Did the Abandonment of Omar Khadr Constitute Treason?
Last week, a U.S. military court sentenced Canadian citizen and former child combatant, Omar Khadr, was sentenced to 40 years behind bars for killing a U.S. soldier. Upon hearing the verdict, Khadr’s lawyer Dennis Edney uttered this priceless piece of understatement: “Justice was not served today.”
The fact that the trial of a child soldier, Omar Khadr, has ended with a guilty plea in exchange for his eventual release to Canada does not change the fact that the fundamental principles of law and due process were long since abandoned in Omar’s case.
Indeed. When he was arrested in Afghanistan in 2002, Khadr was just 15 years old, and therefore not prosecutable because under international law he was deemed to be a child combatant. Canada has ratified the UN protocol on child soldiers, this law, even if the U.S. hasn’t.
Yet for seven years he was tortured at the U.S.’s Guantánamo Bay military prison, He was subjected to extreme sleep deprivation and placed in solitary confinement for extended periods. In all this time neither Liberal nor Harperite government came to his aid or demanded his release.
But the abuse of Khadr is more profound than the mere legalities of the UN protocol. Harper’s government, as well as the preceding Liberal government, had a statutory, constitutional duty to petition for Khadr’s extradition to Canada, and their refusal to do so invites questions of whether treason was committed.
In any legitimately constituted democratic country, a citizen’s rights are defined in either common law or a written constitution, and it is common for elected and appointed officials to swear to uphold and defend the constitution. Based on this criterion, Canada does not qualify as a democracy, because the only oath an MP is obliged to swear is to the reigning British monarch:
I, [name], do Solemnly swear (affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors according to law, forever. So help me God.
The oath does not explicitly speak of allegiance to Canada or the Canadian Constitution, though it is implicitly assumed to do so. Yet the absence of an explicit oath to Canada and the Constitution makes punishing unconstitutional or treasonous behaviour almost impossible. The need for a modernized oath “to defend the Constitution and the rights of Canadians against all enemies foreign and domestic” is obvious given that the conduct of Stephen Harper’s government — in the Khadr case among others — is glaringly unconstitutional. Paragraphs 7 to 14 of the Constitution spell out the legal rights that are due every Canadian citizen, including the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment (para 12).
Since a government, at least in theory, exists to serve and protect its citizens, Khadr should have had the full support and protection of his government, but it did not see fit to fight for his extradition on constitutional grounds. Khadr, you see, is a Muslim, and therefore is not entitled to basic legal or humanitarian protection in the minds of Canada’s slavishly pro-Israel sycophants.
The sheer disdain for Canadian law came though clearly on October 26, after Khadr accepted a coerced plea bargain: “plead guilty and you can go home after one year,” was the inducement. (In the U.S. the plea bargain arrangement is one of the greatest abuses of the judicial system, because it induces innocent people to enter false guilty pleas to prevent financial ruin or put an end to institutionalized injustice.)
The idea of being allowed to return home after seven years of torture must have seemed irresistible, but by any moral or legal standard Khadr’s plea was inadmissible. Of course, this fact did not register with Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence “Loose” Cannon, who had only the following to say in the House of Commons.
Mr. Khadr pleaded guilty to murder in violation of the laws of war, attempted murder in violation of the laws of war, as well as providing material support for terrorism and spying, as well as conspiracy…The matter is between the U.S. government and Mr. Khadr’s lawyers and we have no further comment.
By its abandonment of Khadr, one could make the case that Harper’s government is not, strictly speaking, “Canadian” because it actively violated the Constitution to serve the interests of foreign governments, Israel and the U.S. Therefore, the Khadr case should be used to lay charges of treason.
Even the current oath could be invoked because it stipulates allegiance to the Crown according to law, and the Constitution is the foundation of Canada’s laws. According to the government’s own website, the provisions for punishing an MP states:
Should a member violate his oath he would be amenable to the penalty of not being allowed to sit in the House of Commons. He may be suspended from taking part in the sittings while still remaining a Member of Parliament, or, in a case of extreme gravity, a Bill might be passed to annul his election. It may happen, when a state of war exists, that a Member of Parliament makes, either outside or on the floor of the House, statements detrimental to Canada and favourable to the enemy. This would be in violation of this oath because allegiance to the King means allegiance to the Country, and the offence would be liable to punishment by the house. The power of dealing with treason is inherent in the Parliament of every country.
