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May 13, 2008

Shake hands with the weasel

I don't think Roméo Dallaire helped Omar Khadr much today, but I'm sure he meant to. Jason Kenney has no such excuse.

Kady O'Malley's account of the exchange between Dallaire and Kenney at the Subcommittee on International Human Rights today:

Jason Kenney quotes Dallaire as having said that the US is “no better than the other guy,” AKA the terrorists, and Dallaire is only too happy to reaffirm that any country that infringes civil and human rights and the rule of law is no better than that which doesn’t recognize them.

Kenney is now asking whether, by terrorists, Dallaire means people who behead women, and who “kidnap people with Downs’ Syndrome” and who believe Israel should be destroyed, and—wait, what does this have to do with Omar Khadr? Dallaire tells him, point blank, you’re either with the law, or against it. You’re a child soldier, or you’re not. If Kenney wants to use extreme examples, fine, but if you go against those principles, you are going down “the same road.”

Or, as Kenney so eloquently put it to reporters later, Dallaire was arguing "that the fact that Canada has not made an extraordinary political effort to repatriate Omar Khadr is the moral equivalent to using adolescents with Down's Syndrome to blow up kids in a pet market."

You know, it shouldn't matter that the bombers in question weren't adolescents, and didn't have Down's Syndrome. The topic of the day was Khadr, the child soldier, and the "extraordinary political effort" folks like Dallaire are asking the government to undertake on his behalf, just like every other western nation did on behalf of its citizens at Guantanamo. (Clearly "extraordinary" switched meanings with its exact opposite at some point without my noticing.) So part of me said, don't worry about Kenney's latest feat of jackassery, especially since the press gallery already seemed to be peppering MPs with five questions about Dallaire and whether he should be "censured" for every one they asked about Khadr. In fairness, when reporters did try to haul Kenney back to earth, this is what happened:

Question: But isn't his point that our moral standing is somewhat lessened by the whole Khadr case?

Hon. Jason Kenney: I think his point is dead wrong.

But it does matter, because it shows what Khadr is up against. Dallaire believes "… that the fact that Canada has not made an extraordinary political effort to repatriate Omar Khadr is the moral equivalent to using adolescents with Down's Syndrome to blow up kids in a pet market," says Kenney. I mean, just look at that. This file is essentially being managed by one of Kate McMillan's less edifying comment threads.

Does Kenney really imagine that John Howard enjoyed the repatriation of David Hicks? That righteous Aussies were marching on Canberra in his defence, clutching copies of the constitution in one hand and ice cold cans of Victoria Bitter in the other? I am not naïve enough to believe that the westerners once imprisoned at Guantanamo were brought home purely because their governments believed in doing what was right. Quite apart from everything else, they were doing George W. Bush a favour. But Canada would be all by itself on this even if Khadr hadn't been 15 motherloving years old when he was captured in Afghanistan.

It doesn't matter what Dallaire said; it doesn't matter if he gets censured, though the idea that he would fear the wrath of Stéphane Dion is good for a wry chuckle at least; and it doesn't really matter what happens to Omar Khadr, though I'm obviously sympathetic to his plight. What matters is the malignant tumor Khadr's situation continues to expose in the Canadian psyche (for lack of a better word). "'Child soldier' Khadr needs protection, Dallaire says" (Globe and Mail)--that's a headline. "Dallaire compares U.S. actions to those of terrorists" (Toronto Star)--that's utterly beside the point. Not unlike Canada itself in its weaker moments.

(Note: This post has been edited so it makes more sense than it originally did. I think so, anyway.)

Posted by Chris Selley at May 13, 2008 11:37 PM

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Hear, here!

Posted by: James Bow at May 14, 2008 09:58 AM

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