Friday, July 18, 2008

Three prisoners, two child-terrorists
and one righteous resister:
For whom the bells toll?

"The opposite of religious belief is not atheism or secularism or humanism.
It is not an 'ism'. It is independence of mind - that's all." (Martin Amis)

Kurdish teacher and trade unionist is sentenced to death by the Iranian Revolutionary Court, for "enmity against God" and membership in the Kurdish Workers’ Party.

Kamangar himself released a short message from prison saying, “This verdict has been communicated to me, and prison and judgment enforcement officials have asked me to write a letter requesting forgiveness. The problem is that I have not committed any crime to ask for forgiveness.”

I was reminded of another prisoner held in jail for the crime of terrorism: Omar Khadr.

MICHAEL DEN TANDT writes today:

You can set aside much of what has been written and said about young Khadr, now 21, since the release of videos showing him sobbing in his prison cell at Guantanamo Bay. Forget, for example, the broad appeal to public sympathy.
Here's what we cannot set aside, though. Khadr was taken into U.S. custody in July of 2002, after a firefight at a compound in a village in eastern Afghanistan. He is accused of having thrown a grenade that killed a U.S. Special Forces trooper, Christopher Speer.

This was a military action, in a situation that's as close to a battlefield as you are likely to get in an asymmetrical, urban war.

That's true, except that Khadr was a Canadian subject. Canada was a US ally, and Canadian troops were fighting alongside American troops. The alliance is such that the two allies defend each other against a common enemy. The scene of the crime may indeed have been as Den Tant defines it, but that hardly takes down a notch the severity of Khadr's crime. It's a crime of murder and treason.

Furthermore, Den Tant, says:

And there's this: Khadr may be a hardened would-be terrorist today, after years of incarceration. But he was a child at the time of the firefight. That matters.

His father was an Islamist zealot and it appears his parents fed him hatred and extremism with mother's milk.... As a boy he played with Osama Bin Laden's children. Condemn the parents. Condemn the man, if as an adult he embraces hatred and violence. But a child coached by his elders to commit violent acts is nevertheless a child.

The claim here is made that a 16-year old committing murder is "a child". And more to the point, a child whose parents are to blame for his murderousness.

Couldn't help remembering the other 16-year old child in the news these days: Samir Kuntar,
who was also a mere 16-year old when "he acted as all the Arab terrorists acted -- the terrorists of the PLO, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Hezbollah -- when they attack Israelis. He behaved like a mad dog, that is, and he killed first a policeman, and then took a man, Danny Haran, and Haran's four-year-old daughter, to a beach at Netanya, where Kuntar first shot Haran in front of his four-year-old daughter, and then smashed in her head. "

When cases involve singularly odious crimes, the law allows the prosecution of underage defendants as adults. Some crimes so defy our most basic grid of morals and right thinking, that the age of the perpetrator is completely irrelevant. Also, I do not accept that a 16 year old is a "child" except under the strictly legal definition. We do not usually speak of teenagers as "children". There is a reason for that. They are no longer children, mentally or rationally. They are persons who can be reasoned with, who fully understand when they do wrong. If they can be trusted to drive a car, they can be expected to know that murder is wrong.

Still, I think Den Tant persuaded me that Khadr ought to be extradited to Canada. Not because he was a "child", nor because there is any mitigation in the fact that he killed an American in battle. But because there are enough grounds to try him for crimes of treason* and murder in a bona-fide Canadian Military Court and achieve some measure of justice. Khadr's continuing as the US government's guest in Gitmo, thereby accumulating pity-points as an Indecent left's martyr, is not a punishment but a reward. He should be made to stand trial and be properly punished for what he did.

So please don't let me hear the pleadings of a child being unjustifiably persecuted by the evil Americans. We know what a "child" reared on a diet of pure hatred can do. He should not be allowed to live free of consequences and be a menace to the people, cultures and systems he was taught to hate.

I'm quite puzzled by the disproportionate news coverage and sympathy going to this "child-terrorist". I do hope I will not see fellow Canadians emulating the Lebanese example of welcoming back this wretched criminal as a hero. Though after "we are all Hizballa" rallies of two years ago, I wouldn't rule out the possibility of it happening.

Perhaps Canadians need to get their humanitarian values in the correct order of priority. A lot more emphasis and sympathy should go to Kamangar, who is about to be executed for being a Kurdish unionist and a religious agnostic. The most basic human right is the right to life, and it certainly comes before any civil right, including the right to a fair trial.


And relevant to my point here is this post by The New Centrist:

כל מי שנעשה רחמן במקום אכזרי סוף שנעשה אכזרי במקום רחמן

All who are made to be compassionate in the place of the cruel
In the end are made to be cruel in the place of the compassionate
Qohelet Raba, 7:16 [Thanks to
Rishon Rishon for the translation.]

The more colloquial version is, “If you are kind to the cruel, you will end up being cruel to the kind.” I’ve been thinking about the relation of this statement to public policy, from schools to welfare to jurisprudence and prisons. Is our society kind to the cruel? Think about it…


* Treason in Canadian Law

Section 46 of the Criminal Code of Canada has two degrees of treason, called "high treason" and "treason." However both of these belong to the historical category of high treason, as opposed to petty treason which does not exist in Canadian law. Section 46 reads as follows:

"High treason

(1) Every one commits high treason who, in Canada,

(a) kills or attempts to kill Her Majesty, or does her any bodily harm tending to death or destruction, maims or wounds her, or imprisons or restrains her;
(b) levies war against Canada or does any act preparatory thereto; or
(c) assists an enemy at war with Canada, or any armed forces against whom Canadian Forces are engaged in hostilities, whether or not a state of war exists between Canada and the country whose forces they are.


(2) Every one commits treason who, in Canada,

(a) uses force or violence for the purpose of overthrowing the government of Canada or a province;
(b) without lawful authority, communicates or makes available to an agent of a state other than Canada, military or scientific information or any sketch, plan, model, article, note or document of a military or scientific character that he knows or ought to know may be used by that state for a purpose prejudicial to the safety or defence of Canada;
(c) conspires with any person to commit high treason or to do anything mentioned in paragraph (a);
(d) forms an intention to do anything that is high treason or that is mentioned in paragraph (a) and manifests that intention by an overt act; or
(e) conspires with any person to do anything mentioned in paragraph (b) or forms an intention to do anything mentioned in paragraph (b) and manifests that intention by an overt act."

It is also illegal for a Canadian citizen to do any of the above outside Canada.


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