We learned this week that American jurisprudence apparently extends to the battlefield.
In a lawsuit that would seem to redefine hubris, Canadian Omar Khadr has been sued for almost US$45 million after he was accused of killing one American soldier and blinding another during a firefight in an Afghan village on July 27, 2002.
Let’s clear the elephant out of the room right away. We are by no means speaking in support of Khadr. The then-teenager was acting as an “enemy combatant” in a war zone. By North American standards, he made a grievous error by fighting for the wrong team.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Khadr was a Toronto-born 15-year-old who lived in both Canada and Pakistan. The teenager was hiding in the hills of Pakistan to evade American bombing when he was asked to accompany a group of men into Afghanistan to act as their Pashto translator.
American soldiers happened into the village where he was and converged on the house he was in after someone there used a satellite phone.
It eventually led to a firefight in which the local occupants were throwing grenades at the Americans. More soldiers showed up after the area was strafed by American jets. Another grenade was thrown at that point, killing one American soldier and blinding a second in one eye.
After the soldiers shot up the alley, Khadr was later found badly injured, begging the soldiers to shoot him.
He ended up in the infamous Guantanamo Bay facility before eventually being transferred to an Alberta prison in 2012.
Despite his tender age, Khadr was no wide-eyed innocent in this event. He very well could have lobbed the grenade.
But the mind reels that the Americans can invade another country and then sue the people who defend themselves.
They might be seeing it a little differently if the lawsuit was filed by the families of innocent people in Pakistan who were killed by drone strikes.
Even the U.S. has a law against suing for “acts of war,” legislation no doubt aimed at protecting themselves.
So how did they get around it?
The lawyers argued that throwing the grenade was actually an act of terrorism, which is different.
They then argued that Khadr’s guilty pleas showed he was in violation of the rules of war.
This followed a 2006 lawsuit in which they sued the estate of Khadr’s father for failing to control his son. That $102-million judgment remains uncollected.
Equally troubling is the fact that Canada’s Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said the Conservative government supports the lawsuit.
Since we’ve moved into that realm, perhaps the families of the Canadian soldiers killed by friendly fire in 2002 should shake down the American government, with the support of the federal Tories.
Fair is fair.
We’ve grown accustomed to Americans making their own rules when it suits them.
And while you can argue that they targeted the right guy this time, the ends don’t always justify the means.
Prince Albert Daily Herald