Propaganda Kabuki in Jury Verdict on Omar Khadr
Andy Worthington has posted his take on the Khadr verdict last Sunday, where a 7-person military jury ignored all evidence of torture and sentenced former child soldier Omar Khadr to 40 years in prison. For more on my take on the verdict, see my live-blogging of the event at Firedoglake.
While a plea bargain with the Pentagon allowed Khadr to plead guilty in exchange for an 8-year sentence, making the jury deliberation a fancy piece of propagandistic kabuki, he will spend one more year at Guantanamo before being transferred to Canada (if everything works out, and in my opinion that’s a big “if”). Meanwhile, the 24-year-old prisoner, who has spent all of his adult years at Guantanamo, was sent upon announcement of the sentence, back to solitary confinement, itself a hideous form of sensory and social deprivation torture.
In Andy’s article, Omar Khadr Jury Hammers the Final Nail Into the Coffin of American Justice, he notes that the plea bargain, with its admission of guilt, followed by the jury’s 40 year sentence (even if shaved by the plea bargain to 8 years), was a major propaganda coup for the government. As I noted in my “live-blogging” article the other day, “This propaganda show is one example of how prisoners are used for exploitation, i.e., psychological warfare purposes. It is no different than the Stalinists using show trials of dissenters, complete with confessions and fake juries, the entire panoply of juridical proceedings, but with none of the content.”
From Andy Worthington’s article:
In other words, then, a former child prisoner, who should have been rehabilitated rather than punished, because the responsibility for his actions lay with his militant father, was convicted on war crimes charges that were invented by Congress and were then reworked by the Obama administration so that the glaring contradiction between real war crimes and invented war crimes could be papered over with a veneer of legitimacy.
Small wonder then that, in the “Statement of Fact” that Khadr signed as part of his plea deal, he was also obliged to waive his right to appeal, in a passage that stated that he “does not have any legal defense to any of the offenses to which he is pleading guilty.”
With such grotesque distortions of justice taking place over the last week, it is easy to forget that the judge, Army Col. Patrick Parrish, had also prevented Khadr’s lawyers from drawing on their client’s well-chronicled reports of his torture and abuse in US custody….
n their closing comments, his lawyers managed to introduce a statement, written by Khadr, referring to the terror he felt when an interrogator, Sgt. Joshua Claus, threatened him with being sent to a US jail where he would be raped by “four big black guys”….
In conclusion, while those who exult in the depths to which America has sunk over the last nine years, since “the gloves came off” following the 9/11 attacks, will rejoice in Khadr’s 40-year sentence (and will complain that his real sentence is only eight years), anyone who retains a shred of decency and respect for the rule of law will be more inclined to accept the words of Dennis Edney, one of Khadr’s long-term Canadian civilian lawyers, who stated after the military jury announced its sentence:
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 fundamental principles of law and due process were long since abandoned in Omar’s case. Politics also played a role. To date, there have been in excess of 1,200 US troops killed in Afghanistan, yet it is only Omar who has been put on trial.
In a comment at the Emptywheel blog the other day, I noted some strange threads hanging from the government’s Khadr story:
The question of how Omar Khadr got to the compound where he would later experience the firefight, and perhaps participate (although his family is clear he was sent only as a translator), is an interesting one because it involves, as the stipulation notes, the appearance of “Sheikh Abu Leith al-Libi, a senior LIFG and al Qaeda military commander.” Somehow, Sheikh al-Libi was to absent himself from this firefight, only to be killed as one of the numerous ostensible number threes of Al Qaeda by CIA airstrike in January 2008.
Al-Libi was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) which the stipulation document noted, with some strained language, “is a designated terrorist organization and was associated with Al Qaeda at the time of Omar Khadr’s offenses. “Is?” “Was?” In fact, the LIFG was not considered a terrorist organization prior to 9/11, and according to numerous accounts in the British Press (based on a document leak and the testimony of ex-MI5 agent David Shayler, had received British funds and arms in an attempt to overthrow Libyan leader Colonel Moammar al-Qadhafi.
Besides Abu Leith al-Libi, another leader of LIFG was Anas Al-Libi, who worked closely with the dubious Ali Mohamed (who worked closely with portions of the U.S. government and military, as a double or triple agent, no one can be sure). It was a raid on Anas Al-Libi’s house that brought us the famous Manchester document, otherwise known as the Al Qaeda manual, including its interrogation component.
Omar Khadr’s link to Sheikh al-Libi isn’t necessarily sinister or anything more than it seems (apparently, Omar’s father was later furious with al-Libi for endangering his son), but it does point to some strange connections. You can’t probe too closely on any of these affairs and not find something nefarious; in this case, the Judge’s reticence to notice that the man who brought Omar Khadr to the compound in 2002 was only a few years before a paid coup plotter, if not assassin, for the British government. And Omar Khadr showed poor judgment?
—— Khadr’s case is one of the more egregious of countless cases of torture, false imprisonment, kidnapping and murder by the U.S. government. The fact this was done to someone who would not even have been tried in an adult court in most of the United States only adds to the special nature of the Khadr case. It speaks personally to many, and says, this is a vulnerable human being. This person should not be used as a piece of propaganda. His fate dehumanizes all of us.