Orwellian Circus: Khadr’s Trial

Omar Khadr was taken as a child from his home in Canada to live in Afghanistan. When he was 15, he was caught in a battle with US forces. He lost his vision in one eye, was shot in the back twice, and was confined in US torture camps from the time he was 15 until he was 24, without a trial, and without access to a lawyer for years. Despite years of UN protests that he should be rehabilitated as a child soldier, not tried, he was brought before seven US officers in a military trial for committing “murder in violation of the law of war.” Yes, that’s right, seven officers in the US military. Who haven’t obeyed any of the rules of war since we have been watching.

The “murder”, a 15 year old boy throwing a grenade in a battle at a professional killer and invader, is one he has denied for the duration of his imprisonment despite constant “interrogation” since he was 15 years old. There is no evidence that he threw the grenade, and there is a great deal of evidence that he didn’t, including initial US military reports. There is a video of him at Guantánamo crying in “interviews”. A US medic has described Khadr weeping and shackled in Bagram. The “confession” the US military has finally obtained after nearly a decade of torturing a child, is referred to in court as a “stipulation of fact“. It is presented to the jury without allowing them to know that Khadr was offered a plea bargain in exchange.

The rumoured plea bargain will not include any recognition of the years he has already served, he will be sent to the maximum security level at Guantánamo despite not giving any security concerns during all of his years of imprisonment, and the “interrogation” is to continue. It is likely that he will be recommended for transfer back to Canada after the first year, but there has been no interest from the Canadian government in enabling that.

Here are some of the more bizarre items coming out in the tweets and reports from attendees at the trial. *

Children killed by professional killers do not matter. Professional killer’s children matter. The court listened for one hour (or 45 minutes, according to some tweets) to testimony from the US professional killer’s widow about how his death has impacted her family. Has any US soldier listened to any family of any of the civilians they have killed/tortured/raped/kidnapped? According to the professional killer’s widow, her “children are good, loving, wonderful people. They didn’t deserve to have their father taken by someone like you.” Asked by a jury member if she would see Khadr in a different light if he had been dressed in the uniform of an “enemy soldier” during the firefight, she said “yes.” The former fifteen year old apologized to the widow of the professional killer, but she shook her head and told him he would  “forever be a murderer.” It  is ok for US soldiers to murder children, but it is a war crime for children to murder US soldiers.

There is lengthy testimony from a US psychiatrist who explains the hate and resentment he feels certain is burning below the surface (where no one has been able to find any evidence of it) in Khadr. He cites Khadr’s family as being a big influence on him. (Khadr has been in a US torture camp since he was 15. He is now 24.) He also says Muslim militants look up to Khadr’s dead father. And Khadr is surrounded by Muslim militants. Therefore he is a risk of causing further violence. Immediately after the psychiatrist, the professional killer’s widow took the stand. She described how her son told everyone on Remembrance Day that everyone in the US military looked up to his dead father. They all came to his funeral. They named a clinic after him. His father’s US militant friends explain how they spend as much time as possible with him. “Army rocks, bad guys stink,” says the son of the professional killer. The courtroom weeps.

After hearing the psychiatrist’s views that Khadr being a “devout” Muslim made it impossible for him to ever be “deradicalized”, the professional killer’s friends take the stand to describe him. Captain E says Speer made “peace with the war around him.” Asked to give one word to sum up his friend, Captain E said “Super stud”.  Super studs who are comfortable with war are better people than devout Muslims. (In recognition of this, the defense lawyer provided evidence that Khadr wasn’t that devout.)

The same psychiatrist says of Khadr, he is very dangerous because “he’s physically resilient”, “socially agile”,  “street smart”, “the other detainees give him regard”, athletic and taller than most detainees, “charming”, speaks various languages and that he “has attracted more attention to Cuba than Fidel”. Also, he is a prayer leader and speaks fluent English so can communicate with guards and has become a leader. He has the “stardust of royalty”, is “devout”, “identifies with his family,” and has become his family’s “white sheep”. He is “charming” and carries himself with “grace.” On a “superficial” level he seems very “Westernized.” And he is a “rock star” of Guantánamo. All of this makes him very dangerous.

