CBC Radio did a short feature on Omar Khadr this morning (November 5, 2007). He was described as a “child soldier.” His (recently updated and greatly expanded) story is well-documented on Wikipedia.
Omar, at age 15, was the only survivor in a July 27, 2002 battle with US forces in Afghanistan. There are various versions of his capture. In short, when found, he was originally reported to have killed one US soldier (Christopher James Speer) and injured three others. He was also injured in the confrontation, but then rescued and treated for his wounds. He was bleeding heavily, and would have died if not treated (according to the CBC).
More recent documents indicate that the grenade which injured the US soldiers, killing Sgt. Speer, may have been thrown by another militant. US courts in other rulings have determined that the throwing of the grenade was an act of terrorism, not an act of war. Video footage reveals that Khadr assisted in the burying of landmines and that he handled weapons and explosives with enthusiasm. Khadr's training by al Qaeda and his active involvement in al Qaeda activities (including statements of praise by Osama bin Laden) are well-documented. A recent biography (Guantanamo's Child) has just been released, authored by Michelle Sheppard. I have ordered but have not yet read the book, though I think the book's title makes no secret of its intended progressive ideological slant.
The point I wish to make – as indicated by the title of this piece – is not a semantic one.
Soldiers are members of armies who fight in battles and wars on behalf of governments or other entities having political status. If our country is at war with the army of which the soldier is a member, we have the option of making terms of peace or war with the political entity sponsoring that army. That is, we can declare war, propose a truce, offer our surrender, or declare victory following a decisive outcome in combat.
Al Qaeda is not a political entity with which it is possible to establish terms of either war or peace. We have no option as to engaging or not engaging, or even of surrendering to this “enemy.” This enemy has engaged the nations of the west on its own terms, focussing upon our full civilian population as its target. Al Qaeda is an unusual enemy in another respect, as it also has no army. Its agents – whether adults or children (and al Qaeda does not demonstrate concern as to whether its agents are adults or children) – are not soldiers. All, whether adults or children, and whether we find it palatable or not, are trained in the tactics of terror and violence.Al Qaeda is a tightly-knit but widely dispersed totalitarian political movement utilizing terrorism and suppression of opposition as its primary mode of operation. Its adherents are agents of oppression, advocates of uniformity and proponents of the elimination of competing belief systems on an international scale.
The terrorist participants in this illegal international organization train their children to be terrorists.
However dangerous we may suppose the agents of al Qaeda to be, we can hold little doubt that the children trained by this extralegal underground network are as dangerous as the adults whom it has trained.
Al Qaeda's well-described training program is bone-chillingly militant and aggressive, devoid of human compassion, single-mindedly focused on the disruption of civilian life, all-encompassing in its ideological stance, puritanical in its preference for civilian attack versus the attainment of military objectives, and persistent in its impact on its participants. The fundamental lesson imparted by al Qaeda to its trainees is a simple two-element message: “Kill the infidels (meaning anyone, Muslim or otherwise, who does not adhere to their hate-fuelled belief system); and continue on to die a (so-called) martyr's death.”
Despite a smokescreen of intense ideological rhetoric, this organization is best understood by examining its actions rather than by attempting to grasp its ideology. The members of this extra-legal group view the killing and injury of civilians as their overarching mission. Al Qaeda dispatches no emissaries and maintains no embassies. It holds no plan of government or policy of international relations. The organization exists entirely outside the framework which makes it possible for international law to take on the meanings which (within our only partially law-governed international culture) we desire to ascribe to it.
The resources of al Qaeda are devoted entirely to the acquisition of explosives and weaponry and to the conversion and training of agents of destruction based on a rhetoric of hate. Terror is not a means to an end for this organization, but an end in itself. The more innocent civilians (or soldiers) who are killed and injured, and the greater the suffering and loss of their victims, the more glorious al Qaeda's victory.
Adherents of al Qaeda also view it as a supreme honour to be killed in carrying out their mission of death and destruction - and I suspect that this is so because these individuals hold out no more positive goals for their own lives than for those whom they intend to deprive of life, liberty, health and safety.
It is an unseemly fact that al Qaeda is recruiting adults and children alike with the single plan of injuring and killing their self-defined enemies at home and abroad. This organization has no other program. What we do or do not do will not alter their plan, as it is ideologically driven, and therefore fundamentally independent of the flow of world events.
