When Omar was just a toddler, his father quit a job as an engineer and moved the family to Peshawar, Pakistan, to join thousands of other radical Muslims, including Osama bin Laden, in the battle against the Soviets. Once there, Ahmed took charge of a Canadian charity that allegedly funneled money to Al-Qaeda. He also ran schools for children who were reportedly taught a radical version of Islam.

In 1992, Ahmed stepped on a land mine and was injured so badly he was evacuated to Toronto. For a time, the family lived off donations from area mosques, eventually squeezing into a humble flat in a rundown rooming house on the city's west end.

Omar was still in many ways a regular kid. He loved Nintendo, the Bruce Willis movie Die Hard, and junk food. He played basketball and cricket in an alley with his brothers and friends from the local mosque. He could also be a cutup: His sister Zaynab told the National Post he often impersonated Captain Haddock, the stuttering character from the Belgian comic book series Tintin. "Buh-buh-billions of bl-bl-blistering bl-bl-blue barnacles!" he would say. "Ten thousand thuh-thuh-thundering typhoons."

Morris, of Salt Lake City, lost his right eye in the 2002 firefight with Omar Khadr.
courtesy of Layne Morris
Morris, of Salt Lake City, lost his right eye in the 2002 firefight with Omar Khadr.
The interrogation rooms at Camp X-Ray, where many believe waterboarding and other torture-like interrogation techniques were first used in Guantánamo.
Barry Bland
The interrogation rooms at Camp X-Ray, where many believe waterboarding and other torture-like interrogation techniques were first used in Guantánamo.

Around his father, Omar was different, always bowing his head as a show of respect.

By 1993, Ahmed had healed sufficiently to return with his family to Pakistan. Not long after arriving, the elder Khadr allegedly began plotting with Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's right-hand man, to blow up the Egyptian embassy. The November 19, 1995 bombing killed 16 and wounded 60. Ahmed was arrested and sent to prison. He went on a hunger strike, protesting his innocence, and was transferred to a hospital in Islamabad. Omar, who was 9 years old at the time, didn't leave his father's side, often sleeping under the man's bed on the concrete floor.

But the Canadian government lobbied for Ahmed's release, and soon the family was living in Afghanistan with Osama bin Laden. Not yet 12 years old, Omar joined two of his older brothers at an Al-Qaeda training camp, where they were taught to fire Kalashnikovs and build bombs. "[We learned] why we are fighting America . . . why being a suicide bomber is an honor, why it's a right religiously," Omar's brother Abdurahman told CNN.

The Pentagon claims to have surveillance video that shows Omar planting a bomb on a road frequently traveled by U.S. troops. "That kid became radicalized," says Khadr's former imam. "It's impossible to go through the experiences he went through and not be affected by them."

When Khadr was captured in the July 2002 firefight that wounded Layne Morris, he was near death. Medics rushed him to the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, and a few months later, he was dressed in an orange jumpsuit, hogtied, and placed on a C-130 transport headed for Guantánamo. He arrived shackled and hooded, unsure of where he was. "Welcome to Israel," a guard told him.


From the air, Guantánamo Bay is a shimmering body of water knifing toward a jagged ridge of bluish hills on the rugged southern coast of Cuba. The U.S. naval base is 45 square miles of unsettling paradoxes. For more than a century, since Teddy Roosevelt's days, the United States has held this fortress under an indefinite lease in the dominion of its sworn enemy. The place served as a refueling station during World War II and as a primary target during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1995, when Fidel Castro encouraged discontented Cubans to leave, thousands were warehoused here before entering the United States.

The Bush administration began using it as a modern-day gulag in January 2002, just four months after the Twin Towers fell in New York. The first camp, called X-Ray for its coordinates on a military map, is now in decay, surrounded by razor wire. It sits in a remote, low-lying valley, a rusting ring of cages covered with weeds and vines. A half-dozen hastily built plywood interrogation rooms stand nearby, the site of some of Guantánamo's earliest atrocities.

