The other side of the story: Liveblogging the Khadr committee - Macleans.ca

The other side of the story: Liveblogging the Khadr committee

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11:51:11 AM
Okay, I know every other journalist in the country is chasing the shooting star that is the Bernier Affair. But just because we have our first genuine political sex scandal in possibly ever—I don’t think Gerda ever did the deed, did she? Just lots of long, lingering looks?—doesn’t mean that we can ignore fundamental issues of human rights, international law and all that stuff, right? And today is a very special day at the Subcommittee on International Human Rights: We’re going to hear from witnesses who think the government should leave Omar Khadr to rot in an American military detention camp! Won’t that be… different?

Leading the charge: Canadian-born lawyer, Howard Anglin, who currently practices law in DC, and is, let’s say strident in his views, even for a right-wing, Bushian Sakiesque conservative. Google him if you’re curious. I did, and it made for fascinating reading.

So what’s he doing up here? Funny story. Turns out he has done some work for the Foundation for the Defense Democracies, which, as it happens, is the former employer of one Alykhan Velshi, who now works for Jason Kenney. Small world, isn’t it? The two have even collaborated on articles together, most of which can be summarized thusly: America: good! Terrorists, suspected and otherwise: bad! Geneva Conventions: depends on the context!

Right now, the chair, Scott Reid, is chatting with the witness about our quaint parliamentary practices. Mario Silva is gazing intently in their direction, and the lunch buffet is being unloaded in the background.

12:01:41 PM

The rest of the committee members are starting to roll in. Vivian Barbot is here, and seems to be engaged in a quiet, but intense discussion with Wayne Marston. Irwin Cotler is hanging over someone’s chair, but he may just be dropping by to say hi. Oh, and there’s the Secretary of State for Baiting Retired UN Generals himself! He looks much more relaxed than usual. I wonder if he thinks this witness will be less stubbornly pro-Khadr than pretty much everyone they’ve heard from so far.

12:05:27 PM
Okay, the meeting is slowly but surely getting underway; Reid is, as always, fretting about time. Apparently there are motions that have to be dealt with or something like that—in camera, unfortunately.

12:06:31 PM
Housekeeping over, now the fun begins. Howard Anglin gets things started by saying that he’s the first witness to disagree with the proposal to repatriate Khadr. But he wants to make it clear that he’s not “carrying a brief” for the US government, with which he often disagrees. Basically, he thinks the law has been presented in a “shoddy” fashion during the hearings thus far and he aims to set the committee straight.

Oh boy.

12:09:02 PM
According to Anglin, there is nothing in the Optional Protocol that prevents the prosecution of soldiers under the age of eighteen—it’s more of a question of discretion and there is “good precedent” for prosecuting child soldiers for war crimes. Really? Good precedents? I’m intrigued! So is Jason Kenney, apparently. He has his serious face on and he’s paying close attention to the presentation. “The prosecution of minor children … is not expressly forbidden,” Anglin points out. Well, that’s a ringing endorsement.

Now he’s reading from a report from the International Red Cross—a long quote, he warns us—and then wraps it up by dismissing Dallaire’s claim that prosecution of child soldiers goes against international law.

Finally, he says he has yet to hear any “convincing arguments” that the current US system is illegal, and claims that, despite what we foreigners must think, his country the United States (Anglin is, of course, a Canadian) “does not conduct show trials.” As for provisions to protect unlawful combatants, it’s a “specious comparison.” To apply civilian rules of due process would be impractical. Or impracticable—I might have misheard him.

12:16:30 PM
Odd: David Sweet isn’t here. Instead, taking second chair for the government is Dave Mackenzie, who looks like an older, grumpier David Emerson, our new Foreign Affairs minister!

12:17:23 PM
Well, this is unexpected: a defense, or at least rationalization, of Trudeau’s move to suspend habeus corpus during the FLQ crisis. I can’t figure out if Anglin is agreeing with the decision or just making a weird “if it was okay for him, it’s okay for us” analogy.

