Why Omar Khadr's psychology does not matter
Jul 19, 2012

Why Omar Khadr's psychology does not matter

This post is a quick update to my previous post 'Why Omar Khadr still matters' in response to a CBC article that contrasts the views of two psychologists who studied Khadr. As interesting as the article may be, everything I wrote previously about whether Canada should repatriate Khadr, whether his proceedings were legal, and whether the larger extrajudicial system established by the US was moral and ought to be implicitly condoned by Canada, none of this depends on whether we happen to like Khadr and think that he is a good person. It is entirely irrelevant. The commitment I advocate towards Khadr is based on the fact that he is a human first and a Canadian second, both of which come with a set of inalienable rights which we should defend in all cases, not just the cases where we like the guy. Further, the larger symbolism and importance of the Khadr case in defining a US-Canada relationship that either does or does not lend legitimacy to US actions remains exactly the same. 

With that aside, I think the psychologist who is "against" Omar Khadr in the article makes a particularly poor case. Consider the key interview question: 
CBC News: What evidence was there that he’s still radicalized?
Khadr's history of having killed an American soldier, his being the son of an al-Qaeda leader, his being in a family that fashions itself as an al-Qaeda family and therefore able to provide support from outside prison, his access to media who wish to decriminalize his jihadist violence and to legitimize his grievance, his access to devoted NGOs and pro bono Canadian and American legal talent no ordinary citizen could dream of, his having memorized the Qur'an, his fluency in English and Western social skills.
Clearly the fact that he has NGO and pro bono support or that he can speak fluent English has no relevance on whether he is a radical. These might be factors that would make him be an effective radical if he was indeed radicalized, but they don't show the latter. Many pious and pacifist Muslims read the Qur'an and read Al Jazerra or other sources. The reference to the family is amusing since previously the same psychologist dismissed the effects of the family in reference to Khadr being a child soldier:
Welner: The notion of brainwashing is part of the fiction created of Khadr — consider that his older brother completely rejected living religiously and militantly, yet was never rejected by the family.
Finally, yes, we are all aware that he (allegedly) did indeed kill an American solider, as a fifteen year-old a decade ago during a prolonged fire fight against his compound in which he was wounded by a foreign invading force. We don't need a psychologist to tell us that, we need the psychologist to give specifics from the interviews they conducted that inform us beyond the most obvious facts because it is not remotely clear to me that this fact alone implies he is going to continue being a violent radical when released into Canada two decades after committing this childhood act. Dr. Welner did not do that. 

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