Guantánamo video, deserter case draw Canadian criticism of U.S. ties
On Tuesday, a US Army deserter was deported. An unrelated but simultaneous video release showed a Canadian Gitmo detainee taken at age 15 crying, 'Oh Mommy!'
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Khadr, born in Toronto and raised by Islamic fundamentalist parents, was sent to Guantánamo at age 15 after being captured in Afghanistan and deemed an "enemy combatant." The Pentagon alleges that Khadr threw a grenade that killed a US soldier during an attack on a suspected Al Qaeda compound. According to an in-depth Rolling Stone profile citing US government information, Khadr and his family had lived in Osama bin Laden's compound in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, before going to fight with the Taliban against US forces.Skip to next paragraph
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The case has divided Canadians. Some decry the notion that he should be returned to Canada because of his alleged links to terrorism. However, human rights advocates and legal groups around the world have been pushing for Khadr's release, arguing that he is a "child soldier," and raising concerns about the implications of this case on human rights around the world.
Foreign affairs critic Wayne Marston of the New Democratic Party says Khadr should be given a chance to salvage the rest of his life. "He was an immature juvenile," explains Mr. Marston. "He was following the lead of his father. In many ways, he was simply acting as a dutiful son." [Editor's note: The original version misstated the name of Mr. Marston's party.]
While Khadr awaits a fall trial in Guantánamo, Mr. Long, the US Army deserter, was quietly deported to Fort Knox, Ky., Tuesday morning. He's believed to be the first resister to the US war effort in Iraq to be sent out of Canada.
"It's immoral," says Sarah Bjorknas, coordinator of the Vancouver War Resisters Support Program, whose group has been contacted by some 50 deserters. "This is about protecting international human rights. It's a terrible precedent and we'll be working to make certain it doesn't happen again."
Ms. Bjorknas says she believes the move is particularly troubling because, having been a vocal opponent to the Iraq war, Long will be treated harshly by the American military.
Long joined the US Army in 2003 believing the war in Iraq was justified. But he changed his mind during training, troubled that no weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq and by images of the mistreatment of Abu Ghraib detainees in 2004. He filed a refugee claim in 2005 – the only way deserters can stay in Canada, a change since the Vietnam days – arguing that he would suffer irreparable harm if sent back to the US.
In her ruling, Federal Court of Canada Justice Anne Mactavish disagreed. She said that according to the evidence before her, between 2002 and 2006 about 94 percent of US deserters were not prosecuted or jailed. She cleared the way for Long's deportation late Monday, dismissing further appeals to stay in Canada.
US desertions:Vietnam vs. war on terror
Approximately 500,000 US military personnel deserted during the Vietnam War, with an estimated 100,000 draft or military resisters going into exile – at least 90 percent to Canada. From 2002 to 2007, some 24,000 US soldiers have deserted, an estimated 50 to 200 of whom have gone to Canada. Now, deserters must be granted refugee status to stay.
Sources: The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War, MacCleans, Associated Press. Compiled by Leigh Montgomery.