If Khadr was being held in China or Saudi Arabia, Canadians would have reason to worry, Anglin says. (Because they’re Red Communists/Islamofascists, I’m assuming.) The US, on the other hand, is a beacon of liberty and freedom. “I hear snickers,” he says. “I can address those later.” The system now in place is working, and there’s no reason Canada should interfere, he concludes.

Questions, comments? Oh, somehow I think so.

12:22:11 PM
Irwin Cotler is here! This should be fun! And, hey, he’s reading from the very same article that I linked: the National Review piece Anglin co-wrote with Kenney’s communications director. Cotler wonders why he doesn’t think that basic rights should be extended to unlawful combatants and why they should be treated differently.

Anglin says the laws of armed conflict are “problematic” when dealing with asymmetrical warfare, which is such a clinical, almost hermetically sealed way to describe it. As a member of al-Qaeda, Khadr is not party to the Geneva Conventions, he notes, and is not… Wait, did he just call the Geneva Convention anachronistic? He did. Apparently, it works fine with “gentlemen soldiers” like the Nazis, I guess. But “whatever you can say about Omar Khadr, he isn’t a gentleman.” True; he’s a teenager. And a child soldier.

Cotler wonders if Anglin believes Khadr has been provided with the “minimal protections” that he should be afforded. Anglin says he has. Cotler then brings up Hamid v Rumsfeld, which Anglin fumed against in the National Review, but his response here is slightly more measured. The process, he says, is “being refined,” which is what happens in a country that respects the rule of law. The procedures are modeled on the rights that would be provided to a US citizen, he notes, a statement with which Cotler takes issue. What about being subject to coercion, denied counsel and all that other stuff that has allegedly been experienced by Khadr? Anglin points to Kuebler, as counsel, noting that the committee was apparently “very impressed by him.” As for coercion, Anglin says he’s not going to defend the torture of detainees, which is refreshing. If it has been used, that can be taken to the courts, he notes.

12:30:18 PM
Vivian Barbot confesses to being “puzzled” by his testimony. Is Anglin claiming that Khadr isn’t a Canadian citizen? Regardless of how the question comes up, he was 15 years old when the events in question occurred. Does Anglin really think the treatment he’s received lives up to that prescribed by the Optional Protocol? Also, as for the US as a “model of justice,” she leaves that alone for the moment, but wonders why Canada can’t bring him home to face charges here?

Anglin begins by apologizing for having to respond to the translation and notes that he’s not telling Canada not to bring him home. That’s not his role. He’s just providing another perspective on the law. The fact the US has treated Khadr “differently” from the other—he hesitates for a moment—child soldiers, who have been kept at Camp Iguana, the funnest, most kidtastic military detention camp the US has to offer. Clearly there was a reason for that, he says, although he doesn’t tell the committee what it was.

12:36:03 PM
Wayne Marston takes over, and points out that his party opposed the introduction of the War Measures Act. He notes that Anglin did say Khadr “wasn’t a gentleman” and asks if he’s ever met him. He also wonders about those reasons for treating him differently from the other children at Gitmo. Isn’t Anglin giving the Americans the benefit of the doubt? He also doesn’t see repatriation as an interference in the legal affairs of another country; we’re all friends here, right?

12:38:25 PM
Anglin says something about how it is noble for a son—or in this case, a “family of sons”—to follow in their father’s footsteps. This prompts a chuckle from the man sitting behind me, who I suspect is the next witness. But in this case, the Khadr sons “chose the wrong side.”

As for the gentleman comment, he notes that “gentlemen” don’t take up arms against their country’s allies. Oh, and he gives a shoutout to the NDP for opposing the War Measures Act.

12:40:58 PM
And now Jason Kenney, who hands him a straight line. Some witnesses, he notes, have tried to suggest that the US is running a “kangaroo court” due to the lack of protection and habeus corpus. What does he have to say to that? Not surprisingly, Anglin is thrilled to answer that one: the current process has led to the release of over thirty enemy combatants. Does a kangaroo court do that? He thinks not.

(I’ve never noticed it before, but Kenney has a widow’s peak. That, or the lighting is playing tricks with his hairline.)

Anglin goes off on a lengthy explanation of all the provisions afforded to detainees—better than Geneva, in some cases, he notes.

