Monday, November 16, 2009

The Press and Omar Khadr

Let's see.

Immediately upon taking office, the newly minted president Obama signed an executive order to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay within the year. The press applauded. The faithful cheered.

The year is almost over, and the word has come out this week that some of the detainees, such as alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, are to be tried in civilian criminal courts in New York. However other detainees, like nominal Canadian citizen and member of Canada's first family of al-Qaeda, Omar Khadr, will be tried by military tribunal. So there will be no "Welcome Back Khadr" just yet.

What to make of this? As Kelly McParland observes, the press in Canada doesn't appear curious enough to find out the reasons behind this. Wasn't Obama supposed to be making decisions that they would like?

Coverage on Khadr's predicament concentrated on finding critics to blast the decision, without trying to explain it. Maybe that's because the media outlets disagreed with it. But last time I looked, news reports were supposed to inform and explain, not just take positions and then seek out rent-a-quotes chosen because they agree with the reporter's position.

It seems that instead of doing the hard leg work of analysing the realities and constraints of high-level decision making, far too many reporters just want to join their progressive activist fellow travellers in a group grouse. McParland continues:

That's what we get on Khadr, though: an announcement followed by ritual denunciations by civil libertarians, lawyers sympathetic to Khadr, members of the NDP and "activists" whose expertise, as usual with activists, is limited to their firm belief in the righteousness of their opinions.

So, one question (okay, maybe two): Is the pending decision of the Supreme Court of Canada (regarding whether the federal government will be compelled to seek the young Khadr's repatriation) now a moot point? And in reality, was this whole court challenge to the government's position ever anything but moot?

After all, this is kind of a My Cousin Vinnie dilemma. Khadr is accused of murdering an unarmed medic in Afghanistan. Did anyone seriously believe that the Americans were not going to insist upon a military trial? I haven't come across articles by many reporters who have even seemed curious enough to ask.

Just asking.