Canadian citizen Omar Khadr was only 15 years old when he was captured in Afghanistan and subsequently tortured at the Bagram and Guantanamo Bay U.S. military prisons. But instead of being treated like a victimized child soldier, the Canadian public has accepted—without question—the U.S. government’s labeling of Khadr as a criminal. This response reveals the deep anti-Muslim bias that underlies the open-ended War on Terror.
The youngest child to be charged with war crimes since World War II, Khadr was initially captured for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed U.S. Sergeant Christopher Speer. He was then forced to endure egregious torture, from Afghanistan’s Bagram prison where he was initially held, to Guantanamo Bay, where he remained for nearly 10 years until Canada repatriated him. At the hands of the U.S. military, he was beaten, attacked by dogs, held in solitary confinement, threatened with gang rape and used as a human mop. He was also denied pain medication for the wound he obtained in Afghanistan in the same battle that killed Sergeant Speer.
After spending 10 years in U.S. military detention at Guantanamo, he was then transferred to Canada, where he spent nearly three years in detention before being released on bail in May of 2015.
While Khadr pled guilty to five war crimes, innocence and guilt have little meaning at Guantanamo, where there is a price for those who dare to try to leave its hideous walls. That’s why Khadr gave in to what U.S. Colonel Morris Davis referred to as the paradox of Guantanamo: the notion that “you have to lose to win.” Explaining his decision to plead guilty in an effort to get out of Guantanamo, Khadr said, “I was left with a hopeless choice.”