If a history of the Omar Khadr affair is ever written, it’s unlikely there will be any heroes in the long and sordid story. Not the U.S. government, not Canada, not Khadr himself.
Such a story could be titled, “C’est la Guerre,” the French excuse for everything that goes wrong during war.
There is still time, however, for Canada and the United States to do the right thing and seek closure to the entire unholy saga, which has sullied the reputations of both countries as nations of rights and laws.
Ottawa and Washington are apparently discussing a plea deal that would see Khadr admit killing an American soldier in Afghanistan in 2002 in return for a sentence of eight years in prison, most of which would be served in Canada.
If the sentence were fully served, it would mean the accused would have been incarcerated for a total of 16 years, but that’s still far less than the life sentence American military prosecutors have been seeking, and which they would probably get, given the warped nature of the special judicial proceedings.
Since his arrest at age 15, and despite various instances of abuse and neglect, Khadr has steadfastly denied killing the soldier or being a terrorist.
But now he is reportedly prepared to admit guilt in return for leniency.
Unfortunately, the case is so old and so tainted that the whole truth may never be known, but the plea bargain is undoubtedly the quickest way for Khadr to return home to Canada, where his family lives.
The Americans will be happy to rid themselves of the Khadr affair — he’s long been the sole western citizen held at Guantanamo — but the Harper government has been strangely reluctant to take him.
Several court rulings in Canada have said Khadr’s rights were violated and that Ottawa should bring him home, but the Conservative government has insisted on due process — even though the entire case has unfolded outside normal legal principles and without due process.
The government is running out of excuses for not doing the right thing and even the context of war and terrorism will not exonerate Prime Minister Stephen Harper if he misses another opportunity to get on the right side of history.
From the Winnipeg Free Press