kevin brooker: who is the terrorist? omar khadr, or... ?

In June, I posted an excellent piece in support of US war resisters in Canada by Kevin Brooker, a Calgary Herald columnist.

Mr Brooker is again a voice for reason and justice, this time in support of Canadian Omar Khadr - and against Canadian involvement in Afghanistan.
So, who is the terrorist here?
Kevin Brooker, Calgary Herald

Upon the release last week of a video showing him suffer through a harsh interrogation, there came a welter of voices both for and against letting Omar Khadr continue to rot in Guantanamo.

Yet, every voice that I heard overlooked the most important issue of all.

Granted, there is much now to be said about Canada's quiet complicity in enforcing Gitmo's legal twilight zone. Perhaps one could argue that Khadr should be tried by a Canadian court rather than a U.S. military tribunal. And maybe the question of whether his family should have been granted Canadian citizenship in the first place is grounds for a fruitful discussion.

But that's all just chat about a horse that has already left the barn. The real issue is why it left the barn at all, and the answer is: because someone broke in, shot the joint up, and stole a whole bunch of horses.

Now, we're never going to know enough about that fateful day in July of 2002 near the town of Khost, Afghanistan. But the broad outline is this: U.S. Special Forces, having set up their headquarters in an abandoned former Soviet army base, sent a patrol into the countryside to where they believed Taliban forces had captured and were using an American satellite phone.

When they reached a compound containing several mud huts, they sent two Afghan translators forward, but the pair was immediately shot dead from within. What then ensued was a chaotic firefight in which shrapnel from a grenade claimed the life of Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer, an elite Delta Force soldier.

Fifteen-year-old Omar Khadr was rounded up that day along with others to join the faceless and forgotten of Guantanamo Bay. It would be years before any official charges were brought, but among them, Khadr is now accused of murder and conspiracy for having thrown that grenade.

So why was Omar Khadr there in the first place?

Family tradition, apparently. A CBC timeline of the Khadr saga states that Omar's father, Ahmed Said Khadr, first went to Afghanistan in 1980 as a volunteer soldier to fight against invading Soviet forces. He is said to have befriended Osama bin Laden (who, it should never be forgotten, was a pawn of the U.S. and thus a "good guy" at the time).

But let us consider the Afghan peasant's perspective. One of the most sophisticated killing machines in the history of mankind invades the country you love and would die to protect -- again. Foreign troops literally take over the address of your previous attacker. When these futuristic super-soldiers step to you with guns pointed, what do you do?

You fight back. Where's the crime in that?

Whatever we, in our comfortable Western homes, may believe about the legitimacy of the Taliban rule in Afghanistan, it was nevertheless a sovereign state in 2002. To my knowledge there was never a judicial finding of fact about bin Laden's culpability in 9/11, or indeed, about his presence in Afghanistan at the time. There was only a torrent of Pentagon hearsay followed by a mass invasion, guns blazing.

Afghans will never see this conflict the way we do -- or rather, the way we're told to see it. They don't watch CNN. They don't read the Times of London. They live in mud huts and repel invaders. That's what they do.

As for the Khadrs, one would think that if you're going to be dubbed "Canada's first family of terrorism," you would have been convicted of at least one act of terrorism somewhere along the way.

But no.

The definition of terrorist is when we say, "You're a terrorist."

It's like the Iraqi who dares -- or is even believed to be tempted -- to take a potshot at foreign invaders busting up his world. Terrorist.

By the way, Khadr himself was shot three times and lost the sight in one eye. Who does he get to sue?

Now Chief of the Defence Staff Walter Natynczyk - backpedaling from earlier statements that everything was hunky-dory - acknowledges that the situation in Afghanistan is getting worse. So what does he want? More troops, of course!

Canada doesn't belong in Afghanistan. This is not peacekeeping. This is escalation and occupation.

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