EXCERPT FROM ROLLING STONE - AUG. 2006
The Unending Torture of Omar Khadr
He was a child of jihad, a teenage soldier in bin Laden's army. Captured on the battlefield when he was only fifteen, he has
been held at Guantanamo Bay for the past four years -- subjected to unspeakable abuse sanctioned by the president himself
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In July 2002, a Special Forces unit in southeast Afghanistan received intelligence that a group of Al Qaeda fighters was operating
out of a mud-brick compound in Ab Khail, a small hill town near the Pakistani border. The Taliban regime had fallen seven
months earlier, but the rough border regions had not yet been secured. When the soldiers arrived at the compound, they looked
through a crack in the door and saw five men armed with assault rifles sitting inside. The soldiers called for the men to
surrender. The men refused. The soldiers sent Pashto translators into the compound to negotiate. The men promptly slaughtered
the translators. The American soldiers called in air support and laid siege to the compound, bombing and strafing it until
it was flat and silent. They walked into the ruins. They had not gotten far when a wounded fighter, concealed behind a broken
wall, threw a grenade, killing Special Forces Sgt. Christopher Speer. The soldiers immediately shot the fighter three times
in the chest, and he collapsed.
When the soldiers got close, they saw that he was just a boy. Fifteen years old and slightly built, he could have passed for
thirteen. He was bleeding heavily from his wounds, but he was -- unbelievably -- alive. The soldiers stood over him.
"Kill me," he murmured, in fluent English. "Please, just kill me."
His name was Omar Khadr. Born into a fundamentalist Muslim family in Toronto, he had been prepared for jihad since he was
a small boy. His parents, who were Egyptian and Palestinian, had raised him to believe that religious martyrdom was the highest
achievement he could aspire to. In the Khadr family, suicide bombers were spoken of with great respect. According to U.S intelligence,
Omar's father used charities as front groups to raise and launder money for Al Qaeda. Omar's formal military training -- bombmaking,
assault-rifle marksmanship, combat tactics -- before he turned twelve. For nearly a year before the Ab Khail siege, according
to the U.S. government, Omar and his father and brothers had fought with the Taliban against American and Northern Alliance
forces in Afghanistan. Before that, they had been living in Jalalabad, with Osama bin Laden. Omar spent much of his adolescence
in Al Qaeda compounds.
At Ab Khail, a sergeant later said, every U.S. soldier who walked by Omar longed to put a bullet in his head. But an American
medic, working near the corpse of Sgt. Speer, saved Omar's life, and he was taken to a hospital at Bagram Air Base with a
bullet-split chest and serious shrapnel wounds to the head and eye. U.S. intelligence officers began interrogating him as
soon as he regained consciousness. At that moment, Omar entered the extralegal archipelago of torture chambers and detention
cells that the Bush administration has erected to prosecute its War on Terror. He has remained there ever since.
At Bagram, he was repeatedly brought into interrogation rooms on stretchers, in great pain. Pain medication was withheld,
apparently to induce cooperation. He was ordered to clean floors on his hands and knees while his wounds were still wet. When
he could walk again, he was forced to stand for hours at a time with his hands tied above a door frame. Interrogators put
a bag over his head and held him still while attack dogs leapt at his chest. Sometimes he was kept chained in an interrogation
room for so long he urinated on himself.
After the invasion of Afghanistan, President Bush decided, in violation of the Geneva Convention, that any adolescent apprehended
by U.S. forces could be treated as an adult at age sixteen. The problem with treating teenage prisoners as adults, whatever
their crimes, is that teenagers are especially
Before boarding a C-130 transport to Guantanamo, Omar was dressed in an orange jumpsuit and hog-chained: shackled hand and
foot, a waist chain cinching his hands to his stomach, another chain connecting the shackles on his hands to those on his
feet. At both wrist and ankle, the shackles bit. The cuffs permanently scarred many prisoners on the flight, causing them
to lose feeling in their limbs for several days or weeks afterward. Hooded and kneeling on the tarmac with the other prisoners,
Omar waited for many hours. His knees sent intensifying pain up into his body and then went numb.
Just before he got on the plane, Omar was forced into sensory-deprivation gear that the military uses to disorient prisoners
prior to interrogation. The guards pulled black thermal mittens onto Omar's hands and taped them hard at the wrists. They
pulled opaque goggles over his eyes and placed soundproof earphones over his ears. They put a deodorizing mask over his mouth
and nose. They bolted him, fully trussed, to a backless bench. Whichever limbs hadn't already lost sensation from the cuffs
lost sensation from the high-altitude cold during the flight, which took fifteen hours. "There was points I wished to God
that one of these MPs would go crazy and then shoot me," recalled one of the hundreds of detainees who have made the trip.
"It was the only time in my life that I really wished for a bullet."
At Guantanamo, Omar was led, his senses still blocked, onto a bus that took the prisoners to a ferry dock. Some of the buses
didn't have seats, and the prisoners usually sat cross-legged on the floor. Guards often lifted the prisoners' earphones,
told them not to move, and when they moved -- helplessly, with the motion of the bus, like bowling pins -- started kicking
them. The repeated blows often left detainees unable to walk for weeks.
After the ferry ride, Omar was evaluated at a base hospital. "Welcome to Israel," someone told him. Then he was locked in
a steel cage eight feet long and six feet wide. Because the cage had a sink and squat-toilet and the bed was welded to the
floor, the open floor space was comparable to that of a small walk-in closet. The cages had been hurriedly constructed from
steel mesh and transoceanic shipping containers. Giant banana rats ran freely through the cells and across the roofs and shit
everywhere: on beds, on sinks, on Korans. Prisoners were allowed only one five-minute shower each week; the cellblocks stood
in a perpetual stench.
Omar's arrival at Guantanamo in October 2002 coincided with a fundamental turn in the administration's War on Terror. Within
weeks of his arrival, at the authorization of President Bush, interrogators at the detention facility began using starkly
inhumane techniques. Before Omar Khadr had even started to assimilate the wondrous horrors of Guantanamo Bay, his captors
began to torture him....
>> Get the full article in the current Rolling Stone, on newsstands until August 24th, 2006.
>> Plus: For the extraordinary story of a veteran foot soldier who fought for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and joined the
jihad in Iraq, see our 2005 story, "The Insurgent's Tale."
>> Selected reader responses will appear in Rolling Stone magazine: Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Original Rolling Stone Link
What can you do? Go to:
& watch the Road to Guantanamo movie