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Tears for a Terrorist By: Stephen Brown and Jacob Laksin
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, July 18, 2008


Pity Omar Khadr. That is the theme of a disinformation campaign being waged by lawyers for the Toronto-born al-Qaeda terrorist, imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay since 2002, when he killed an American soldier with a hand grenade. Designed to win Khadr’s release and to publicly discredit the U.S.-run detention facility in Cuba, this campaign received a propaganda boost this week when Khadr’s lawyers released a misleadingly edited eight-minute video, itself part of a seven-hour interview conducted with Khadr in 2003 by Canadian intelligence interrogators, depicting him as a sympathetic victim.

The video is indeed pathetic. In it, the junior jihadist, just 15 at the time of his capture, can be seen sobbing and pulling off his shirt when he discovers that the Canadian interrogators did not come to free him. Yet, the video also is incomplete. For instance, one Canadian newspaper has reported that in the same interrogation Khadr can be clearly heard voicing support for jihad—though that compromising detail didn’t quite make into Khadr’s lachrymose video performance.

If so, that would be very much in keeping with his extremist pedigree. Unmentioned by his public advocates is that Khadr hails from Canada’s “first family of terrorism.” His father Ahmed Khadr, an Egyptian immigrant to Canada, was a high-ranking al-Qaeda member and financier. He lived in the same Pakistani compound as Osama bin Laden, fought alongside al-Qaeda militants, and was ultimately killed by Pakistani troops in 2003.

But not before he had passed on the family tradition – jihadist terrorism – to his children. Ahmed Khadr’s daughter, Zaynab, was charged with smuggling al-Qaeda propaganda into Canada. His other son, Abdullah Khadr, is imprisoned in Canada on terrorism charges, as he awaits extradition to America.

Young Omar took an equally active role in the jihad. Badly wounded when American forces discovered him in a bombed-out al-Qaeda compound in 2002, he allegedly managed to get off a grenade that killed one American Special Forces soldier, Army Sgt. Christopher Speer, and blinded another, Army Sgt. Layne Morris.

Back then, Khadr wasn’t playing the emotionally fragile innocent. “He was waiting and when U.S. personnel got close enough, he popped up and threw a hand grenade and shot his pistol, and that was the hand grenade that killed Chris Speers,” Sgt. Morris recalled on a Canadian talk show. Little wonder that Morris rejects the argument that Khadr’s age somehow mitigates his actions. “[Those were] not the actions of a fifteen year old that day,” said Morris. “I have a fifteen-year-old son. Omar Khadr chose to restart that firefight after all his comrades were dead.”

Still, some – especially on the anti-American and “legal Left” – are determined to see Khadr as a victim of American injustice. “What we’re seeing [in the video] is a severely traumatized man, who at the time of the interviews is only 16,” insisted Bob Rae of Canada’s opposition Liberal Party this week. Wells Dixon, a lawyer for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents Guantanamo detainees, similarly bewailed Khadr’s plight. “What you see in the video is a teenager begging for help and what you see is an interrogation that violates U.S. law and any international law concerning the rights of children,” Dixon claimed.

Actually, you see nothing of the sort. So far from brutalizing him, Khadr’s interrogator repeatedly tries to calm and reassure the detainee. Seeing that he’s stressed out, the interrogator urges Khadr to take a break ("take a few minutes to relax a bit"). Later in the video, he offers him –gasp! – a chocolate bar. On the whole, it looks more like a therapy session than an interrogation, let alone a violation of international law.

Indeed, Khadr has been treated exceptionally well during his residency at Guantanamo. For starters, the fact that he survived at all is a credit to the American military. In Afghanistan, Khadr had planted roadside bombs to kill coalition troops. Nonetheless, he was nursed back to health by military doctors who attended to the near-fatal wounds he suffered while trying to kill American servicemen. No legal or medical rights have been denied him, and Khadr’s first two lawyers, whom he dismissed, were university law professors. Now housed in the least restricted part of Guantanamo, he has been allowed to read – according to former Gitmo chaplain James Yee, Khadr was particularly delighted to receive Disney picture books – and has even memorized the Koran. In this environment, to portray Khadr as a victim of military child abuse is to distort the facts beyond recognition.

And that is precisely what Khadr’s defenders have done. It is fair to say that no Guantanamo detainee has aroused as much misplaced sympathy as the 21-year-old Islamist. Whether in the form of books weeping over “Guantanamo’s child,” or this week’s mendacious video stunt, the save-Khadr campaign goes on. If there is any good news to emerge from these unedifying proceedings it is that, for the time being at least, Khadr himself is staying right where he is.


Jacob Laksin is a senior editor for Frontpagemag.com. Stephen Brown is a contributing editor for Frontpagemag.com.


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