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America and Obama Hit Bottom: Pressuring Child Soldier to Plead Guilty to Murder Violates International Law and Basic Common Decency

As the author of The Case for Impeachment (St. Martin’s Press, 2006), I never thought in my lifetime that I would see a president reach the depth of moral decay and depravity of President George W. Bush, but sad to say, our current president, Barack Obama, has managed to do it, and what makes it worse, as a former Constitutional law professor, he knows better.

This president’s moral nadir was hit yesterday, when he allowed a military tribunal based at Guantanamo to pressure Omar Khadr, a Canadian captured, gravely wounded, and arrested at the age of 15 in Afghanistan, and held at at Guantanamo now for nine years, to plead guilty to murder.

Khadr’s crime? He was in a house that was struck by a US air strike and then raided by US special forces during the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2002. The gravely wounded Khadr was accused of tossing a grenade at advancing US troops, which killed US Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, and caused another soldier to lose an eye.

Omar Khadr at age 15, the time of his capture by US forcesOmar Khadr at age 15, the time of his capture by US forces

Although Khadr, after nine years of harsh confinement at Guantanamo, and facing a military tribunal, has pleaded guilty in a plea bargain, after insisting for nine years that he did not throw the grenade (there is no living witness to his having done so), one issue here is that even if he did toss it, that action would have been seen as that heroic act of a gravely-wounded young fighter facing a superior enemy force, but for the fact that the US is claiming Khadr was not a legitimate soldier, but rather a “terrorist.”

This is a rather spurious claim, since the US says it went to “war” in Afghanistan to go after Al Qaeda forces there, who had been set up with CIA assistance initially to help the Mujahadeen fight the Soviet occupiers. So the force that Khadr was supposedly fighting with was a legitimate fighting force once, but became not a fighting force when the enemy was the US. Clearly, such fine distinctions would have meant nothing to a 15-year-old boy who had been “drafted” into the war at 14 by his Al Qaeda-member father, who was later killed by US fire. Note too that the US can say its soldiers, who have been killing a prodigious number of civilians in Afghanistan, cannot be charged with murder or manslaughter because they are soldiers, but the enemy they are fighting can be charged with murder if they fight back, because they are supposedly not legitimate soldiers.

But Alice-in-Wonderland semantic games aside, in any case, the biggest outrage in this case is that Khadr was 15 when he was captured. Under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty that was signed by the US and that is thus part of US law, all children under the age of 18 captured while fighting in wars are to be offered “special protection” and treated as victims, not as combatants.

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