Michael Melia of the Associated Press reports today that:
A U.S. military tribunal convening Monday at Guantanamo will hear challenges from attorneys for a Canadian terror suspect accused of killing an American soldier when he was 15 — an age they say should disqualify him from trial.
Lawyers for Toronto-born Omar Khadr, who is now 21, argue in a motion on the hearings’ agenda that the judge would be the first in Western history to preside over a trial for war crimes allegedly committed by a child. …
Khadr is accused of hurling the grenade that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, a Special Forces commando, during a July 2002 firefight at an al-Qaida compound in Afghanistan.
Set aside the whole question of Khadr’s age here. Just consider that he is, in the above reports and elsewhere, being referred to as a “terror suspect.” And just what act of “terrorism” is he accused of committing? He threw a grenade during a firefight.
This is not complicated. Throwing a grenade at an opposing soldier during a firefight is not “terrorism.” That’s war.
(Lying troll prophylactic: Spare me the feigned outrage of pretending that this simple tautology is somehow a celebration or defense of Khadr. Nor do you or could you possibly really believe that this self-evident statement is in any way disrespectful of Khadr’s victim, the late Sgt. Speer. He was a soldier and he died in battle. Pretending that he wasn’t and that he didn’t — pretending, as this tribunal is doing, that he was not a soldier at all, but merely a victim of violent crime — strikes me as immensely disrespectful.)
Khadr is accused of fighting against American soldiers in battle. That would make him the enemy. It would make him a Bad Guy. But it would not, by any stretch, make him a terrorist. That’s not what “terrorist” means, nor is it something that “terrorist” can be twisted into meaning. Omar Khadr is not a terror suspect. He is either a prisoner of war or else he falls into the dubious category of “unlawful enemy combatant,” but the tribunal is not accusing him of committing an act of terrorism so let’s stop calling him a “terror suspect.”
This distinction matters. A grenade in a marketplace is terrorism. A grenade in a firefight is combat. To assert that throwing a grenade during battle is criminal is to assert that all war is a war crime and every soldier is a criminal. I cannot see any way of eliminating that distinction for the enemy without also eliminating it for ourselves and for our allies. That is not something we want to do.
And yet we’re already beginning to do just that. This post — like every post that even hints at the existence of any such rules or distinctions or criteria — will inevitably produce the complaint that I am arguing that America must fight “with one hand tied behind our back.” That phrase — “I refuse to fight with one hand tied behind my back!” — is apparently taken from Page 1 of The Nihilist’s Rulebook. (Nihilists, of course, shouldn’t have a rulebook, but that’s another distinction they’re proud not to understand.)