The question as to how we are to respond to al Qaeda and the Islamic extremism it represents is before us. These current choices are more difficult than the past half century has prepared us for, and are by all means entirely shocking to our sensibilities. Yet we must now begin to formulate our responses to the present extraparadigmatic circumstances. The necessity of doing so will press upon us evermore as time drives us forward.
From our own cultural perspective, Omar Khadr was indeed a child at the time he allegedly murdered one US soldier and injured three additional US soldiers (or fought enthusiastically alongside the person or persons who did so). But he was not a soldier by any definition of the term that I am aware of.
I will leave it to you, the reader, to determine your own response to the following questions:Was Omar Khadr an innocent victim of the terrorists who succored and trained him, twisting and distorting his thinking during the vulnerable developmental phases of childhood and adolescence? Was he too young to understand and comprehend the mission of death into which he had been recruited through the influences of his father, his other family members, and their associates? Do international legal standards pertaining to the treatment of child soldiers apply to him for such reasons, regardless of the status of the organization in which he participated, perhaps due in some large measure to a presumption of the application of direct or indirect coercion upon him as a child?
Further, and perhaps idealistically, might it in some way be possible to rescue Omar Khadr from his exploitative circumstances and restore him to a peaceful, productive and cooperative way of life - in the same manner that our own lives are productive - whether in Canada or in the Muslim world? Given competing priorities (not the least being the compensation of the multitudes of victims of terror both at home and abroad), is it wise to allocate societal resources to the project of rehabilitating Omar Khadr and those like him? Might there be some higher benefit accruing to us due to the learning about fundamental principles of international human relations which might be gained from such a project?
Alternatively, was Omar Khadr a committed - perhaps reflexive - child terrorist, fully (or partially) responsible for sharing and invoking the brutal vision of the organization (into which he was assimilated essentially from birth) that recruited, guided and trained him, and to which we can only assume he had sworn allegiance to the death? Was his conditioning, based on lifelong family participation and organizational membership, so early and deep that it is fundamentally irreversible? Were his personal motives and intentions inseparably allied with those of the adult terrorists with whom he lived, trained, decreed jihad and battled side-by-side? Was he functioning under the auspices of an extra-legal terrorist organization that itself makes no recognition of international law, and expects no such legal status for its members?
Further, does Omar Khadr demonstrate any desire to change and to reconcile himself to peaceful coexistence with the peoples of the west - or even with that great portion of Muslims who do not condone al Qaeda and its methods? Is the cost of rehabilitating terrorists - whether children or otherwise - greater than the resources our society can bring to bear on this problem, given the plethora of unaddressed challenges that already confront us closer to home - or that are more central to the core principles of our society? Finally, is rehabilitation the wrong question - a Quixotic venture that will only lead us astray while we remain susceptible to further attack by those whose only intention is to do us harm?
Proceeding further - stretching beyond these initial questions - was Omar Khadr an innocent child victim and a committed international terrorist, concurrently? Or, yet again, was he - is he now - something other than either of these diverse but inherently constraining portrayals might allow?
I encourage you to exercise your own judgement in answering the above questions.
It is indisputable that the recruitment of children into hostilities by any organization is treated as a war crime under international law, making clear that al Qaeda itself is an international criminal organization, and that their recruitment of Omar Khadr was a criminal act.
Around the world, thousands of children are now being born into the families of individuals who have committed themselves to the totalitarian and genocidal ideologies of various Islamic extremist movements. The children of these persons will surely be raised to give comfort to and to stand beside terrorists if not to practise terrorism themselves. They will do so in the company of their parents, their school teachers, their religious leaders, and many other members of their families and communities.
Conditioning of this type is very difficult to reverse. It raises an entirely different set of questions than does the matter of child soldiers in settings such as Africa, where children recruited into combat are separated from their families and inculcated in ideologies that are incongruent with prior family and community practice.
Omar Khadr, during his developing years, was one of this multitude of Islamic children being raised in extremist environments. As has already occurred in the case of Omar Khadr, we can expect that we will surely be facing such persons in future battles for many years to come. That these future combatants will have been recruited into jihad through their families as children will in most cases not be a concern to us when we face them in battle, whether as children (from our point of view) or as adults.
