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Guantanamo's Child: The Untold Story of Omar Khadr 1st Edition

4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0470841174
ISBN-10: 0470841176
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Editorial Reviews

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


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (April 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470841176
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470841174
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,022,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michelle Shephard is a journalist with the Toronto Star and author, who has covered issues of terrorism, national security and civil rights, writing stories from Ground Zero the night of 9/11, from the streets of Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, behind the wire in Guantanamo Bay and even from the Lido Deck while cruising the Atlantic Ocean with two former CIA bosses. She is based in Toronto, where she lives in a century-old downtown home with her photojournalist husband Jim Rankin.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Tariq Fatah on May 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Nancy Thompson on April 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was very factual and gave a complete insight into the world of this young terrorist. I was especially interested in the book because the Special Forces Medic killed by Omar was the son of my very close friend. I thought that the author did a superb job of presenting the predicament Omar was put in as a young child, the reasons for what he did, the sadness of Omar's life and the loss of life of a very special soldier. The only thing I would like to have added to the book is the story (from the soldier's mother) of what type of child he was and how he wanted to be a soldier from a very young age.
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By sandrab on June 15, 2015
Format: Hardcover
I'm writing this review since Omar Khadr was released from his Canadian prison in May 2015. I then decided to read this book, plus Ezra Levant's "The Enemy Within" (which is totally unsympathetic to Khadr), as well as watch various TV documentaries including "Omar Khadr" Out of the Shadows", plus read several articles on the internet. e.g. from his Canadian tutors like Arlette Zinck from King's College in Alberta.

I actually didn't know these books had been written; I would have liked to have read them earlier, as I always felt there was a serious lack of solid information about him prior to this.

I think this is a well written and researched book, particularly given the author didn't have a chance to meet Khadr prior to writing the book. I think events that have played out since, are showing Omar to be the person that Shepherd, Zinck, his lawyer Dennis Edney and many other supporters him to be.

One major problem that Omar has had, is that in the eyes of the public, he has never able to distance himself from the actions and attitudes of his family. In my opinion, his very misguided family are responsible for putting him into this situation at a very young age, and then the U.S. and Canadian governments proceeded with this mishandling of him.

But I now think the tide is changing in his favour.

And as for Ezra Levant - the world is full of hatred and fear and misinformation because of the like's of him. So many things he predicted have not come true. e.g. he portrays Omar as spending most of his time in Gitmo as not interested in furthering his education. Yet his 15 Canadian tutors rate him as a top student, capable of writing insightful book reviews, highly skilled in mathematics, etc.
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4 of 10 people found the following review helpful By James D. Crabtree VINE VOICE on October 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Shephard's research is impeccable and provides a great deal of background on Omar Khadr, a man currently led at Guantanamo Bay and who is scheduled to face a military commission for war crimes. However, the book quickly devolves into suppositions which seem to have been put forth by the detainee's lawyers, discusses at length the difficulties surrounding the court case and characterizes Guantanamo in ridiculous terms (although these terms are consistent with the "common knowledge" about the facility).

There is an attempt to portray Khadr as some sort of innocent bystander despite the fact that he was captured following a fierce firefight. He is made out to be an ordinary Canadian citizen even though he has spent much of his life in Pakistan and Afghanistan. And he is not a terrorist, even though many members of his immediate family have terror connections and his father worked with bin Laden, Zawahiri and Azzam. Even the book's title is misleading, making him sound as if he couldn't possibly be guilty because he was "underage." Apparently we are to be more concerned about his birthday than whether or not he committed murder.

There are many incidents and tidbits which are brought into the story which might have to do with Guantanamo but have nothing to do with Omar Khadr. The character witnesses who are brought out on Khadr's behalf do not encourage confidence. Captain Yee, the Muslim chaplain who was supposed to minister to the spiritual needs of the Task Force but instead disobeyed a direct order and got himself involved with detainees. Erik Saar, a former translator who tried to make himself out to be involved with interrogations so he could get a book sold. And the character of everyone involved with Omar Khadr is questioned, from Bush-Cheney to the flag officers responsible for the detention facilities.

Everyone, of course, but Omar Khadr.
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