Friday, July 11, 2008

Fair Trial Would Free Khadr

Therefore, we need to give him an unfair trial.

That makes perfect sense, as long as you're a Globe and Mail Editorial writer. I'm charitably assuming they wrote this editorial at 3 a.m., wired up on espresso.

What an argument:
According to documents released by the Federal Court of Canada this week, Canadian officials who visited Mr. Khadr, still oozing blood from a six-month-old wound, reported that he had undergone sleep deprivation (being moved every three hours for 21 days) to soften him up for their visit, and would then be put in isolation for three weeks. What Canadian court would accept any statements made by a 16- or 17-year-old under such duress, and without being allowed to see a lawyer?
Right. He was totally tortured and all of his statements were coerced and therefore invalid.
Is there enough of a prima facie case to try him for murder? It is not clear that anyone witnessed him throw a grenade, as alleged, and U.S. government documents state that an adult al-Qaeda fighter was next to him.

Right, so there's no evidence he did anything wrong.
As a barometer of how our courts might view a war-crimes prosecution against Mr. Khadr, recall that the Supreme Court of Canada, in the 9-0 judgment that led to the making public this week of some Canadian documents on Mr. Khadr, wrote forceful reasons in May, asserting that Canada and the United States had violated their international human-rights obligations in his case.

First of all, there was no "war crime". Throwing a grenade at civilians, or leaving their landscape littered with mines and cluster bombs, would be a war crime. Throwing a grenade at invading soldiers (if we could ever prove he did such a thing) would be an "act of war", making Khadr a "prisoner of war". Uniform or not, if soldiers were attacking his village and there was a firefight, he wasn't committing a war crime.

Second, yes indeed, his human rights are being violated.

So what should we do? Demand his freedom? Demand that evidence be presented or the accused be set free? Demand that he be returned to Canada for rehabilitation from his traumatic torture?

Help arrange a plea bargain with the United States and Mr. Khadr and his lawyers that would address legitimate security concerns while giving him an opportunity to rehabilitate himself at home.
What? He should cop a plea and admit guilt because there's no evidence he's guilty of anything?

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Holy Cracker

So a guy took a cracker. And lo, it was a holy cracker.

I'm an atheist now, but I wasn't always one. I used to be a catholic. Way back then, before I went to university and let the brainwashing fade away, I used to love the ritualism of a catholic mass. Very fancy, very organized and planned. Everything had some kind of symbolic meaning.

This whole escapade brought back the memories. You see, catholics are actually supposed to believe that the host is literally the body of Christ. I recall, now, as everyone is making a big deal out of it, how many instances there were - in church - of a big deal being made of it.

If it is dropped on the ground, it should be covered with a cloth (lest someone step on it) and the area should be washed thoroughly after the mass is over. I remember the priest following someone back to his seat to make sure that he ate it. There are a bunch of other weird rituals for unused hosts and other things.

On the other hand, as an atheist, it's a cracker. So I can't really sympathize too much with the people freaking out over this (especially now that it's been returned) while many demand the guy who ran off with a cracker be tried for hate crimes.

Sure, you have your rituals and you have the right to them. Catholics don't come knocking at my door and preaching to me, so I don't bother much with them (although in Ontario they get my tax dollars for their schools, so I do have some issues). In that vein, I don't think it would be right to go sneaking in to catholic ceremonies and running out with their crackers. Legal? Yes. Since they're handing you the cracker, it's yours. But also dumb, pointless and antagonizing.

The route to atheism is not through crude gestures like this. It only makes the religious feel persecuted which strengthens their faith.

So yes, the religious people are dumb for going nuts like this. But, on behalf of a desire to see more people arrive at the rationality of atheism, I don't think this was in any way a productive step.

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Child Soldiers can be tortured

If you capture a child, you're allowed to torture him.
You're allowed to lock him up.
You're allowed to deny him civil rights.
You're allowed to deny him his day in court, his lawyer, his due process.
You can try him with secret evidence.
You can lock him away with hardened criminals.

And the secret trick to doing all this is to hold him there for several years, long enough so he becomes an adult and you can call him "Mr. Khadr" and say he's a big, scary, dangerous, Islamic man.

You can also deny, against all reasonable evidence, logic and knowledge, that he's being mistreated in any way.

At least, if you're Stephen Harper you can do it.

The rest of us would choke on our bile just trying to get the words out.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Military won't obey Conservatives either

Whom does our military obey?

Ideally, the military is under the control of the people. This is a central, mandatory rule of democracy. We can't have an autocratic military leadership. Either it takes orders from us, or it ceases to exist. Period.

We found out that this isn't quite true, of course, when the military brass disobeyed our desires and sent our soldiers in to Iraq in support of the U.S. military invasion. (It was billed as a training mission, but this is mere camouflage).

One of the themes of Linda McQuaig's "Holding the Bully's Coat" is that the military brass have too much power to decide their own missions. When the Wall came down and the Soviet Union fell, the Liberal government decided to change the purpose of our military to make it the greatest peacekeeping force, and have the premiere peacekeeping training facility, in the world. The military objected and used its "think tanks" to lobby the media and government so it could continue to have all the fancy gadgets it needed to fight a land war across Europe.

One would have thought, with the Harper Conservatives in charge, with Gordon O'Connor and Peter McKay being such big spenders on behalf of the military, that the senior officers would be more obedient.

It turns out that, no, they won't be. Even though "Arctic sovereignty" was a major platform plank for the Conservatives, the military brass don't seem to give a damn:
The report says Canada Command failed to issue a set of orders that had been planned to help disseminate instructions on Operation Nanook.

Apparently our military brass don't understand how this works. If they're going to play the American Empire game, then their goal as a military is to place special importance on oil and natural gas reserves. Thus Iraq. Thus Afghanistan.

Gentlemen, you only get the latest toys if you can make yourselves useful. Peacekeeping doesn't count. It doesn't get us oil and it doesn't get you the latest toys to play with. There's a lot of oil under that Arctic ice. We just have to wait for it to melt.

I'm sure someone will explain it to them shortly and they'll come around. I just think it's neat to see the military disobeying not just the ignorant people, not just the namby-pamby naive Liberals, but also the Conservatives.

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