I submit, therefore, that the most difficult element for us in the story of Omar Khadr is not that he was imputedly a child soldier, but rather that as an individual born in Canada, his story is more approachable to us than are the stories, for example, of the children of the madrasahs of Waziristan. Our egalitarian instincts drive us to attempt to treat him as we would any other Canadian child. This reflex is less automatic in the case of children born to foreign cultures in foreign lands.
(The politics of Waziristan - again for example - are complex, with Islamic radicalism there driven by the region's conservative native Pashtun tribespeople, an ascendant Taliban movement, and the influx of al Qaeda and other radical elements. Click here for analysis from US News & World Report.)
We know little about the children who are being raised into extremist environments across the Islamic world. Yet it is almost certain that we will be engaging such children in battle - whether we desire to or not - while continuing to conduct operations in the region with the intention of stabilizing Afghanistan and bringing to an end its role as an international terrorist haven.
Those who are the children of Islamic extremists now will emerge as adults later, and we will be in no position to make subtle differentiations in response to their targeted attacks on civilians in public places (these organizations certainly draw no distinction between adults and children in such attacks), or their attacks on health workers, aid workers, teachers, elected representatives, other leaders, suspected collaborators - and of course, soldiers - both our own and native Afghani troops.
Taken in context, Omar Khadr stands as a symbol, if you will, of a rising tide of Islamic youth who are being drawn into radical causes, with the full intention on the part of their families that they will do battle with infidels both at home and abroad as participants in a global jihadist movement.
Therefore, I will permit you to refer to Omar Khadr as a child (at the time of his capture) if this is your preference, though I consider this characterization of him questionable in his own cultural context (that is, while we would view him as a child, that was not a matter of concern to his recruiters, including his family members).
Additionally, it is certainly reasonable that you take full consideration of the extent to which Omar Khadr was surely exploited and his life misused by the criminal organization in which he was raised. But understand - Omar Khadr was not a child stolen from his family and forced into battle. He was raised at the outset to do exactly what he was engaged in doing when American troops encountered him and his comrades in arms on that fateful day in July 2002, one of the American soldiers giving his life in this confrontation (whatever direct or indirect role that Khadr played in his demise).
Omar Khadr's family were brazen enough to groom their son for his well-documented position in the international jihadist movement (in which he was apparently already fully active at the time of his capture), while simultaneously taking advantage of the full benefits of their Canadian citizenship. These benefits were accorded to Omar Khadr and his family while they were fully occupied with a leadership role in a movement intended to subvert Canada and the nations of the West.
Call Omar Khadr a child, call him exploited, call him a victim - if this is what you believe - but please, don't refer to Omar Khadr as a child soldier. This is where I draw the line. That he was not. Neither in the contexts of historical precedent nor international law.
5 May 2008: The trial judge, Army Col. Peter Brownback, has indeed just ruled that this young man is not a child soldier. While this ruling has aroused controversy, I believe the judge is quite right in reaching this finding on this particular question of law and procedure. Click here for the Reuters story on Yahoo!, or here for the National Post version of the story.
8 May 2008: Due to frequent views of this post, I have substantially edited the text (above) in order to clarify the specific ethical questions I am attempting to raise. I wish to distinguish the question of Omar Khadr's presumed mistreatment as a child by his family and by al Qaeda, the organization to which they adhere, from the narrower but also important question of Omar Khadr's right to be treated as a child soldier under international law.
In brief, I see no easy answers to the question of his status as a child accused of assault, murder and perhaps other crimes before the courts. Certainly, the applicable evidence as to what he did or did not do should be fully weighed in a court of justice. That he was actively engaged in both the practice and support of terrorism does not appear to be in question, though there are obvious nuances to be considered, due to the focus of his activity in the Afghan context. Perhaps Omar Khadr has been wrongfully accused of the particular offenses with which he is presently charged. In this case, it is the task of the court to determine if this is or is not so.
What troubles me is the notion that an active and committed member of a terrorist organization, whether a child or not, has the right under international law to be treated as a child soldier, with the implication that rehabilitation is the primary issue at stake.
