Ezra Levant: Pampering OmarÂ Khadr
In the following book excerpt about ‘the whitewashing of Omar Khadr,’ Ezra Levant describes the cushy treatment that the young jihadi has received at Guantanamo Bay:
Before Omar Khadr was caught on July 27, 2002, attacking American troops in Afghanistan, he had already chosen voluntarily to live in terrible conditions â€” a lifestyle less comfortable, less secure, less healthy and in many ways worse than anything he’d experience at Guantanamo Bay.
That much was clear from the very start with the first thing American troops did to Omar Khadr. These were the men he had been attacking mercilessly during a four-hour firefight, refusing to surrender even after being given multiple opportunities, continuing to fight till his gang had seriously wounded Special Forces Sergeant Layne Morris and he had mortally wounded Christopher Speer. And when they found him there, half dead, bleeding, ripped open, what was their first action?
To save his life.
While Khadr cursed the soldiers with his fading breaths and demanded they make a martyr of him so he could collect his promised reward in the afterlife for dying while murdering a Christian, they acted, instead, only and utterly humanely. At the time, they had no way of knowing that Khadr was a high-value capture, a young man who inherited the networks of his crime family, networks extending all the way to al-Qaeda’s most senior figures. They wouldn’t have known he was a Canadian citizen. This teenager lying in the middle of an Afghan wasteland certainly wouldn’t have looked the part. Complying with his request â€” to shoot him right there and then, moments after he had blown up Christopher Speer, after he had fought these soldiers so relentlessly in a firefight lasting hours â€” could have been a very powerful temptation. It must have seemed impossible that anyone would even care. Even just to let him die, to suffocate on his own blood, right there in the Afghan mud, would have been a simple thing to do. It might not even have taken very long for him to succumb to his serious injuries, including two bullets in his thorax.
Instead, U.S. medics rushed to save Omar Khadr’s life, providing him critical medical care right there in the field. “We had two medics that day and he killed the first one,” Sgt. Layne Morris, who lost his eye when Khadr’s al-Qaeda cell attacked him and his fellow troops, told Global News in 2005. “The second one saved his life. He would have bled to death from his injuries in a short amount of time.”
The American military medevaced him to Bagram Air Base, where American doctors sewed him back together. And those doctors arranged to fly an ophthalmologist to Afghanistan all the way from Kuwait to operate on Khadr’s left eye, which had been damaged by shrapnel. Even if the U.S. military had begun by then to realize that Khadr might have some valuable intelligence, it’s virtually impossible to imagine how he’d be any less useful with just one eye. And yet, the Americans flew in a top U.S. ophthalmologist to successfully operate on and save Khadr’s eye just the same.
Omar Khadr’s first experience as a captive of the American military was a free operation from a U.S. eye surgeon, in a country where the average citizen could not hope for such lavish medical care â€” or, really, even far more basic health care â€” for no other reason than that it seemed the humane thing to do.
But while the United States would imprison and aggressively prosecute Khadr, this life-saving and vision-saving medical care wasn’t the last time he would benefit from America’s mercy. Khadr, of course, spent his early years at Guantanamo Bay alleging he was being “tortured” â€” something all al-Qaeda operatives are trained to do. A raid on an al-Qaeda cell in England turned up the terrorist group’s manual on war tactics; if captured, the manual advises its members “the brothers must insist on proving that torture was inflicted on them by state security before the judge. Complain of mistreatment while in prison.”
Claims about alleged brutalities against inmates at Gitmo â€” including aÂ Newsweekreport that guards had flushed a Koran down a toilet â€” have been proven to be fraudulent. When lawyers at Omar Khadr’s murder trial presented a tape of what some of this alleged “torture” looked like when he arrived at the prison, the video showed American guards struggling to get Khadr to co-operate and step on a scale to be weighed, something Red Cross directives require. He tried to resist, wriggling and fighting, claiming he had to go to the bathroom, and then crying. All because he didn’t want to be weighed. “Am I an animal?” Khadr demanded to know, before composing himself enough to promise the guards, “Sooner or later, God will take our revenge and he’s going to send on you people who will torture you.”
Suffice it to say that plenty of U.S. prisoners would be just fine with some of the “torture” that Guantanamo Bay inmates have been forced to suffer. The interrogation rooms, as one expert in criminal psychiatry remarked, “are far more comfortable than interview rooms found in American jails, and resemble day rooms/visitor rooms in many hospitals.”
