Blaming the Child for the Abuse

This lawsuit is pretty disgusting:

The widow of a U.S. special forces soldier killed in Afghanistan and an American soldier blinded by a grenade are suing Canada’s Omar Khadr for almost $45 million (U.S.)

In the lawsuit filed Thursday in Utah, Tabitha Speer and Sgt. Layne Morris allege Khadr, then 15, was responsible for the death of Sgt. Christopher Speer and Morris’s injuries in July 2002.

For those of you who don’t know or don’t remember. Canadian Omar Khadr is a former child soldier, though he wasn’t abducted or recruited, he was born into it. Terror was the family business, and Omar was a participant at a very young age.

It is bad enough that the U.S. and Canada allowed a child soldier to be imprisoned for the better part of a decade in Gitmo. With or without due process (and it was mostly without), that’s not how any civilized society deals with child soldiers. Allowing this lawsuit to go forward would be just another step in the inhumane treatment of Khadr.

For those who support this lawsuit, I’m sure they would be totally fine with all the Iraqi victims of the war suing members of the American military, right? Right?

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79 thoughts on “Blaming the Child for the Abuse

  1. Isn’t this assuming that the United States and Canada are civilized societies? Lots of history suggests otherwise.

    The war on terror like the war on drugs allows lots of people to satisfy their more negative impulses. What a disgusting species we can be at times.

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  2. “For those who support this lawsuit, I’m sure they would be totally fine with all the Iraqi victims of the war suing members of the American military, right? Right?”

    This is exactly what I was thinking. I wonder if those people will recognize Khadr’s right to Stand His Ground.

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  3. I am reluctantly going to offer a heavily-qualified slightly different possible perspective, assuming the charges against him (and his father) are true.

    Also, this man definitely appears to have been the subject of child abuse – first at the hands of his family/Al Qaeda, then at the hands of the US Govt. at Gitmo.

    Nothing that follows should be taken as contrary to that.

    But.

    My assumption is that the families of US soldiers that are bringing this suit against Canadian citizen Khadr (a country that was NOT at war with the US in Afghanistan) are really hoping to get at the deep pockets of those who turned Khadr into what he was – that is, his family, which is alleged to have financing ties to terror organizations including Al Qaeda.

    I doubt Khadr himself, who has been in Gitmo since 15, has much in the way of independent means, so he is simply a vector, not the true target of the legal action (an aside for the lawyers – is such a suit against Khadr just easier to bring/more likely to succeed, than one against his family?)

    This doesn’t make this legal action against him *right*, per se; but if I turn my child into a weapon, I shouldn’t be surprised if he gets turned back against me. Assuming there are ties to Al Qaeda in the family, and money can be extracted from them via legal action, it should be. I don’t think attempting to economically-starve terror organizations via civil action is de facto beyond the moral pale.

    Not really sure I am making my point clear, and this man has no doubt had a terrible life and this lawsuit is a further heaping helping of suckitude, but sins of the fathers and all that – I can’t help but feel his family bears some responsibility for what he did (again: assuming all charges against him and his father are true, an admittedly-dicey assumption).

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    • Maybe I’m crazy, but I’m pretty sure you lose any expectation of safety when you voluntary enter a war zone. If the soldier’s death was “wrong” (as I assume they are arguing given that it is a wrongful death lawsuit), doesn’t that make the entirety of the war wrong? That is an interesting position to stake out.

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      • I think soldiers have a reasonable expectation of being killed by Afghanis. Not by Canadian citizens.

        If I am on duty in a war zone in country X, but get killed by a citizen of (random-other-allied-with-mine country Y), that could theoretically be a wrongful death unrelated to the war itself.

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      • But isn’t part of our justification for conducting the war on terror as we have is that it knows no boundaries? We are fighting a stateless enemy, I thought. That is why we’re flying drones over countries we aren’t officially at war with and blowing up their people.

        I’d also venture to guess that the soldiers involve wouldn’t have cared whether Khadr was Canadian, Afghani, or Martian were they to have found him in their crosshairs.

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      • This happened in Afghanistan in July 2002 – I don’t think any but the most dovish of folks believe we weren’t justified in being there 9 months after 9/11. This wasn’t the thing that the WoT has become, this was an actual war on the organization that actually perpetrated 9/11, and Khadr’s family is alleged to have made him part of that organization.

        And of course US soldiers wouldn’t have cared….which is why his Canadian family should not have allowed their Canadian son to go up against American soldiers in Afghanistan.

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      • But if he was part of Al Quaeda and we were there to fight Al Quaeda, then wasn’t he part of the target of the war regardless of citizenship?

        Either we were fighting Al Quaeda everywhere and anywhere or we were fighting Afghanis in Afghanistan. We can’t have it both ways based on whichever way is most convenient at that particular moment.

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      • I don’t see why being part of Al Qaeda would absolve him and his family of civil liability for his actions, under US/Canadian law. Did he renounce his Canadian citizenship?

        If I join Al Qaeda and blow up some Americans, can their families not sue me because I claim I’m Al Qaeda, not American?

