Omar Khadr was back in court last week

August 25, 2010

Omar Khadr was back in court last week.

(Actually, a military tribunal is not properly a court… but I’d like to get beyond the first sentence before getting riled up).

Jury selection looked for something a little odd. Only candidates who had never heard of Omar Khadr were considered to be qualified.  It might seem sensible to avoid the biases nutured by media reports. The problem is that it is idiotic to select a jury who – almost by definition – are ignorant of the world around them.  (I understand the story of Omar Khadr has recieved special attention in Canada, but it is hardly an obscure piece of internationalicona).

Second problem with jury selection (specific to this sort of case): the jury pool consists entirely of American soldiers. Of course the accused being judged at these military tribunals will not feature a “jury of their peers”… imagine a jury drawn from the prisoner population at Gitmo (or even, a bit less ridiculously, the people of Southern Afghanistan and North-Western Pakistan where accused such as Omar Khadr were seized). But isn’t it obvious that – in a case like Omar Khadr – a jury drawn from the ranks of the American military are exactly “the peers” of the solider he is accused of killing. This sounds like the plot from Kafka’s imagination: (1) you can’t assemble a jury of an accused’s peers, (2) you assemble a jury of the victim’s peers…. no less, co-members of an organization which stresses loyalty to each other as if “brothers”.
One more related point.  What kind of person is willing to be a solider, sent around the world to carry out a state’s international violence, without being at least somewhat informed about that world?  They are obviously not holding their orders – and their own violence – to any reasonabe moral scrutiny….  Not exactly the kind of person I want to be judging anyone.

So… court proceedure aside, I fume over a not entirely original question:

How can it possibly be murder to kill a soldier on a battlefield?

Am I cold?  I do suppose that any death is sad. The dead man may have been a swell fellow, and he almost certainly a family.

But he was a solider. Part of any solider’s job is to risk being killed… such as being at the recieving end of a hand-grenade. To accuse the killer — the guy who threw that grenade – of murder seem like a wonderful example of being a sore loser?

So how does killing a soldier on the battlefield get to be classified as murder?

The procecutor is arguing – citing international law – a combatants must be wearing a uniform. Since Omar Khadr was not wearing such a uniform, killing someone qualifies as murder.

….but oh yeah, I forgot (the prosecutor whispers quietly to himself)… we threw out international law when we decided to side step the Geneva Conventions (international law) and imprison a child soldier (Khadr was 15yrs when he was seized), declaring him (and hundreds of other detainees) to be “enemy combatants” and hold them at Gitmo.

….hmmm. Maybe this is one problem with abandoning your commitment to international law (there are plenty of others) is that you look very silly trying to use international law (the exact same Geneva Conventions) which you’ve already abandoned in detaining the very same “enemy combatants”.

Its almost too depressing to be enraging that
so many peopleare aparently blissfully unaware of the joke.


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