Khadr’s Confession and the Lies We Tell

Omar Khadr’s confession makes me sad. Sad that we insisted on prosecuting a child soldier for defending himself. But also sad for the lies we included in his plea deal to prop up the government’s dubious stories about Khadr and detainees generally.

For example, can anyone explain to me how Khadr could be an alien unprivileged enemy belligerent under the Military Commissions Act in 2000 (the first action of Khadr’s referenced in the document) when the MCA was first signed in 2006 and we’ve changed even the category since that time?

Omar Khadr is an alien unprivileged enemy belligerent, as defined by the Military Commissions Act of 2009 (MCA). Omar Khadr is, and has been at all times relevant to these proceedings, a person subject to trial by military commission under Section 948c of the MCA.

Then there’s the Afghan deaths the government included in this confession to add to the conspiracy charges, which Daphne Eviatar has written about here.

But the one that bugs me the most is this claim, which includes the assertion that Derunta and Khaldan were al Qaeda camps.

While in Afghanistan, Ahmed Khadr and members of his family, including Omar Khadr, visited many al Qaeda training camps, to include the al Farook camp (where al Qaeda trained in small-arms, map-reading, orientation, explosives, and other training), the Derunta camp (where al Qaeda trained members in explosives and poisons), and the Khaldan camp (where al Qaeda trained members in light weapons, explosives, poisons, sabotage, target selection, urban warfare, and assassination tactics). Omar Khadr knew that these camps were operated by and associated with al Qaeda. Khadr provided U.S. officials with significant details regarding the operation of the training camps, including the fact that his father was responsible for providing financing for these camps, other al Qaeda sponsored camps, and other sponsored activities.

Now, presumably the government did this because the training it is suggested that Khadr got at Farooq–small arms and map reading–is the kind of thing you get a boy scout camp. They had to tie Derunta and Khaldan to al Qaeda to make Khadr’s training seem more militaristic, perhaps. But I can’t help but wonder whether they’ve also crafted this to serve as one piece of “evidence”–confirmation from the son of the financier–to use against other detainees who trained as mujahadeen, but not al Qaeda mujahadeen.

The government is just writing its own novel about Gitmo detainees and the war on terror now. But hey! At least they won’t have to go through the motions of trying a child soldier in a war court.

For more on this confession, see Michelle Shephard, who notes,

Khadr has made history as the first child soldier to be convicted for war crimes and the only captive the Pentagon has prosecuted for murder in the battlefield death of a U.S. service member in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

  1. harpie says:

    Well said, Marcy. And ain’t this the truth:

    The government is just writing its own novel about Gitmo detainees and the war on terror now. But hey! At least they won’t have to go through the motions of trying a child soldier in a war court.

  2. harpie says:

    From the linked Shephard article:

    The Toronto-born detainee has pleaded guilty to five war crimes including murder for the death of U.S. Delta Force soldier Christopher Speer.

    Five “war crimes”?

    • JamesJoyce says:

      Does anyone recall the movie “Red Dawn?” Imagine American high school children/students being charged as war criminals by invading forces for having the balls to fight someone who invaded and occupied, their country, their town? If not for the deaths involved, real life, this would be laughable! Torturing a child is not the work of professional soldiers. It is the work of sadistic sick mother fuckers. No, if, ands, or buts.

      If done in America it would be called child abuse, and the failure to report would be a violation of mandated reporting requirements to DSS or child welfare services. This sickening. Prosecute the real war criminals, American policy makers…………

  3. Sharkbabe says:

    So the official definition of “war crimes” is now “whatever an invasion/occupation regime pulls out of its ass to crush anyone opposed to it.”

    • ottogrendel says:

      Indeed. The very act of resistance is a crime. That is part of the message of this public display of vicious power.

  4. tjbs says:

    We sure aren’t who we think and say we are , are we?

    Did the Nazis stoop this low?

    This whole “War Of Terror” is such a kindergarten mentality save for the dead and tortured.

    God bless america, why ?

  5. donbacon says:

    The US gets to make up the rules when it prosecutes enemies.

    Noam Chomsky makes the point that war crimes are (1) what the US says they are and (2) by definition they don’t include what the US does. He illustrates the point with an anecdote from Nuremburg. A German submarine captain, charged with the war crime of sinking civilian ships, avoided prosecution by pointing out that the US did the same thing.

    Actually it’s gone further now as illustrated by the facts in this case, where one’s training is a factor in one’s badness and torture is no big deal.

    This now goes beyond just killing enemy (American) soldiers which is something the US is permitted to do (as well as any civilians in the area), but is proscribed for our enemies.

    • bmaz says:

      I will note that, unlike Speer’s ever so forward and demanding wife, there have been no trials that the murdered Iraqi’s and other civilians’ wives and falilies killed by her husband’s outfit could attend and demand justice for the crimes against their loved ones.

