Omar Khadr first to face trial for war crimes under Obama

Shame on Harper, shame on Obama and shame on us all. The Toronto Star reports today that "this week the first war crimes trial under the Obama administration will feature its only remaining Western prisoner and one who was 15 when captured." 

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and the rest of the warmongers from the former administration were left to walk free, as Obama told the world to "look forward, not backward." Apparently we only "look backward" — how on earth would any law ever been enforced without looking back? — at the actions of child soldiers. Some in Washington, D.C. even seem to grasp how absurd this all looks, as the Star reports:

"As the historic first test of the amended military laws, some have made comparisons to the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders, but experts scoff.

‘It’s actually in no way like Nuremberg," said Eugene Fidell, a professor of military law at Yale.

‘This case doesn’t involve the leader of the opposing force, it’s not the head of the Taliban, it’s not the head of Al Qaeda. It’s small fries. If anything it’s like the follow-on trials that were held in (Nuremberg) Germany after World War II – if that.’

Even so, the political optics of having Khadr as the star of a showcase trial has some in Washington uncomfortable. Or as one high-ranking official in the administration who spoke to the Star on the condition of anonymity said: ‘Let’s just say it has many people scratching their heads.’"

The article goes on to assert the following about Canadian public opinion on this matter:

"Polls show the country roughly split between calling for his repatriation and leaving him to face justice in the U.S. Over the years, an increasing number of Canadians have expressed concern at the trial delays, or issues surrounding Khadr’s age at the time of his capture – but the shift has been slight."

Now, the mainstream media deserves some of the blame for the fact that this case did not generate more outrage and mobilization. But I also believe that social movements and human rights organizations did not do enough to raise the profile of Omar Khadr’s plight, and that’s why I say shame on us all.

Not to say that that there weren’t valiant efforts by Lawyers Against War, Amnesty International, the BC Civil Liberties Association and others in the peace and social justice movements across the country. It’s just that so much more needed to be done to press for repatriation.

As for the upcoming trial itself, the Globe and Mail has an interview with one of Khadr’s civilian attorneys, Nathan Whitling. Here’s what he says about why this trial is going ahead:

"President Obama has failed to make good on his own promises to close Guantanamo Bay or to fix the unfair military commission system. Powerful interests, including some in the Pentagon, are gung-ho on obtaining whatever convictions they possibly can – even if it’s just a wrongly accused child soldier. To date, President Obama has lacked the courage and leadership to stop them."

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