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      • A few thoughts:

        1. Going after the family/AQ may be legitimate. It’s still pretty crappy to use a former child soldier as a pawn in that game.

        2. The U.S. (and Canada) were fighting AQ as part of the war, and they knew that the “combatants” wouldn’t be limited to one nationality.

        3. It’s tough for the U.S. to argue that it’s illegitimate for Canadians to volunteer to fight in a foreign war when the U.S. has accepted Canadians as volunteers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canada_and_the_Vietnam_War#Canadians_in_the_U.S._military

        4. All that said, I get your point, and I understand the hurt that the families would be filling. But our two countries have put Khadr through enough already.

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      • Obviously, IANAL, so I don’t know what typically goes into a wrongful death suit. But common sense tells me that people who enter into other people’s space with the express intent of doing them harm should not be plaintiffs in such suits. My basic sense of logic tells me that is absurd.

        The lawsuit being filed in Utah tells me that his being Canadian is only relevant insofar as Canada is likely to cooperate with us. Presumably, they could have sued Afghanis just as well (though obviously enforcement of anyone currently in Afghanistan would be difficult).

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      • Honestly, I’m not particularly sympathetic to the families. No more or less so than anyone else who lost someone while serving. But risk of death or grave bodily harm is part of the package when people join the military. And, remember, we do have a fully volunteer military. These men chose to put themselves in harm’s way, even if only in an abstract sense. And their government — their leaders — chose to put them in harm’s way in a concrete sense.

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      • – point by point –

        1. Agreed

        2. Agreed

        3. It’s tough for the U.S. to argue that it’s illegitimate for Canadians to volunteer to fight in a foreign war I don’t know the US is arguing that it’s ‘illegitimate’ under any circumstances; but as an allied nation we have a reasonable expectation that it won’t be to fight against us, no? That’s what ‘allied’ means.

        4. our two countries have put Khadr through enough already. This is a civil action being undertaken by the families; private actors. Is it your position that the US government should stop the families’ ability to seek reparation, based on the bad actions of Khadr’s family/Al Qaeda/The US Govt in Gitmo?

        I agree this is a sucky situation for Khadr. But assuming his dad was who they say he was, and did what they say he did, this is a somewhat foreseeable consequence of those actions – though again, I have questions on the legal aspects, like the fact that he was underage when this happened, and whether the suit should be more properly directed at him (for brute effectiveness) or his family (who more properly deserve the “blame”, if any).

        Don’t turn your kids into weapons, people. It probably won’t end well for them, ever.

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      • And before anyone brings up the comparison –

        I believe it’s very different for the US Govt. to send a drone into a country with which we are not at war to blow up an American 15-year-old with very questionable ties to any bad action, than for private actors to serve a civil suit against a 15-year-old who allegedly WAS taking bad actions against US soldiers in a war zone.

        The difference is right there in the bolded word, in both senses.

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      • That is a good point, Glyph. The government is one thing. Private citizens are another. That said, I hope they lose their suit. Not because of any ill will towards the family. But because justice — at least my sense of justice — dictates that they should. I’m also not sure how precedent-setting civil suits are, but this does risk setting a very bad precedent. And one I’m sure our people and government would find deplorable if it were ever used against our own people. I mean, our government objected to our soldiers being tried in Iraqi courts for alleged offenses against Iraqi people while on Iraqi soil. Because, hey, war.

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      • – my logic goes something like this:

        1.) Al Qaeda perpetrated 9/11
        2.) We sent soldiers into Afghanistan to get Al Qaeda, where
        3.) Khadr (a Canadian citizen, alleged to be part of Al Qaeda, if not entirely by choice due to his age) kills or injures our soldiers.

        What part of that chain precludes the families of these soldiers feeling as though Khadr (and/or his family) should make reparations to them? Should military action always take civil suits off the table (not sure about the legality of it)?

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      • First, using 9/11 as the starting point of this chain of events is a bit question-begging.

        But even so, if his family are eligible for reparations, then the families of anyone who ever died in war are eligible for reparations. Do you disagree that that is the logical conclusion of this line of thinking?

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      • Put another way, my chain assumes that Al Qaeda and/or Khadr’s family (as allegedly part of or financiers of Al Qaeda) bears primary responsibility for what happened to the soldiers (they didn’t go to Afghanistan for a vacation), and therefore a civil suit against him/them may be justifiable.

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      • …than for private actors to serve a civil suit against a 15-year-old who allegedly WAS taking bad actions against US soldiers in a war zone.

        Would you take the same position if the families of Afghans killed by private security contractors sued for millions of dollars in a wrongful death suit? Would you encourage them to do so? Would the nationality of the contractors matter? Blackwater employees have now been convicted of murdering civilians in a hell of a lot fairer trial than Khadr got, and while those were Americans, Blackwater employed a lot of other nationalities in Afghanistan as well.

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      • using 9/11 as the starting point of this chain of events is a bit question-begging.

        As I said, the soldiers weren’t in Afghanistan for R & R.

        if his family are eligible for reparations, then the families of anyone who ever died in war are eligible for reparations.

