Ten Million Dollar Khadr Award Latest Cost of Canada's “Tagalong” Foreign Policy

Ten Million Dollar Khadr Award Latest Cost of Canada's “Tagalong” Foreign Policy

As published in the Victoria Standard: August 2, 2017

Hopefully, the ten million dollar Khadr award will provoke Canadians to demand greater transparency regarding our government's willingness to “tagalong” on U.S. military misadventures. Unfortunately, outrage over Khadr’s award serves mainly as a public distraction from the dubious legality of his imprisonment and prosecution by a U.S. administration unconcerned with trivial matters like the Geneva Convention or international law.

Public attempts to link Khadr’s award with substandard veteran’s care are a weak tactic since the federal government was short-changing veterans long before Omar Khadr was born. Like previous torture award recipient and Canadian citizen Maher Arar; Khadr was abandoned by his own government to please the bullies in Washington. Unfortunately, Khadr may be the last Canadian spirited off to a U.S. black prison.

It’s easy to dismiss Omar Khadr as a terrorist and a war criminal if you faithfully subscribe to official history and the simplistic Cold War narrative we’ve been fed since 1945. Since we always seem to need an enemy, our former nemesis; Soviet Communism, has been replaced by the bogeyman of global Islamic terror. Accepting this trickery is easier and more comforting than acknowledging Canada’s support role in the United States’ permanent campaign to make the world safe for major corporations like Exxon and Haliburton. The case can be made that Canada sent troops to Afghanistan and quietly supported the U.S. occupation of Iraq to demonstrate support for American control of regional petroleum resources. All the bold talk of democracy-building was nonsense and Canadian soldiers paid the price in blood.

Undoubtedly, Khadr’s critics would applaud those Israeli/Canadian dual nationals who exploit a legal loophole in the 1985 Foreign Enlistment Act to join the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and stomp around the West Bank. This territory, along with the Gaza Strip and Golan Heights were seized by Israeli during its cynical 1967 pre-emptive attack on Egypt, Jordan and Syria. These so-called Lone Soldiers serve in many IDF formations, including elite combat units whose members continue to reject their commander’s callous attitude to Palestinian civilian casualties and refuse to serve in the Occupied Territories. Organized repression of an indigenous population by an occupying power is the definition of state terrorism, a policy generously subsidized by Canadian tax legislation.

I don’t dispute the notion that fifteen year old Omar Khadr made a poor choice in traveling to Afghanistan and taking up arms against NATO forces. He was negatively-influenced by his father and left Canada with at least some awareness of the possible consequences. On the other hand, it seems no nation, including the U.S. or its NATO “partners”, have learned history’s dire lessons about invading Afghanistan. Khadr merely joined the thousands of young Muslims before him who had travelled to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets and later NATO. His misguided behaviour was little different from that of Victorian-era Canadians’ rallying to defend the brutal racism of the British Empire in South Africa. However, labelling and prosecuting him as a war criminal was both excessive and unfair; considering the scope and circumstances of his so-called crimes.

According to many pundits, Omar Khadr is worthy of lingering persecution for killing an American Special Forces medic. To be clear, the so-called "medic" reportedly killed by Khadr's grenade was an elite Green Beret commando who just happened to be his team’s medical technician. Therefore, he was equally adept with a dagger or a battle-dressing. While Sergeant Speer’s death is tragic, it is doubtful that we will ever know the identities of even a fraction of the thousands of Afghan civilians killed during the NATO invasion and occupation of that nation. Beyond that, the Reagan-era warlords who empowered Islamic extremism in the late 1970s - 80s have yet to be held accountable as war criminals for the awful consequences of their blinkered ideology. Al Queda and ISIS did not emerge fully-formed from an old lamp; although news reports create that impression.

Were the WWII Nuremberg standards applied to Barak Obama, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfelt they would likely be hanged since they all participated in planning and waging an insidious campaign of aggressive war. Many low-ranking U.S. soldiers have been prosecuted for the the Abu Graib atrocities while their political leadership remains unpunished. As well, Canada’s role in transferring Taliban “suspects” to U.S. and Afghan police custody has yet to be fully investigated. Many of these detainees turned out to be innocents denounced by other Afghans for financial reward. The situation was the same in Iraq and the bounty system has long been a feature of colonial occupation policy.

Not surprisingly, the United States has used its massive power to ensure that American military forces are safe from prosecution by the International War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague. They claim this exemption is necessary to protect the world’s only superpower from “frivolous and vexatious” accusations leveled by those who seek to undermine America’s global missions of mercy and emancipation.

The only Canadians who benefit from the ongoing misrepresentation of Khadr’s Afghanistan episode are lawyers, corporate pundits and opposition Conservatives pandering to diehard supporters. As well, we do ourselves a grave disservice by ignoring the arrogant conduct of our mighty neighbour. Since the American government claims to represent honor and the rule of law, perhaps our government should take a closer look at America’s more cynical motives when considering participation in their foreign misadventures. On the other hand, Canada’s power brokers may consider a ten million dollar per decade penalty an acceptable cost of doing business American-style.