With friends like this, who needs Canadians?
A provocative new book claims that - even after 9/11 - the Canadian government has coddled international terrorists
This past Easter weekend, the Canadian government allowed the widow and youngest son of deceased Canadian Al Qaeda leader Ahmed Khadr back into the country. Khadr's widow, who left no doubt about her own hatred for the West in a recent interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation while in Pakistan, opted to return to Canada so that teenaged Karim Khadr could get medical attention for wounds he received while engaged in armed combat for Al Qaeda.
As disgraceful as the government's Easter decision was to many Canadians, it is only the most recent in a long list of similar outrages. Stewart Bell makes clear in his new book, "Cold Terror: How Canada Nurtures and Exports Terrorism Around the World," that Canada's political leadership has a history of ineptitude, naiveté, and outright irresponsibility with regard to international terrorism that stretches back to the 1980s.
Bell, the chief reporter at Canada's National Post, has been covering terrorism for more than a decade. In this solidly documented book, he shows that successive Canadian governments have allowed Canada to become a fundraising and operational haven for terrorists, enabling them to carry out attacks throughout the world.
While the book covers everything from Sikh and Armenian terrorism to the Tamil Tigers, the most urgent chapters deal with Middle Eastern terrorists who have managed to enter Canada due to a combination of laxity and bureaucratic bungling. In some cases, active terrorists have even been granted Canadian citizenship.
More disturbing though, is how radical Islamist groups have turned Canada into a launching pad for attempted attacks on the US and elsewhere. Among the many cases he examines, Bell provides details about the Algerian-born Al Qaeda members Fateh Kamel and Ahmed Ressam, both of whom operated from Montreal. Ressam was arrested at the US border in 1999 for attempting to smuggle in a bomb to blow up the Los Angeles airport. This incident was described in the recently declassified CIA briefings to President Bush as "part of Bin Laden's first serious attempt to implement a terrorist strike in the US."
Bell further describes how Middle Eastern terrorist groups have taken advantage of Canada's excessive tolerance to use the country for their fundraising activities - and not just through the usual Islamic "charities" but also through criminal activities such as smuggling and theft. Hizbullah, for example, ran a Canada-wide car and cigarette smuggling ring in the 1990s, with members in Montreal, Toronto, Windsor, and Vancouver. Hamas was also able to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars there in the same period.
But the most galling of all the examples of how Canada has nurtured terrorism, is that of the infamous Ahmed Khadr and his four sons: Abdullah, Abdurahman, Omar, and Karim. The elder Khadr, a naturalized Canadian born in Egypt, received millions of dollars from the Canadian government through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in the 1980s and '90s. While the funds were supposedly intended for an Islamic charity, they were in fact used to set up and run an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan.
When Khadr was finally arrested by the Pakistanis in 1995 for his connection to a car bomb attack against the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad, Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien pleaded his case with the Pakistanis, to make sure that "due process" was followed. Once the Pakistanis dropped the charges, Khadr chose, not surprisingly, to return to Canada to recuperate, only to leave shortly after for Afghanistan, where his sons trained as fighters with Al Qaeda and he continued to raise money for the jihad.
After 9/11, all the Khadr sons took part in combat against US and coalition forces in Afghanistan. In a particularly unsettling part of the book, Bell depicts how before being captured in the summer of 2002, 14-year-old Omar Khadr had killed a US soldier. Yet once Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs found out that Omar was being held by the US, it began to campaign for the Americans to allow diplomatic visits and to give Khadr special treatment because of his age.
Unfortunately, Bell does not delve too deeply into why the Canadian government has often acted like a friend of Al Qaeda and other terrorists, but by alerting us to this, he has done an enormous service.
• Bill King is a freelance writer in Surrey, British Columbia.