        I’d certainly recommend that anyone that thinks they have a civil case and can recover money should try. Especially if the pockets being tapped are Al Qaeda’s. Couldn’t happen to a nicer organization.

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      • If these soldiers killed anyone while on their deployment, would you be okay with those families suing the soldiers (or their families)?

        Depends on the circumstances, but under many, sure.

        If the facts of the case were that the soldiers were in the country for a legitimate reason, and engaged in legitimate activity, then the suit against them would be baseless.

        If not, then not.

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      • Was Khadr there for illegitimate purposes? The starting point actually really, really matters. If you think 9/11 was unprovoked, fine, start there. If you think 9/11 was an intense escalation of a long simmering collision of cultures and ideologies, that dramatically shifts things in some very important ways.

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      • Would you take the same position if the families of Afghans killed by private security contractors sued for millions of dollars in a wrongful death suit? Would you encourage them to do so?

        I believe I answered this already, but yes, they should sue, if the circumstances of their case are that the contractors were engaged in illegitimate activity.

        If the contractors were acting in accordance with the situation (attempting to accomplish legitimate military objectives under legitimate orders of the US government – that is, not committing war crimes and indiscriminately shooting civilians etc.) then the suit is baseless. Otherwise, the suit may have merit.

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      • Kaz, if you don’t think we had legitimate reason to go into Afghanistan following 9/11 (despite any prior events) then I don’t think the conversation can advance any further.

        My recommendation to Canadian Khadr and his family would have been to get the hell out of Afghanistan once hostilities began.

        If that was not possible, my recommendation for Canadian Khadr and his family would have been to not throw grenades at American soldiers.

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      • I think the idea of “legitimate” goes out the window when we’re talking about war. Those soldiers — who were probably not materially affected by the events of 9/11 — flew halfway around the war to wage war against the de facto leaders of a country whose involves in 9/11 was limited to harboring the mastermind and primary financier of the attack. Leaving aside that Khadr was very likely in Afghanistan against his will, we can presume that his family was there in support of their own people who they song as long-suffering victims at the hands of the Americans. Ya know, like the soldiers saw themselves as supporting their people who were victims at the hands of Al Qaeda.

        I don’t know that the soldiers had any more legitimacy being in Afghanistan than Khadr did.

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      • – Again, I doubt we will find common ground here.

        I think the idea of “legitimate” goes out the window when we’re talking about war.

        Possibly true, but most of us pretend it’s not. “Just following orders” can’t and doesn’t cover all wrongs, but “government” – that thing we give coercive power over us to – legitimizes some (but not all) of the actions of the soldiers that it gives orders to to act in its defense. A soldier acting under explicit military order, fighting against a soldier of another government, has legitimate reason to kill him. And vice versa. When random “soldiers” of other countries start jumping into the mix unannounced, they may reasonably be assumed to be acting on their own, and as such the responsibility and consequence for their actions is likewise their own.

        Those soldiers — who were probably not materially affected by the events of 9/11

        Speculative, and frankly a little callous. I think many Americans, and even citizens of the world, were affected.

        the de facto leaders of a country whose involves in 9/11 was limited to harboring the mastermind and primary financier of the attack.

        Again, if you don’t think this constituted a legitimate beef with the then-govt. of Afghanistan, we have no common ground.

        we can presume that his family was there in support of their own people who they song as long-suffering victims at the hands of the Americans.

        Speculative. Khadr was Canadian, his mom was Canadian, his dad was Egyptian/Canadian who was in Afghanistan either A.) Doing charity work or B.) Financing Al Qaeda, depending on who you believe (or possibly C.) Both).

        I don’t know that the soldiers had any more legitimacy being in Afghanistan than Khadr did.

        Again, we disagree. The soldiers were legitimately there. Khadr may or may not have been there legitimately (whatever that means), but as a Canadian citizen he decided (or was encouraged by his family) to throw grenades at American citizens there.

        In the long run, this was not the best choice he could have made.

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      • I think the idea of “legitimate” goes out the window when we’re talking about war.

        There is now an over 100 year history on what is and what is not legitimate when it comes to war. Granted, these rules have been written by the winners, and very selectively enforced (almost exclusively by the winners on the losers), but there are rules.

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      • well articulates my feelings, albeit while presumably disagreeing with me (which is cool, mind you).

        There is something highly presumptuous in saying that this side’s killing is legitimate and that side’s isn’t when it just so happens to be that we’re of the former side AND when the former side has traditionally held the power (politically, financially, militarily, etc.) and made the rules.

        Pakistan is a country we did not go to war with. But we have attacked its citizens with drones and entered the country in pursuit of a target of our war. Suppose Pakistan declared war on us and sent troops over to the states. These troops were kicking in doors on your street. A friend of yours — visiting from overseas and staying at your house — grabs a gun and shoots one of them before he can kick in your door. You’re cool with that guy being sued for wrongful death of the Pakistani soldier?

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      • You’re cool with that guy being sued for wrongful death of the Pakistani soldier?

