Keeping America Safe from Child "Terrorists" | This Can't Be Happening!
Keeping America Safe from Child "Terrorists"Fri, 06/20/2008 - 15:20 — dlindorff
President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and the rest of the warmongers and terror-pimps in the White House would have us believe that Omar Khadr is a monster. Khadr is the 21-year-old Canadian who is facing one of the first show-trials at Guantanamo.
But let’s just step back a minute and consider Mr. Khadr’s case.
The son of an alleged Islamic fundamentalist, Khadr was sent to one of those fundamentalist madrassa schools in Pakistan back when he was 14. From there, he went to Afghanistan, to join with the Taliban in fighting against the remnant warlord backers of the Soviet Union, which had attempted to run Afghanistan as a vassal state.
Then came 9-11 and the October 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan. Young Khadr suddenly found himself fighting against the world’s most powerful military.
In 2002, after the Taliban government had fallen, Khadr was still out in the hills with the forces of resistance. The Taliban government was gone, but the war was not over. In fact it’s still not over, with the Taliban resurgent in much of Afghanistan.
In this situation, with some 20,000 US and European troops battling across Afghanistan, Khadr, by then at the ripe age of 15, found himself with a group of five older fighters in a compound up in the hills. Some US Special Forces came on the location, and, peeking through cracks in the door, saw the group, armed with AK rifles. They called on the men to surrender, but the men allegedly refused.
At that point the brave Americans called in an air strike, and clobbered the building. After that softening up, they went inside to pick up the pieces.
Someone at that point, and US military prosecutors claim it was the wounded Khadr, tossed a grenade while lying injured on the ground. The grenade killed Special Forces Sergeant Christopher Speer. Speer’s comrades opened fire, with three of them hitting Khadr.
When they went to check on him, the critically injured, yet miraculously still living Khadr reportedly pleaded, “Shoot me!” Reportedly, some of Sgt. Speer’s buddies were ready to do just that. Apparently the “clicking” of injured captives by American forces (a war crime) is not uncommon, and even has its own slang word. But a medic with the group interceded and stopped the battlefield execution, and took action to save Khadr’s life.
Khadr was eventually shipped off to Guantanamo, at the age of 15, in violation of a 2002 protocol signed by the US which extended the protection of the Geneva Conventions against imprisoning child soldiers from the prior “under 15” standard to “under 18.” No matter, “bad guy” Khadr would be one of at least 2500 children that the US has admitted to incarcerating in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and elsewhere as “enemy combatants.”
Today, Khadr is 21. He has spent the second half of his teenage years confined in a prison camp on the naval base at Guantanamo.
This is what Bush and Cheney are really referring to when they assure us that they are holding “the worst of the worst” on the island of Cuba.
They are keeping us safe from 15-year-old boys.
And what, exactly, is Omar Khadr’s “crime”?
As far as I can tell, if he did toss that grenade (and there is testimony from American witnesses that the thrower may have been another man, who was killed in the resulting US barrage of fire), Khadr was simply demonstrating extraordinary bravery of the kind that would earn a silver star, at least, had it been a US soldier or marine doing the same thing under the same circumstances. Consider: he and his comrades-in-arms, battling in defense of their religion and, in some cases, their nation, were bombarded from the air. They were then approached by armed US troops—the very ones who had called in the air strike. This was a battle, and it was not over yet. For all Khadr knew, those US soldiers were going to kill them all. And in any event, Khadr and his fellow fighters had a right to defend themselves to the death to prevent capture. Sure it's unfortunate that Sgt. Speer was killed, but that's what happens in wars.
Still, a fighter killing another fighter during warfare is not the act of a “terrorist.” It may be brutal and it may be tragic, but it is the act of a soldier. That soldier, if captured, is not a criminal, but a POW. Moreover, if he is a child, the Geneva Conventions and the subsequent protocol mentioned above, require that he be treated not as a POW but as a victim of war.
Bush and Cheney don’t want to admit that the people fighting US forces in Afghanistan are legitimate soldiers, entitled to protection under the rules of war. They want us to believe that anyone who takes up a gun in defense of their homeland or of the homeland of their allies, and fights against the US military forces that are spread all over the globe like Roman Legions of old, are “terrorists,” deserving of whatever fate we hand them, by whatever rules we want to gin up.
But it’s worth remembering that this particular “terrorist,” at the time of his “crime,” was simply a scared and badly-wounded 15-year-old kid who had the balls to toss a grenade at well-armed soldiers on a search-and-destroy mission.
The Bush/Cheney administration’s incarceration and prosecution of this boy was a war crime. His continued incarceration and the attempt to prosecute him as a terrorist today makes a mockery of America’s motto: Home of the Brave.
We should all be ashamed.
