Prison is no place for a child soldier
Imagine if you will that you’re a young boy and brought to a foreign land where you are home schooled, taught to hate and trained to kill. The mud huts and buildings where you’re staying are attacked and bombed by A-10 Warthogs and Apache helicopters reducing everything to rubble. With almost everyone around you dead, you crouch on your knees in pain from the shrapnel that almost blinds you when all of a sudden you are shot twice in the back.
You’re then evacuated to a military hospital, called a killer and tortured, only to find yourself on your way to Guantanamo Bay where you’re charged with war crimes and aiding terrorists, tortured some more and denied help from your own country; sounds like the typical life of any Canadian teenager right?
I’m talking of course about Omar Khadr. The only westerner still stuck at the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and being a child soldier at the time, he is also the youngest. Whether or not Khadr was responsible (or even capable) for throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier is somewhat trifling given that he was only fifteen years old at the time.
After reading “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier” by Ishmael Beah (a book I recommend to everyone), I find it appalling that any kid should have to go through all the terrible things that Khadr has had to go through even before his capture. I’m not saying that both Omar’s and Ishmael’s circumstances where identical, but child soldiers do have some distinct similarities: they are easily brainwashed and usually suffer from post traumatic stress syndrome.
Before he arrived at Guantanamo, he was tortured at Bagram air force base. Khadr said that he was refused pain medication for his wounds, had his hands tied above a door frame for hours with cold water being thrown on him, forced to carry 5-gallon buckets of water to intensify his shoulder wound and was not allowed to use washrooms and therefore forced to urinate on himself. His chief interrogator was Joshua Claus, who later pleaded guilty to abusing detainees.
During his incarceration at Guantanamo, he was at first considered an “intelligence treasure trove” by U.S. officials, having actually met Osama Bin Laden through his father, even though he was only ten years old at the time. He was tortured with sleep deprivation, changing his cell every three hours for 21 days and isolation prior to being interrogated by Canadian CSIS agents who shared the information they received with his prosecutors.
Now at the age of twenty-three, blind in one eye and having spent more than a third of his young life behind bars, Mr. Khadr has fired his American defense lawyers and refused a plea bargain that would have kept him at Guantanamo for only five more years saying “I will not willingly let the U.S. government use me to fulfill their goal, I have been used too many times as a child.” He then added that pleading guilty at his trial next month would “give an excuse to the government for torturing me and abusing me as a child”
What makes me angry still is that the Harper Government has refused to repatriate Khadr. The Supreme Court of Canada even said that Harper and his government’s actions “offend the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects.” Still Harper does nothing; even in breach of the constitution and Khadr’s human rights.
Please help bring Omar Khadr home. He has long paid for any crime he may or may not have committed. http://www.omarkhadrproject.com/