Omar Khadr and America’s Sick Torture Program

Omar KhadrWhat do creepy pseudo-sexual torture and Micky Mouse have in common? They are both results of the creative American mind! Those two sides of America came together in the case of Omar Khadr. He is Canadian, but his father took him to Afghanistan where he made the boy a soldier for al-Qaeda when he was just 15 years old. At 16, he was captured by US special forces. He was eventually sent to Guantanamo where he was sadistically tortured — apparently because the 16 year old boy was one of the “bad guys,” rather than a victim of war. If you want to know the gory details of the sick American mind that we have institutionalized, read Jeff Tietz’s Rolling Stone article, The Unending Torture of Omar Khadr. But you don’t want to know.

Max Fisher at Vox provides the relatively good recent news, The US Tortured a Child Soldier at Gitmo for Years. On Thursday, He Won His Freedom. But before getting to that, let me highlight one bit of torture that backfired:

Army Chaplain James Yee was assigned to Guantanamo, where he was surprised to find Khadr, an English-speaking boy, among the prison’s population. Yee later told the journalist Michelle Shephard that he would sometimes see Khadr reading a book of Disney cartoons. An interrogator had presented the book to Khadr during an interrogation, intending it as an insult. In fact, Khadr had been delighted.

I think it is really interesting that our official American torturer thought that giving Khadr a Disney comic book would be an insult. The torturer had apparently so dehumanized Khadr in his own mind that he couldn’t see that he was dealing with a boy — a child — someone who would delight in the playful antics of Mickey Mouse and Goofy. You cannot dehumanize other people; you can only dehumanize yourself; we have done so much to dehumanize ourselves in our efforts to dehumanize “the evildoers.”

Mickey MouseEventually, Khadr pleaded guilty to something that he apparently didn’t do so that the United States government could save face and so Khadr could be transferred to the Canadian government. As an American, that makes me feel so ashamed. I’ve been arguing about this for years, but it still stabs at me. As a child, I was taught that one of the reasons that America was great was that we, unlike other countries, didn’t torture people. I’m sure that wasn’t even true then. Regardless, now we know: (1) that we do torture; (2) that we do it in ways that show we have sick sexual fetishes; and (3) that we do it to children.

Omar Khadr is currently out on bail in Canada — living with his lawyer and his wife. He is currently appealing his guilty plea with the United States. We’ll see what happens to that. Clearly, the plea was coerced. But I doubt that the United States will ever admit to that. As it is, media outlets like NPR still won’t refer to the things that were done to Khadr, and so many others, as “torture.” No, we must continue the charade that only the bad guys torture. And since the United States is by definition not the bad guys, nothing it ever does qualifies as torture — especially when it is done to 16 year old boys.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

2 thoughts on “Omar Khadr and America’s Sick Torture Program

    • Yeah. Makes you proud to be an American. I’ve read about studies of whistleblowers, and they are most often those who were the true believers. That’s what I feel in myself. A lot of people are just cynical, but when I was younger, I totally bought all the propaganda about American exceptionalism. And that’s why I get so mad about this stuff. I feel betrayed. We are just like every other evil empire the world has ever known. On the positive side, things are definitely looking up for Omar Khadr. I wish him well. And I’m deeply sorry.

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