Dave Lindorff: Killing the News in Iraq
Justifying the Unjustifiable
Killing the News in Iraq
By DAVE LINDORFF
Reuters may be “satisfied” with the Pentagon’s investigation concluding that US troops were “justified” in their slaying of the news organization’s working journalist Waleed Khaled back in 2005, but the rest of us shouldn’t be.
Khaled and his driver were killed by US troops when they came on a firefight involving US troops and Iraqi police who were allegedly under attack. The Pentagon report into the incident concluded that the two men came onto the scene, and American forces, seeing Khaled’s videocam and tripod, thought it was a rocket launcher. They reportedly fired warning shots. When Khaled’s driver did the logical thing, backing slowly from the scene, US troops “assumed it was an insurgent tactic” and fired to “disable” the vehicle, killing the two men.
First of all, let’s note that Khaled is not the only journalist to have been killed by US forces in Iraq. There has been a pattern that makes it clear that journalists who step outside the controlled bubble of the embedded propagandist traveling with the troops are fair game, which explains why we in America know so little about the reality of the US assault on the people of Iraq.
But beyond this journalistic issue, what this story tells us, besides the fact that an innocent reporter and his innocent driver, just doing their jobs, were murdered by overly aggressive US soldiers (whose initial response, and that of Pentagon “investigators,” appears to have been to cover up their actions) is that any innocent parties who stumble into a battle zone are liable to be slaughtered by US forces in Iraq.
The only thing that distinguishes this tragic incident from hundreds of others like it that occur routinely in Iraq is that Khaled was a journalist employed by a major Western news organization with the clout and prominence to demand a real, and public, investigation into the case.
For Iraqis killed under similar circumstances, not only is there no investigation; there is simply no report of their deaths. As US commanders have famously and disgustingly said, “We don’t do bodycounts.”
There is a reason why ordinary Iraqis are almost unanimously opposed to the neo-colonial “deal” the Bush is trying to force their puppet regime to approve, granting US forces legal immunity and a free rein in Iraq to attack and arrest anyone they choose, and to be protected from arrest by Iraqi authorities for any of their actions in that country. Iraqis daily see the US behaving like Nazi stormtroopers, killing their countrymen with impunity, and they want it to stop.
Anyone who thinks that running this kind of brutal occupation is going to end any way but disastrously is delusional. Imagine if we had Iraqi troops running around the US blowing up innocent drivers without fear of any consequence. We’d have an army of vigilantes taking action—which is just what is happening in Iraq.
The situation in Iraq for ordinary Iraqis has actually been getting worse, as the Pentagon turns increasingly to aerial bombardment and even the use of remote-controlled Predator drones, run by video jockeys back in the US, to conduct its attacks on “suspected insurgents,” instead of sending ground troops. This approach may reduce US casualties, but it inevitably increases the number and the percentage of so-called “collateral damage” deaths of innocent non-combatants.
Khaled’s murder by American troops is a personal tragedy for his colleagues and his family, but at least it serves to demonstrate, if anyone is paying attention, the wretched reality of the Bush/Cheney/Democratic Congress war and occupation of Iraq.
Returning veterans of the war who have joined Iraq Veterans Against the War IVAW), have been bravely speaking out against this ongoing horror. They tell of soldiers and marines so brutalized and frustrated by their repeated deployments to Iraq that all they want to do is survive and get home. They tell of troops who hate all Iraqis, calling them “hajjis” and “ragheads,” who are doped up and sent out on patrol with diminished judgment—a sure recipe for the kind of thing that happened to Khaled and his driver. One IVAW member, Camilo Mejia, who refused redeployment and was sentenced to a year in the brig for desertion, in an excellent book titled “Road from ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Camilio Mejia, an Iraq War Memoir” (Haymarket Books), also writes of how US commanders push their troops into pointless confrontations at which civilians are often the victims, because they want to go home with combat badges on their chests.
Just ask yourself for a moment, what should Khaled and his driver have done, when they came on the scene of the firefight? If they had simply stopped their car, having already been fired on (and no doubt not knowing who was doing the firing)? Sitting still was clearly a bad option. Going forward was suicide. So they did the only logical thing: they backed up slowly—surely the least threatening option available. But the US troops saw that action as “a typical insurgent tactic,” and opened fire on them.
If retreat is seen as an enemy “tactic,” then there is really no hope for some innocent person caught up in a firefight.
No wonder over a million Iraqis have died in this criminal war, most of them victims of American weaponry!
No wonder Iraqis overwhelmingly want the US out of their country!
No wonder even the puppet regime established by the US is opposed to the Bush/Cheney effort to establish a permanent occupation, with legal immunity for US forces, with 58 permanent bases around the country, and with the US getting control of the air and the right to bomb at will!DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based investigative journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net
The story of Khaled’s murder—and the fact that the Pentagon can call it “justified”--should make it crystal clear that the only answer to the ongoing crisis in Iraq is for the US to leave the country immediately.