More Khadr… *sigh*

The issue that never goes away popped up again in the news today, with yet another frightful report from the Globe and Mail:

Interrogators at Guantanamo Bay – including those assigned to Canadian Omar Khadr – were encouraged to destroy handwritten notes from interview sessions to protect them from future legal action, according to newly released documents.

[…]

The revelation is another in a long line of documents, findings and events that have cast the Guantanamo Bay legal proceedings in a less than flattering light. That interrogators were instructed to destroy their handwritten notes is of particular importance to Mr. Khadr, because much of the case against him is believed to rely on what he said during some of those interrogation sessions.

“The government’s case against Omar is based almost entirely on statements interrogators extracted from him in the course of interrogations at Bagram [Afghanistan] and Guantanamo Bay,” LCdr. Kuebler said in an e-mail Sunday. “If handwritten notes were destroyed in accordance with the [Standard Operating Procedure manual], the government intentionally deprived Omar’s lawyers of key evidence with which to challenge the reliability of his statements.”

The news came shortly after the demand for the release of interview documentation.

This isn’t a hard one to guess at, really. If the case depends highly on the papers, and they had a veritable case, the papers would still exist. It’s obvious that they were afraid some revalation from the interviews would grant freedom to the prisoner, else they wouldn’t have destroyed them. It is, perhaps, a general fear of any instances arising, since Khadr’s papers were not the only ones destroyed. But that just magnifies the issue, instead of making the Khadr case one to ignore.

As I said last time: The longer our governments allow this to continue, the more foolish they look. They should just let him go and get it over with. I’m still uncertain as to what they’re fearing if they let the kid go, or at least put him into some sort of rehabilitation program. Political backlash? Can it really be as bad as this? Renewed aggression? Keep him under surveillance for a while, if you must, but surely that’s not really that high a risk unless there are more terrorists backing him even this many years later.

More likely, it’s simply a fear of phallic deflation on a national scale.

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stephen
    Jun 09, 2008 @ 18:42:42

    The Bush administration has been shameless about this. Sometimes they deliberately destroy evidence; other times they “lose” it — particularly where it would presumably corroborate allegations of torture.

    Occasionally someone starts talking about impeachment — but the response is quiet enough that you can hear the crickets chirping. Never mind that the Republicans tried to impeach President Clinton.

    Some issues are worthy of impeachment, and others just aren’t. Torture, unsupervised wiretaps, lying to the American citizenry about why the US went to war in Iraq, destroying the evidence from secret court proceedings — such things pale in significance by comparison to a President lying about a dalliance with an intern.

    Reply

  2. Random
    Jun 10, 2008 @ 07:11:04

    I know we did discuss it the first time this story came up, but you know it would be nice if these posts could include some acknowledgement that this isn’t some harmless kid who was picked up at random whilst playing football or something. The only – repeat, only – reason he was picked up is because he got very severely wounded whilsts doing his level best to kill American servicemen and the combat medics of the unit he had been trying so hard to wipe out performed a miracle of battlefield medicine. If those medics had been only slightly less skilful you would never have heard of Omar Khadr. No good deed ever goes unpunished, it seems.

    As for destroying the handwritten notes, there is a more benign explanation for this than the conclusion you and Stephen are drawing (and one for that matter I would have thought you approved of). A while back it was reported in The Economist (I’m having trouble finding a link, as the Economist’s website is largely behind a subscription wall, but I’m hoping you guys know me well enough by now to trust I’m unlikely to make this sort of stuff up) that the latest legal guidance received was that evidence obtained by “enhanced” interrogation techniques (what would doubtless be referred to around here as torture) would be worthless in a trial and that any evidence gained this way had to be disposed of and the detainees re-interrogated by people who had no knowledge of or connection with the original interrogation in order to see if the detainee was still prepared to divulge the information when interrogated properly (and yes, the Economist did express sceptism as to how you could un-torture someone) if it was to stand any chance of being used in a court. Presumably these are the “legal issues” being referred to in the article. I would have thought you something that shows, however belatedly, that the US authorities are realising that torture is counter-productive would be welcomed around here.

    “Never mind that the Republicans tried to impeach President Clinton.”

    I’d be intrigued if you could provide the evidence for the leading role George W Bush took in that process seeing as you apparently seem to believe he should be impeached in return. In any case, Clinton deserved to be impeached – he was a disgrace to the office he held, a proven serial abuser of women (and possible rapist) and financially corrupt to boot (no, I don’t believe Mark Rich was pardoned because Clinton thought he was the victim of an injustice). The fact that you don’t like Bush doesn’t make Clinton innocent.