  6. tjbs says:

    Was he killed in New Mexico?

    Torture / Murder / Treason is what we’re talking about.

    4000 +americans dead while invading and occupying an innocent country, can you guess how many we murdered, tortured , tortured to death or tortured to death while asking a few questions ? ( skip the rapes and rape threats if you like)

  7. donbacon says:

    At least Omar got a “trial.” Many other ‘Omars,’ and people (especially women and children) who haven’t done a thing to the US have been imprisoned, tortured, killed, maimed, raped and/or displaced by the US. And Gitmo is just a small visible ‘tip of the iceberg’ of US prisons.

  8. edve says:

    The only thing missing in Amerika’s rush to become the most murderous country in history is the gulag’s and ovens…will not be long though…soon after the Tea Party idiots and the Repubs take back the false governance of the country, they will, along with the rest of the plutocracy, break out the machinery to grind all the dissenters and poor serfs into grist for the horror mill.

    This country has become soulless and degenerate to the point of insanity, and if the populace at large allows this to go on unchallenged, then may the karmic accounting for those deeds come full circle, and crush all of those who most deservedly need to be crushed!

  9. JamesJoyce says:

    “Omar Khadr is an alien unprivileged enemy belligerent, as defined by the Military Commissions Act of 2009 (MCA). Omar Khadr is, and has been at all times relevant to these proceedings, a person subject to trial by military commission under Section 948c of the MCA.”

    Legalese horse-shit!

    • JamesJoyce says:

      Who will be next……… Americans defined as “belligerents” by corporate America’s influence, because Americans oppose servitude to said corporations?

  10. WilliamOckham says:

    small arms and map reading–is the kind of thing you get a[t] boy scout camp

    This is quitely literally true. My twins (they are 11) just went to a “Troop Shoot” this weekend. They spent all day learning about guns and gun safety. Apparently, there was a 50 cal there too, but they didn’t get to shoot it (they sounded a bit disappointed).

    • WilliamOckham says:

      Btw, my point in mentioning that is that Omar Khadr really seems no different to me than my sons. How would I feel if al Qaeda decided that they were war criminals? Why should I feel any differently about my government deciding the Omar Khadr is a war criminal.

      • emptywheel says:

        I wouldn’t go that far. He clearly was acculturated in a dangerous, violent culture. But the day we make kids pay for their fathers’ sins is a dark one.

        • WilliamOckham says:

          My kids are different mostly (only?) because they didn’t grow up in a dangerous, violent culture. I haven’t seen any credible evidence that Khadr did anything different that what I would expect from any boy in his shoes.

          My kids are different from other kids in their school because we watch Olbermann and Maddow every night instead of Beck and O’Reilly. Kids are malleable.

          As a father, I’m outraged at what our government has done and is doing* to Omar Khadr. As a Christian, I’m sickened. As a human being, I’m just unspeakably sad.

          *The English language is missing a verb tense to convey the pre-existing and still ongoing nature of our actions.

    • JamesJoyce says:

      Many American can’t read maps, or shoot guns straight, hitting targets. They can’t walk and chew bubblegum at the same time. They drink diet soda thinking it will make them weigh less, while they gain more weight. But when it comes to paying a tax, they scream murder, while they waste .80 cents of every dollar they have ever spent on gas. Go figure William? Is your razor sharp these days?

  11. willaimbennet says:

    “alien unprivileged enemy belligerent.”

    I just can’t stop reading it.

    The key to defining reality is controlling the language. credit default swap…underprivileged enemy non-combatants… homeland security.

    “Water landing sounds dangerously close to “crashing into the fucking ocean!” to me.
    -George Carlin

    • harpie says:

      [can’t help but go back on my promise. sorry]

      “When I use a word”, Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.”

      “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

      “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master-that’s all.”

    • bmaz says:

      That is pretty rude and demanding for someone who receives the content here completely free. The tech department has busted their butts nearly 24 hours a day with little sleep or thanks, doing incredibly hard retooling and recoding across the very wide FDL platform of blogs, so that things could be as seamless as they have been. It has been less than three freaking days and, yes, there are still a few kinks being worked out. Chill out and be patient instead of a demanding ingrate.

      • JamesJoyce says:

        “Demanding ingrate?” I’m sorry you feel this way. Obviously you know nothing, about me. Bmaz, you are never wrong, except on this one. My frustration at not being able to edit and correct errors contained in my comments does not deserve being called a “demanding ingrate?” Keep up the good work. It is appreciated in spite of your, “cheap shot.”

        • bmaz says:

          Am sorry, it is not just you, there has been more than a little of this. And trust me, I am wrong all the time; it is the one thing I am rather consistent at (if you want proof, just ask my wife). Peace.

  12. Rayne says:

    Khadr’s confession is simply not acceptable.

