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Guantanamo's Child: The Untold Story of Omar Khadr [Hardcover]

Michelle Shephard
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 20 2008
A prize-winning journalist tells the troubling story of Canadian Omar Khadr, who has spent a quarter of his life growing up in Guantanamo Bay.

Khadr was captured in Afghanistan in July 2002 at the age of 15. Accused by the Pentagon of throwing a grenade that killed U.S. soldier Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer, Khadr faces charges of conspiracy and murder. His case is set to be the first war crimes trial since World War II.

In Guantanamo's Child, veteran reporter Michelle Shephard traces Khadr's roots in Canada, Pakistan and Afghanistan, growing up surrounded by al Qaeda's elite. She examines how his despised family, dubbed "Canada's First Family of Terrorism," has overshadowed his trial and left him alone behind bars for more than five years. Khadr's story goes to the heart of what's wrong with the U.S. administration's post-9/11 policies and why Canada is guilty by association. His story explains how the lack of due process can create victims and lead to retribution, and instead of justice, fuel terrorism.

Michelle Shephard is a national security reporter for the Toronto Star and the recipient of Canada's top two journalism awards.

"You will be shocked, saddened and in the end angry at the story this page turner of a book exposes. I read it straight through and Omar Khadr's plight is one you cannot forget."
Michael Ratner, New York, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights

"Michelle Shephard's richly reported, well written account of Omar Khadr's trajectory from the battlefields of Afghanistan to the cells of Guantanamo is a microcosm of the larger "war on terror" in which the teenaged Khadr either played the role of a jihadist murderer or tragic pawn or, perhaps, both roles."
Peter Bergen, author of Holy war, Inc. and The Osama bin Laden I know

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From the Inside Flap

The remarkable true story of Toronto-born Omar Khadr begins in a small Afghan town on July 27, 2002, where the 15-year-old Canadian hid in a compound under attack by U.S. special forces. When the soldiers searched through the rubble at the end of the fighting, they didn't realize anyone was still alive. The Pentagon would allege later that as the soldiers neared him, Khadr threw a grenade, fatally wounding Delta Force soldier Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer. Khadr was shot and had his serious wounds attended to at the scene. Taken into custody, he was sent to the notorious American prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He has passed through puberty in U.S. detention, and his lawyers allege he has been tortured and held in isolation for months at a time.

Guantanamo's Child is a sweeping narrative that reconstructs the life of Omar Khadr, from his childhood spent traveling between a Canadian suburb and Peshawar at the height of the jihad against the Soviets, and into Afghanistan and the homes of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda's elite. Based on extensive research and interviews with those connected to Khadr's case throughout Canada, the United States, United Kingdom and Pakistan, as well as intensive research at Guantanamo Bay, Michelle Shephard tells the unknown stories of the lives of the U.S. soldiers whom Omar fought and those who knew him in custody. Shephard also delivers an intimate portrait of Khadr's parents and siblings, once called "Canada's First Family of Terrorism," and their escape from Kabul after the 9/11 attacks.

From a U.S. interrogator who screamed the ingredients of a cereal box to scare detainees who didn't understand English, to a ferocious Chechen commander who raised rabbits, to the Scottish-Canadian lawyer who wore cufflinks that read "Old lawyers never die," Shephard brings unprecedented intimacy and insight into the players who have helped shape history and impacted Khadr's life.

But more than just a story of a young Canadian's life, Guantanamo's Child goes behind the scenes in Washington and Ottawa to reveal how Canada has supported Khadr's detention while countries worldwide have condemned the offshore prison and demanded the repatriation of their citizens. Shephard also dissects how the United States has flouted its own and international laws to create Guantanamo's military commissions for its own singular ends.  

Omar Khadr is about to make history as the youngest defendant ever to be tried for war crimes. Guantanamo's Child is an essential read for those wanting to understand how the world changed after 9/11, how fear has trumped fundamental rights, how overzealous American policies have turned alleged terrorists into victims, and why so few have cared about a Canadian teenager--perhaps until now.

From the Back Cover

An excerpt from Guantanamo's Child:

Omar had been through the drill many times before. The guards would arrive early in the morning, shackle him, and cover his eyes and ears for the drive to camp Iguana, where he would wait for his visitors while chained by the ankle to a hook bolted to the floor. that morning, he remained there for hours until Edney and Whitling were led in. the Edmonton lawyers had been fighting for Omar for four years but had never met him. They could hardly believe they were standing in front of him.

Omar smiled. His family had written to him about h is Canadian lawyers and had sent a picture they had taken during one visit, so Omar know the men before him were Dennis and Nate. But his family hadn't prepared him for Edney's accent. Omar had been exposed to many languages inside Guantanamo and had even picked up a Saudi accent, but he had never heard anything quite like Edney's Scottish brogue. Omar began laughing as Edney talked, cutting through the tension.