    “lying to the American citizenry about why the US went to war in Iraq”

    I’d be interested if you could find actual evidence for this. This article makes it clear that even the Rockefeller Report, which the Democrats and left in general (including Rockefeller himself… ) claims provides the proof to support this claim does no such thing. In fact in the detail of the report virtually every single point of the case for war is accompanied by the key phrase “substantiated by intelligence information” or some minor variant thereof. The fact that the intelligence was wrong is not the same as saying anybody lied.

    Reply

  3. Random
    Jun 10, 2008 @ 07:13:19

    Bleedin’ smileys! That’s not mine!

    Reply

  4. Stephen
    Jun 10, 2008 @ 08:28:24

    Hi, Random.

    I fixed the smiley problem for you. The trick is to watch out for parentheses next to punctuation. If you just stick in a space before the parentheses — no smiley. I hate to tell you that, though, because I’m starting to get a kick out of the fact that you’re smiley challenged.
    😉 — that one’s intentional

    I won’t comment on the Khadr stuff; I hope nebcanuck will respond to you. But re impeachment, you should check out the link to Salon in my comment. The post begins with a statement (Greenwald is quoting someone else) :

    The Senate report — supported by two Republicans — supports the conclusion that we all reached several years ago, that Bush and Cheney used propaganda and ginned up intelligence to trick the country into war. If this is not an impeachable offense, what do you define as one?

    Greenwald goes on to illustrate that David Broder, of the Washington Post, is inconsistent on the impeachment issue. Broder makes excuses about why President Bush shouldn’t be impeached. But he was totally onside for President Clinton’s impeachment:

    My view, for whatever it is worth long after the dust has settled on Monica, was that when President Clinton admitted he had lied to his Cabinet and his closest assoc, to say nothing of the public, that the honorable thing was for him to have resigned and turned over the office to Vice President Gore. …

    He told the same lie to the American people. When a president loses his credibility, he loses an important tool for governing — and that is why I thought he should step down.

    Clinton lost credibility because he lied about Lewinski, therefore he should have resigned; and since he didn’t resign, the Republicans set out to impeach him. (Note: I didn’t blame President Bush for Clinton’s impeachment.)

    On the other hand, President Bush has lost credibility for “ginning up” intelligence on a matter of grave concern to the country — but let’s just all look the other way, shall we? The media doesn’t want people to start talking about accountability, because the media shares in the general responsibility for whipping up the population into a pro-war frenzy.

    Reply

  5. nebcanuck
    Jun 10, 2008 @ 09:58:54

    I think I’ll mostly stay out of the debates aside from Khadr, since that wasn’t the purpose of the post, and it seems to be a point of contention between you two, which is always fun to let play out! 😛

    As for the issue with Khadr being saved by medics, I will acknowledge that they could have simply killed him then and there and allowed him to fade away into obscurity. Although it’s always hard to judge between torture and death, I am one who believes that any life that still lives has potential and value, so I would side with you — taking him from the battlefield and keeping him alive was a good deed. Period.

    However, much as you say that impeaching Bush would not make Clinton innocent, I think it’s worth noting that the same applies here. Good deed or otherwise, it doesn’t justify the treatment that has ensued. As we discussed last time, there’s the issue of his age, which violates every international convention established thus far. Then there’s the issue of his being the only detainee that still remains from that particular time period. Did his lobbing of a grenade — even if there’s evidence to support that claim — actually count as worse than what every other act any of those detainees perpetrated?

    To say that there is justification for holding Khadr to this day in a high-torture facility is beyond reason, in my mind, no matter how much credit should go to them for saving his life in the first place. I could go out of my way to acknowledge that in each and every one of these posts, but my ultimate conclusion would still be skepticism and abhorrence of the actions of both governments regarding his imprisonment, so I don’t see that there would be much point.

    As for the destruction of the evidence tying into getting “real” evidence against him? Well, I would agree with that, except for one issue: He’s still being held on the back of that evidence. I would love to see it as a correctional step, to be able to assume that it’s the powers at hand realizing that they really have no grounds to detain someone unless they get evidence that does not involve torture. But there’s no evidence in this article, nor any other I’ve seen, that suggests that they have had interviews with him since to offer him even the mild opportunity to clear his name, and yet they still hold him.

    We could debate for hours the issue of un-torturing someone. After he’s been tortured to that extent, would he answer honestly in a normal interview, particularly if he feels he may later be punished for his answers? Probably not. But regardless of the way the human psyche responds to that type of treatment, the mere fact that they are holding him on zero reliable evidence is troubling to me. As I said in the post: A complete lack of evidence means they have no actual case for keeping him in a normal prison, let alone a high-torture facility. If they have no actual case, they should let him go, instead of continuing to taint their reputation by association with a failed case. But it would seem egos get in the way.

