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Guantanamo’s Child: The Untold Story of Omar Khadr

by Michelle Shephard

The Sun Climbs Slow: Justice in the Age of Imperial America

by Erna Paris

Adding to the bumper crop of books documenting recent American misdeeds are two new titles that examine the effects of Bush’s policies.

For Erna Paris, The Sun Climbs Slow marks a natural progression from her earlier work on the French trial of Nazi Klaus Barbie (Unhealed Wounds) as well as her exploration of how individuals and nations deal with shameful pasts (Long Shadows). Here she explores how the establishment of an international legal body can hold accountable those responsible for atrocities and can contribute to reconciliation in societies torn apart by massive violence.

As in her previous works, Paris is equally comfortable mixing analysis of Greek tragedies and the moral arguments of Immanuel Kant with testimony from ethnic cleansing survivors, high-profile United Nations officials, and even former U.S. defence secretary Robert McNamara.

Paris is a passionate writer who carefully builds a story about nearly two centuries’ worth of efforts to establish international legal standards, concluding with a moral accounting of the War on Terror. There is much food for thought here, despite moments when the normally astute Paris makes unsubstantiated claims. (She writes, for example, that the U.S. was an “ardent supporter of international cooperation, justice and human rights” in the immediate post-Second World War years, something not borne out by the historical record, and that the Balkan wars of the 1990s “reawakened” the conscience of the West, a highly contentious assertion.)

While Paris paints a fairly wide canvas, she curiously neglects the role that citizens have played in trying to hold leaders to account. And unfortunately, like many a Canadian author assessing the first years of the 21st century, Paris pays little attention to Canada’s less-than-stellar record on international human rights issues, though she does mention the case of Canadian teenager Omar Khadr, who has spent a quarter of his life in Guantanamo Bay.

Khadr’s case receives a fairly solid overview from Toronto Star reporter Michelle Shephard in Guantanamo’s Child, which explores the question of how a Canadian youngster captured in the Afghan war zone became a primary target of the world’s most powerful nation.

Shephard’s style is straightforward, explaining both the myriad legal black holes in which Khadr and other Guantanamo detainees continue to find themselves and the ongoing deliberations in the U.S. courts over whether these “enemy combatants” have any legal rights. Intrigued by the mystery of Khadr, she tries to get as close as possible to the reality of who he is through interviews with his family, released detainees who shared cell space with him in Afghanistan and Gitmo, his succession of U.S. and Canadian lawyers, CSIS agents, and the American soldiers who took Khadr into their custody.

It’s a difficult story to tell, given her lack of access to Khadr himself, as well as the manner in which the Khadr family’s controversial statements have clouded the issues in his case. Although Shephard has done what appears to be a considerable amount of legwork, much of the material has been part of the public record for some time now as well, taking the sheen off the “untold story” promise in her subtitle.

While neither work is likely to provide a quick cure for people already depressed with the Bush blues, both books are recommended reading for anyone concerned about the ongoing erosion of the rule of law.

THIS REVIEW HAS BEEN CORRECTED: This review originally suggested that Guantanamo’s Child lacked documentation of its sources. Though this was the case in the advance version of the book Q&Q received for review, such documentation is included in the finished version of the book.


Reviewer: Matthew Behrens

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Canada


Price: $29.95

Page Count: 320 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 978-0-470-84117-4

Released: March

Issue Date: 2008-3

Categories: Children and YA Non-fiction, Politics & Current Affairs

Reviewer: Matthew Behrens

Publisher: Knopf Canada


Price: $35

Page Count: 376 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 978-0-676-97744-8

Released: February

Issue Date: March 1, 2008

Categories: Children and YA Non-fiction, Politics & Current Affairs