        Assuming that A.) Pakistan can make a case that they belonged here and B.) the friend can’t make a case that he was acting for a legitimate reason (as a citizen/soldier of a declared combatant in the conflict, or simple individual self-defense), why shouldn’t he be sued?

        More importantly, what’s the harm? Either the suit is declared baseless, or it has merit and he either wins/loses, makes reparation or doesn’t.

        But what’s the tragedy of the suit? In the scheme of things, he’s lucky a lawsuit is *all* he was slapped with in response to his actions (hence my comment about the word “civil” as opposed to “war”). The soldier he killed wishes he’d just gotten served papers instead of shot.

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      • My apologies for conflating “suing” with “suing successfully”. I am on record as saying that the likely outcome of a legitimate attempt to defray spurious lawsuits would likely be worse than the status quo. So I don’t object to the fact that the family is able to pursue action. I would object if they won. And I guess I’m not entirely clear on whether you think they should win and/or whether you think them winning would be a “good” thing.

        Also, further apologies if I’m testier than usual on this matter. This is a subject that boils my blood a bit for a number of reasons (some of them personal).

        In reality, I should probably stop talking because I don’t know the requisite details of this particular case. Were the soldiers harmed walking down the street with their guns pointed on Khadr? Or were they asleep in their bunk? That certainly matters. Zazzy saw a lot of soldiers killed or maimed during her time in the Navy. Thankfully, she herself never saw combat. But as a member of the nurse corps, she saw a lot of shit. But one of the events that bothered her most was when a former high school classmate of hers was shot by a sniper while jogging on base. The fact that she knew the guy (albeit not well) was part of it, but the idea that he got shot while jogging — something she did regularly on a nearby base — was really unsettling for her. Precisely because of her own understanding of when those engaged in war could reasonably be assumed to be actively engaged and when not.

        So, I should probably better educate myself on the facts before commenting more. I just find it problematic that soldiers killed in a war we initiated (regardless of where we start the timeline, I do think we’d agree that we chose of our own volition to send troops into Afghanistan and did not do so because of a clear and present danger, yes?) are somehow dead “wrongfully”, or at least any more “wrongfully” than anyone else dead as a result of their presence.

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      • I’m not entirely clear on whether you think they should win and/or whether you think them winning would be a “good” thing. Given the facts of the case as I understand them, I have no real objection to these soldier’s families, as private actors, trying to recover civil compensation for damages from Kadr (or his family), as private actors. I assume people are suing the Tsarnaevs left and right. The fact that any theoretical reparations might come out of Al Qaeda’s pocket is just a bonus.

        we’d agree that we chose of our own volition to send troops into Afghanistan

        Yes, but…

        and did not do so because of a clear and present danger,

        …it was actually a clear and already-occurred danger: a big smoking crater in NYC, with the explicit promise of more of the same from the architects of that crater.

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      • The danger had been realized, yes. I’m not sure there was sufficient reason to think we were actively preventing future attacks that would have happened otherwise. Though that is, by definition, speculative.

        I guess what I’m curious about is what you think makes this particular pursuit of reparations legitimate: Khadr’s citizenship?

        While I am not going to shed a tear over bankrupting Al Qaeda, I think if the goal is to get money from them, that actually works against your argument. Al Qaeda is who we were at war with. Suing the people you were warring against for what happens during that warring seems wrong to me (regardless of whether Khadr qualifies as being part of al Qaeda or not).

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      • I’m not sure there was sufficient reason to think we were actively preventing future attacks that would have happened otherwise. Though that is, by definition, speculative.

        Agreed that is speculative. This was 9 months after 9/11. That we’ve taken some real wrong turns in the intervening time is now apparent to most everyone, but at that time (and even now) I see no reason to believe that going straight after the guys who planned 9/11 (or sheltered them) was not the right thing to do.

        I guess what I’m curious about is what you think makes this particular pursuit of reparations legitimate: Khadr’s citizenship?

        Honestly, his citizenship is what makes it most clear to me that this is at least a possibly-legitimate suit, since in no way can Khadr be understood to be acting in defense of his “country”.

        But even had he been Afghani, I’m not sure why military action is presumed to automatically take civil action off the table (indeed, civil action seems *preferable* to military action, is the point I keep trying to make).

        Suing the people you were warring against for what happens during that warring seems wrong to me (regardless of whether Khadr qualifies as being part of al Qaeda or not).

        See above. I have no idea why you wouldn’t use the legal tools at your disposal against those you are at war with. And lawsuits are better than cluster bombs.

        And it’s individuals doing the suing, anyway, not the warring governments.

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      • This is probably a bad analogy because it brings in the police, but –

        Say the police surround and bust into my house, and I shoot one of them. There will likely be a criminal case, specific to the shooting, that I will either win or lose.

        There may also be a civil case.

        Whether or not that policeman’s family should (rightfully) sue me hinges on the facts of the shooting.

        Did the police have valid reason to surround my house and bust in, or did they have the wrong address?