That is, the indisputably optimistic presumption of international law is that child soldiers can be rehabilitated. I have no such certainty or confidence regarding children subject to the lifelong indoctrination and training of extralegal and particularly blatantly terrorist organizations whose agents and operatives do not belong to armies consistent with any kind of historical precedent, and who often reside in communities that fully condone or at least openly tolerate their activities.
Am I certain as to whether Omar Khadr, specifically, can or cannot be rehabilitated? I am not. Perhaps he can be and perhaps he cannot be. That will depend upon the particulars of the case and on the particulars of his individual makeup, which are not known to me.
However, I object to the simplistic presumption that rehabilitation is the primary issue in Omar Khadr's case because, within our own cultural context - not his - he is (or was) a child at the time of his alleged offenses.
Further, it troubles me, as is typical in our discourse on current events, that the media focus on the story of the offender - in this case - Omar Khadr - rather than on the stories of the four victims, about whom we are told little, if anything at all, and one of whom, due to the loss of his life, allegedly at this young man's hands, though possibly at the hands of one of Khadr's compatriots, no longer has a story that can be told.
The final chapter of the story of Sergeant First Class (SFC) Christopher James Speer's life - this chapter both heroic and tragic in its essence - has already been written. While the stories of the dead can be told and retold by those who remember them, they are embellishments of the past, and no portion remains for future events. The door to Sgt. Speer's hopes, dreams, plans and goals remains forever closed. It is the alleged actions of Omar Khadr (and/or the terrorist operatives with whom he stood) that have sealed the last chapter of Sgt. Speer's life, and it is the nature of Omar Khadr's responsibility for this act - including the question of his direct or indirect involvement - that is now in question.
As a rule, we discuss the rights of the perpetrators of crime more easily than we do the rights of its victims, and this continues to trouble me. This is a problem of our society, not that of the Khadr family. (Islamic societies typically make haste with the prosecution and punishment of offenders, adhering to standards of evidence - and considerations of age - much less circumspect than our own.) The fact that Omar Khadr was a child, and his four alleged victims adults, does not in any manner reassure me that he is entitled to the rights of a child soldier as presently defined under international law, whether his part in causing injury and death to the soldiers was direct or indirect.
Strikingly, not only is it difficult to learn about Omar Khadr's victims through regular media channels, a web search for "omar khadr victim" will return endless entries in which Khadr himself is portrayed as a victim. Information about his victims will not be uncovered by such a straightforward search. (Setting aside the incident presently before the courts, we do not know, for example, how many innocent persons - children included - may have been killed or injured while travelling across the mine fields that Khadr and his colleagues salted along local roads.)
Again, the portrayal of Khadr as a victim may not be entirely wrong, but it is certainly not wholly right, offering further evidence that the dead and injured that Khadr and his associates left behind have virtually no one to speak for them, even among their countrymen, whose rights and safety they fought, died and sustained injury to preserve.
In cases such as that of Omar Khadr, we face far more difficult questions than those pertaining to his status as a so-called child soldier.
In my view, the concept of the "child soldier," and particularly its reflexive misapplication by presumptive defenders of the rights of children in regard to Omar Khadr, is more a distraction than an aid in a case such as this one.
New links - 11 May 2008:
60 Minutes November 2007 video and story here.
Omar Khadr: A Most Peculiar Young Offender - March 22, 2008 Globe & Mail editorial, scribed by Sean Fine. An articulate example of what I would consider to be "old paradigm" logic. I do not pretend to be able to give voice to a new paradigm by which we will be able to formulate a coherent response to the fact that we are presently facing a rising tide of postnational terrorism which in all of its aspects is contrary to the principles of law, justice and due process to which the nation states of our era presume to have advanced, or to the associated and unpalatable fact that terrorists have families within which they raise their own children to be adherents to an agenda of genocide, but I do wish to draw the reader's attention to the fact that the Globe & Mail's seductively passionate editorial in fact entirely skirts the most difficult issues at the cutting edge of the still inchoate post-September 11 paradigm.
The unavailability of an applicable paradigm for understanding our new era has forced the author of this editorial to depict Khadr not as a child soldier, but as a "young offender," likening his situation to that faced by youths who stand before the Canadian criminal justice system under the April 1, 2003 Canadian Youth Criminal Justice Act.
