Omar Khadr: try him but not here

The status of Omar Khadr has been an issue that has been hotly debated in Canada and one that has recently seen media attention around the world with the airing of over seven hours of CSIS interrogation video of the boy at Guantanamo Bay.

It has also been one of intellectual conflict for conservative thinkers and hawkish Canadians. As a conservative, I have for the most part found intellectual solace in logic on issue tracks where my bleeding-heart friends usually hug the emotional left rail. The broad-arching free markets help rise more people out of poverty than knee-jerk social and emotional reaction to give hand-outs to sustain a substandard of living is but one example where cold right-wing logic is a better and more constructive end that short-sighted albeit well-meaning emotionalism. I have always believed that right-wingers act upon what they know to be true, whereas left-wingers act upon what they feel to be true.

And on the issue of Omar Khadr, I see a departure of my usually logic-minded friends on the right to irrational emotionalism usually reserved for the left.

There are a few indisputable facts about Omar Khadr that we should realize and consider through a logical lens in order to proceed both in manner true to our cold sense of objectivity and in harmony with our values as but one element of modern Western civilization.

  • Omar Khadr is alleged to have thrown a grenade that killed an American medic in 2002.
  • Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen. This is true as a fact and our emotional reaction to his family’s own irrationalism and Khadr’s own alleged actions does not change the truth of this fact. While Khadr spent most of his life in Afghanistan or Pakistan, he remains a legal Canadian citizen. Our government has the responsibility to enunciate our values on Khadr.
  • Every single person held in custody ought to be afforded the due process of law. There are exceptions that have been made when national security has been at stake yet Khadr has been held since 2003 and cannot be reasonably considered as a valued source of intelligence at this time. To deny Khadr due process is more fundamentally an affront to the basis of our values as modern civilized states in that we value the rule of law as constituent of the foundation that undergirds our society.

While Omar Khadr should not be left to rot at Guantanamo Bay, does this mean that Omar Khadr should be returned to Canada to face Canadian justice?


Omar Khadr ought to face justice against his American accusers and stand trial before an American court. Guantanamo Bay cannot provide the justice that Americans deserve as Gitmo itself robs that society of two of its fundamental values: due process and the rule of law.

This conclusion of course will lead to some uncharacteristic emotional outcry from conservatives and most reaction will not be based upon the cold logical reason that is usually the hallmark of our ideology.

But, let’s go to first principles. Omar Khadr doesn’t himself deserve to be released from jihadi limbo at Gitmo and tried before an American court. However, as individuals who are defending a society based upon key values such as due process, presumption of innocence, and the rule of law, we deserve it. Khadr’s present threat does not manifest itself in his illiberal hatred of our culture, it rests instead in the extent to which we are to make our own values malleable in order rationalize our understandable but illogical emotion.

There is inconsistency on the Liberal side too, of course. Khadr was captured, interrogated and held under approval from the previous Liberal administrations. For them to demand his return, shows intellectual dishonesty and absurd emotionalism.

Khadr should not be returned to Canada, as we do not simply return Canadian citizens to Canada when they run afoul of the law in the United States. However, to complete this logical loop, Khadr must face the law in an American court. With both US Presidential candidates calling for the closure of Guantanamo, Prime Minister Harper would be wise to call for Khadr to face American due process.