Same as in town.
November 4, 2010 6:02 PM   Subscribe

“But Gitmo, a ‘betrayal of American values’? Would that it were! Alas, for nearly every grisly tabloid feature of the Khadr case, you can find an easy analog in our everyday criminal justice system. In a sense, much of our War on Terror has proven a slightly spicier version of our ‘normal’ way of doing criminal justice. Using the case of Omar Khadr, let's take this step by step.”
posted by kipmanley (37 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have words to express my feeling of disgrace that my nation has come to this.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:11 PM on November 4, 2010 [5 favorites]

In his book, "Decision Points," Bush asserts that he was asked by the Central Intelligence Agency whether he would support the agency's waterboarding of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged 9/11 mastermind.

"Damn right," Bush says that he said.

posted by Rhaomi at 6:12 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

last week, I watched a movie in which a man suspected of a heinous, treasonous crime is arrested. the government suspends habeas corpus, and shunts him into a military tribunal instead of a civil court. the tribunal is instructed to convict him in light of the national emergency, regardless of whether a reasonable doubt exists. he isn't allowed to testify, and is convicted. he is spared the death penalty and sentenced to life in an island prison south of Florida.

that movie was released in 1936. talk about prescient.
posted by TrialByMedia at 6:17 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Police state or bust. This seems to be the motto of our federal government democrats and republicans.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:34 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

that movie was released in 1936. talk about prescient.

posted by clavdivs at 6:41 PM on November 4, 2010

I'm pretty sure I'd rather kill myself rather than be incarcerated in an American prison*. Between the general beatings, rape, stabbings, and out-and-out murder, and the fact that we imprison people for monetary gain (see: prison industrial complex, recent prisoncorp-written legislation in Arizona as an on-hand example), I'm terrified of both the prison system and law enforcement in general for having the power to send me there. And as we know, fear is a totally healthy thing to base behaviour on!

My state just passed more punishment legislation, which is bad, but it was something like 55/45 which gives me hope that at least some people out there are thinking about this and it might change one day.

* Other prisons are probably equally terrible, I assume.
posted by curious nu at 6:43 PM on November 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

When is Canada going to take some responsibility to help resolve this mess?
posted by humanfont at 6:43 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

try them
try them all
posted by clavdivs at 6:48 PM on November 4, 2010

When is Canada going to take some responsibility to help resolve this mess?

If Stephen Harper can find a way out, never.
posted by bonehead at 6:53 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I dunno, Joe Beese; it's less "has come to" and more "has always been."

—Whenever we come around to the horrible things Bush & co. did to this country's moral standing (and they did do them, and they were horrible), I keep thinking about the swimming pools.

It's a striking image from "Shadowplay," a nasty little dramatic essay by Alan Moore and Bill Sienkiewicz. There's this drunk eagle, former Company man, narrating the secret history of the CIA in the bad old mad old mid-twentieth century, and at one point the eagle says, "Chiang [that would be Chiang Kai-shek] fled to Taiwan, establishing himself by massacring up to 20,000 people. —Average body holdsa gallon. Big swimming pools hold 20,000 gallons, so imagine a pool filled with blood."

And those swimming pools become this grotesque little illumination throughout the comic, as American operatives and proxies fill them up through the years.

So every time I think about the horrible things that have been done in our name, I think about the swimming pools. This article is very much in that vein.

That we are and have been doing these horrible things for so very long doesn't mean we can't be outraged. Nor does it mean we can't change. If anything, it makes the need for us to change even more pressing, even more stark.

But it should make us Yanks awful cautious about claiming any sort of prelapsarian moral high ground.
posted by kipmanley at 6:55 PM on November 4, 2010 [9 favorites]

In fact, the ho-hum familiarity of much of the War on Terror's nastiness may help explain why so many Americans view what's gone on at Gitmo with a shrug, and often respond to the liberal shock and horror with exasperation.

This is ridiculous. The issue isn't people going ho-hum when they hear about the nastiness, the issue is no one hears about the nastiness. Most folks aren't reading blogs, they're certainly not reading Mother Jones. Their information comes in fun-size bites on the evening news, or word-of-mouth, or worse, whatever issue can be Ripped From The Headlines!!! to prop up a television drama plot.

