Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Realities Of The Child Soldier

I suppose I might feel differently about Omar Khadr if I hadn't read a particular book, A Long Way Gone, by Ishmael Beah. It provided indelible insights into both the realities of the child soldier's world and the possibilities of redemption and rehabilitation. It should be read by everyone who is quick to judge and condemn Khadr.

Now 31 years old, Beah, a very bright, articulate and talented writer effectively conveyed in his memoir the horror of his experiences as a child soldier, conscripted into the army at the age of 13 to fight the rebels in Sierra Leone, although the bloody, inhumane behaviour of each side made them virtually impossible to distinguish.

I suspect it is the kind of world that Kadhr is very familiar with, uprooted as he was from Canada by his fanatical father at a young age and moved to Pakistan and Afghanistan to become part of Al Qaeda’s jihad against the West.

There is a story in today's Star about the ongoing efforts of a group of professors from Edmonton who developed a curriculum of study for Khadr, still languishing in Guantanamo Bay’s Camp Echo thanks to the reluctance of the Harper government to repatriate him. It is a story that goes beyond the stereotypes and the sensational headlines one usually associates with the Khadr name, a story suggesting that maybe, just maybe, there is something very salvageable about this former child soldier.

Of course, we have a chance of recognizing that something only if we are willing to relinquish our preconceived notions about the sole remaining Western inmate languishing in America's Cuban prison.

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