Guantanamo\’s Child: The Untold Story of Omar Khadr
You can view this book's Amazon detail page here.
- Started reading:
- 21st August 2008
- Finished reading:
- Not yet finished.
History will judge us on the fate of Omar Khadr, April 2 2008
Review By Hilary Homes
As a long-time human rights campaigner who has followed the case of Omar Khadr since 2002, I think some people may be surprised by Michelle Shephard’s timely book. Amidst a polarized debate, this book simply tells the story so far from a variety of perspectives and lets the intelligent reader do the rest. And that’s a hard thing to do: try to unwind the spin that has dominated the discourse around the so-called “war on terror”.
For most people, the story of Omar Khadr begins and ends with a firefight in Afghanistan in the summer of 2002. Both he and soldiers involved are symbols of a post-9/11 context dominated by “us” and “them”. The now-famous Department of Homeland Security colour-coded National Threat Advisory does not contain a level where safety actually exists. The best you get is green for “low risk of terrorist attacks”. The price for this approach – which has all too often falsely cast human rights and security as opposing concepts – has been high. From black sites, torture and indefinite detention to the intentional targeting of civilians, it’s all bad. No “side” in this “war” has clean hands.
In Guantánamo’s Child, the story of the Khadr family, and Omar’s eventual capture and detention in Guantánamo Bay, are set in the context of history: personal histories, the decades of successive armed conflicts in South Asia, and the pre and post-9/11 national security policies of the USA and many of its allies. Also brought to life are the soldiers, lawyers, interrogators, fellow detainees, politicians, bureaucrats, and others who populate the landscape of this complex case. We see how the various players are drawn in one way or another, both willingly and unwillingly. What comes back into focus is the humanity of all the people involved, and the “war on terror” machine that is now grinding them all down.
There are many reasons to read this well-written book: the people, the history, the politics, the legal drama, the elements of who-done-it (or didn’t-do-it as the case may be). You won’t find all the answers or a seamless narrative, but the gaps and contradictions are part of the story itself.
How we respond to challenging or unpopular cases is the measure of all of us. Human rights are by their very nature universal. And that’s a tougher stance than many may realize.
History will judge us on the fate of Omar Khadr. Read Guantánamo’s Child and judge for yourself.
Hilary Homes is the security and human rights campaigner with Amnesty International Canada.