    Reply

  6. Random
    Jun 12, 2008 @ 04:34:19

    “I will acknowledge that they could have simply killed him then and there and allowed him to fade away into obscurity. ”

    That wasn’t my point. I was saying he was so badly injured that the medics only needed to be slightly less skilful and he would have died anyway. there was no need to actively kill him. Khadr owes his life to the efforts of people he was trying very hard indeed to kill.

    “there’s the issue of his age, which violates every international convention established thus far.”

    No, it doesn’t. The Geneva Conventions make no reference to age, if you engage in combat the detaining power is entitled to treat you as an emeny combatant (with all that that implies) regardless of how old you are. Not to mention that at 15 Khadr would have been regarded as an adult in most Islamic cultures, including the Pashtun lands, anyway. Constantly calling him a kid is imposing your cultural values on him, and claiming yours are superior. Speaking somewhat cynically, but I though liberals disapproved of this sort of thing?

    “Then there’s the issue of his being the only detainee that still remains from that particular time period. ”

    Except he isn’t. He’s the only one left who can claim citivenship of a western country, but there are several others captured in the late 2001/early 2002 period who are still in Gitmo. Heck, he probably isn’t even the youngest there (that dubious honour would seem to go to Muhammad Hamid Al Qarani). As for his continued detention, as we discussed the first time round, I strongly suspect that has a lot more to do with his family’s close personal connection to Osama bin Laden than it does to the grenade incident, I trust we would all understand why this would be of interest to US authorities.

    “To say that there is justification for holding Khadr to this day in a high-torture facility”

    A tendentious description, and one you have offered no evidence to support. Do unpleasant things happen in Gitmo? Probably. But “high torture facility”? A description like that really should not be assumed – for example, it should be noted that despite all the passion and outrage generated by waterboarding, it has apparently been carried out only three times (and not at all since about 2002), and that only about 30 people (same source) have been subjected to “coercive interrogation techniques”. Yes I know – one is too many. But it’s not “high torture facility” levels. (And no, I don’t place much store in the testimony of released prisoners, given that we know that Al Qaeda trains it’s people to claim they have been tortured on release, regardless of whether or not they have been).

    “I could go out of my way to acknowledge that in each and every one of these posts … so I don’t see that there would be much point.”

    With all due respect, but “in each and every one of those posts” you go out of your way to describe him as a kid, or somesuch language. It only seems fair and in the interests of balance to acknowledge at the same time that he wasn’t some innocent pulled in while doing his homework or playing with his lego set.

    “He’s still being held on the back of that evidence. ”

    Not really, here’s the deal. He was captured during combat, in which he was badly wounded. I trust this is undisputed, even if the extent to which he was involved isn’t (for those inclined to assume his innocence of all malevolent intentions, please go to his wikipedia page which includes a screengrab from a video showing him planting landmines). This means that under the Geneva Conventions he qualfies as either a prisoner of war or as an unprotected civilian combatant. If he’s the first, then the USA is entitled to hold him for the duration of hostilities. If he’s the second, than they can do what they like with him – up to and including putting a bullet in the back of his head. In fact, they are merely putting him on trial for murder. Khadr is cooperating fully with the trials process BTW, which is presumably the “mild opportunity to clear his name” you are so indignant about him being denied.

    Khadr is not a nice person, he is certainly not an innocent kid. But he is entitled to a trial and to make his case, and that is what he’s getting.

    Reply

  7. nebcanuck
    Jun 12, 2008 @ 12:31:53

    I was saying he was so badly injured that the medics only needed to be slightly less skilful and he would have died anyway. there was no need to actively kill him. Khadr owes his life to the efforts of people he was trying very hard indeed to kill.

    If you’re skilled enough to save someone’s life, and you don’t, isn’t that killing?

    Regardless, I wasn’t really trying to shoot down your point. I accept in full that he owed them his life. Does owing someone your life mean that you have to accept whatever treatment they dish out from then on? I wouldn’t think so, or else it would be pretty easy to justify things like abusive parenting. The point that he was saved by them is a good one, but I really don’t think it can be used as an argument to justify torturing him.

    No, it doesn’t. The Geneva Conventions make no reference to age, if you engage in combat the detaining power is entitled to treat you as an emeny combatant (with all that that implies) regardless of how old you are.

    I apologize. I shouldn’t leave open that it’s a written agreement, because I don’t think it is. It is an unspoken practice, as far as I can tell, and one that was brought up to me by a friend in the military who has considered this issue heavily. However, your point about the others in prison further on intrigues me, and suggests to me one of two things: Either my friend was mistaken, or the US is violating this generally-accepted stance towards “youth” in a lot broader a scale than just Khadr. If it’s the former, I apologize, and would turn my critique towards general practice rather than this specific issue. If it’s the latter, I think it just adds another layer of shame to the war against terror.