It's okay to be outraged by reports of torture, forced confession, and stripping of rights, whether it's a result of the war on terror or the war on drugs. Being shocked by one doesn't mean you can't be shocked by the other if you haven't heard of it before.

(I actually liked the article until I got to this part of it!)
posted by mittens at 7:03 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

War crimes trials — from tragedy to farce: Heather Mallick, Toronto Star.

Following the Khadr Trial was watching perceived reality bend and warp.
posted by ovvl at 7:08 PM on November 4, 2010

The last time the name “Speer” and “war crimes” shared the same courtroom was in Nuremberg in 1946. Then it was Albert Speer on trial for being awfully good at running the Nazi war machine that killed tens of millions.

wow, straight to Hitler without so much as a clue.

Speer got 20 years.

there are people in prison for possession of an ounce of marijuana who got half that.
posted by clavdivs at 7:22 PM on November 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

and to be a prude, Speers name was read in the Indictment, in 1945.
you people rely on this information yes?
its parsing but get the Godwin correct.
posted by clavdivs at 7:27 PM on November 4, 2010

"Gazing into Gitmo's black hole can also easily provoke disturbing reflections on the rule of law in wartime America. As another lawyer remarked 2,000 years ago while his republic was degenerating into empire, "Inter armas silent leges"
(in time of war, the laws fall silent)."

'Silent enim leges inter arma'
posted by clavdivs at 7:55 PM on November 4, 2010

One of the things that recently pissed me off about the Khadr case is when the prosecution tried to argue that he ought to be locked up for longer because being in Guantanamo had made him more dangerous. No, maybe this overall isn't particularly unique within the American justice system, but this case was still pretty damn nauseating to read about.
posted by lullaby at 8:30 PM on November 4, 2010 [4 favorites]

Alas, for nearly every grisly tabloid feature of the Khadr case, you can find an easy analog in our everyday criminal justice system.

Well, not so much for the just making up crimes with which to charge people who do something you don't like, which is really the main problem.
posted by ssg at 8:30 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


the disgraced police officer was convicted this past June for perjury and obstruction of justice. He currently awaits sentencing.

There is miles of difference between these abuses occurring in spite of law and official policy, and the same abuses being law and official policy.
posted by Bokononist at 8:43 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have a name similar to the attorney who represented Khadr.

One day, I got a call from a Canadian journalist. He started asking me about this case, as I thought, "Wow, must be a slow news day up North." As he continued our interview, it dawned on me that this man actually thought I was Khadr's attorney.

I began to laugh and told him that he had the wrong guy. He sounded disappointed, in that chipper but slightly downbeat Canadian way, and bit me farewell. I hope his career has progressed since then.
posted by reenum at 8:58 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Somewhat related to this is a newish book -- The New Jim Crow -- which is basically about the racially biased way that criminal law (and especially drug law) is implemented. But yes, nothing at Guantanamo is terribly new, aside from the official sanction for things that supposedly don't normally happen and we all pretend doesn't happen that much.
posted by R343L at 9:02 PM on November 4, 2010

This feature-length documentary looks at German POWs from the WWII who were housed in 25 camps across Canada.

The Second World War happened far away, but Canada was involved as part of the British Commonwealth from the start. The British had PoW camps of their own, of course. However, the danger of this was that the prisoners would form a ready army if Hitler's troops ever successfully invaded Great Britain. The better place for the prisoners was far away. Canada, the United States and Australia all had prisoner of war camps during the Second World War.

Filmmaker Eva Colmers follows her father's story - Theo Melzer - who spent three and a half years in a POW camp in Lethbridge, Alberta. Growing up in Germany, she had always been puzzled by her father's fond memories of his POW life, so when she moved to Canada, she set out to rediscover this story. What she found surprised her. Watch as Theo Melzer, along with other POWs, recount how their lives were changed by the unexpected respect and dignity they received at the hands of their Canadian captors.

Do you know that some Canadian First World War veterans returned to voluntary service as the Veterans Guard of Canada, to make sure the PoWs didn't riot or escape?