        Was Khadr just in the wrong place at the wrong time? Was he acting in justified defense of himself, his family, his friends?

        Or, to stick with my analogy, was he more like my neighbor who ran over to my house when he heard the commotion, and *he* shot the cop – and so, regardless of why the police were at my house to begin with, at least some culpability is on him?

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      • But this opens up a Pandora’s box… every non-combatant killed by an American bomb or bullet can try to sue whoever put that bomb or bullet in motion and/or the military/government itself. And if our response is, “Tough nuts,” well, doesn’t that sort of settle how we see the legitimacy of such pursuits?

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      • Also, for your cop analogy to work, it would have to be as if a police force that didn’t typically have jurisdiction over you was involved. Because I do think that the legitimacy of the soldiers’ presence (both in country and in whatever specific situation they found themselves in) would similarly be a matter for the courts if all the rest is.

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      • sorry not following the throughline of yr thought and am at work so probably not giving it the thought it needs.

        My process is: When Khadr threw those grenades, was he acting at the behest of the govt. of America/Canada (no), or the government of Afghanistan, to the degree that it was separable from Al Qaeda (as near as I can tell, no).

        In that case (and leaving aside his age and abuse by his family) his actions and their consequences are either A.) his own and/or B.) Al Qaeda’s.

        Either way, his actions would seem to make him a legitimate target for a lawsuit by the families of those killed by the grenades he threw.

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      • Were we at war with Afghanistan? Or Al Qaeda? If it is the latter and he was a member of Al Qaeda (however “membership” is defined… I doubt there are secret decoder rings… but maybe!) then it would seem he was a part of the enemy fighting force.

        In fact, isn’t that the argument we used against the American kid who fought with/for Al Qaeda? That he wasn’t bestowed certain rights because he was an “enemy combatant”?

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      • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_in_Afghanistan_%282001%E2%80%93present%29

        The then-govt. of Afghanistan (Taliban) and Al Qaeda were, as I understand it, pretty heavily-linked.

        But what exactly is your argument? I’m not getting it. Why should he be immune from lawsuit? What grants him that theoretical immunity (aside from possibly his age at the time)? Do Canadians have the right not to be sued? Do Afghans? Do Americans?

        My argument saying I see no reason he (or his family, depending on age/coercion factors) can’t be sued is: As a grenade-thrower-at-US-soldiers-in-a-war-zone, he’s pretty much the textbook definition of “enemy combatant” (should throwing ‘bonus’ grenades for another country get him immunity from lawsuits from the people blown up by those grenades? This makes no sense).

        As a Canadian citizen, not an Afghani, fighting an allied country’s soldiers, he’s pretty much an “unlawful” one, it seems to me.

        Nobody made him show up and throw grenades, except possibly his family or Al Qaeda. Like I said, I’d’a recommended he leave the country, or at least not try to blow up American soldiers. We’ll rain a hellfire [of lawsuits] on your head from above.

        If you want to argue that as a 15-year-old he had no real choice in the matter, that’s an argument I am willing to entertain (though I’d argue that maybe suing his family, or the organization that put him up to it, is still appropriate; also, if we can’t shoot 15-year-old grenade throwers, and we can’t sue 15-year-old grenade throwers, then we’ll probably see more 15-year-old-grenade throwers.)

        Is your argument that shooting him at the time would have been fine, but suing him now is beyond the pale?

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      • Reading between the lines a few comments back, is your thought process something like this:

        “Khadr was (close enough to) an Afghani soldier, engaged in (close enough to) legitimate military action at the time – and that should grant him immunity from lawsuit”?

        [with a subtext of “Man, I sure wouldn’t want some jackass slapping Zazzy and me with a lawsuit over actions she took while deployed at war years ago”]?

        If so, then I kinda get where you are coming from – but would argue that Zazzy would theoretically have been acting under lawful orders, and as long as she was following orders and the laws of war, she wouldn’t be a legitimate target of a lawsuit (though her government or her commanders might still be).

        I just don’t see Khadr and Zazzy as equivalent.

        If this isn’t your thought process, I apologize, and it’s certainly possible I’m just not getting it.

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      • I don’t think he should be immune from being sued. And I REALLY should educate myself more on the details of the case before I say whether he should win the lawsuit. But I think most plausible scenarios would meet the criteria of him engaging in the war as a combatant. And I think suing combatants is a really bad road to go down. Or, more precisely (because I agree that civil means are preferable to bellicose means), I fear that such lawsuits will be a one way street: Americans suing foreigners but refusing to subject our own people to the same.

        With regards to Zazzy, I was not actually concerned about her theoretical ability to be sued (in large part because she would be very unlikely to be position to be sued; she worked in a hospital on a base in Kuwait but did not see active combat). Rather, I know many servicemen and women (Zazzy among them) who are actually bothered by actions like this. Many of them take seriously the risk they assume in entering the military. They are bothered by fellow servicemen and women who seem to want to reap the benefits of service without paying any of the costs.

        I’m stopping short of necessarily assigning those motives to anyone in this case. One of the soldiers is dead and this is being done on his behalf. I’d also venture to guess there is some politicking going on as well.

