Khadr and the old democrats

If I were a left-of-centre party desperately seeking concrete differences with the Liberals, I’d be awfully interested in the case of Omar Khadr, the former child soldier whose abuse at Guantanamo Bay has by now been amply documented.

The Harper government won’t lift a finger to repatriate him, a shirking of duty decried even in such occasionally friendly precincts as this week’s Maclean‘s editors’ page. (Harper campaigned on a promise that under him, Canada would have a foreign policy that would actually get noticed, and that’s certainly what he’s achieving with Khadr: Under this prime minister, Canada’s foreign policy is uniquely supine, a state of affairs that’s winning our country positively glowing coverage in Vietnam and Germany, just to name two.)

The Liberals are, of course, making a fuss about all this. But the problem for the Liberals is that when that video footage of Khadr’s Guantanamo interrogation was shot, Jean Chrétien was the prime minister of Canada. Defending the Liberals’ seriously late-breaking interest in the quality of treatment accorded Guantanamo prisoners is tricky, as Megapundit points out. This should, it seems to me, present an opportunity for the NDP, who could say — truthfully — “The Liberals let this happen and the Conservatives refuse to bring it to an end.”

The NDP’s hand would be strengthened, to be sure, if they had made a greater fuss about waterboarding, extraordinary rendition and the rest from the outset. But at least they have this fellow Michael Byers on board, who wrote a whole book about such matters.