These materials ought to be viewed before a politician is allowed to make decisions on how to act in any future war involving other humans.

Student leads excavation of Canadian POW camp

Are they saying we did it wrong back then?

I submit for your consideration; REGULATIONS GOVERNING PRISONERS OF WAR:
24 SEPTEMBER, 1934

4. Article 2 of the first Convention referred to provides: "Prisoners of war are in the power of the hostile Power but not of the individuals or corps who have captured them. They must at all times be humanely treated and protected, particularly against acts of violence, insults, and public curiosity. Measures of reprisal against them are prohibited."
posted by infinite intimation at 10:48 PM on November 4, 2010 [9 favorites]

"America's criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace" Senator Jim Webb (D) advocating for US Prison reform.
Slate reckoned that Guantanamo was the least of America's prison problems. However now the Republicans are back in town I can't see anything happening.
* The United States has the highest incarceration rate on the planet - five times the world's average. A total of 2,380,000 people are now in prison. The U.S. has five percent of the world's population, but 25 percent of the world's prison population.
* Minorities make up a disproportionately large share of inmates. Black males have a 32 percent chance of serving time in prison at some point in their lives; Hispanic males have a 17 percent chance; white males have a six percent chance.
* African American men and boys are grossly over-represented at every stage of the judicial process. Although African Americans make up just over 12 percent of the national population, 42 percent of those currently on death row are African American.
* African American women have the highest rate of incarceration among women in the U.S. - four times higher than that of white women.
* Drug offenders in prisons and jails have increased 1200 percent since 1980.
* There are an estimated 350,000 men and women prisoners with serious mental disorders - four times the number in mental health hospitals.
posted by adamvasco at 1:33 AM on November 5, 2010 [5 favorites]

30 years of conservative ideology will do this to a country.

But hey, at least we're FREE!
posted by Max Power at 6:04 AM on November 5, 2010

When is Canada going to take some responsibility to help resolve this mess?

after hockey season eh?
posted by srboisvert at 6:10 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

30 years of conservative ideology will do this to a country.

Because neo-liberal ideology has nothing to do with it...
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:34 AM on November 5, 2010

As much as people would like to paint this as just a republican/conservative thing that's just not really accurate. The democrats/liberals in our federal government have been just as complicit in this as anyone.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:36 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

You're absolutely right Aelfwine our elected officials for decades have wanted to appear 'tough on crime" resulting in mandatory sentencing, "zero tolerance" measures and ever harsher sentencing for scores of offenses that in the past given a judge's discretion would amount to fines or public service.

Our newly elected senator from Illinois actually was trying to get a bill passed that would make possession of 'high quality" marijuana a 20 year MANDATORY offense.

At this point in our history I can hardly distinguish any differences between the U.S. and the former Soviets, accept maybe we have better entertainment and are given the fig leaf of "choosing" our masters.
posted by Max Power at 7:07 AM on November 5, 2010 the point you make! I listen to old radio shows from the 40s and 50s and there are often whole programs or NATO commercials that state how torture, no freedom of assembly or censorship could happen in the US. They really weird me out - I don't think anyone could have imagined the 180 turn in values.

I feel sincerely confused by something in the Khadr case and I hope someone can answer it for me. I'm confused as to how he can be tried for murder. Isn't it a given that in a military conflict that people will be killed?
posted by Calzephyr at 7:08 AM on November 5, 2010

mittens: The issue isn't people going ho-hum

So now you know about the nastiness what are you going to do about it ?

I ask because unless you have a plan to do something beyond posting outrage on teh internet then you are in fact just going ho-hum (as am I, by the way, posting is all I am going to do - so this is not an attack on your character).

I will be delighted if you post back with a list of planned actions. It will certainly mark you as a better person than me.

I'm also pretty certain the disenfranchised sections of US society have heard of the abuse (Black, poor etc etc) that seems to be a little too frequent in US prisons. No surprise to them.

posted by Boslowski at 7:13 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

mea culpa
posted by clavdivs at 7:54 AM on November 5, 2010

infinite intimation: "This feature-length documentary looks at German POWs from the WWII who were housed in 25 camps across Canada."