    If he’s a Canadian citizen, he was not legally able to affirm a decision to be a soldier. Canada’s age of majority is 18, just as it is in the U.S.

    It’s a joke that this so-called confession was accepted for this reason.

  13. arctor says:

    American Exceptionalism, no doubt! Or to paraphrase Obama: “We are the people we have been waiting for! ( i.e. just another bunch of self-indulging and self-justifying predators!)

  14. harpie says:

    From the Jeff Kaye article I linked to @28

    By the use of terms such as “elemental intolerance”, Dr. Welner exposes his bias and political animus towards Mr. Khadr. It carries the same whiff of fanaticism as the statements of former Chief of Neuropsychiatry at Guantanamo Bay, Dr. William Anderson, who wrote that Islamic “hard-core zealots” had “brains that are structurally and functionally different from us,” and that 100,000 “zealots” within the Muslim body politic would have to be eliminated, the way “malignant [cancer] cells” are removed from a healthy body.

  15. Mary says:

    See, now they have this “confession” to help prove that Zubaydah was “operational” al-Qaeda after all, since he was working for an “al-Qaeda” training camp – and it helps gloss over the conspiracies to torture and reach “final solutions” for al-Libi and Zubaydah both.

  16. Jeff Kaye says:

    So many have made the main points, I have only a few others, somewhat scattered, after reviewing much of the material:

    1) The primary issues surrounding the illegitimacy of the charges have been summarized by Marcy and Andy Worthington in their two postings.

    2) The issue of trying a minor as a war criminal (where else would that happen but in a kangaroo court?) could be fleshed out more. Most rely on the existence of international norms against doing so. I would like to add in the more psychological components, as the Supreme Court did not too long ago in Roper v. Simmons, the case that ended the death penalty for anyone under age 18. Compare the majority opinion re “the diminished culpability of juveniles” quoted here with the government stipulation about Omar Khadr’s knowing identification with Al Qaeda.

    Three general differences between juveniles under 18 and adults demonstrate that juvenile offenders cannot with reliability be classified among the worst offenders. First, as any parent knows and as the scientific and sociological studies respondent and his amici cite tend to confirm, “[a] lack of maturity and an underdeveloped sense of responsibility are found in youth more often than in adults and are more understandable among the young. These qualities often result in impetuous and ill-considered actions and decisions.” Johnson, supra, at 367; see also Eddings, supra, at 115—116 (“Even the normal 16-year-old customarily lacks the maturity of an adult”). It has been noted that “adolescents are overrepresented statistically in virtually every category of reckless behavior.” Arnett, Reckless Behavior in Adolescence: A Developmental Perspective, 12 Developmental Review 339 (1992). In recognition of the comparative immaturity and irresponsibility of juveniles, almost every State prohibits those under 18 years of age from voting, serving on juries, or marrying without parental consent. See Appendixes B—D, infra.

    The second area of difference is that juveniles are more vulnerable or susceptible to negative influences and outside pressures, including peer pressure. Eddings, supra, at 115 (“[Y]outh is more than a chronological fact. It is a time and condition of life when a person may be most susceptible to influence and to psychological damage”). This is explained in part by the prevailing circumstance that juveniles have less control, or less experience with control, over their own environment. See Steinberg & Scott, Less Guilty by Reason of Adolescence: Developmental Immaturity, Diminished Responsibility, and the Juvenile Death Penalty, 58 Am. Psychologist 1009, 1014 (2003) (hereinafter Steinberg & Scott) (“[A]s legal minors, [juveniles] lack the freedom that adults have to extricate themselves from a criminogenic setting”).

    The third broad difference is that the character of a juvenile is not as well formed as that of an adult. The personality traits of juveniles are more transitory, less fixed. See generally E. Erikson, Identity: Youth and Crisis (1968).

    These differences render suspect any conclusion that a juvenile falls among the worst offenders.

    3) A bit off the subject but an interesting finding (for me, anyway), was to find in Judge Parrish’s suppression decision a statement that indicates that stress positions are understood by military interrogators to be connected to the “Fear Up” technique.

    Interrogator #1 was the lead interrogator for the accused while the accused was at the Bagram detention center. He interrogated the accused 20-25 times….. He used a ‘Fear Up’ technique as a last resort with the accused. It is a technique used to attempt to raise the fear level of the detainee…. The ‘Fear Up’ technique included the use of stress positions on detainees who were healthy enough to endure that technique. Interrogator #1 never used the stress position technique on the accused.

    Evidently, Col. Parrish forgot to mention that the Army Field Manual expresses serious caution regarding the use of “Fear Up”. In the 1992 version of the Army Field Manual that preceded the 2006 revision (the one with Appendix M), the manual had a strong warning that the use of Fear Up “has the greatest potential to violate the law of war.”

