Omar Khadr has a lot to offer the world, including hope

There was no shortage indeed of tragic and troubling events in the world and Canada this past week:

  • The continuing tragedy of more than 200 out-of-control wildfires in B.C. and the evacuation of close to 15,000 people from their fire-threatened, and now possibly destroyed, homes.
  • News that more than two-thirds of Canadians, according to a usually reliable Angus-Reid poll, oppose the Canadian government’s payment of $10.5 million compensation to Omar Khadr for the failure of previous Liberal and Conservative governments to defend his Constitutional rights when he was a tortured, teenage prisoner in American military custody.
  • The “bombshell,” and still unfolding revelations that senior members of the then-Trump election campaign, especially Donald Trump Jr., met with a Russian lawyer, after they were led to believe that lawyer had incriminating information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton that was part of a Russian government effort to help Donald Trump win last year’s U.S. presidential election.

And then, in the midst of all that, comes news that an “iceberg” bigger than Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island, has broken off a huge Antarctic ice shelf.

larsen c

Larsen C breaking off.

An iceberg indeed! The Larsen C now-former piece of Antarctica weighs a trillion tonnes, and is 5,800 sq kms in size. It’s called Larsen C because it follows the “calving” of two other giant sections, A and B, off the Larsen Ice Shelf, in 1995 and 2002 respectively.

“The (Larsen C) iceberg is one of the largest recorded and its future progress is difficult to predict,” Adrian Luckman, the lead investigator of the British-led Project MIDAS, which has been monitoring the ice shelf for years, said in a Thomson-Reuters news report.

“It may remain in one piece but is more likely to break into fragments. Some of the ice may remain in the area for decades, while parts of the iceberg may drift north into warmer waters,” he added.

Luckman and other scientists are keeping their collective eyes on the impact of climate change on the fate of Antarctica. The south polar continent holds enough glacial ice in its loosening grip to raise sea levels by 60 metres world-wide if it all melted. But they are reluctant to blame climate change for the collapse of Larsen C, though A and B were regarded as having a climate-change connection.

“I am not unduly concerned about it – it is not the first mega iceberg ever to have formed,” said Martin Siegert, professor of geosciences at Imperial College London and co-director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change & Environment, in the on-line version of the British-based Guardian newspaper.

Twila Moon, a glacier expert at the US National Ice and Snow Data Center, agreed with the cautious approach regarding a climate change connection, but it could have made the situation “more likely,” she added.

“Certainly the changes that we see on ice shelves, such as thinning because of warmer ocean waters, are the sort (of changes) that are going to make it easier for these events to happen.”

Who am I to question these learned experts now treading oh-so carefully on thin ice, so to speak?

But the polar regions are warming faster, relatively speaking than other parts of the world. Climate-change sceptics have pointed to Antarctica as not demonstrating the same warming effects as the Arctic. But a recent scientific study found its most vulnerable area, the Antarctic Peninsula in the area of the Larsen ice shelf, has been “greening” for 50 years as a result of global warming/climate change.

The results of that study were published this past May in the journal Current Biology. Its lead author Matt Amesbury, a researcher at the University of Exeter in the U.K., said the continued retreat of glaciers will make the Antarctic Peninsula, which has been warming at a faster rate than the rest of the continent, a much greener place in the future.

The Larsen C iceberg is that process happening in real time.

In the Arctic region last year’s Fort McMurray disaster, fed by the tinder-dry conditions in the surrounding boreal forest, was a consequence of climate-change and its impact on the equilibrium of high-altitude northern winds, including the jet stream.

And so is the unusually early onset of the forest-fire season in B.C. after unsually heavy snow load throughout this past winter and then a wet spring, followed by a sudden onset of hot, dry weather.

It’s time to stop beating around the bush, or walking on thin ice about climate-change. It’s not a hoax, or a product of the “fake news” the great mind in The White House despises so much because he’s got something huge to hide.

Some day soon the truth of all things Trumpian will be revealed. It doesn’t take much moxie to see that coming. But by then it may be too late. It may be already, I fear.

But not to end with a discouraging word: there is always hope.

In my humble opinion, Omar Khadr is living proof of that: He was 15 years old when, badly wounded, and crying out, “kill me, kill me” in Canadian accented English, he was taken prisoner in 2002 by American soldiers after a deadly firefight in Afghanistan. He was imprisoned in a hell-hole called Guantanamo, tortured for years, including by allegedly being threatened with rape. He was denied his Constitional rights as a Canadian citizen, and his internationally-recognized human rights to a proper standard of fundamental justice.


Omar Khadr as a teenage prisoner in Guantanamo

“The interrogation (by Canadian intelligence officers) of a youth detained without access to counsel, to elicit statements about serious criminal charges while knowing that the youth had been subjected to sleep deprivation and while knowing that the fruits of the interrogations would be shared with the prosecutors, offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects.” That’s what the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2010.

Omar Kadhr finally confessed under duress to murdering an American soldier. It was the only way he thought his Guantanamo nightmare might end. He has since recanted that confession and appealing his American conviction. He was released from Guantanamo in 2012, but initially placed in a maximum security prison in Canadian custody before being transferred to a medium-security facility. He was released on bail pending the outcome of his appeal in May, 2015.

Yet, despite all that, he appears to be a remarkably well-adjusted, 30-year-old man with strength of character and a lot to offer the world. He does not now deserve to be demonized as a “murderer” and a “terrorist.” He does deserve to be compensated.


Omar Khadr as a man in Canada


A version of this was originally published in The Sun Times in July, 2017daily


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