018/12/shadow-world-global-arms-trade-network-181222094047143.html
    It is from 2016 and amazingly up to date, what with Saudi Arabia and Iran, but you’ll be relieved to know there’s no mr T. in it while you’ll find fantastic quotes from a host of corrupt politicians from Thatcher to Blair, from Nixon to Obama, with a generous sprinkling of Cheney, Bolton etc etc, including a shady arms dealer whose now terminated outfit was based in Warsaw … but also Eduardo Galleano(‘s voice) and other worth-while interviewees, such as Scahill, Wilkerson or Robert Fisk, not to mention my favourite, the Iraqi journalist who threw shoes at GWB 🙂 http://www.johangrimonprez.be/main/Film_SHADOW_WORLD_Featuring.html Do not miss it, even the most disillusioned or cynical among us, will find some mind-boggling passages in it, which would cure even the sublimely naive of any illusions about ‘humanitarian’ wars.
    And wish all of you personal happiness and a more peaceful and fairer 2019 :- ))).

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Great to hear from you, Anna – and happy new year to you too.
    Thanks for your empathy with Omar’s situation, and your reminiscences about the casual nature of homicidal activities in Afghanistan.
    I’ll try and find the time to watch your recommendation.
    I’m off to the US on Monday. I’l be thinking about you in Washington, D.C. a week on Friday.

  23. Anna says...

    Have a good time in spite of the usual sad – and increasingly infuriating – reasons for the commemorations and say hello & hug for me to mutual friends.
    And watch Shadow World on the plane … :- ).

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Anna. I will definitely be saying hello from you to our mutual friends!

  25. Tom says...

    I’m sorry he’s having problems moving on with his study, etc. But this is one example of how trauma pain is always there. Another perspective? Do a search on Roméo Dallaire.

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Tom. I’d come across Romeo Dallaire before – when he was campaigning to get Omar out of Guantanamo, if I recall correctly, but I didn’t recall that he had set up a Child Soldiers Initiative. That’s very significant.
    This was their statement when Omar was released on bail: https://www.childsoldiers.org/statement-on-omar-khadr/
    And here’s an op-ed by Dallaire from 2017: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/canada-failed-omar-khadr-compensation-and-an-apology-was-the-right-move/article35623662/

  27. arcticredriver says...

    Andy, if I can follow-up on Anna’s comment, in the months after Omar Khadr received his settlement, various critics of his suggested that he now had a strong moral obligation to hand over the entire award to Mrs Speer. Peter Kent, formerly a highly respected journalist, and now a Conservative member of Parliament was one of them.

    If I am not mistaken, something like 1000 GIs were KIA in Afghanistan. If, for the sake of argument, Omar Khadr was convinced to hand over his settlement to Mrs Speer, that would mean that one widow received $8 million USD that the other 999 widows didn’t receive. So, is Mrs Speer more deserving of compensation for her husband’s death than the other spouses?

    I did some back of the envelope calculations, based on guesses, as to how much her official pension, and child support and education support due to her children, would add up to. I don’t have my rough notes handy, but, assuming the DoD helps pay for the kids to attend College or University, and assuming the DoD pays a reasonable amount of child support for them, until they are College age, and that she gets an ongoing widow payment for, let’s say, four decades, that might total in the neighbourhood of $1 million. All the widows her age, with young children, should receive something like $1 million, over their lifetimes.

    Some critics might compare the amounts, her $1 million, versus his $8 million USD, forgetting that her compensation was guaranteed, and Khadr had to fight for his.

    If I were the spouse of a DoD or CIA employee whose job required putting their life at risk, in a war zone, and we had children, or I myself required their financial support, I’d have a tough talk with them, where we examined, in detail the compensation I would be entitled to, if they were KIA. If we weren’t financially competent to work it out, ourselves, I’d ask our bank manager, or a financial planner.

    If, during that tough examination, it became clear the official compensation, in the event of their death would leave our children to be raised in poverty, I would pressure them to resign. I’d like to think if they realized their death would leave me to raise our children in poverty, their resignation would be their idea.

    As to whether Mrs Speer was entitled to more compensation than other widows, I don’t see an argument for that. The initial descriptions, that Khadr “killed a medic” made me assume he had pretended to surrender, and then committed the war crime of waiting until a protected non-combatant medic came close enough to perfidiously attack him. But, the USA hasn’t sent non-combatant medics into the field, for decades. Arguments that his actions were perfidious are far-fetched. Speer’s death is not really different than that of the other 999 GIs.

    Sergeant Speer’s death is a tragedy. The deaths of those other 999 GIs are also tragedies.

    I think Mrs Speer, and her children, would be very well advised to follow the example of Mohamedou Slahi, and his choice to, in Christian terms, “forgive those who trespass against you”. He wrote that to finally free himself of Guantanamo he had to free himself from bitterness against those who abused him, so resentment didn’t poison him, even after his release.

    Mrs Speer, and her children, uttered bitter denunciations against Khadr during the victim impact part of his sentencing. So, it seems their days are consumed with bitterness.

    If I knew any couples where one or both spouses was a soldier, I would encourage them to agree that they would do their best not to be bitter if the soldier died through an act of war. The USA is an all-volunteer force now, and the soldier chose to put themselves in harm’s way for what they thought were good reasons, whether it was patriotism, or to pay for college, or whatever.

  28. Andy Worthington says...

    As ever, thanks for your thoughts, arcticredriver. They make a lot of sense. I would prefer it if we got involved in as few wars as possible, to prevent senseless deaths on all sides, but it doesn’t make sense for anyone to behave as though they don’t understand when soldiers get killed in wars.

  29. arcticredriver says...

    Unexpected good news on Omar Khadr’s case…

    Omar Khadr’s war crimes sentence is finished, Alberta judge rules

  30. arcticredriver says...

  31. Andy Worthington says...

    Oh, that’s great news, arcticredriver. I’ll look into it and write something soon.

  32. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver. I’ll look into this, and hopefully write something soon.

  33. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver. That’s great news. I hope to write something about it soon.

  34. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for these links too, arcticredriver – although not as much as the previous one 😉

  35. arcticredriver says...

    One of the very first articles I read about Omar, was something from the National Post, published in 2002, entitled something like “The Good Son”. It offered a different account of the firefight than later articles. It also quoted a nice Jamaican-Canadian lady, who said positive things about Omar and his siblings, who knew them from operating a store in the same strip mall in Toronto where his grandparents operated a bakery.

    She described how polite and well-behaved Omar and his siblings were, when they were under their grandparent’s supervision, at the mall. If I recall correctly, she voiced skepticism that he could have become a terrorist, as reported in the press.

    I always thought that, if he decided to embrace being a public figure, and an advocate for peace and reconciliation, he should look up that nice lady who spoke up for him, at her strip mall, meet her again, and thank her for sticking up for him.

  36. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, that’s a very supportive assessment, arcticredriver – and, of course, I can see no reason for it not to have been true. It has always seemed obvious to me that you can see in Omar’s face that he’s a good person.

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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 (The State of London).
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