Saturday, October 30, 2010

For Some Khadr's Life Will be condensed to Four Days

For some Omar Khadr's life will be condensed to only 4 days. The day on a battlefield in Afghanistan where he was captured and charged with murder, attempted murder and working with al Qaeda. The second day when he plead guilty to all five charges in as part of a prearranged plea agreement. The third when he is sentenced to anywhere between 8 years and life in prison. The last day will be when he gets out if ever that occurs.
Reducing Khadr’s life to those four days makes his story easier to tell. Captured terrorist, pleads guilty, finally convicted, goes to jail forever. The story could write itself, only it doesn’t, there are many hands doing the work. Filling out the very dry accounting of events with a diatribe, emotion, accusation and slur.
Let me add to the story.
On Day 1 was that Khadr was captured and charge with crimes that earned him a trip to the Guantanamo detention centre. Omar was not born on the battlefield as it may often appear. Born in Canada to a family with passive and active ties to extremist groups. Raised in an environment that virtually ensured his participation in the terrorism. He was a child soldier, as much as the right hates to admit this. Perhaps not with the same brutality of the Congo or other armed struggles, but with the same essential quality, he was a child denied a path away from violence, denied the protection from violence that all our children deserve. It is inevitable that his life would lead to death or capture at the hands of some opposing force. Please do not read this as an excuse, it’s not, it’s an explanation. Khadr arrived at that battlefield because of choices made for him, by others who should have cared more for the boy, than the cause, and he was a boy 15 years old and that matters too. Omar Khadr’s did not have a lot of choice, for that matter it is unlikely that he even noticed the poverty of his options. If you don’t realize you can say “no” then as a choice it doesn’t exist. What does it matter when we say a person chooses freely, if we don’t acknowledge the scarcity of paths in the first place.
On Day 2 he pleads guilty to murder and terrorism. The conservative press gleefully shouts “we told you so , see he’s guilty and you tried to help him, how do you feel now”. I feel bad, but not for what you think. It was unlikely that Khadr was innocent. I never thought they ought to just let him go. I feel bad that it took nearly 3000 days to get to this point. Omar Khadr arrived at Guantanamo October 30, 2002 and entered his plea October 25, 2010. During those almost 3000 days his legal and human rights were striped from him the ones remaining were abused in a fashion that is an anathema to our way of life. Yes he was tortured, pretend all you want that it didn’t happen but that’s all your doing, pretending. In 2006 3 men died at Guantanamo, ruled suicides, but there are credible accounts that death occurred as a result of torture.
Military tribunals instead of civilian criminal courts because guilty verdicts are easier to secure. Denied coverage under Geneva convention and so denied the protections that convention offers. Denied due process, denied speedy trial. Denied those Canadian Chartre rights 7 to 14 and the American Constitutional equivalents that we all enjoy. Omar Khadr was denied justice. Maybe you don’t think terrorists deserve justice, on that point you would be wrong. A bedrock principle like justice can not be selectively applied.
Again we come to paucity of Choice Omar Khadr can continue in his prison, face a tribunal where a guilty verdict is all but assured or plead out so the endgame can begin. Again a paucity of choice.
On Day 3 he will receive his sentence. For some, forever would be too short a time. But whatever the sentence many on the right will complain, hurl their slurs at “liberal terrorist sympathizers” , because that is what their readers expect. When you take a life, you have to pay, that is part of what justice demands. The ideal is that you pay with both time in jail and afterwards if you are deemed fit to return to society, by contributing positively to that society for the remainder of your life.
On Day 4 if he gets out we will be treated to rehash of what went before. Curiously in some quartres the story will remain as shrill and accusatory filled with fear and loathing as the day ink first went to paper.
Khadr’s story is a small part of a larger tale. Systematic rights abuses, violent extremism, the triumph of the war monger over the peace maker.

Would i Still Question the F-35 if the Liberals were in Charge?

Why do I question the purchase of the F-35 jet fighter? If it were a Liberal government would I still feel the same way? It’s a good question, as there are times when politics can degrade reason. So lets review my reasoning, for bias.
The order is for 65 advanced jets, the procurement is sole sourced.
For me the question revolves around need. It is clear that our F-18s are nearing their operational life and will need replacement. The liberal government under Chr├ętien entered into a agreement with other nations to develop a 5th generation fighter. The deal gave then say in development, though that say is limited in comparison to the United states and other big spenders like Britain. It also ensured a share of the contracts for manufacturing this jet.
A good deal all around, influence, jobs and jets. Thirteen years later and what we have is an order for 65 jets at 16 billion dollars all coinciding with a near economic collapse we haven’t quite pulled out of. I can’t blame either the Liberal government for getting in on the deal or the Conservatives that continuing it. Like I said its jobs and jets, both are needed.
There is no evidence that if we don’t sign the contract the jobs are gone. Our companies at least for now are in the supply chain , though future opportunities for work might be reduced. Nor will cancelling the contract result in large payouts like the ill fated helicopter deal cancelled by the newly elected Liberal government. It also doesn’t mean that our Air Force need make do with old planes, we can buy new versions of exiting fighters.
The question of what kind of jets do we need? It’s a practical question, the kind you ask when buying any piece of equipment. What do we need our jets to do? Our jets provide first response in defence of our airspace. Just days ago they were required to intercept a civilian air liner suspected of having bombs aboard. At that would not have been done better by F-35s. The Russians have been doing fly bys lately and we need aircraft that can counter them. Again do we need the top of the line to do that? Though to be clear interceptions are just a formality we could not stop a serious incursion from the dominant militaries. Our jets also aid in SAR which require capable air craft but hardly the cutting edge.
Can we continue to contribute to our local, NORAD and international NATO, commitments without the F-35? I have yet to see an argument advanced that suggests we cannot. Yes, it can be more complicated to organise missions with different aircraft, supply issues come to mind, but its hardly a critical issue. The Unite States operates over 2 dozen different aircraft types.
At present we can expect to fight combat missions against groups without aircraft and countries with inferior forces. Something we can do with the present generation of aircraft.
It appears we can meet our present obligations with newer versions of jets aircraft already in existence , that come with proven records and supply chains already in existence.
What of future needs? Should we worry that we will be overtaken by technologically superior designs?
A good question. The only response I can come up with is “who do you think we might be fighting”. The F-35 is being bought by our allies. China and Russia are working on their own 5th generation fighters. I don’t foresee us fighting the first group or sadly being able to beat either of the latter if they chose to start a war with us.
What this feels like is a political process upending a practical one. The reasonable course would be a review first of what our air force needs, I’m not sure this was done.
If our experts declare that we need this advanced fighter I can live with the result.
Canada is not a Warrior Nation, oh how I hate that term, we are instead a Dutiful Nation. A willingness to fight not a desire to, is our hallmark. We fight as needed for our own defence and the defence of our neighbours. We need the right tools to do it, not the most expensive. Diplomacy first and foremost is the friend of a small nation.