12:44:39 PM
Another straight line from Kenney. Oh, man. He is not going there, is he? He is—he’s pulling out the Romeo Dallaire quote and asking Anglin to comment on the “as bad as the terrorists” comment. Offside! (The people behind me keep laughing at his bons mots.) Anglin notes that Dallaire made some “inelegant” statements and calls it “sophmoric radical relativism” that is “unworthy and puerile.” Oh, and something about berets.

I wonder if the senator is watching?

12:47:23 PM
One more round, and Barbot takes the first slot: she, too, is bristling over the “gentleman” comment, which she calls “gratuitous.” A lot of comments have been made about the Khadr family, but should a child be judged based on what his father does? Of course not, Anglin purrs, although it was his family that brought him in close contact with al-Qaeda and the Bin Laden family.

I think Anglin may have just realized that the “gentleman” crack was a mistake.

Barbot notes that everyone says he was just a child (15), that the point of reference should be Canada and that Khadr was not provided access to a lawyer. The law, however, does not require that, Anglin notes—and the law must be applied. The American law, that is. Canadian law does not apply to an unlawful combatant held by a foreign state.

12:51:30 PM
Kenney asks for details on the release of detainees that Anglin mentioned, including some who were transferred back to Albanian after being picked up in the “confusion” that followed the “liberation” of Afghanistan. Anglin seems a little puzzled, and Kenney appears to be following a train of thought for which he has not, sadly, bought a ticket.

Kenney wonders if there are any charges that could be brought against the Khadrs, as Omar’s “recruiters.” Anglin muses over whether it might, in theory, be possible, depending on whether his family could be considered members of al-Qaeda.

Kenney begins his last question with the dubious premise that Khadr could not be tried in a Canadian court—despite much evidence to the contrary—but even Anglin is cautious about making that assumption. He agrees it might be difficult, but declines to discuss the specifics, what with not being a Canadian lawyer.

12:56:22 PM
Marston takes the last slot, and notes the committee heard yesterday that Khadr could indeed be tried in Canada. He wonders if the process here would supply the necessary “sense of justice” if Khadr was brought back and treated as he would have been had the offence taken place when he was 15. Anglin says that you’d probably have to take a poll to find out if Canadians would be satisfied with that outcome.

Finally, back to Camp Iguana, and another attempt to elicit an opinion from Anglin on why Khadr was held at the adults-only camp. He suggests it may have to do with with the “rich intelligence” that he may have picked up.

And that’s all for Anglin. Up next: the Canadian Coalition for Democracies. Whee!

1:01:16 PM
Due to time constraints, there’s no break between witnesses; it’s right to Naresh Raghuhbeer, who tells the committee the Coalition is “concerned” about the Khadr case. He stresses that Khadr should be given access to consular service and that the Canadian government must ensure is treated in a constitutionally legitimate manner.

And now, a trip down memory lane—jurisdictional memory lane, that is. Apparently, there were two other countries with a stronger jurisdictional claim than Canada: Afghanistan, and the United States.

He then quotes the one line of last week’s Khadr decision that could be interpreted to support the position that the current process is outside Canadian jurisdiction. Must get full context there.

Like Kenney, he thinks the government should explore charges against the Khadr family, whether related to terrorism, or promoting hatred. In fact, he’s puzzled as to why no Canadian authorities—police, child services, you name it—are investigating the Khadrs’ parenting techniques and their promotion of jihad to Canadian children. Otherwise, Canadian islamic fascists may be “emboldened” to brainwash their children to follow in their footsteps.

Now he’s on to dual citizens, and I’m going to see if I can very quickly sneak a sandwich.

1:09:22 PM
(Sandwich) mission accomplished. Witness still on dual citizens. The conversation over how Canada treats them is long overdue, he notes.

1:10:17 PM
And… questions already? That was quick. Oh, they’re trying to wrap up by 1:40, I guess. Anyway, Cotler wonders whether the witness believes that Khadr has received appropriate treatment thus far. Yes, with an asterisk. There have “clearly” been violations of international law, but those were addressed by the Supreme Court and the current process seems to be working.

