By Scott Taylor
On Easter Sunday Radio-Canada aired an interview with Omar Khadr wherein the former boy-soldier and subsequent detainee discussed his captivity in Guantanamo Bay. There was nothing new about Khadr’s tale, but simply appearing on the airwaves of our national broadcaster was enough to set off a frenzy across the social media spectrum.
The standard lines from the hate-Khadr crowd are that he is a terrorist who committed a war crime, who was then rewarded by the Canadian government with a $10.5 million settlement.
For Radio-Canada to interview him, and for the studio audience to have given Khadr a standing ovation was enough to spark a grass roots campaign calling on the Liberal government to defund the entire CBC Radio-Canada network.
For the record, Khadr was just 15 years old when U.S. troops captured him following a firefight in the village of Ayub Kheyl in 2002. That makes him a boy-soldier, a minor who was put in harm’s way by his father who was admittedly a member of al-Qaeda. That is on the father, not the boy.
The action that took place was conventional combat between U.S. Special Forces and the insurgents. Khadr was not planting bombs in a marketplace, he was fighting a battle, and ergo he is not a terrorist. The ‘war crime’ to which Khadr plead guilty in order to obtain his eventual release was the killing of U.S. Special Forces Sergeant Christopher Speer.
At the time of his death, Speer and his comrades were in the process of killing Khadr’s colleagues, and Khadr, the sole survivor was grievously wounded in the firefight. The weapon Khadr is alleged to have used was a grenade, which is a short-range area weapon, meaning Speer was not singled out as a target. To call his death in battle a ‘murder’ is ludicrous and to label that action as a ‘war crime’ is insane.
As for the $10.5 million payout, this was not a reward to Khadr for killing Speer, but rather compensation for Canada having violated his rights by allowing him to suffer torture and a 10 year long illegal detainment at the hands of his U.S. captors.
In a perfect world, the U.S. would have paid to compensate Khadr, but alas, such is not the case.
Another recent stretch of the definition of a ‘war crime’ is that of Boutros Massroua. The 54-year-old resident of British Columbia is originally from Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, which borders Syria. Prior to claiming refugee status in Canada in 2015, Massroua plied his trade as a vehicle mechanic in his hometown.
He is a Catholic Christian who was allegedly hired by Daesh (aka ISIS or ISIL) to repair pick-up trucks. No one has ever accused Massroua of picking up a weapon or harming anyone personally, but as a result of fixing up trucks for the Daesh evildoers, this mechanic has been deemed to have committed a crime against humanity by a Vancouver-based Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada tribunal.
The Board’s ruling noted that “If it weren’t for [Massroua’s] work on these armed vehicles, these vehicles would not be returning to Syria with guns on top of them – to shoot unarmed women, children, men of every religion, to blow up buildings.” I understand that it is a crime to aid and abet a criminal in the direct commission of a crime, but to link the fixing of vehicles – for money – to the evil acts of Daesh seems a bit over the top.
On the flip side of this, we have the story of decorated U.S. Navy Seal, Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher who was arrested in September 2018 on over a dozen charges of premeditated murder and attempted murder. The atrocities which Gallagher allegedly committed took place in Iraq in 2017 as the U.S. led alliance, including Canada’s special forces, were driving Daesh fighters out of Mosul.
The shocking allegations were brought forward, not by left-wing, liberal pacifists, but by seven elite fellow Navy Seals. According to these eyewitnesses, Gallagher deliberately gunned down a young schoolgirl and an unarmed old man. He would indiscriminately spray machine gun bullets and rockets into civilian neighbourhoods and on one occasion he allegedly stabbed to death an unarmed, wounded teenage captive.
Initially, the reports of Gallagher’s actions were ignored by the Navy brass, and the accusers were warned that their careers could be impacted should they pursue matters.
However, when threatened with it being disclosed to the media, the investigation was launched which led to Gallagher’s arrest. Supporters of the accused include 40 Republican Members of Congress who have signed a letter calling for the Navy to release Gallagher from jail pending his trial, and President Donald Trump who tweeted out that the imprisoned SEAL would be moved to a ‘less restrictive confinement’.
To date, a crowd funding initiative has raised US$375,000 for Gallagher’s defence.
If all war crimes were treated equally, one can only wonder when they will arrest the mechanic who fixed Gallagher’s vehicle?