(I have considered alternative scenarios in which concerned Canadians might have cast Omar Khadr's case. For example, with no greater irony than in Mr. Fine's analysis, Canadians could very sincerely cast the problem as a child protection issue. Within the Canadian context, this would be an entirely defensible presumption. Such a portrayal of young Khadr's dilemma obviously breaks down rapidly when one considers how Canadian social workers might attempt to assure Omar's presumed rights as a Canadian child in the tribal regions of Afghanistan. We would certainly have been reluctant to dispatch our social workers to an al Qaeda lair in the Afghan hinterland in order to secure this particular child's rights under Canadian family law. The obvious implication is that it is difficult if not impossible to conceive how the standards of Canadian law could apply in circumstances such as those of young Omar Khadr, and I believe the same difficulty bears on Mr. Fine's analogy, if that is what it is. To be honest, I have considered many times the potential of exploring this dilemma by writing a stage play - working title, "Protecting Omar" (c) - in which a team of idealistic Canadian social workers is dispatched to Afghanistan to confront Omar's parents about their neglect and mistreatment of him, then to attempt to apprehend Omar and to return him to a "culturally appropriate" Canadian foster home. It might be worth illustrating the maze of dilemmas that such a set of presumptions would create in the context of live theatre.)
As has so far most often been the case with our efforts to define Omar Khadr's status, formulating his story as a Canadian youth criminal justice issue lets slip loose more truth than it is able to capture. The presumptions of the author vaporize rapidly against the harsh backdrop of international jihad within which young Khadr's narrative unfolds.
What I do know is that in an earlier era (when the status, security and hegemony of nation states remained unquestioned), we would have responded differently than we do now to a family in our midst who were raising their children to subvert and disrupt the nation which has given them shelter and sustenance, with the concurrent intention of imposing by force of arms a genocidal religious dictatorship in a foreign land where agents allied with them were being trained at the same time to suppress and brutalize religious moderates in their own society (as well as all local non-adherents of their totalitarian ideology, including Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs and others) and simultaneously - and quite expansively - declaring religious war (jihad) against the entire societies of the west.
How we can apply the full set of Canadian legal principles in the cases of persons whose lives are entirely devoted to wholly overthrowing exactly these same principles is a mystery to me, though I agree that there surely must exist some middle ground which must be held while seeking a resolution of this dilemma.
Please permit me, therefore, to state the problem face on.
Somewhere over the intervening half century or more, the concept of treason has evaporated, and with it, the allied notion of sedition. We have no updated set of ideas with which to replace these historic pillars of federal and international law. By as yet unidentified means, we will have to generate a new conceptual framework within which to recapture the sensibilities of an earlier age without altogether sacrificing a century or more of presumptive cultural evolution and psychological insight.
The current situation does not afford us the luxury of unlimited time in determining what this fresh accommodation will be. Whatever "new paradigm" comes to pass will be given its ultimate shape through our practices in such cases as that of Omar Khadr. My overarching concern is that we define the entire range of dilemmas we now face clear-headedly, including far-reaching questions bearing on public protection and safety. We must concomitantly call to mind that our present decisions are forming our future habits of responding, and therefore giving shape to our longer-term strategic response to the unreservedly terrorist and totalitarian tactics of the Islamic extremist movement.
12 May 2008 - Note on prisoner management practices at Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp: In my view, the inmates at Guantanamo, as suspected terrorists, should be considered dangerous prisoners. I am supportive of the use of the death penalty for terrorists without major reservations. However, I oppose the use of torture or prisoner mistreatment for any purposes. Torture is illegal, it is ineffective, and it narrows the distinction between who we are and the people whose practices we oppose.
Regarding the alternative adjudication system at Guantanamo, this is a topic I have not researched, and it is beyond the scope of my knowledge to comment on this matter. It does seem reasonable to me that some sort of alternative adjudication method should be applied in cases of terrorism, given the sensitivity of the information obtained - and the associated life-and-death consequences - in investigations of terrorism.
By analogy, the investigation of terrorism has some parallels to investigations of organized crime, though obviously the stakes are dramatically higher in addressing the challenges posed by terrorism. There are far-reaching concerns bearing on witness protection, the consequences of failure to prosecute and convict, public protection and liability issues, etc.
Is it unreasonable to surmise that those who choose to involve themselves in terrorist activities have already decided to play outside the rules to which the remainder of us have submitted? Are we not discussing logical consequences of blatantly illegal and inarguably antisocial actions on a global scale?