Jason Kenney looks bootfaced and he’s not looking at the witness. Interesting. Oh, and now he’s gone. I’m sure he’ll be back for the big finish.

The Canadian Coalition for Democracies does believe that Khadr has been treated “relatively well” compared to how other countries treat prisoners. It is the Supreme Court that will ultimately decide.

1:13:45 PM
Mario Silva admits to being somewhat baffled by the apparent contradiction in the Coalition’s position on whether international law has been respected, given that the US Supreme Court has found otherwise. Raghubeer tries to explain: the violations have been remedied and actions have been taken to ensure he’s being treated appropriately, but Cotler calls that retroactive legitimization—or sanitization—of things like coercion and depriving him of counsel that can’t simply be remedied by a subsequent decision. That’s his opinion, says Rughabeer.

1:17:24 PM
Vivian Barbot notes that there are “opinions and facts.” I’ll give you one guess as to what she thinks of Cotler’s position on retroactive legitimization, which is a fantastically hideous word. She wonders why it isn’t the role of the country to take responsibiity for trying Khadr, given that it was this country that failed to protect him from his family.

Rughubeer admits he’s no expert on the Geneva Conventions, nor did he pretend to be one. But if it’s true that his parents converted him, what responsibility does the Canadian government have to protect him and other children?

Raghubeer then reads from some of the Khadr family’s greatest hits but Barbot interrupts. We’re not here to judge the family, she notes, but was it not the role of the father to protect the children? It’s a mother’s role to protect the children, he argues, but Barbot is getting antsy. This is not about judging his family, it’s about Omar Khadr.

You know, I have to wonder how the whole “punish the parents for warping the children with hatred” argument would fly if applied to fanatics of a non-Islamic variety. Don’t small-c conservatives take great umbrage at the mere suggestion that government has the right to tell parents how to raise their children?

1:23:36 PM
Marston once again tries to get the witness to acknowledge that this was a child soldier, and that his treatment by the US authorities was not appropriate. He should be brought home, taken before the judicial system here, and rehabilitated. Rughubeer is getting frustrated too, I think—he agrees that the family has contributed to raising him as a “young Jihadist” and says that he should have been protected in Canada first, before that happened. If parents won’t perform their “duties,” he notes, the state must step in.

1:27:42 PM
David Sweet is back and, as usual, begins by listing the charges—the very, very serious charges—against Khadr. Even in Canada, a youth can be tried as an adult if the alleged crime is sufficiently serious. Sweet also has a list of… Hey, that’s the same list the last witness was using! It’s the countries with policies that flatly contradict the position that no child can be a soldier: the UK, the UN Security Council and the Optional Protocol. He even read the list in the same order. In response, Raghubeer helpfully condemns the comments made by Dallaire—it’s like they had it all planned out. Fed up, Mario Silva chides the witness for his remarks.

1:32:02 PM
Jason Kenney notes the subcommittee has tried to invite the Khadr family to appear, but they haven’t been willing to cooperate. He then asks a planted question so specific that even the witness can’t figure out exactly what he wants. Wayne Marston takes issue with what he thinks it is—basically, an opening to read more Khadr quotes into the record—and the chair reminds him to behave himself. Jason Kenney, incidentally, is claiming that he’s never heard any of those controversial comments from the Khadr family. I’m sorry, I find that a little bit hard to swallow.

Rughabeer, meanwhile, once again calls for the anti-jihad parenting police, and then does a quick recap of the Very Very Terrible Things that the rest of Omar’s family have said and/or done. He points out that even Kuebler has said that the US government would not want to repatriate him back into the arms of his evil, terrorist-loving family.

Which as far as I know, no one has actually proposed.

And with that, the meeting seems to be over. Or is it? No, it isn’t. Wayne Marston gets one more crack, and he notes that Canada does have hate crime laws. And Human Rights Commissions! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) The witness concurs, but notes that those hate crime laws “aren’t being enforced.” What a fascinating discussion that could be, given Kenney’s comments on other alleged hate speech issues. Sadly, though, we’re out of time.