Is there a politician angry enough and brave enough to demand an oath for our times to bring Canadian sovereignty to Ottawa? Here’s a suggestion:
I, [name], do Solemnly swear (affirm) that I will defend the Constitution of Canada and the rights of Canadian citizens against all enemies foreign and domestic, and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors according to law, forever.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he is prepared to suffer any political backlash that comes his way for speaking out against anti-Israel rhetoric.
Harper told an audience Monday that while Israel is receptive to fair criticism, Canada is obligated to stand up for its ally when it comes under attack from others.
"Not just because it is the right thing to do, but because history shows us, and the ideology of the anti-Israel mob tell us all too well, that those who threaten the existence of the Jewish people are in the longer term a threat to all of us."
The prime minister acknowledged that his position is not popular with all governments and organizations, including members of the United Nations and the Francophonie.
"And I know, by the way, because I have the bruises to show for it, that whether it is at the United Nations or any other international forum, the easiest thing to do is simply to just get along and go along with this anti-Israel rhetoric, to pretend it is just about being even-handed, and to excuse oneself with the label of honest broker.
"There are, after all, a lot more votes -- a lot more -- in being anti-Israeli than in taking a stand. But as long as I am prime minister, whether it is at the United Nations, the Francophonie or anywhere else, Canada will take that stand, whatever the cost."
The prime minister's use of the phrase "honest broker" is an apparent reference to a recent speech made by Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.
Ignatieff criticized the Harper government for using Israel as a wedge issue with his political opponents in Canada, at the expense of the country's influence on peace in the Middle East. The Liberal leader called for a return to a time when Canada was perceived to be an honest broker in the global community.
Harper made his remarks at the start of a two-day conference on anti-Semitism that is being held on Parliament Hill during Holocaust Education Week.
After his caucus meeting on Monday, Ignatieff criticized Harper for suggesting that Canada's recent failure to secure a seat on the UN Security Council can be blamed on the federal government's support for Israel.
"They're trying to claim it's a moral victory," Ignatieff told reporters.
"It's a defeat, especially if you want to support the state of Israel. What is the institution that's enforcing sanctions against Iran, which is a strategic threat to Israel? The Security Council. If you're not on it, you're not playing."
Ignatieff also reiterated his party's support of a two-state solution for peace in the Middle East.
"Why? Because we believe it's essential for the security of Israel, and because we think it's essential for the security of the Palestinian people," Ignatieff said.
He also added that "we are not neutral and will never be neutral between terrorist organizations and democratic states. That's been the position of Canada for a very long time, that's the position of the Liberal Party."
Meanwhile, the group Independent Jewish Voices, which is not taking part in the conference, accused the Harper government of trying to suppress debate about Israel.
On CTV's Power Play, spokesperson Diana Ralph said the government is trying to "criminalize criticism of Israel."
"What this conference is actually about isn't anti-Semitism," Ralph said. "What it's about is attacking and limiting dissent and criticism on expressing criticisms of Israel. And the thing is that when Harper says today that Israel is a country under attack, Israel is being attacked for its violations of human rights."
With files from The Canadian Press
Speaking today at the Jewish Federations of North America meeting, US Vice President Joe Biden vowed eternal support for the Israeli government, insisting US support for the nation would continue no matter what Israel does “forever.”
“The ties between our two countries are literally unbreakable” insisted Biden, adding that policy disagreements with the far-right government will never be “fundamental” and will never have any affect on ties. Biden insists President Obama “feels exactly the same way.”
The comments were largely in keeping with a number of top US officials over the past few decades who have pledged eternal fealty to Israel regardless of the relative merits of that government’s position on any given issue. Biden’s position is therefore a politically safe one, but is it an obsolete one?
Perhaps. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech at the self-same gathering yesterday and was heckled off stage by attendees outraged by his government’s policies. Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren chided American Jews, insisting it was their duty to support Israel unquestioningly. This claim however whiffed of desperation, and there seems to be concern on the Israeli right that policy disagreements really are forging a growing rift with its traditional allies.
Given the excitement at the conference during Netanyahu’s speech, Biden’s loyalty pledge must seem extremely quaint, albeit not particularly topical. Claims that Israel can’t hurt US ties no matter what they do are going to be less and less credible as what their government does becomes increasingly publicized and increasingly embarrassing for US officials.