Worst of all, the psychiatrist repeatedly states that Khadr has been  “marinated in jihad” at the US torture camps. Because he has been imprisoned without a trial since he was 15, he has met all the wrong sort. Plus, since he was tortured by US soldiers, he might hate them.

As if being a tall, athletic, ambitious, charismatic, graceful, resilient, street smart, charming, multi-lingual, prayer leader was not enough, he has read Harry Potter. Which is escapism. For someone to want to escape Guantánamo or Bagram seems strange to this psychiatrist. He has also read CS Lewis, Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Ismael Beah, Danielle Steele and John Grisham, along with many educational texts etc., but Harry Potter seemed much more worthy of note. He is obviously not a Christian.

He must serve his sentence in the maximum security level at Guantánamo, despite his guards being almost universal in their opinions that he is a nice kid, because he called one a “bitch”. Also a “whore”. And once he said “fuck”.

Going to Canada would be bad, because Canada doesn’t have real  “de-radicalization therapy”. The prosecution asked a professor at small Christian college if her college has a “deradicalization program on campus.” No. And anyway, “How will a devout Muslim integrate into Canada?”

The jury of seven impartial US officers will make their deliberation after an impartial and fair trial in which they will be told that Khadr pled guilty. They won’t know about his negotiated plea sentence or the threats of death, rape or torture that were used and admitted to by “interrogators”. They will see an FBI simulated 10-second clip of a Humvee explosion as an example of something that Khadr might have done, if it had happened, but it didn’t.

*For first hand reporting, and accurate quoting, follow the hashtag #Khadr. Most of the people tweeting are reporters who are at the trial. Most have links to their own articles on their twitter accounts. The tweeting by them has been excellent.

Update: The closing arguments were not less bizarre.

“The accused is not a soldier” and any reference to him as one does a “disservice” to men and women in uniform. Because professional killers are better people than civilians defending their country.

“They fight for no country. They fight for a religon.” Because fighting for your country is morally superior to fighting for your religon.

The US decided to put the Canadian in Guantanamo and offered him no “de-radicalization” program, but to release him to Canada would be wrong because Canada’s “deradicalization programs” are not good enough.

The prosecution points out that Khadr was a very mature 15 year old. He spoke four languages. Intelligence is bad. Possibly criminal.

The defense summed up the position of the prosecutor. “Omar Khadr was a lawful target but he didn’t have the right to fight back.”

The tweeters have added great links to letters between Khadr and the english professor from Alberta, a painting by Khadr, and letters from Speer’s children, the oldest four years younger than Khadr was at the time of his imprisonment and torture. Also two minutes from a documentary You Don’t Like the Truth, and a video of a speech from his defense lawyer. Coverage that includes exhibits.

The End: After the prosecution requested a sentence of 25 years, after the jury were told they could consider the 8 he had already served, after they were told they could consider the fact that he was a child, they came back with a sentence of 40 years more. That’s 48 in total. Not in a prison, in solitary confinement in a torture camp where he is still allowed to be “interrogated”. For a crime the US military themselves said he did not commit until they had to invent a reason for keeping him in prison. For a sentence of 10 years or more, 6 of the 7 jurors had to agree.

At the sentencing of a tortured child to solitary confinement, the widow of the professional killer gave a fist pumping cheer. U!S!A! Fuck Yeah!

But the most perverse thing in this whole trial? This will make the people of the US feel safer. They honestly will.

Beyond the End: Now we have the release of the plea deal and the diplomatic exchange between Canada and the US. Beyond the general sleaze of such a deal, there is some very specific sleaze.