        So that is the extent to which this is personal: I know people who are offended by actions like this and I empathize with that feelings.

        However, practically, I struggle with the idea of war participants suing one another. This hinges on the extent to which Khadr was a war participant, a question I cannot properly adjudicate because I am ignorant of the relevant facts. I suppose a court isn’t the worst place to decide such a matter, but color me cynical if I doubt the likelihood of an American court being fair to him in this regard.

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      • I fear that such lawsuits will be a one way street: Americans suing foreigners but refusing to subject our own people to the same.

        Well, this is one more reason why distinguishing between civilians (who theoretically act on their own) and soldiers (who act on behalf of their govt.) is so important – because it lets us be more confident in assigning overall culpability.

        Let’s run this another way – let’s say Canada has invaded Kazzystan for a seemingly-legitimate reason (Kazzystan is sheltering a supervillain who stole all Canada’s moose).

        Glyph, an American citizen, has been living in Kazzystan. I like it there, I have friends there.

        So I decide to lob some grenades at the invading Mounties (I know, I know, run with it).

        Should the families of those Mounties be able to sue me?

        Or can I claim that hey, I was a war participant, and those Mounties knew what they had signed up for, it’s not just free syrup and Canadian bacon all the time?

        I know this seems silly, and I don’t mean to mock the gravity of the situation – but I am hoping to defuse some of the baggage that surrounds this, and cut to the issue as I see it.

        (This is totally separate from whether it is appropriate to consider a 15-year-old fully culpable or not.)

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      • I don’t know the requisite details of this particular case. Were the soldiers harmed walking down the street with their guns pointed on Khadr? Or were they asleep in their bunk?

        A force of about 50 US soldiers and Afghan militia were investigating a trace of a satellite phone associated with the enemy, had surrounded the compound where Khadr and others were, and demanded the surrender of the occupants. A firefight ensued, followed by aerial bombing, and further reinforcement brought the allied forces’ numbers to about a hundred. Unaware that Khadr and one other had survived the bombing, US soldiers entered the compound, and it was at that point that a grenade reliably attributable to Khadr killed one and blinded another.

        Were we at war with Afghanistan? Or Al Qaeda?

        FWIW the US hasn’t been at war since Korea. I think Vietnam was officially a “kerfuffle”. Which probably allows suits like this, because the “enemy” is definable as whomever is most advantageous in your current legal theory.

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      • Thanks, . That makes me fairly confident in saying that the soldiers engaged Khadr and thus they (or their heirs) have little ground to justify reparations.


        Is Kazzystan at all like Kazakhstan? I think a big question I would have about your hypothetical is what court system is being utilized.

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      • So, this is a very long subthread with a very long discussion in it, and what I have to say isn’t necessarily relevant to the part of it that concerns what SHOULD happen, or what the law SHOULD be.

        However, it is relevant to the discussion of this particular case what the law currently IS, in one particular regard, so I will just leave this here:

        You can’t sue the military.

        As in, the Federal Tort Claims Act, which is a waiver of certain (many) parts of sovereign immunity, and allows people to sue the US government and its subdivisions for all manner of things, does not extend to the military. The statute itself says that you can’t sue the military for combat related things, which clearly this particular incident is, and a trio of SCOTUS cases in I believe the 1950s, or thereabouts, interpreted “combat related” to mean ALL operations of the military, because they all support the combat part.

        So, in practice, you (the general Private Citizen you) cannot even sue an Army hospital or doctor for medical malpractice. Certainly you cannot sue the military for shooting you in a combat zone. In this specific case, I am fairly sure this means that Khadr cannot counterclaim (for, you know, destroying that compound with reckless indifference to his life, among other possibilities) since the American soldiers in the suit were acting in their official capacities as soldiers when the incident happened, and thus as agents of the US military, which is immune from suit (though I could be wrong about the interplay of personal vs institutional immunity here).

        If it is in fact true that Khadr cannot counterclaim against the plaintiffs because of the sovereign immunity issue, then in my opinion the soldiers should not be able to sue Khadr either, for reasons of fairness and risk in lawsuits. It does not seem right that Side A can sue with imp(/m)unity (minus their own legal fees) while Side B can at best pay only their legal fees, even if an issue arises that might entitle them to some relief (or at least the chance to try for it) if the immunity picture were different.

        Of course, if Glyph and Kazzy’s discussion is more about should than about is, this may not be relevant.

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      • Ah, it appears I am wrong about this, oops. I was referring to the Feres Doctrine, from Feres v. U.S., 340 U.S. 135 (1950), but that apparently only applies to members of the military trying to sue the military, not to civilians filing suit. So my point about Khadr counterclaiming is moot, and I basically retract most/all of my other comment.

        That’ll teach me to post from memory without googling.