For two days, Edney and Whitling tried to get to know Omar. Together they ate the picnic lunch of olives, cheese, bread and candies that they had brought, Edney tussling with Omar to make sure he received his fair share of the sweets. Edney talked almost as much as he listened. He told stories about Omar's family and told him about Kareem and Abdullah. "Your sister Zaynab is always trying to bully me," Edney said and flashed a smile. Edney told Omar about his sons and showed him pictures. "You've got to have hope, Omar," Edney told him just before he left. "Without hope, we all die."

"I wont' give up on you," Omar replied, "but you'll give up on me. Everyone does."

Omar hugged them and asked Edney if he could keep a photo of Edney's son Duncan in his hockey uniform. then he gave whitling a paper origami bird and asked him to give it to his wife as a present.

"You will be shocked, saddened and in the end made angry at the story this page-turner of a book exposes. I read it straight through, and Omar Khadr's plight is one you cannot forget."
—Michael Ratner, President, Center for Constitutional Rights, New York

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Canada's Problem Child March 31 2008
Canada's Problem Child

Guantanamo's child is about to become Canada's child. The nearly six year old case against Omar Khadr is imploding in slow time as each new revelation exposes false information, accusations of torture and tampering. It is a legal process so appalling that the US Supreme Court, dominated by Republican appointees, declared the entire "Military Commissions" process unconstitutional in 2006. Whatever the outcome, it is becoming clearer by the day that Omar Khadr will be back in Canada in less than a year. How Canada deals with this problem when he arrives is not clear.

The newly launched book by reporter Michelle Sheppard, Guantanamo's Child, gives the reader a direct insight into Omar Khadr and how he became the world's most (in)famous child soldier. Contrary to the views of many in government agencies, the interest of Canadians is best served when national security matters are intelligently discussed in the public eye. It is ironic that in Canada, it is reporters such as Stewart Bell, Kim Bolan, Nazim Baksh, and Ian MacLeod who have the most knowledge and long term experience in critical matters such as terrorism and extremism. This work by Michelle Sheppard adds further to that body of knowledge.

The book reveals Omar Khadr's life voyage as extraordinary by any standard. From Toronto to the means streets of Jalalabad Afghanistan, and then to primitive mountain shelters in Pakistani Waziristan, Omar Khadr travelled more in his first 15 years than most people do in a lifetime. Omar Khadr has also brushed shoulders with the famous and the infamous. He met Prime Minister Chretien, lived with Osama bin Laden and worked as a translator for Abu Laith al Libi , who would become an Al Qaeda spokesman.

The question must arise.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Facts that trigger compassion May 9 2008
Michelle Shephard tells the story of a young man few Canadians feel any sympathy for. However, only a cold-hearted person would not be affected by the tragedy of this young boy, who lost his childhood to his late father's dream of a global jihad. Shephard takes on a huge challenge and accomplishes her goal admirably. As I put down the book, I could not help but feel deep compassion for Omar Khadr. The book has left me feeling that I should do something to help him. This despite the fact I have a lifelong distaste for jihadism and nothing but contempt for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Omar Khadr deserves a second chance in life, and if he ever wins freedom, he will owe it partly to Michelle Shephard's fine book. For making me look at the young man as a fellow human being, "Thank you Michelle Shephard."
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History will judge us on the fate of Omar Khadr April 2 2008
As a long-time human rights campaigner who has followed the case of Omar Khadr since 2002, I think some people may be surprised by Michelle Shephard's timely book. Amidst a polarized debate, this book simply tells the story so far from a variety of perspectives and lets the intelligent reader do the rest. And that's a hard thing to do: try to unwind the spin that has dominated the discourse around the so-called "war on terror".

For most people, the story of Omar Khadr begins and ends with a firefight in Afghanistan in the summer of 2002. Both he and soldiers involved are symbols of a post-9/11 context dominated by "us" and "them". The now-famous Department of Homeland Security colour-coded National Threat Advisory does not contain a level where safety actually exists. The best you get is green for "low risk of terrorist attacks". The price for this approach - which has all too often falsely cast human rights and security as opposing concepts - has been high. From black sites, torture and indefinite detention to the intentional targeting of civilians, it's all bad. No "side" in this "war" has clean hands.

In Guantánamo's Child, the story of the Khadr family, and Omar's eventual capture and detention in Guantánamo Bay, are set in the context of history: personal histories, the decades of successive armed conflicts in South Asia, and the pre and post-9/11 national security policies of the USA and many of its allies. Also brought to life are the soldiers, lawyers, interrogators, fellow detainees, politicians, bureaucrats, and others who populate the landscape of this complex case. We see how the various players are drawn in one way or another, both willingly and unwillingly.
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