Khadr must:

d. Knowingly and voluntarily waive and relinquish any request for any forensic or scientific testing of any physical evidence in the United States Government’s possession, including, but not limited to, DNA testing. I fully understand that as a result of this waiver I will not have another opportunity to have any physical evidence in this case submitted for any testing or to employ the results of any testing to support any claim of innocence regarding the offenses to which I am pleading guilty. In addition. I understand the United States Government may dispose of such physical evidence upon sentencing by a Military Commission in this case. He is not allowed to test the prosecution forensic evidence or bring his own.

g. Not initiate or support any litigation or challenge, in any forum in any Nation, against the United States or any official in their personal or official capacity with regard to my capture, detention, prosecution to include discovery practice, post conviction confinement and/or detainee combatant status. I further agree to move to dismiss with prejudice any presently pending direct or collateral attack challenging my capture. detention, prosecution and/or detainee combatant status; to implement this aspect of this agreement, following announcement of the sentence in this case, I direct my counsel to submit a motion to dismiss the petition for habeas corpus in my case currently pending in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia as well as all claims currently pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. New Orwellian term for torture: “prosecution to include discovery practice”.

i. While in the continued custody of the United States, submit to interviews whenever and wherever requested by United States law enforcement officials, intelligence authorities, and prosecutors. I understand the requesting parties will notify my legal counsel of the interviews. However, I waive any right I may have to my attorneys being present for the interviews. I understand I must be completely truthful during these interviews. I also agree, while in U.S. custody, to appear, cooperate, and testify truly, before any grand jury. any court, military court or hearing, military commission or any other proceeding requested by the United States Government. He has to appear as a defense witness for the US, and if he tells the truth then, he will be convicted for his perjury now. He has to do this without legal advice, which he is also denied during “interviews”.

j. I agree and understand that if I am not truthful in any testimony I may provide, I may be prosecuted for perjury, false statement or other similar offense before any court or Military Commission having jurisdiction over me. See above.

His own defense was determined by the prosecution:

a. I will not seek to offer any testimony, in any form, from any detainee presently held at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay:
b. I will not seek to obtain any depositions to be offered at the presentencing hearing, nor will I offer any depositions at the presentencing hearing;
3 c. I will not seek to offer the testimony, either in court or via VTC of any witness, other than: (I) Dr. Katherine Porterfield: (2) Dr. Steven Xenakis. (3) Captain McCarthy; and (4) Dr. Arlette Zinck, all of whom the Government has agreed to produce at U.S. Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for sentencing. (understand that sentencing proceedings will not be delayed to if these witnesses are unavailable.)

h. … my transfer to Canada is contingent upon the consent of the Government of Canada … which is to say, it is dependent on what the US tells Canada to do.

Note: This article was a quick response to what was happening at the trial as it was being conducted. Since the trial, there have been many thoughtful articles written about the case which are well worth reading. A start:

The National Post – Tony Keller

The Star – Michelle Shephard

Andrea Prasow – senior counter-terrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch

The Miami Herald – Carol Rosenberg

21 thoughts on “Orwellian Circus: Khadr’s Trial

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Orwellian Circus: Khadr’s Trial | GeorgieBC's Blog -- Topsy.com

  2. Georgie, I’m still thinking through the full implications of that plea deal — as you say, they are awful, worse than they appear on the surface. I am NAL so I don’t know how much of that can be addressed in Canadian courts once Khadr gets back here, but I hope there are a few legal tall foreheads working on that problem already.

    You asked me about the different interrogators at Bagram. The two most notable ones are JOSHUA CLAUS and FBI agent Robert Fuller, both of whom have own entries in Wikipedia. CLAUS was called “Interrogator 1” at the military commission, even though his story was well known through the reporting of Toronto Star journo Michelle Shephard, who interviewed him over two years ago. But when some journos used his name (and they didn’t much) in reports, the Pentagon barred four of them from Gitmo until they apologized in the summer. (Story more complicated than that, but bare bones.) Without knowing that, I used his name in comments on an American blog before the DoD barred the reporters, and since then, everyone at that blog has been typing JOSHUA CLAUS in caps.

    Anyway, Claus was the first interrogator Khadr saw, when he was still on stretcher and stoned from anaesthetics. Claus told him the story about being sent back to the States to be raped to death by “big black guards.” Claus and several others have previously been convicted of beating to death the taxi driver Dilawar and one other at Bagram; for that, Claus received five months.