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      • If it is in fact true that Khadr cannot counterclaim against the plaintiffs because of the sovereign immunity issue, then in my opinion the soldiers should not be able to sue Khadr either, for reasons of fairness and risk in lawsuits. It does not seem right that Side A can sue with imp(/m)unity (minus their own legal fees) while Side B can at best pay only their legal fees, even if an issue arises that might entitle them to some relief (or at least the chance to try for it) if the immunity picture were different.

        Thank you very much. *This* actually makes sense to me.

        EDITED TO ADD: Wait, now I read your next comment. That’ll teach me to reply without reading all comments!

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      • Kazzy:

        If you are a combatant that follows the rules of land warfare and the geneva conventions then you are considered a privileged combatant and have legal protections, one of of which is that no legal liability attaches to some actions such as killing another privileged combatant. Example, an American soldier shoots a German soldier in combat. I don’t think omar, a Canadian civilian, has a right to be a privileged combatant and frankly I think he is much closer to being a mercenary who specifically don’t have any of the rights of privileged combatants.

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  4. What are the prospects for rehabilitation of child soldiers (by which I don’t mean “making fit to live in society,” but helping them recover from the mental/emotional damage done them). How much harder does having spent years in Gitmo as an adolescent, allegedly being tortured, make that?

    Is Khadr just screwed for life now, even if we stopped treating him as a criminal and tried to help him? Or would there be real prospects for him to have a reasonably emotionally stable life?

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    • My understanding is that rehabilitation (in general) can be quite successful. I can’t imagine how that will work with Khadr. There is talk from lawyers and representatives that he just wants to change and get on with his life. I don’t know how true or feasible that is.

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  5. On a more banal and practical level, where on earth is somebody in Mr. Khadr’s position going to get the money from if the plaintiff win their suit?

    Even if the all the allegations against Mr. Khadr are true, whats happening to him is a monstrosity.

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    • Assuming his apparently large-family are in fact financiers of Al Qaeda as has been alleged, the money will presumably come from there (in fact I suspect this is the ultimate goal).

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  6. Is part of the argument that the soldier in question was not fighting in accordance with whatever we’ve agreed the Marquis of Queensbury rules are?

    If he wasn’t wearing a uniform (or any markings for that matter), doesn’t that kind of provide a lot of cover for this sort of lawsuit? If we want to argue that the Geneva Conventions should apply to how we engage with “the enemy”, this seems part and parcel with that sort of thing.

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      • One of the more disturbing things for me about the War on Terror — in hindsight, I suppose — is the extent to which the US has gone to ensure that it happens outside the rules. Not that that was particularly hard to do, since the Geneva Conventions were never intended to deal with a transnational revolutionary movement attempting the eventual overthrow of many national governments, but that doesn’t hold any states yet.

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      • Well, isn’t that the goal of terrorism? To play outside the rules, not just due to relative size advantage, but by so doing to hopefully provoke *the enemy* into playing outside the rules, and then use that as further propaganda against them?

        To whatever extent we continue to let ourselves be drawn into *their* game, the terrorists truly have won.

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    • In this case, he was in a compound already identified by US forces as containing enemies, they were surrounded, US forces had demanded their surrender, F-18 jets had bombarded the place. There was at that point little question of whether Khadr or any other occupant of the place might have been a civilian – or at least, it had long been accepted by the US forces that killing any civilians in the place was an acceptable action to take.

      All this took place through opaque walls, so no one would have been able to see his clothing either way.

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      • In fact, the assumption was that at that point all occupants of the compound were corpses. Had they suspected anyone to be alive inside, they would have continued dropping bombs and throwing grenades until the suspicion was dispelled.

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      • This is really interesting to me, because I feel my emotions swaying this way and that. I maintain that the US military actions in general (if not this battle) in Afghanistan at that time were justified as an attempt at getting the guys who planned 9/11 and might have been marshaling the resources to repeat it. That said –

        On the one hand – in this battle, Khadr and ‘friends’ were clearly woefully outmatched and outgunned. In this sense, Khadr’s last grenade seems simply like a final pitiful and ultimately pointless gesture of defiance.

        On the other, I don’t know that anybody would have blinked an eye had those soldiers shot 15-year-old Khadr on the spot (maybe he had one MORE grenade, you never know), so I am not sure why we think suing him now is suddenly beyond the pale, unless it’s an “insult to injury” kind of thing after his long confinement, or some idea that war is hell but once it’s over we should let bygones be bygones, “what happens in war STAYS in war”, or something*?

        Like I said I am definitely open to the argument that he was simply too young to be considered fully culpable, but even then I’d have no real issue with someone injured by him suing his family or Al Qaeda. Likewise someone injured by a US soldier could sue them or the US govt. if there’s a credible argument that “they shouldn’t’a been doing *that* on a battlefield”, as I think there is with Khadr (both as an individual, and as an alleged member of Al Qaeda, again discounting his age).

        *Actually, the more I think about it, this may sort of make sense to give limited “free shots” (short of war crimes) on a battlefield.

        If I am fighting and know that if I am captured or surrender, I will still be free once the war is over, I may be more likely to go peacefully.

        If I know that no matter the outcome of the war, I will spend the rest of my life in court, I may elect to go down fighting to the last.

