By Scott Taylor
The Liberal government certainly stirred up a flurry of emotion with last week’s announcement that Canada will pay out a whopping $10.5-million in compensation to Omar Khadr. Those who are firmly in the anti-Khadr camp howled with indignity that this payout is in essence a reward for a terrorist.
To back up their argument they point to the fact that Khadr confessed to having thrown a grenade which killed U.S. soldier Christopher Speer and wounded another American infantryman. This makes Khadr a murderer in the eyes of his detractors.
The terms ‘terrorist’ and ‘murderer’ are indeed evocative, but in the case of Khadr they are not warranted. Yes, Khadr’s father Ahmed was indeed a full-fledged member of the notorious al-Qeada terrorist network. Following the post-9/11 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Ahmed returned to the land where he had fought against the Soviet occupation in the 1980’s, this time bringing along with him his sons Abdurahman and Omar. Their intention was to resist the U.S. military, whose objective was to round up or eliminate any and all who could be linked to the 9/11 terror attack.
The fact is that Omar Khadr was just 15 years old at the time. This puts him in the same category as boy soldiers of Africa whom Canada considers to be the victims of their circumstance.
There is video footage showing the 15-year-old Omar assembling an improvised explosive device (IED). As these sorts of insidious weapons were responsible for the deaths of 97 Canadian soldiers deployed into Afghanistan, it is easy to understand that this is an emotional sore point for the anti-Khadr crowd.
However, as the name would indicate, an IED is simply a homemade landmine and a rudimentary weapon. Used against other combatants, they are not instruments of terror, no matter how frightening they may be.
Which brings us back to the incident in which young Khadr was captured. This was clearly a firefight with distinct combatants on both sides. Nobody was out to terrorize anybody, and Khadr was equipped with conventional firearms.
To call throwing a grenade in a battle ‘murder’ is ludicrous in the extreme. To follow that logic, given that Khadr was shot twice and suffered shrapnel wounds prior to being captured, the American soldiers involved should be charged with attempted murder.
There is also no clear-cut evidence that Khadr actually threw the grenade that killed Speer. During his lengthy captivity at Guantanamo Bay, Khadr was tortured by his U.S. captors and his ‘confession’ to Speer’s murder was a key condition in securing his release from prison. There was never any independent verification of Khadr’s action.
The compensation being paid now to Khadr is in recognition of the fact that the Canadian government failed to protect Khadr following his capture. He was a Canadian citizen, a minor, caught up in the violent chaos of post-9/11 Afghanistan. He also had the misfortune of having a father who firmly adhered to a jihadist ideology.
That he was allowed to languish in the brutal conditions of the notorious Guantanamo Bay facility amidst hard-core terrorists and equally sadistic U.S. interrogators is indeed a failure on the part of previous Canadian governments.
Does this in turn warrant him a $10.5-million pay day? How can you possibly put a dollar figure on what Khadr went through?
Likewise, the widow and family of Christopher Speer have a court ruling that awards them $134-million (U.S.) from Omar Khadr as a result of him ‘murdering’ the American soldier. With Khadr now in receipt of his payout, the Speers are already seeking to seize that compensation money for themselves.
That Speers was killed while serving his country is indeed a tragic loss. However, I fail to see why his family would be entitled to such a massive sum to offset their loss. He was killed in battle, he was not murdered in his bed.