So apparently I am going to write about Omar Khadr and why every single day of his 13-year unlawful detainment is a shameful, ugly blot on the US and the Canadian governments. The shame and ugliness that belongs on the Taliban for sending him into combat can be stipulated, yes?
First of all: yes, he went into combat against US forces, and may have killed Christopher Speer. And that is awful. Nothing can make it not awful.
Secondly, when he did those things he was fifteen years old, three years too young to enlist in the military of any country which accepts current international laws and conventions relating to child soldiers, which includes both Canada and the US.
He was also three years too young to marry, vote, or be tried as an adult in a civilian court.
He was one year too young to apply for a driver's licence.
He was, simply, a child soldier, which is to say a child. He was also, and this is relevant to his situation, under his father's authority, which normally we would expect him to comply with.
We don't let children serve in combat not only because it is hideously unjust and damaging to them but for the same reason we — theoretically — don't try them in adult courts: they are not yet intellectually, emotionally, or morally stable and strong enough to accept the weight of responsibility an adult is expected to carry.
They are not fully responsible, in the legal sense, for their actions.
We get that argument backwards a LOT —
When we try children as adults, and send them to adult prisons.( and here I talk about child sexual abuse. If this thing is a trigger for you, you almost certainly already know what I'm going to say anyway )
And when we detain, imprison, torture, and isolate a fifteen-year old boy for having gone into combat at the direct order of his father.
We point with alarm and disgust at the awful thing they did and insist that anyone who could do such a vile thing ... must obviously be a mature, fully autonomous moral actor.
The argument doesn't actually hold together for a second; we only fall for it because it's repeated frequently and loudly with a ton of emotive words and a hefty side-order of "if you defend the person who did this hideous thing in any way you are saying you approve of what they did, without reservation."
It is actually remarkably easy to get children to do hideous, destructive, vicious, evil things, nearly as easy as it is to victimise them, because they are children.
They are impulsive, and don't necessarily grasp consequences.
They are inexperienced in moral reasoning, and still developing the capacity for it.
They fantasise and experiment with different roles and personas, and are not always reliable at distinguishing fact from fancy.
They are accustomed to being under authority, and their sense of self is often incomplete and shaky.
None of this is especially controversial, for God's sake. We take it into account quite automatically when we're making day-to-day decisions about children we're responsible for.
But somehow when it's about a fifteen-year-old obeying his father and going into combat, he's fully responsible for every last nuance of every identifiable consequence of his actions?
Omar Khadr was unlawfully and immorally thrust into combat at the age of fifteen, and deserved to be rescued and helped.
Instead, he has spent the last thirteen years being punished for it. Now he's free on bail while the US government decides whether or not to convict him of war crimes.
Damien Corsetti was one of the first people to deal with Kadhr after his capture:
... I'd like to clarify...I would like to say that I don't I don't know if he's a threat and I don't know because I haven't spoken to Omar Kadhr since 2002. And so I don't know what being in Guantanamo and in a Canadian federal prison has done...it tends not to work wonders on most people, as far as their psyche and their beliefs. But my main issue with Khadr is not if he's radicalized, it's not did he do it. My issue with Omar Khadr is that it's a violation of international law to charge him for war crimes
ETA: it is particularly galling that the Conservatives and Republicans are trying to sell this as a "law and order" issue. That is the law, right there. He could be Satan incarnate and we would still be completely in the wrong here.
They're violating the everloving Hell out of the law.
ETA 2: unlimited permission to link is granted. If the internet decides to come at me on this one the sword of the Lord and Gideon is going to get shoved somewhere tender and personal, that's what.