In July 2002, Omar Khadr was accused of throwing a hand grenade and killing a U.S. Army combat medic, Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, on the battlefields of Afghanistan. Khadr was ultimately captured, linked to al Qaeda (reportedly through his father’s connections), pled guilty, and sat in a Guantanamo Bay jail cell before being repatriated by Canada in 2012.
For most Americans, this was probably the last thing ever heard about Khadr. Until now.
Earlier this month, Canada’s Liberal government issued an apology and $10.5 million (CDN) settlement to Khadr. This relates to a four-year-old, $20 million (CDN) civil suit initiated by the latter because he felt his country, Canada, had conspired with the U.S. to acquire the guilty plea.
It goes without saying that the U.S. is furious about this decision. So are many Canadians.
An Angus Reid Institute poll conducted between July 7-10, 2017 revealed that 71 percent of respondents felt Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “did the wrong thing” in reaching this settlement, and “should have fought the case and left it to the courts to decide whether Khadr was wrongfully imprisoned.”
To put it another way, both right-leaning and left-leaning Canadians — including some of those who voted for the Liberals in the 2015 federal election — opposed this decision.
Naturally, there are Canadians who still believe the sob story that Khadr was a naive, 15-year-old child soldier who was brainwashed by his family to run off and join the world’s most dangerous terrorist group (at the time). They refuse to believe his guilty plea was obtained by anything other than heavy-handed American and Canadian officials driven by an agenda. They strongly support the apology and settlement for this supposed miscarriage of justice.
Most of us see it differently, however.
Khadr’s classification as a child soldier has always been suspect. The 2007 Paris Principles clearly state that a “child associated with an armed force or group refers to any person below 18 years of age who has been recruited or used by an armed force or armed group in any capacity.” Since he didn’t belong to an army, and wasn’t forced into joining one, he doesn’t properly fit into this designation.
Meanwhile, several audio files and transcribed interviews with Khadr have been available for years. Some observers believed he was a huge threat to national security, while others didn’t. However, the interviews didn’t reveal any proper expressions of remorse on his part about his role in Sgt. Speer’s death. The fact that he’s apologetic now is meaningless, since it’s impossible to determine whether it’s real or manufactured for the cameras.
There’s also no evidence, in the form of audio/video files, that Khadr was forced to admit his guilt. Making these sorts of assumptions is easy for the left-wing chattering classes, who have little faith in authority or law enforcement officials. But it’s hard to taste the pudding if there’s no proof to concoct this specific recipe.
The Canadian government handled the Khadr affair in a disgraceful manner. The settlement was conveniently arranged during a time when the House of Commons isn’t sitting for the summer so opposition parties can’t ask any questions. The Liberals claimed it was arranged to save taxpayer dollars when, in fact, taxpayers would have been willing to fight it out in court. Ottawa had no intention of ever revealing this financial sum; it was uncovered by several reporters. And, to top it off, the money was reportedly sent out before Sgt. Speer’s widow, Tabitha, and her legal team applied for an emergency injunction in Canada.
Fortunately, Canadians are speaking out.
Tory MPs Peter Kent and Michelle Rempel have discussed this case in the U.S. in print and on TV, respectively. Toronto Sun columnist Joe Warmington wrote on July 13 that former Prime Minister Stephen Harper called U.S. soldier Layne Morris before he and Ms. Speer “went into court to attempt to freeze Khadr’s assets with a view that the windfall could be applied to a $134-million American court judgment they won.” An Indiegogo campaign by Canada’s Rebel Media to raise $1 million for Sgt. Speer’s children has passed the $200,000 (CDN) mark.
There’s one more important thing that Canadians can do. In the 2019 federal election, send a message to Mr. Trudeau and the Liberals that giving hard-earned taxpayers’ money to a terrorist and convicted murderer isn’t acceptable.
• Michael Taube, a Washington Times contributor, is a Troy Media syndicated columnist and was a speechwriter for former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.