That was outstanding. I just finished watching it twice. Many thanks for posting the link.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 7:58 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm confused as to how he can be tried for murder. Isn't it a given that in a military conflict that people will be killed?

If we grant, for the moment, the two points that he was not a soldier and that he did in fact kill the guy, then he has likely committed a crime since at that point there is no legal difference between him killing a US soldier and killing an Afghan cab driver. (Granting, too, that it wasn't justified self-defense)

Of course, that's a crime to be prosecuted by an Afghan court and according to the local laws of Afghanistan at the time of the deed; it can't be a "war crime" since the act would have been legal if he were a uniformed soldier.
posted by Cironian at 9:00 AM on November 5, 2010

I don't know why the US doesn't just throw all convicted (and hell, accused) criminals into a giant gulag in Alaska and be done with them. It's not like we give much of a shit about running an effective or humane system, nor do we believe in the concepts of rehabilitation or paid debts.
posted by Legomancer at 9:15 AM on November 5, 2010

"...and bit me farewell" Well, we can be like that.

"I'm confused as to how he can be tried for murder. Isn't it a given that in a military conflict that people will be killed?"

The usual argument goes something like this: Since he was there as an Al Qaida operative, but not wearing a uniform, he wasn't actually an official soldier, so it must have been murder. On the other hand, since he was a 15 year-old Al Qaida fighter, he also wasn't a child soldier; again, he's still a murderer.

So it seems he was a child murderer who somehow stumbled into a fire fight with US forces. Since the US forces were/were not attacking the compound where Khadr was, he may/may not have been fighting in self-defense (well, except that we already know he's a Murderer). During this fire fight/murder, whilst lying under some rubble from a collapsed structure of some kind, he was able to throw a grenade which killed a MEDIC, who was/was not wearing a uniform that said "MEDIC" on it. I've heard that there is no actual evidence for this scenario, but have been informed that because Sgt. Speer was a MEDIC - whether or not he was wearing a uniform that indicated his medic-ness, that this was not only a Murder with a capital "M", but a War Crime.

Finally, with a collective sigh of relief, we can be absolutely 100% certain that he's a Murderer because he admitted to it in a plea bargain which was organized by the democratically elected governments of the US and Canada. Kadr surely had nothing to gain from this deal, and had he been a principled man from the beginning, would have preferred to ROT IN PRISON rather than admit to a crime he didn't commit. That's how we know that he's not only a Murderer, but Islamofascist scum who can never be returned to normal life in Canada, so long as Stephen Harper is Prime Minister, so help me God. [Sorry, I've been reading the mainstream Canadian press again.]

There's a very interesting interview with the US military prosecutor. He's a guy who could drink water and shit ice cubes, but his attitude of total certainty as to the rightness of what's going on at Guantanamo Bay is frightening.

Finally, does Omar Khadr actually matter in all this? My view is that this outcome is designed to accomplish two things:
1) Throw a body to the constituency of anti-Islam, anti-immigrant, Right-wing armchair warriors in both countries. (Hmmm. Giving those folks a bone just before the mid-term elections couldn't hurt either...)
2) Legitimize any further trials by the same military tribunals. They know there will continue to be questions of legality based on both US and International agreements, but hey! we've dealt with that guy who looked like either a civilian or at worst a child soldier from a friendly country. If nothing else, if they can't be tried for some kind of war crime, murder is an option.

Finally, Khadr's lawyer, Dennis Edney said in an interview that additional charges were added to the plea bargain after Khadr had agreed to plead guilty to Murder. Because they can do whatever the hell they want, and there's nothing we can do about it.
posted by sneebler at 10:15 AM on November 5, 2010

Thank you Cironian and Sneebler, that really helped. There has been so much myriad coverage that it's hard for me to keep track of these things.
posted by Calzephyr at 10:35 AM on November 6, 2010

Because Khadr has served 8 years already, shouldn't he be released immediately?

Also, here's one more insight into the case:

"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."
posted by Galen at 8:05 PM on November 17, 2010

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