Cue that long gone ‘Tonight Show’ orchestra live from Burbank, and avuncular Ed McMahon chuckling off camera. Doc Severinsen on the trumpet, the band riffing on its signature theme, and through the curtains plunges a guest host with his own style and swing – Omar Khadr, rock star status jihadist just released from Gitmo…. and the crowd goes wild! Live from the BNV theatre of the mind, “Heeeeeeeere’s Omar!!!!
On Saturday the United States government flew Khadr to Canada, where he is now installed in an Ontario maximum security prison. Convicted of an American soldier’s battlefield murder during a 2002 Afghan firefight, the US military prosecution of then 15 year old Khadr spanned several years, and his long stay at the Bay touched off a torrent of human rights and ‘conduct of war’ debates. A Canadian citizen – whose Toronto-based extended family plainly despise the Great White North for its flabby ‘rights’ rhetoric and repellent liberal democratic values – Khadr negotiated a 2010 plea that contemplated a transfer to Canada and the early release potential of its prison system. Hi, Mom, I’m home! What’s for dinner?
Khadr will remain a Canadian public sentiment lightening rod as his parole application gathers its inevitable traction. The sentence terminates October 2018 no matter what, when Khadr will be unconditionally released into the tolerant Canuck society he despises. There are differing views on whether the US gambit to declare the Taliban guerilla fighters and its fellow travelers as ‘enemy combatants’ was legitimate. The captured fighters were detained at the Great Republic’s Cuban holiday resort; Khadr was one of the few actually prosecuted. Much was made here of Khadr’s life story, the supposed child warrior sent 5,000 miles from Toronto into Pakistani training camps and Afghan war zones by his Al-Qaeda zealot father – did he really have a choice, say those who have worked hard for his release from the delights that abound the Gitmo gulag. There are the dubious, Gordion knot ethics engaged when the occupying NATO allies unilaterally determined that their Afghan enemies were criminals, and not legitimate soldiers entitled to Geneva Convention protections.
Freedom fighter, soldier, or murderer, there is no question Khadr is an enthusiastic supporter of one of humanity’s fouler aspects, the iredeemable ‘in the name of my God, I will kill you’ true believer. Khadr holds to an evil philosophy, but I am proud that our nation places his freedom to hate me and anyone else who shares my views on a pedestal. If you really do believe in individual rights, Khadr gets all the benefits of our great home and native land, including a fair parole hearing. I simply hope he leaves us forever the day of his eventual release. Somehow, I don’t see Omar making a long term contribution to the gloriously diverse multiple hues that have collected to form our great, if sometimes flawed Canada rainbow.
Image: Courtroom sketch of Canadian detainee Omar Khadr via The Canadian Press/AP-Janet Hamlin