New Link: Jerry Z. Muller: The Enduring Power of Ethnic Nationalism, Foreign Affairs. Suggested in comment by "Neo-Jackson." See comments section for this post. By the way, this particular comment is in my view brilliantly insightful, and greatly strengthens the case I have attempted to establish in the present post, albeit tentatively. (And no, Neo-Jackson is not I, posting to myself. This is a real person other than I whose thinking - though more strictly conservative than mine - is in accord with my own on this matter.)
13 May 2008 (New and additional links to this story): Today Senator Romeo Dallaire referred to Omar Khadr as clearly a child soldier, and called for his return to Canada for rehabilitation and reintegration into Canadian society. I cannot overstate the degree to which I admire and respect Senator Dallaire for his work in the area of human rights protection. However, in this case, I clearly differ with him. Nonetheless, this is a great man with important views to be expressed. You may read Senator Dallaire's comments here.
The Case for Omar Khadr - Liveblogging the Subcommittee on International Human Rights: From my perspective, this story represents mainstream coverage of the Khadr case. The difficult questions are not broached.
Omar Khadr - Coming of Age in a Guantanamo Bay Jail Cell: This 2007 CBC story illuminates important background factors in Khadr's upbringing. The information provided is of great relevance to my core argument (a four-paragraph excerpt follows):
"The complexity of the Khadr case is heightened by his upbringing as the youngest in a family of al-Qaeda sympathizers who considered religious martyrdom, being a suicide-bomber, as a supreme calling. Omar's father, Ahmed Said Khadr, was an associate of Osama bin Laden and a reputed financier of al-Qaeda operations. He was killed in October 2003 by Pakistani forces. One of Omar's older brothers, Abdullah Khadr, is in jail in Toronto and is fighting a U.S. extradition request for terrorism-related crimes.
"The Rolling Stone article says Omar's father used to tell his children, 'If you love me, pray that I will get martyred.' He urged his sons to be suicide-bombers, saying it would bring "honour" to the family. He actually warned his son Abdurahman, 'If you ever betray Islam, I will be the one to kill you.'
"The Khadr family moved to Peshawar, Pakistan, in 1988, when Omar was two. Four years later, in 1992, Omar's father Ahmed nearly was killed when he stepped on a land mine in Afghanistan. Ahmed and his family returned to Toronto, but when Ahmed recovered the Khadr family returned to Pakistan and soon found themselves back in Afghanistan where they lived in a large compound with bin Laden.
"The U.S. government says this was about the time Omar and his older brothers Abdullah and Abdurahman attended a military camp that provided instruction on handguns, assault rifles, bomb-making and combat tactics. Omar was 14 on Sept. 11, 2001."
27 July 2008: Much new information is now surfacing as Omar Khadr's defenders mount a case built on the premise that Sgt. Speer was killed with an American-made hand grenade in a "friendly fire" incident.
The new information is summarized in a National Post feature, entitled, "Khadr victim killed by friendly fire: lawyers." Excerpts from this article follow:
"Although al-Qaeda suspects were still alive in the compound, U.S. soldiers entered. 'Based on our interviews,' Lt.-Cmdr. Kuebler said, 'it appears that at least two U.S. soldiers threw hand grenades.'
"Lt.-Cmdr. Kuebler said none of the interviewed soldiers 'suggested that Speer was hit by friendly fire,' and one, Sgt. Layne Morris, told the National Post this week that he had seen Mr. Khadr, then 15, 'crouched in the rubble waiting for U.S. troops to get close enough so he could take one of them out.'
"Lt.-Cmdr. Kuebler, who counters Sgt. Morris had been injured and evacuated from the scene ahead of the final assault, argues that had four, instead of just two, 500-lb. bombs been dropped, and the Mark 19 worked, 'there is a very good chance that the last individuals in the compound, including Omar, would have been killed, and Sgt. Speer [would be] alive today.'
"Mr. Khadr's taped discussion of conditions in the compound ahead of the battle is among a number of scenes that did not make the ten minutes of 'highlights' released early Tuesday by the Canadian lawyers defending Mr. Khadr, who work closely with Lt.-Cmdr. Kuebler.