Prisoners at Guantanamo have their meals catered by the same company that supplies food to college students in such American schools as the University of Michigan â€” except everything sent to Gitmo is certified Halal. They get three hot meals a day (even the high-security-risk detainees, kept in isolation, get two meals served piping hot to their cells, and a cold lunch). Medical inspectors actually routinely test the food “for proper temperature, quality, hygiene, and freshness,” reports Gordon Cullucu, an author and former soldier who personally investigated living conditions at Gitmo after hearing so many disturbing reports in the media about the conditions there. “Food temperature at the serving point has to be within a seven-degree window,” he notes. If any meal fails to meet those standards, “it gets tossed on the spot.”
Research by a Slate magazine reporter found that the prisoners’ menu revolved around “Asian-accented stews of beef, chicken and fish”; “a host of legumes: black beans, lentils, kidney beans and chickpeas”; rice, bagels, “pita bread, baguettes [and] sliced wheat bread” â€” all of which are fresh baked on site. If prisoners behave, they get “cakes and dates and other treats.” Those dates, as it happens, aren’t the sort you’ll find in your average North American supermarket: they’re bigger, and juicier, and ordered specially for the Guantanamo terrorists. They cost a fortune.
Inmates with big appetites are also “provided ‘additional servings’ if they request them.” During Ramadan, the administrators at Guantanamo ensured that any prisoners observing the daylight fast got an “early, pre-dawn breakfast” and a “late, post-sunset dinner” so they could adhere to their customs while still eating well. At the end of the holiday, Muslims traditionally have a big feast to celebrate, something guards “worked hard to prepare a special meal” for. For this feast of Eid, Cullucu noted that the menu included “parsley salad, chicken kabsa, Saudi rice, grilled shish kebab, dates, honey, yogurt, fruit, orange juice and milk.” Meanwhile, any prisoners with special dietary requirements â€” if they’re lactose intolerant, have allergies, or maybe have developed diabetes from eating too much Guantanamo ice cream, Pepsi, and cake â€” get specially made, individualized meals. Actually, even if an inmate decides he doesn’t care for a certain kind of food or ingredient â€” say, carrots â€” “food service specialists must make certain that no carrot-containing items are included,” Cullucu reports. “No steamed carrots, no peas and carrots, no carrot cake, no carrots in his salad …” Some detainees can request that certain food items not be served touching other food items.
Even Omar Khadr was impressed with the service. In a letter to his mom a month after arriving at Guantanamo, he wrote, “The Americans are the opposite of what the whole world [says]. Health services 24 hours, three meals a day, Ramadan eat before dawn and sunset.”
With all that Halal, specialty food being offered up to al-Qaeda terrorists three times a day, with every special food request catered to, and the most careful attention to health and hygiene, Guantanamo might look to the average U.S. prison inmate more like a Disney cruise for extra-picky eaters than a prison, let alone the “gulag of our time,” as Amnesty International’s general secretary hyperbolically described it in 2005. This, to refer to a place where residents get their very own tutors, homeschooling them in “astronomy, math, grammar, Shakespeare, even elocution.” Such hardship. Did the Soviets pipe satellite TV into their gulag’s “communal living” spaces, like they do at Gitmo? Or offer “movie night” once a week? Did inmates get access to refrigerators, stoves, microwaves, washers and dryers? What about ping-pong tables, exercise machines, couches or a library stuffed with more than 5,000 books? Did Soviet exiles get fans to keep them cool on a rare, warm Siberian summer day?
Would Stalin have ensured that every Muslim detainee had his very own copy of the Koran â€” available in any number of different languages â€” and helpful arrows showing him the direction to pray toward Mecca, as well as prayer rugs and beads and oils, and a helpful call to prayer, five times a day, in 17 different languages? Do you think he’d build basketball courts for his captives? Guantanamo inmates get to spend up to eight hours a day in the recreation yard, playing sports, praying with one another, or just socializing, with ready access to Gatorade to quench their deep-down body thirst. These are all amenities provided to inmates at Guantanamo Bay.
Were Stalin alive today, you can be sure he would have a good hearty laugh at the United States for letting their worst, most avowed enemies, men like Omar Khadr â€” not imprisoned for dissent, like inmates in the gulag, but with the actual blood of America’s soldiers on their hands â€” spend the day playing video games on a Nintendo Wii and PlayStation.
Excerpted from The Enemy Within Â© 2012 by Ezra Levant. Published by McClelland and Stewart, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.