Omar Khadr: “terrorist,” “murderer,” none of the above

The Liberal government stirred a flurry of emotion with last week’s announcement that Canada will settle a civil suit and pay $10.5-million in compensation to Omar Khadr.

Those firmly in the anti-Khadr camp howled with indignation that the payment is in essence a reward to a “terrorist.”

To back up their argument, they point to the fact that Khadr confessed to throwing a grenade which killed U.S. soldier Christopher Speer and wounded another American infantryman. This makes Khadr a “murderer” in the eyes of his detractors.

The terms “terrorist” and “murderer” are indeed provocative, but in the case of Khadr they don’t apply.

Yes, Khadr’s father Ahmed was a full-fledged associate of the notorious al-Qaeda terrorist network. Following the post-9/11 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the elder Khadr returned to Afghanistan where he had fought against the Soviet occupation during the 1980s, this time bringing along with him his sons Abdurahman and Omar. Their intention was to resist the U.S. military, whose objective was to round up or eliminate any and all who could be linked to the 9/11 terror attack.

Omar Khadr was 15 years old at the time. This puts him in the same category as boy soldiers of Africa whom Canada considers to be the victims of their circumstance.


Omar Khadr at age 14 in photo released by his family two years before he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay as the youngest detainee.

There is video footage showing the 15-year-old Omar assembling an improvised explosive device (IED). As these insidious weapons were responsible for the deaths of 97 of 158 Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, it is easy to understand why the payment is an emotional point for the anti-Khadr crowd.

However, as the name would indicate, an IED is simply a homemade landmine and a rudimentary weapon used against other combatants. They are not instruments of terror, no matter how frightening they may be.

Which brings us to the incident during which the young Khadr was captured.

This was clearly a firefight with distinct combatants on both sides. Nobody was out to terrorize anybody, and Khadr was equipped with conventional firearms.

To call throwing a grenade in a battle “murder” is ludicrous in the extreme.

To follow that logic, the American soldiers involved should be charged with attempted murder given that Khadr was shot twice and suffered shrapnel wounds prior to being captured. 

Moreover, there is no clear-cut evidence that Khadr actually threw the grenade that killed Speer. There was no independent verification of Khadr’s actions. During his lengthy 10-year captivity at Guantanamo Bay, Khadr was tortured by his U.S. captors. His “confession” to Speer’s death was obtained by torture and to secure his release from Guantanamo and his transfer to a Canadian prison, his lawyers say. Khadr is seeking to have the confession overturned.

The compensation being paid now to Khadr is in recognition of the fact that the Harper government failed to protect Khadr following his capture. He was a Canadian citizen, a minor, caught in the violent chaos of post-9/11 Afghanistan. He was allowed to languish in the brutal conditions of the notorious Guantanamo Bay facility among hardcore terrorists and equally sadistic U.S. interrogators. He also had the misfortune of having a father who firmly adhered to a jihadist ideology. 

Does Khadr’s treatment warrant a $10.5-million payday? A more appropriate question to ask may be, how can you possibly put a dollar figure on what Khadr went through?

The widow and family of Christopher Speer have been awarded  $134-million (U.S.) by a U.S. court in a ruling alleging Khadr killed the American soldier and partially blinded another. With Khadr now in receipt of his payout, Speer’s widow is seeking to seize the compensation awarded Khadr.

That Speer was killed while serving his country is a tragic loss.

But why would his family be entitled to such a massive sum? Speer was killed in battle, he was not murdered in his bed.

If Speer’s loss is worth $134-million (U.S.), why wouldn’t the deaths of every one of the Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan be worth the same?

Scott Taylor is a former Canadian infantry soldier and founder of Esprit de Corps Magazine. | @nowtoronto

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