    On 7 Oct 2002 Robert Fuller of the FBI “interviewed” Omar about Maher Arar. Omar at first said he didn’t recognize Arar’s photo, but after repeated questioning, finally conceded he’d seen Arar at a Kabul safehouse. (The RCMP and CSIS have proved this is impossible.) That night in NYC, Arar was transferred to a plane that flew to Washington, thence to Jordan, where Arar was bundled off by car to Syria to be tortured.

    Fuller testified to Omar’s “testimony” against Arar, as though it were true, in spite of CSIS evidence, as late as 18 January 2009, two days before Obama’s inauguration, which ended that earlier military commission. When the commission was reconstituted last year, Fuller was not among the prosecution witnesses. Gosh. I wonder why.


  3. Thank you so much for all that skdadl! I am waiting to see who else they manage to get Khadr’s testimony against in the next year of solitary confinement.

    The trouble with tall legal foreheads, even if we have some that are interested and working, the politicians (and some lawyers, read the hashtag comments!) don’t seem to care at all about the law any more. It is possible they still care about voters … but the Canadian public is shocking me right now. Education required …


  4. Yes, I find it very hard to read the comments on some of the msm articles. It’s hard to judge who these people are or where they come from or why ordinary Canadians would be feeling such irrational hostility. I’m just not used to this, and I’m still clinging to the hope that the irrationality is Disneyish spillover from the U.S. But things may be worse than that. Pundits and lawyers seem to be smarter so far.


  5. ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ has become ‘Guilty because we can torture a confession out of anyone’. Back to medieval days.
    A malignant cancer has been steadily growing in the U.S. military and government that is destroying more and more innocent victims.


  6. The trial of Omar Khadr is an outstanding outrage, taking place at the same time as the Wikileaks Iraq War Logs reveal mountains of U.S. war crimes, but some kid who allegedly fought back against an invader is somehow a “war criminal.” Speer’s widow, as I have said elsewhere, is an extreme nut, perverse, twisted, psychotic, and deserving of no respect or sympathy from me.

    I look forward to Khadr’s long deserved freedom and hope to see him back in Canada soon.


  7. @Ray & Hassan Thank you for the comments. Here is a very interesting article that makes the case that this trial and Guantanamo prison are actually very real examples of the US justice system. Very frightening, and would explain why most people in the US are not at all shocked by it. I have read some sympathetic US media try to explain why a 15 year old was not to be prosecuted in war even though he would be eligible to be convicted to life without parole in civilian court. They did not understand that their civilian courts are also considered extremely harsh in international law.

    @Maximilian Forte Where have you written on this? A link would be great … This case is so twisted, there is so much more to it than the bit in this article. Like the torturer/interrogaters Skdadl mentioned, or the fact that Speer was referred to throughout the trial as a medic despite the fact that he was there in a combat position (he had once trained as a medic). And so much more. This case deserves a thorough updated documentary, combined with Arar’s case, and made widely available.


  8. Sorry about that Georgie–when I said I had made related comments elsewhere, it wasn’t in an article but rather in Twitter (where sometimes my most disgusted and angry comments go because I can’t see myself writing them anywhere else).


  9. Max, when Tabitha Speers began her testimony, I said I’d give her 24 hrs of respect (meaning my silence), and so I did, but she carried on, so the gloves are off for me too. We know that that kind of bigotry and sentimentality has a huge constituency in the U.S., though — among the military prosecutors and judges even, apparently.

    Georgie, you might want to add to your reference list Michelle Shephard’s book about Omar, Guantanamo’s Child, which is now two years old but has excellent background on everything that happened to Omar in those first years of his capture. He was certainly tortured at both Bagram and Guantanamo — those stories are well told there.

    Also, everyone should know about the amazing archive that Andy Worthington is building with the Guantanamo Files. He has excellent entries on Omar as well as every other GTMO prisoner he’s been able to track. Anyone who can help him with more information should keep that archive in mind.


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