    Matthew Alexander, himself a former interrogator, was the one who pointed out to me that the current AFM had no prohibition of stress positions, and thus, he inferred they still continue as part of at least Appendix M interrogations. With Col. Parrish’s suppression denial decision, we learn now where this technique hides. It is considered part of the Fear Up technique.

    4) The question of how Omar Khadr got to the compound where he would later experience the firefight, and perhaps participate (although his family is clear he was sent only as a translator), is an interesting one because it involves, as the stipulation notes, the appearance of “Sheikh Abu Leith al-Libi, a senior LIFG and al Qaeda military commander.” Somehow, Sheikh al-Libi was to absent himself from this firefight, only to be killed as one of the numerous ostensible number threes of Al Qaeda by CIA airstrike in January 2008.

    Al-Libi was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) which the stipulation document noted, with some strained language, “is a designated terrorist organization and was associated with Al Qaeda at the time of Omar Khadr’s offenses. “Is?” “Was?” In fact, the LIFG was not considered a terrorist organization prior to 9/11, and according to numerous accounts in the British Press (based on a document leak and the testimony of ex-MI5 agent David Shayler, had received British funds and arms in an attempt to overthrow Libyan leader Colonel Moammar al-Qadhafi.

    Besides Abu Leith al-Libi, another leader of LIFG was Anas Al-Libi, who worked closely with the dubious Ali Mohamed (who worked closely with portions of the U.S. government and military, as a double or triple agent, no one can be sure). It was a raid on Anas Al-Libi’s house that brought us the famous Manchester document, otherwise known as the Al Qaeda manual, including its interrogation component.

    Omar Khadr’s link to Sheikh al-Libi isn’t necessarily sinister or anything more than it seems (apparently, Omar’s father was later furious with al-Libi for endangering his son), but it does point to some strange connections. You can’t probe too closely on any of these affairs and not find something nefarious; in this case, the Judge’s reticence to notice that the man who brought Omar Khadr to the compound in 2002 was only a few years before a paid coup plotter, if not assassin, for the British government. And Omar Khadr showed poor judgment?

    —— Khadr’s case is one of the more egregious of countless cases of torture, false imprisonment, kidnapping and murder by the U.S. government. The fact this was done to someone who would not even have been tried in an adult court in most of the United States only adds to the special nature of the Khadr case. It speaks personally to many, and says, this is a vulnerable human being. This person should not be used as a piece of propaganda. His fate dehumanizes all of us.

      • Jeff Kaye says:

        Well, harpie, the hell of it is that we all have a little less humanity in us today than we had yesterday. That’s what state crimes do. They implicate us all as citizens (even if powerless) of the state, and drain us of our humanity.

        Such an amalgam of lies, half-truths, and tortured logic (not to mention the covered up crimes) I have not seen in a long time. Upon a child’s suffering the state builds its edifice of ongoing war. I like Mary’s comment @39. Yes, another piece of the bizarre jigzaw, where one piece of the puzzle from 2010 is sent back in time to justify torture in 2002. Like an episode of Quantum Leap, if the episode were written by a sociopath.

  17. harpie says:

    *Psychiatrist Welner is wrapping up for night with “Radical jihadism is not a mental disorder… It’s a passion.” But he’ll be back tomorrow.

    …and we’re all waiting with baited breath for the next thrilling installment, I’m sure.

  18. JamesJoyce says:

    Bmaz, do “demanding ingrates” utilize the term “please,” when demanding something? I do not think so. Most “ingrates” just want what they want, because they want what they want! “Fix this edit button issue please or get rid of this format!” I’m sure people “thought” it. I simply commented on what I and I’m sure others where thinking. Did not mean to upset you or anybody else! It sure is a lot of work.

    • bmaz says:

      As I said, I reacted too strongly; it was not you so much as a cumulative deal that kind of bugged me because I know how hard these folks have been working. No worries.

  19. ottogrendel says:

    “first child soldier to be convicted . . .”

    When the US and Somalia are the only member states of the United Nations that have refused to sign the Convention on the Rights of the Child, what should be expected? The Khadr case is an expression of pure, ugly, unchecked power. From the perspective of this power, if it has rendered people who resist imperial force non-entities by the “legal” manipulation of classifying them as “enemy combatants,” whether or not the invented “other” is a child is irrelevant. Hell, according to this dynamic they are not even human.

  20. tjbs says:

    I say before you bitch check your checkbook. The last time a check was donated to the lake was when ? Should we kick in extra for these change artists ?

    Are we $upporting these changes or are we just bitching, because?

    Next time we want to gripe donate to provide to provide more man hours to see what we would like done done.

    Peace now would be nice.

    • Rayne says:

      Thank you for that support. This was a very big rollout. Having done a number of these for nonprofits and enterprise environments, I can tell you this was pretty complex.