"Although the lawyers later that day released all seven hours - they show Mr. Khadr being interrogated over four days in February, 2003 - there has been little to no publicity given to scenes Mr. Khadr's prosecutors are more likely to have focused on.
"In one he talks about his brothers receiving six months of training - with the interrogator asking if it was to learn about 'infantry' and 'rifles,' and Mr. Khadr himself citing 'grenades.' Mr. Khadr also says his father put them through it 'for self defence.'"In another scene in which mines are mentioned, Mr. Khadr agrees with the interrogator's assessment that 'the whole purpose ... was to take them apart, to use them as an explosive.'"Mr. Khadr says his father dropped him off at the compound near Khost - and the interrogator notes the multilingual youth had said it was to serve as a translator."The interrogator draws out of Mr. Khadr that Afghans and at least two Arabs were present, and there was talk of attacking the Northern Alliance - the U.S.-allied Afghan group that had opposed Taliban rule in Afghanistan."
Khadr family members speak: Omar Khadr's mother reportedly continues to make aggressively anti-Canadian statements as Khadr's defenders attempt to portray him as a Canadian citizen. She has recently stated in a television interview (according to a comment posted at this site) that she "would never raise a son in Canada, because all Canadian boys are gay or on drugs." She reportedly added that she was "proud" to have her son "train in Bin Laden’s camp."
Omar Khadr himself has attributed his presence in the building where the conflict with allied forces occurred to his father's placing him there, allegedly as a translator. He has stated, "What was my mistake? Being in a house where my father put me?"
Omar Khadr's sister Zaynab Khadr has taken a high profile in the cases of Omar Khadr and his brother Abdullah Khadr, as well as in other Canadian terrorism cases, as she has attended the bail and preliminary hearings for the men and youths arrested for plotting far-reaching terrorist actions in Canada in 2006. She maintained that many of the accused were "family friends."
Zaynab Khadr's arranged wedding at an al Qaeda compound was attended by Osama bin Laden. Her husband is an Egyptian terrorist named Khalid Abdullah - a follower of Ayman al-Zawahiri who is now in hiding from authorities following his reported participation in the bombing of the Egyptian Embassy in Pakistan in 1995.
Additionally, many links to the present whereabouts of "multiple al Qaeda veterans" were obtained following the seizure of Zaynab Khadr's laptop computer in 2005 (upon her return to Canada at that time). Both Zaynab Khadr and her mother are prohibited from leaving Canada, not for security reasons, but because they can no longer be granted passports due to reporting the loss of their passports on an excessive number of occasions.
Other comments from Khadr's mother and sister, as well as further details about the release of his interrogation videos, can be obtained in this July 15, 2008 Global News Network story.
25 October 2010: Just to wrap things up, Mr.Khadr has pleaded guilty today on all counts.
According to the Associated Press news story, "The now 24-year-old prisoner, who was seriously wounded when he was seized in a gunbattle in 2002, admitted to throwing a grenade that killed a special forces medic during a fierce raid on an al-Qaida compound. He also pleaded guilty to building and planting roadside bombs and receiving weapons training from al-Qaida. He is the last Western detainee at Guantanamo."Due to many levels of controversy, this verdict will certainly not satisfy all critics. To sum up, Omar Khadr is one of probably hundreds of thousands of young people who have been raised in a family and community setting where extremist/terrorist views are condoned.
While this might sound superficially like the description of a child soldier, it is in fact a description of the most typical of our present and future enemies. He has not been ripped out of a family or community context to practice terror, but raised in a terrorist family, in which the highest ideal is to violate the rights and safety of innocent civilians - that is, you and me - as we are branded as "infidels" by an extremist culture.
Though from our viewpoint Mr. Khadr's life story is tragic, his number is legion. The extremists we will meet on future battlefields - and who will practice terror in our cities and communities - are exactly the same. These are precisely the people whom we will send soldiers to battle in future wars. As a trained mine-builder, Mr. Khadr has already killed and injured those fighting on our behalf.
It is perhaps a paradox of the nature of our own news media (it would be quite different in the Islamic world) that we hear more sympathetic voices raised for Mr. Khadr than for his victims - those who represented our interests and safety abroad, specifically Christopher Speer, whom he murdered, and Layne Morris, who lost his eye in the battle in which Mr. Khadr was ultimately apprehended.
