A Commentary by Desmond Sequeira, Multi-Faith Chaplain (Rtd.), Government of Ontario, and a resident of St. Catharines, Ontario
Posted July 13th, 2017 on Niagara At Large
Along with millions of other Canadians, I fully support the Government decision to apologize to and compensate Omar Khadr for the callous injustices inflicted on him by successive governments of Canada, purportedly representing Canadians including me.
Persons seeking the truth would do well to visit the details of the “firefight” that started all this ( https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2017/07/10/omar-khadr-fact-check-paints-a-clearer-picture-of-the-case-and-the-incident-underlying-it.html ) Just don’t ask Jason Kenney for the facts of that firefight!
The subsequent events are now well known. Most significantly, none other than the Supreme Court of Canada has pretty much declared the whole U.S. Guantanamo Bay judicial process in which Canadian investigative agencies were fully complicit to be nothing short of a kangaroo process.
Speaking as someone who is no automatic supporter of any political party, I believe that many politicians of the Conservative Party, led by the new leader, Andrew Scheer, have chosen to respond with s(c)heer opportunism in the hope of scoring brownie points. Mr Scheer’s comments were preceded by those of others, including the likes of Mr. Tony Clement and Mr. Jason Kenney, in the same vein.
As such they show that nothing has changed in the Party of Stephen Harper who also chose to comment. To use Mr. Scheer’s sneering words, it is they, and not the Government of Canada, who are all “wrong”, “disgusting” and “mean-spirited”, nothing new here. I am disappointed in Mr. Scheer.
Particularly despicable is the disposition of those who have chosen to make a travesty of tragedy, by resorting to sordid emotional coercion, claiming that in order to show his integrity Omar Khadr should hand over his award to the family of the US soldier whom he is alleged to have killed and to another soldier whom he is alleged to have injured when at age fifteen the small group he was with was surrounded and intruded on by US Delta Force soldiers.
I wish to make it clear that my heart aches for the family of Sgt. Chris Speer, the soldier killed allegedly by a hand grenade thrown by Omar Khadr and also for Sgt. Layne Morris, the soldier who was injured in the same violent altercation. I too have recently lost my precious spouse way too soon.
Having recognized this tragic situation, would it not be fair to consider also the bitter grief of the hundreds, even thousands, of non- US persons whose spouses or/and parents, many of them civilians, have been killed by US soldiers? How many, if any, of these grieving persons have remotely had the luxury to sue the said soldiers who have killed their loved ones or even to sue the US government?
When will we recognize that we suffer from a disease I call “Moral Warp” that justifies acts of killing by “one of us” but reflexively decides that any acts of killing by “one of them”, often even in the same combat in which we are trying to kill them, to be unforgivable crimes for which we must exact our dues. How dare they not allow us to kill them! Rather, how pathetically and chronically presumptuous can we insist on being?
As ever, for no decent reason, a US or Western life is really valuable but other lives are entirely expendable.
Some salient points with regard to this fiasco:
- In my opinion, in any other theatre of war/combat, not involving the USA or other western nations, the very self-righteous politicians mentioned above and others would be the first to recognize that Omar Khadr was but a child who from his earliest infancy had been brain-washed, probably even beaten, into a cause he very poorly understood and subsequently found himself in a place he had no real choice about.
- The people who would condemn Khadr appear to completely discount the fact that he himself was severely injured, including by being shot in the back twice, by US forces in the very combat initiated by them in which he is accused of causing death and injury, not they. In fact a US soldier directly involved could not believe that Khadr was still alive after the overwhelming damage they had inflicted on his small group of relatively unarmed persons. Along with all the people who were killed by US fighters that fateful day, Khadr was so severely injured that he actually begged to be killed as well. Initially, he also had been assumed dead. In addition to other terrible bodily damage, he was blinded in one eye and is expected to lose sight in the other from shrapnel that is still lodged in it.
- Khadr was subsequently brutally abused, tortured and dehumanized while in custody in order to extract confessions from him, for more than ten years. He is still being blackmailed to forego his compensation by self-righteous or grievously misled individuals masquerading as moral scions.
- Because Khadr did not die from every attempt to kill him it now behooves him to pay those who directly or whose family member tried to do so, on the flimsy allegation that he killed and injured his would-be killers? What garbage is that, Mr. Scheer, Leader of the Opposition?
Omar Khadr has lost 15 most precious years of his life. He seriously risks being ostracized for the rest of it while remaining mostly blind, in addition to still nursing other physical damage. His psychological scars will also be permanent. Having had his rights denied him, he was wrongly convicted. The apology he received was way overdue. The financial compensation was way too small. I am a Canadian tax payer too.
The Government of Canada has finally done the right thing even if it is not right enough! In doing so it has righted a wrong on behalf of all Canadians.
Final questions to Andrew Scheer, Tony Clement, Jason Kenny, Stephen Harper, etc: Instead of Omar Khadr, if it was your son in this situation, what would you have said and done? How would you have liked Canadians to respond?
Desmond Sequeira is a St. Catharines/Niagara, Ontario resident, a retired Multi-Faith Chaplain for the Government of Ontario and, formerly, a Jesuit missionary in Guyana, South America. He remains a member of the Unitarian Congregation of Niagara andserves as the coordinator of its Social Action Team. “My consuming concern, he says, is Systemic Social Justice, local, national and international.”
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