In 2002, a 15-year-old Canadian boy, Omar Khadr, committed the crime of being discovered alive in an Afghanistan building that had been attacked by American troops.
The compound was thought to be an al-Qaida base, and likely was, because a firefight broke out when the soldiers attacked.
One of the last to die was Christopher Speer, a young soldier with dreams of becoming a doctor, until a grenade ended his life.
Omar Khadr, the child of fanatical parents, has been charged with killing Christopher Speer by tossing the grenade, although Khadr had been shot in the back, twice, already, and was near death.
The sole evidence against him is that he survived the attack.
It’s also been learned that an American soldier admitted he tossed a grenade into the building at the end of the firefight, about the time Speer entered on the other side.
Khadr was patched up, miraculously surviving his wounds, and shipped off to Guantanamo, the legendary prison camp which has done so much to destroy the reputation of the United States.
Remember, this was a 15-year-old boy.
It’s against international law to imprison child soldiers, who are usually brainwashed and tortured and forced to fight.
If they come from Africa and survive we celebrate them and buy their books.
If they come from Afghanistan, the Americans lock them up and torture them, and our spineless toadies in Ottawa are the only Western government that has not asked for its own nationals back.
Omar Khadr might turn out to be as creepy as his mother and father. If so, he’s still our creep, and it’s our task to deal with him using our laws.
The poem under the statue of Liberty in New York says: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free….” Perhaps it should say “…then we will imprison them, torture them, and try them in kangaroo courts.”
O America, you were once the hope of the world!
After six years, more prisoners at Guantanamo have committed suicide than been found guilty in a trial. So far only one trial has achieved a guilty verdict, and that was an Australian who pleaded guilty so he could be sent home and released early.
America is the sole regime in the world that publicly advocates torture.
Even the most notorious governments like China and Israel at least have the intelligence to denounce torture (while concealing their practices behind locked doors).
This is why American Justice department officials have twisted both logic and language to justify their practices by mumbling on about the Geneva Convention being out of date, and “quaint.”
This has led to impressive euphemisms for torture. Some of them would be amusing if they didn’t involve such brutality.
Take waterboarding. It sounds like what surfers do in California on the weekends. It was also used by Japanese prison camp commanders who were hung at the end of the Second World War for their war crimes — torturing British, Australian, American, and Chinese prisoners.
International law’s legal term for this despicable practice is “interrupted drowning.” It’s when you drown someone, and just before they die, pull them back out, and then do it again, and again, and again … for years, in some cases.
This is probably why there have been 34 suicide attempts and 350 incidents of “self-harm” at Guantanamo.
Four have been successful.
This angered their American captors who declared these suicides “asymmetrical warfare.”
Another official remarked that the suicides were “a good public relations move.”
Over the years, a few victims of Guantanamo have taken to hunger striking. This means they get a feeding tube jammed down their noses several times a day, often without lubrication, sometimes with the blood still on it from the last victim.
The prisoners are inspected every three minutes. Their lights have never been turned off. They are given nightshades so they can theoretically sleep in the bright light. The majority are kept in solitary confinement 22 hours a day.
Of the 280 men remaining at Guantanamo even the American government has admitted 70 are “no longer a threat.”
Imagine surviving six years in such a prison, finally having your name cleared, yet you’re still kept prisoner because they have nowhere to ship you where you won’t be tortured again.
It was originally said these prisoners were the “worst of the worst.”
The New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, rechristened them “the unluckiest of the unluckiest.”
To counter the bad press the Bush administration ratcheted up the language offensive, inventing another batch of innovative terms for torture: This is how we ended up with “enhanced coercive interrogation techniques” and “sleep management” (deprivation), and “stress position” (shackled to a wall with your feet off the ground).
I’m not making this up.
Secret prisons are called “black sites.” And illegal kidnappings are known as “extraordinary renditions.”
Khadr, we are informed, is not a prisoner, he’s a detainee. And he’s definitely not a prisoner of war because he’s an “illegal combatant.’
And he doesn’t have to worry about those fancily named interrogation sessions any more.
Now, they are simply called “reservations.”
If you watch American presidential candidate, John McCain, you’ll notice he walks and moves gimpily. He continues suffering the after-effects of being tortured in Vietnam 40 years ago. That’s why he fought so hard for laws to prevent torture.
He also knows that the more we continue to behave like this, the sooner we’ll be seeing more videos of Americans and Canadians being tortured in jihadist prison cells.
Guantanamo has earned America the revulsion of the world.
This story has been going on so long it’s almost become old news, yet our unforgivable government has been one of the few not to express its disgust at the American gulag.
The elected administrations of both the US and Canada have demonstrated how fragile our democracy is, how quickly human rights can become no rights at all, and how easily we all accept it.
Brian Brett, poet, journalist, novelist, lives on Salt Spring Island and returns to the Yukon whenever he can. His most recent book of poetry and prose is Uproar’s Your Only Music.