In future, let's hear more of Sgt. Speer and Sgt. Morris, though no less of Mr. Khadr. It is a sad fact of our world that there are legions from whence Mr. Khadr has come. Thus, understanding and treating him better might offer us greater insight into the thousands more arrayed against us who are so much like him.
Fundamentally, there is nothing unique about Omar Khadr or his circumstances, apart from the twist of fate that led to his being raised in Canada. He is one of millions who have been raised in the culture of terror. Though his story is common, perhaps his Canadian citizenship may open doors to increased mutual understanding, whether or not for mutual reconciliation.
I for one would far prefer that we lived in a world where children are not groomed for terrorism by their parents and their teachers, but alas, that is not the world we inhabit! It is tough for him, tough for the many who are like him, and tough for us. But that's the way it is.
(19 November 2012) As time has passed, it has become more important to me that if in some way Mr. Khadr's story can somehow be retold, perhaps that might still offer hope for a broader process of change and understanding across an unimaginably deep cultural abyss. If the fact that he spent many of his formative years in Canada could possibly make a difference, it might still be worthwhile to search for ways to build on that - while never forgetting that we are dealing with a "hard" story about determined and brutal adversaries who wish us no good.
22 November 2010 - (from Wikipedia):
  Under the plea deal, Khadr would serve one more year in Guantanamo Bay, and be returned to Canada, but Canadian authorites denied Khadr would be repatriated as part of any agreement.
This plea deal was negotiated between Lieutenant Colonel Jon S. Jackson, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and members of the White House. It is reported the prosecutors objected to the deal but ultimately the Convening Authority agreed with Lieutenant Colonel Jackson's proposal and accepted the deal. The Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs said in Parliament during Oral Question period that Canada was not involved in the agreement between Khadr and the US government, but when asked about an exchange of diplomatic notes indicating that Canada is inclined to favourably consider a request from Khadr for a transfer to Canada after one year, he said Canada would implement the agreement. 
Reportedly, Khadr will spend the next year in near solitary confinement in the section of Guantanamo reserved for the two prisoners who have been convicted in the Military Commission system, a Taliban cook and an Al Qaeda propagandist.
However, Khadr has also apologized for his actions. This is the behaviour of an adult, not a "child"
As reported by the Huffington Post, Khadr stated, "I'm really, really sorry for the pain I've caused you and your family," said Khadr, standing in the witness stand. "I wish I could do something that would take away your pain."
As he spoke, Speer gripped the armrests of her chair and shook her head. After he stepped down, and the jury had left the room, she cried and hugged a victim's representative who has accompanied her to the court sessions....
Khadr, now 24, admitted killing her husband, Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, as part of his plea deal. He also acknowledged placing 10 roadside bombs in Afghanistan and spying on U.S. convoys to assess the best ways to attack them. Prosecutors said Khadr was a terrorist and war criminal – a claim challenged by critics of the tribunals – because he was not a legitimate soldier in the battle.
My take... possibly Khadr's apology was motivated by his (already noted) extensive Al Qaeda training. The Al Qaeda agent is instructed always to decieve the infidel. Then again, perhaps he is also responding as an adult to his present situation.
I remain convinced that Mr. Khadr was never a "child soldier." Note the following:
(Mrs Speer) reminded Khadr, and the military jury considering his sentence, that he had an opportunity to escape the compound with other children and women who were permitted by U.S troops to leave at the start of the battle.
"You had your choice and you stayed," she told him in an hour of often emotional testimony that left some audience members in tears as photos of her dead husband and his two young children were played on a screen in the front of the courtroom.
Khadr bowed his head at the defense table and did not look up as the widow spoke to him. Later, he apologized to her in an unsworn statement, a maneuver that allowed him to address the court without having to face questions from the prosecution yet still make his most extensive public comments since his capture (as described above).
Omar Khadr - not a child soldier.
Omar Khadr - now a responsible adult?
Possibly yes. His public statements inspire confidence that he has matured, despite the misleading "child soldier" rhetoric.
Everything we do will make more sense from here on out if we treat Mr. Khadr as a responsible individual - from start to finish.
From my ethical perspective, Mr. Khadr may yet prove himself to be a better man than his apologists and defenders. More credit to him for his ongoing adult behaviour!