The heart of the naval base provides a stark contrast. Officers live in brand-new townhouses on winding streets that wouldn't be out of place in suburban Las Vegas. They eat lunch at McDonald's and Taco Bell and drink Red Stripe beer at a bar tended by cheerful Jamaicans in floral print shirts. Suntanned lawyers spend afternoons playing on the base's Frisbee golf course and puffing away on cigars.

"I would bet my boots that when the American public thinks of Guantánamo, they think of these pumped-up Taliban warriors," says Khadr's lawyer, Dennis Edney. "In reality, in the first few years Omar was there, it was a house of horrors. It was a place where Omar was taken from death and back."

Omar Khadr's arrival at Guantánamo in October 2002 coincided with a fundamental shift in the War on Terror. In the 10 months the camp had been open to "unlawful enemy combatants," the military had learned little about Al-Qaeda's inner workings. So officers began employing techniques that included sensory deprivation, waterboarding, and degrading humiliation.

Shortly after his arrival, Khadr was taken to an interrogation room, where his arms were pulled behind his back and cuffed to his legs, straining his sockets until he was near delirium, according to the boy's sworn affidavit. He claims he was then forced onto his knees with his wrists cuffed to his ankles. This lasted so long that the 16-year-old urinated on himself. When the military police returned, he contends, they doused him with Pine-Sol and used him as a human mop to clean up the mess. He was then carried back to his cell, where he was left for two days.

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3 comments
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Marnie Tunay
Marnie Tunay

I am surprised to hear you say that Dennis Edney is prepared to have Omar Khadr move in with him. My understanding from speaking with him in late October was that he had considered that option and decided it was not a workable one. It doesn't matter in any case, because Omar Khadr is never coming back to Canada:http://fakirsca.blogspot.com/2...Marnie TunayFakirs Canadahttp://fakirscanada.googlepage...

Concerned Citizen and Taxpayer
Concerned Citizen and Taxpayer

It's interesting that this Guantanamo issue was missing from the New Times stands at Litchfield Park Library, and stands around Dysart and Litchfield Road, Sun City and at the Downtown Courthouse. This important issue is a must have. We believe that with the thousands of people coming in for the Anti-Arpaio march the stands were stripped. Not much different between Arpaio's jail and the the state prisons here and Guantanamo, with a culture steeped in what the world has seen in Abu Ghraib -- AZ Corrections officials set up / and ran Abu Ghraib during the abuse years. The Iraqis want nothing to do with the U.S. prisons - and taxpayers have wasted billions in these fiascos, of which Guantanamo is a part of. This has moved from Iraq and Guantanamo to Arizona and are racheting up for the next "war" against humanity on our soil. People wake up -- this is NOT the America we have known. Stop the madness and hatred and abuse of power.

Mike Wells
Mike Wells

See, I don't get this:They say this kid is guilty because 'he's the only one who could have thrown the grenade'...How do they know this? They say the fighting went on for an hour, but since the kid ws the only one alive, he's the "only" one who could have thrown a grenade an hour ago? SO he held the Special Forces guys off for an hour single-handedly?Secondly, why is it a crime to fight back in a wartime situation? So the guys weren't part of an organized military, neither were the French resistance fighters in WWII, did we bring them up on charges?Third, if these guys ARE criminals, why no actual charges? This game of semantics is ridiculous- 'He's-not-a-POW,-but he's-not-a-civilian-so-we-can-keep-him-forever-if-we-want'. We would expect anyone to do better with our captives, ciivilian or military, and we can't use the 'But they are meaner to our guys' excuse, we have always stirven to be above that, or we would have stuck our Vietnam prisoners in holes for months at a time, with watery rice for their only meals, torturing them on a daily basis.

It's about time the country grew up. I, for one, am glad that the new Administration is moving in this direction.

 
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