Guantanamo “Child” Soldier: Victim – Or Second-Gen Terrorist?

Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen by birth, second generation al Qaeda terrorist by training and inclination, was picked up off an Afghan battlefield. Since 2002 he has been held in Guantanamo, the youngest man there, charged with several acts of war crimes including throwing a hand grenade that mortally wounded Delta Force’s SFC Christopher Speer. A fighting medic, Speer had run into a minefield two days prior to his wounding to rescue two Afghani children caught among the deadly devices.

Khadr, because of Canadian and US activists primarily, has received largely sympathetic media coverage. He has been variously portrayed as an innocent caught up in events, as too juvenile to have made rational decisions about his alleged terrorist activities, and as a victim of a heartless US military. In fact, Khadr is none of those.

The saga of Omar Khadr is detailed and documented in my book Inside Gitmo. He comes from Toronto’s notorious fanatical Muslim community, the son and brother of terrorists killed on the battlefield. Others in his family have been charged with acts supporting terrorism. Khadr was especially trained by high-level al Qaeda operatives after his father moved them to Afghanistan. He is said to have received high marks for precociousness in regard to his adept learning skills in deadly arts.

Now Khadr is in the process of being tried by Military Commission at Guantanamo for his actions and apologists are stretching for excuses to absolve him of personal responsibility. In an LA Times article, outspoken Guantanamo opponent Carol Williams, frets about Khadr’s age and status. Williams quotes Diane Marie Amann, a UC Davis law professor: “…children caught up in combat are to be protected, not prosecuted.” Williams urges that Khadr ought to be treated as if he were a hapless child. “Underage combatants should be treated as victims, not responsible adults who made conscious decisions to join the fight.”

That case can be made for children torn from families in Uganda and elsewhere who are brutalized and forced to fight. (See articles on Child Soldiers on the Inside Gitmo site.) But there is no convenient one-size-fits-all measurement when dealing with terrorist and gang movements. Some youths barely into their teens make conscious decisions to commit heinous acts and must be held accountable. Some are victims; others are acting by choice.

It is not appropriate, as we see in Khadr’s case, to toss the umbrella of protection automatically over his head.

Acts by human beings require individual evaluation. It is common – indeed quite usual – in this country to hold juveniles accountable for their actions, although in more than a few instances the savvy teens use built-in sympathies to game the court and the system. Each case requires examination, evaluation, and ultimately a decision as to how it will be handled. As I write this, an 8-year old boy in Texas may be charged as an adult with first degree murder.

As Inside Gitmo readers will learn, Khadr’s case is unique in many aspects, but his involvement in terrorism is not in question. He was not abducted but indoctrinated into al Qaeda’s ranks, and in his case the apple did not fall far from the tree.

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2 Responses to “Guantanamo “Child” Soldier: Victim – Or Second-Gen Terrorist?”

  1. sysoptions Says:

    Bleeding hearts are bleeding hearts. The one thing that has never sunk into their brains is that you can never give in to people like this. I am sure the ACLU will not see things my way. But WT@. I do not care if they do.
    Take the Israeli people. They are expected to live with daily attacks by Hamas. Israel gave back Gaza in 2005 for peace. Hamas did nothing but up the attacks. In 2008 a cease fire was brokered by Egypt for 6 months that Hamas violated almost from day one of the cease fire. Hamas refused to renew the cease fire and raised the number on attacks on Israel. Now that the Israeli IDF is fighting back all of the Arab countries, the UNlesses and Europe are calling for Israel to back down. OMG. I am sure the people of Gaza can find a lawyer here is the US or maybe Canada.

  2. brat Says:

    Thank you for this piece on Khadr. Everything I have read – and that is in the public domain – proves exactly what you are saying here, but of course that doesn’t fit with the agenda of those trying to free him. I have heard so many interviews of those trying to paint him as an innocent in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nonsense of course.

    I plan on doing my own column about him, and have been collecting pieces to that end. I will add this to my collection.

    Thank you…

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