Must-reads: Jonathan Kay on Omar Khadr; Dan Gardner on the Templeton Prize; Jeffrey Simpson on the US economy.
Goodbye to Guantanamo?
One convincing argument for Omar Khadr’s repatriation, and one train wreck.
The National Post‘s Jonathan Kay lays out a concise four-pronged case for Omar Khadr to be returned to Canada. Prong one: His upbringing was perfectly analogous to that of African child soldiers, who have Canadians’ unqualified sympathy—and thus he should be treated, as they were, as a victim. Prong two: we don’t know that Khadr committed any “crime” at all, and given the American military’s penchant for suppressing evidence and “cover[ing] up friendly-fire deaths,” it’s perfectly reasonable to doubt whether he threw the fatal grenade that killed a US medic (and, we’d add, that he’d ever get anything resembling a fair trial). Prong three: anything he did do was not an act of terrorism, but an act of war played out “on American terms.” Prong four: he’s been treated worse at Guantanamo than any convicted adult murderer would be in either the U.S. or Canada.
That’s pretty difficult to argue against, so the Toronto Star‘s Rosie DiManno doesn’t. Instead, like a ten-year-old, she mocks: “Omar Khadr, the intermittent Canadian, wants to come hooooooome.” It’s a splendid example of the witlessness Khadr’s up against, but what’s amazing is that DiManno agrees with at least two of Kay’s prongs. She says, for instance, that Ahmed Said Khadr “indoctrinated” his son “into the currency of violence.” Now, however the hell you indoctrinate someone into a currency, that sounds like a child soldier to us—but she’s explicitly rejected the idea in the past. She also agrees that “a grenade thrown in the midst of combat isn’t an atrocity,” but perfectly normal. And yet, she devotes the lion’s share of her piece to comparing Khadr’s treatment to “real” torture—thumbscrews and the like—which doesn’t seem to have anything to do with anything. And she concludes that to whatever extent Khadr was victimized, she’s “not sure” his situation justifies absolution” (which needn’t be offered) or “a cheering section” (which, luckily, doesn’t seem to exist).
All that said, if Khadr’s lawyers are truly intent on winning the public over to their client’s cause, as today’s Globe and Mail suggests, we think they’d be wise to dial down the allegations of “torture”—not because we think they’re wrong, necessarily, but because it seems to be doing more harm than good.
All quiet on the southern front
If you want to know why and to what extent the US economy is terminally buggered, and why it’s dragging the rest of the world down with it, the Globe‘s Jeffrey Simpson is your man—and he’ll throw in a bleak, horrible future for free. “A lot of ‘yes we can’ rhetoric can’t mask the fact that [Barack] Obama’s spending initiatives can’t be paid for while balancing the budget if taxes are only raised on those earning more than $250,000 a year and closing ‘corporate loopholes’,” he argues. And the Republicans, with their war-and-tax-cuts strategy? Don’t even get him started.
The Toronto Sun‘s Peter Worthington assesses the “doldrums” of the US presidential race, as pundits and “assorted experts … debate and regurgitate” meaningless, and largely static, poll numbers. “Both candidates are equally personable,” he writes, and polls have had Obama “marginally but definitely ahead of McCain” for ages. But the race could reignite the instant “someone of their respective staffs says or does something idiotic,” he says, and we all await that development with baited breath.
In fact, things are so quiet on the campaign trail that the Globe‘s John Ibbitson is writing about the Tour de France. “Cycling is a heroic sport,” he gushes, and this year’s race is off to “a splendid start.” The crashes! The scenery! Um… the peletons! “The impossibly thin, impossibly strong young men of the tour subject themselves to more than 3,000 km of agony, with the threat of scraped flesh or broken bones present every second,” he writes, breathlessly. And now—bonus!—they’re probably not sticking needles in themselves at all hours of the day.
Who’s that old-timey dude with the scroll?
“Given the Conservatives’ policy of enhancing and respecting provincial powers, it’s surprising that [Stephen] Harper hasn’t enjoyed better relations with the premiers,” Barbara Yaffe writes in the Vancouver Sun, arguing that a noticeable federal presence would be most welcome at the upcoming premiers’ meeting in Quebec City. Particularly as traditional provincial identities are shifting—Newfoundland and Saskatchewan are newly prosperous, Ontario is struggling, Alberta is all by itself atop the pack, etc.—and new pan-Canadian challenges face the nation, she argues Harper’s “risk-averse” avoidance of premiers’ meetings abdicates his proper role of “helping to stabilize, lead and unify.”
In the Montreal Gazette, L. Ian MacDonald says with or without Harper’s presence, big things are going to get done in Quebec City—chiefly on interprovincial trade and labour mobility. For one thing, he says Jean Charest established the “right mood” (and this is the first we’ve heard of this) by dispatching “an actor dressed in the role of Samuel de Champlain to all the other legislatures, inviting their leaders to the conference.” (Who knew the “right mood” for a premiers’ meeting was farce?) Also, Charest ostensibly “sent a highly visible signal on reducing trade irritants last week when Quebec announced that it would permit yellow margarine in stores.” We’re not sure which idea—the historically important margarine armistice or the fancy-dress Champlain—is funnier, but we greatly enjoyed both.
It took years of squabbling between the government and the opposition to fill the position of British Columbia auditor-general, the Vancouver Sun‘s Vaughn Palmer notes, and when they finally agreed on John Doyle, who held a similar position in Western Australia, he ended up having to do his job from Perth while he recuperated from “major surgery.” But he’s in Victoria today to unveil what could be a political hot potato, says Palmer—a report on the controversial and, by the sounds of it, utterly Byzantine issue of “a government decision to remove 28,000 hectares of private land from provincial tree farm licences.”
The Ottawa Citizen‘s Dan Gardner looks at the controversial history of the Templeton Prize—a whopping $1.5 million award “announced at a United Nations press conference, …bestowed at a Buckingham Palace ceremony” and lavished with media attention. But except for the associated paycheque, Gardner says the prize—awarded to scientists who advance “research or discoveries about spiritual realities,” or, if you ask Richard Dawkins, to those who are “prepared to say something nice about religion”—is just one of many that advocacy groups hand out “to reward and advance a particular worldview.” And while the Templeton Foundation “has no involvement with ‘Intelligent Design’ and other crude forms of faith-based pseudo-science,” he believes its growing influence in academia is cause for concern.