Well, yesterday’s blog about Omar Khadr has evoked two reactions: one predictable, reasoned, but simply wrong, and one absolutely terrifying.
First, let me get something on the record: my opposition to the rubbishing of the rule of law for the so-called “War on Terror” does not derive from an ivory-tower ignorance of terrorism. When I attended university at McGill, terrorist bombs were going off in Montreal at the rate of several per week, and on one fatal occasion only two hundred metres from me. But neither I nor my fellow Quebecers were the least inclined to abandon our daily lives and our democracy to fear. To do so would be to cede victory to the maniacs.
To my reasoned critic: In the long struggle for the triumph of human rights and the rule of law, threats to the peace have often been met with an argument that exceptions must be made to deal with current dangers. The “Chicken Littles” of the moment cry out “of course we’re in favour of the rule of law and human rights, but the danger of violence and subversion by [fill in the blank] Catholicism / heresy / Asians / Jews / fascism / Communism/ Muslim extremists require the suspension of some of our legal protections for the greater good”. The invariable result is a witch hunt that, always, is judged an abomination in retrospect. At various times, Canadian governments have denied legal protection to First Nations, Canadians of Japanese descent, Jewish refugees, political dissidents, and independentists. This now makes us cringe. Let’s not repeat the foolishness.
So (again to my reasoned critic), our democracy and values are strengthened, not undermined, by granting due process to Omar Khadr. If he is guilty of the malfeasance you allege, well, that’s what the justice system is for. Our system of laws has been built by too much struggle, and defended with too many lives, to throw it away in favour of a “military tribunal” typical of some warlord thug.
And, item last: yes, most terrorist acts by Muslims are perpetrated by the small Salafist sect within Islam that totally rejects the modern world as the West defines it. But that is a conversation the Muslim world must have with itself; we do its outcome no service, and potentially wreak considerable harm, to presume to act as umpire in these disputations.
Now to a less pleasant matter. My second critic would deal with Islamic insurrection by summary execution on the battlefield. I will not dignify this view with a reply, merely an observation: battlefield execution was practiced in recent times against our soldiers (yes, Canadians too) by the Nazi SS and Japanese military oligarchs. For this their leaders were tried as war criminals and hanged. I trust that the atrocities of World War II have not eroded in memory to the extent that we would emulate them.