Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Cry from Guantanamo: Omar Khadr's Letter to his Attorney

Andy Worthington writes:
The Washington Post has just made available a letter from Guantánamo (PDF), written by Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen who was just 15 years old when he was seized in Afghanistan in July 2002. The letter, to one of Khadr’s Canadian lawyers, Dennis Edney, was written on May 26, and touches on aspects of Khadr’s impending trial by Military Commission — including his constant desire to fire his lawyers, which surfaced in recent pre-trial hearings, and which I discussed in two articles, Defiance in Isolation: The Last Stand of Omar Khadr and Omar Khadr Accepts US Military Lawyer for Forthcoming Trial by Military Commission.
As Michelle Shepard at the Toronto Star reports, Khadr Canadian attorney "[Denis] Edney and advocates for Khadr released the letter Tuesday afternoon to the Toronto Star, Washington Post, Miami Herald and Edmonton Journal." As for the Canadian government's own despicable role in this affair, Shepard adds:
The Federal Court of Appeal overturned a lower court decision last week that ordered Ottawa to intercede on his behalf in Guantanamo. Canada’s Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the federal government did breach Khadr’s constitutional rights but stopped short of ordering Prime Minister Stephen Harper to ask for his repatriation, saying the courts couldn’t stray into the realm of dictating foreign policy.
Here's the full text of the letter. It is heart-breaking to read. For a psychologist such as myself, I see in it the inner struggle of a sensitive man, who was imprisoned as a boy, and has not known adulthood except through the twisted regime of Guantanamo. "I really don’t want to live in a life like this." No doubt Omar is often quite depressed, and trying hard to make sense of what role fate has chosen for him.

Note, too, his referencing of what I believe was the U.S. civil rights struggle -- something to identify with. How ironic that Barack Obama, the nation's first African-American president, is persecuting a former child soldier, using him to validate his own version of the executive's kangaroo court military commissions, while Omar Khadr himself looks for meaning and hope in the example of the great civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s.

Dear Dennis:

I’m writing to you because sometimes there are things you can’t say, but rather write on paper, and even if I were to tell you you won’t understand. So anyway here are the things:

First: About this whole MC [Military Commissions] thing we all don’t believe in and know it’s unfair and know Dennis that there must be somebody to sacrifice to really show the world the unfairness, and really it seems that it’s me. Know Dennis that I don’t want that, I want my freedom and life, but I really don’t see it coming from this way. Dennis you always say that I have an obligation to show the world what is going on down here and it seems that we’ve done every thing but the world doesn’t get it, so it might work if the world sees the US sentencing a child to life in prison, it might show the world how unfair and sham this process is, and if the world doesn’t see all this, to what world am I being released to? A world of hate, unjust and discrimination! I really don’t want to live in a life like this. Dennis justice and freedom have a very high cost and value, and history is a good witness to it, not too far ago or far away how many people sacrificed for the civil right law to take affect. Dennis I hate being the head of the spear, but life has put me, and as life have put me in the past in hard position and still is, I just have to deal with it and hope for the best results.

Second: The thought of firing everybody as you know is always on my mind so if one day I stop coming or fire you please respect it and forget about me, I know it is hard for you. Just think about me as a child who died and get along with your life. Of course I am not saying that will or willn’t happen but its on my mind all the time.

Dennis. I’m so sorry to cause you this pain, but consider it one of your sons hard decisions that you don’t like, but you have to deal with, and always know what you mean to me and know that I will always be the same person you’ve known me and will never change, and please don’t be sad and be hopeful and know that there is a very merciful and compassionate creator watching us and looking out for us and taking care of us all, you might not understand these thing, but know by experience they have kept me how and who I am.

With love and my best wishes to you, and the family, and everybody who loves me, and I love them back in Canada, and I leave you with HOPE and I am living on it, so take care.

Your truly son,


26 May 2010 at 11:37am

P.S. Please keep this letter as private as can be, and as you see appropriate.

Apparently, Mr. Edney thought his client best served by releasing the letter. Worthington comments:
... he obviously felt that it was appropriate to release it, and that Omar would understand.

And given how difficult it is for many Canadians to see Omar as a human being — even with his vile and inappropriate war crimes trial looming — I tend to think he’s right.
One could say the same thing about Americans. Let's hope a piece of this tragic boy-man's story gets a wider, more sympathetic hearing.

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