    Constantly calling him a kid is imposing your cultural values on him, and claiming yours are superior. Speaking somewhat cynically, but I though liberals disapproved of this sort of thing?

    Firstly, I’m amused that this is the second comment in two days where I have had to clarify that I don’t actually consider myself a liberal. I’m socially conservative, fundamentally Christian (in that I believe the Bible to be infallible word of God), and, frankly, quite willing to say that my viewpoint is superior to others’. Now, I don’t believe that justifies ignoring the claims these other people make, nor do I believe that it overrides the need for some sort of true thinking — it bothers me a great deal when people, be they conservative or liberal, refuse to listen to a coherent point made by someone with a different perspective.

    And as far as conservatism goes, I’m not willing to accept the argument that torture is acceptable conservatism. It’s a neocon ideal, and one which doesn’t appeal to huge swaths of conservatives, including myself. I believe that the Bible teaches that we’re all made in the image of God, and that forgiveness is in place over justice in many cases, and that as such those people who use Christianity to justify torture are pretenders, and nothing more. Again: I am willing to say I am right and others are wrong.

    Also rather ironic is the fact that I actually believe a 15 year old should be treated like an adult in responsibilities and roles. I think it’s ridiculous that in our culture, students at university are considered “just kids”, and are expected to party away some of their most productive years. However, 15 is also an age where adulthood is, at best, at its very earliest stages, and as such a 15-year old is much easier to influence — and that much easier to reform. I would, in fact, prefer it if most prisoners were given an opportunity to reform before being held indefinitely, really. But at 15, there’s no question that the person is still learning how to be an adult, and as such should be given an opportunity to learn how to be a constructive one, not a destructive terrorist.

    (I also choose to not bother fighting the torture in this scenario. As far as I’m concerned, no one, of any age, should be put in a torture facility.)

    I strongly suspect that has a lot more to do with his family’s close personal connection to Osama bin Laden than it does to the grenade incident, I trust we would all understand why this would be of interest to US authorities.

    If they haven’t found anything out concerning this relationship in this many years, they need to give it up, frankly.

    Yes I know – one is too many. But it’s not “high torture facility” levels.

    I’ve lost pretty much all faith in any reports coming out of there that indicate just what constitutes torture and what doesn’t. But even if we accept those figures and assume that that means they are not a “high-physical torture facility”, I think the shrouded nature of the prison certainly reveals that there are likely issues of severe mental torture in pretty much all cases. I’m not one who believes that severe physical pain is the only form of torture, and I don’t believe that a lack of physical pain justifies treating people as subhuman. Thus, I would still label them a high-torture facility, unless you have some actual piece of evidence that their practices are clean. When you hide all of your actions, and erase all potential evidence against you, I’m willing to assume you’re guilty until proven innocent.

    It only seems fair and in the interests of balance to acknowledge at the same time that he wasn’t some innocent pulled in while doing his homework or playing with his lego set.

    Fair point. I’ll try to remember that and include it next time I write a post on him — although by then I may have forgotten. 😛

    Khadr is cooperating fully with the trials process BTW, which is presumably the “mild opportunity to clear his name” you are so indignant about him being denied.

    You’re again right in that I probably simplified this beyond reason. But I do hold to the stance that he hasn’t really been given a chance, not until it has become a booming media issue, at least. The fact that there are more people of a similar age range being held from the same time period is troubling, and suggests to me even more that the powers wouldn’t lift a finger to help someone if there’s no risk of embarrassment.

    I hold to the opinion that, if they have had to erase “evidence” against him, and there is doubt as to his involvement in the specific issue he was arrested for (as was state in the last post), then they had no reason for holding him this long. Hopefully the trials prove to be just, and result in some sense of close, as you seem to be suggesting.

    Reply

  8. Stephen
    Jun 12, 2008 @ 13:11:13

    Does owing someone your life mean that you have to accept whatever treatment they dish out from then on?

    Random’s argument reminds me of instances in which Navy SEALs have reportedly lowered a detainee’s body temperature to the point of death by hypothermia, then warmed him up, thereby saving his life. And then lowered his body temperature to the point of hypothermia again. Rinse, repeat.

    This is torture by any definition, isn’t it? (The narrow focus on waterboarding is a red herring.)

    Should the detainee be grateful each time the SEALs save his life? Let me go on record: if anyone wants to save my life in order to torture me, I’d rather you didn’t. Thanks anyway.

    Reply

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