Today, in the Saturday Toronto Star, Lt-Gen. Romeo Dallaire (ret.) writes an exclusive editorial about “our duty toward child soldiers.” When we think of homecoming vets, these abused and tortured youngsters are forgotten because most remain in their home countries. Many were recruited in Central Africa, but we have to include those children brainwashed by radical terrorists to become suicide bombers as well as fighting units within seditious armies throughout the Arab world.
When Romeo Dalliare mentions a former Canadian child soldier who continues to “languish in Guantanamo Bay,” he is talking about Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen our country has disgracefully failed. In the CBS 60 Minutes documentary, it notes that Omar’s father took his family from Canada and settled in Afghanistan in 1993. But, in the summer of 1998, I am certain I saw Omar’s father in Toronto talking with two other men.
My husband and I always went out for Sunday breakfast, and this time we happened to sit beside these three men in a Scarborough family restaurant on Lawrence Avenue East. While my husband read the Sunday Sun Sports section, I happened to pick up snatches of their conversation, spoken in English — very good English as a matter of fact because I have a problem sorting out heavily accented language. They were discussing “accelerants.” My imagination pictured them as members of a movie crew or stunt men discussing how they were going to enhance explosives in one of the movie’s scenes.
When two young, very well-mannered boys joined them, their “business” conversation ended and the father proudly introduced his two sons to the men at his table. The children joined them. They spoke perfect English as second-generation immigrants usually do. For some reason I don’t understand I instinctively “knew” that English was spoken because it was the common language among the three men as well as the two boys. One of those young boys was Omar, and the handsome middle-aged man in the peaked hat I am now sure was his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, a radical Muslim who had fought with the Mujahadeen against the Russians. At the time, I had no idea of the significance in our paths crossing.
And if I had , who would have believed I had just eavesdropped on Al Qaeda terrorists? My husband dismissed my novelist’s “what ifs” as amusing at best and far-fetched at their worst.
I never made the connection of “accelerants” in the men’s conversation to the possibility of 9/11 until I saw photos of Omar and his father in newspaper stories four years later, in 2002.
Since Omar’s father moved the family to Afghanistan in 1993 and subjected them to the radical teachings and association of Osama bin Laden, including his terrorists’ life style, I don’t understand how we can deny that Omar had been brainwashed by the time he was 15 years old, the only survivor in a fire fight with American soldiers and alleged killer of an American medic. From 1993 to 2002, he had been indoctrinated for nine years — since he was six-years-old — in the radical thinking of Al Qaeda’s warped Muslim interpretation of their religion and holy war — Jihad — with the west. Roman Catholic Jesuits have claimed they only need seven years to gain total mind control of a child.
Why else would a teenage boy beg his American captors to kill him? Because he truly believed beautiful virgins awaited him in heaven and because he believed what he had been taught about American infidels — they were his enemy and they would torture him. What 15-year-old wants to withstand torture?
I understand Romeo Dallaire’s frustration with Canada’s shameful political position re: Omar Khadr. A child is a child is a child. I’m further concerned about Omar’s treatment in the American military prison now that we know all of the “inmates” have been subjected to forced treatments of the anti-malaria drug mefloquine or “Lariam,” which recent reports allege have been used as chemical torture during interrogation.
In his editorial today, Romeo Dallaire seeks immediate action: Today is our call to action as Canadians. While you’re reading this article, child soldiers around the world face exploitation by adults. Boys and girls are being raped, boys and girls are being abused, boys and girls are being killed and forced to do the same to others.
He asks: How much longer can we sit back and do nothing?
More than 139 countries, including Canada, have committed to protect children from being abused and exploited as child soldiers through the Canadian International Development Agency. Unfortunately, our once proud participation in protecting the rights of children has seriously deteriorated under the Stephen Harper government. And our worst failure has been leaving Omar Khadr to swing in the political wind.