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      • Well that’s exactly why we have POW conventions, right? Once someone is captured and disarmed, they are no longer effectively a member of an enemy army, so their captor must stop treating them as a legitimate target of warfare.

        Also, at an international level, half-formed and hand-wavey analogy to Treaty of Versailles vs Marshall Plan…

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  7. I kind of get this, but you can also use that same logic to extrapolate that any war crimes are excusable by people being victims of their circumstances and upbringing.

    To be honest, I kind of suspect that were you able to sue individuals for war-related damages there would be a lot less armed conflict. I’m pretty sure if personal finances were tied to what you did/ordered in regards to wars, then 12 years ago we would have had very different testimony by Rice, Rumsfeld and Powell.

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    • I kind of suspect that were you able to sue individuals for war-related damages there would be a lot less armed conflict.

      This is kind of what I have been trying to say up above. In the grand scheme of things and compared to war, a lawsuit isn’t the worst that can happen.

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      • This gave me a bit of clarity…

        Civilians suing combatants: I’m okay with.
        Combatants suing civilians: Would depend. Was this an old woman laying in bed who pulled a gun on a soldier kicking in her door? Or a man strapped with a bomb who made his way onto an enemy base under the guise of selling popsicles before blowing up a room full of unarmed soldiers?
        Combatants suing combatants: Not okay.

        Now, when I say “suing”, I wouldn’t necessarily deny anyone the right to sue anyone else, in part because determining who qualifies as what might be a matter best addressed by courts (at least in the abstract). So I’m referring more so to the legitimacy of such lawsuits and whether I think they should be found for in the plaintiffs’ favor.

        Does that clarify things, ? It certainly feels like the clearest I’ve made my point.

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  8. Take all the cross-cultural context and War on Terror history out of it.

    If some dude gets caught up in a bad crowd, and, at the age of 15, kills someone and injures someone else as part of gang related activity, would it be disgusting for the families of the dead/injured to bring a civil suit against that person?

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      • Well, this all goes back to my cop analogy above.

        It all depends on why the cop was where he was, and why the dude who shot him was where he was. Cop had the wrong house? Probably cop’s fault. Dude was a violent criminal (or aiding and abetting violent criminals in that house)? Probably dude’s fault. (Note I say probably, since even here it seems there could be twists).

        If I accept that in this analogy the cops are the US soldiers, I believe they were where they were supposed to be, doing (in general) what they were supposed to be doing.

        Khadr (assuming the ties to Al Qaeda are true), not so much.

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      • You see how your position might be biased, right?

        “The soldiers were trying to stop a bad guy!” says us.
        “Khadr was trying to stop the bad guys!” say them.

        You’re now asking the American court system (specifically, American jurors) to objectively assess who should have been where.

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      • Cop had the wrong house? Probably cop’s fault. Dude was a violent criminal (or aiding and abetting violent criminals in that house)? Probably dude’s fault. (Note I say probably, since even here it seems there could be twists).

        I may not be interpreting this exactly as you intended it, but I do thing there’s an important distinction to make: it’s not about how virtuous or sinful the person is, it’s about the particular actions in question – how the cops acted, how the person who shot the cop acted, in the moments in question, not last week or last year.

        Equality before the law – it’s kind of a big deal.

        If it’s OK for your elderly parson who’s also your kids’ scout master to return fire in defence of his life and those of others in his home, should bullets come flying in the window without warning, then it’s OK for a meth cook and loan shark’s enforcer who’s got eight priors.

        Whether the address of the home matches the address on the warrant or not, doesn’t change anything about the actions of the people at the home (until they get a chance to read the warrant, that is, because then of course the knowledge behind their actions changes). It only changes the admissibility in court of any evidence found in the house.

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      • – sorry, in my rush to keep it simple I wasn’t clear. I agree with you. I was trying to point out that what made the cop wrong wasn’t the who (that he was a cop) but the what (that he effed up). And that what made the dude wrong was what he was doing at that time (though I agree I wasn’t clear about that, and it could be read that he was wrong just because he had priors or whatever).

        To return to the example at hand, I believe, in a broad sense, that the US was justified in going into Afghanistan. From yr acct, it seems they were justified in tracking the signal to the compound. From there they appear to have called for surrender of those inside.

        Whereas to whatever degree Kadhr and his family were working with AQ, then they were engaged in wrongdoing in a general sense, then failed to surrender when the jig was up (and of course the cop analogy breaks down here, because it’s a battlefield and arrest isn’t much in the cards).

        I sort of have to place blame on Khadr for his actions here, and think he’s probably lucky that he’s getting a lawsuit now instead of a bullet or a bomb then.

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      • I think a defense that one didn’t know that it was the police does carry more weight or less depending on whether you were doing something that would reasonably or likely bring them to your doorstep in a very confrontational manner.

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  9. Jonathon:

    I started to read the article with some interest but was disappointed that the title bears no connection to the issue at hand. No one is “blaming” Omar for being a child soldier, just for killing our soldiers so please save the tear jerking hyperbole for something else.

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