April 27, 2011


You Don’t Like the Truth is the latest in a long line of recent documentaries highlighting and criticising the absurd and unjust committed by the United States in their “War on Terror”. The title of this film could serve as a perfect summation of the wider audience reaction to these documentaries (and also feature films). In general terms, I’ve found these documentaries tend to be preaching to the converted; that is, the people seeing these are seeing these films to, essentially, validate what they already know. I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing or that these films are bad, wrong or shouldn’t be made. I’m just… curious I guess to know how effective they really are at reaching a wider audience, an audience that may be truly changed by what they see on screen.

This documentary focuses on Omar Khadr, a 16 year-old Canadian-Afghan held at Guantanamo Boy for war crimes. The filmmakers Luc Cote and Patricio Hernriquez have obtained security camera footage of a four day interrogation of Omar by Canadian Intelligence officials and, intercut with interviews with fellow detainees, lawyers, journalists, diplomats and interrogators, it plays out like bad theatre. Here's the scoop: Omar, aged just 15 was arrested in Afghanistan after being left there by his father, accused of killing a US Army Medic Christopher Speer. He is, as is pointed out many times, just a child. A minor, and therefore a child soldier. And is accorded rights and recuperative assistance under UN Human and Child Rights Laws. Ah, but the killing of a Medic is indeed a war crime. But, as is also pointed out the soldier killed was trained as a Medic but at that time was not a Medic. There is also ample evidence given by journalists, lawyers and others that Omar could not have physically thrown the grenade that killed Speer. But tough shit for Omar: he's picked up by the US Army, shunted around a few detention centres before being shipped off to the legal black-hole that is Guantanamo Bay.

We're given the back-story of events leading up to Khadr in Guantanamo by various interview subjects. Most of these are ex-detainees (who are usually British citizens) who describe the conditions they were held in when with Omar. One of the most surprising inclusions is that of ex-interrogator Damien Corsetti who was so feared he was given the nicknames "The Monster" and "The King of Torture". And this guy sympathised with Khadr! When someone like Corsetti could see the injustice of what happened to Khadr you know the system is broken; broken and downright wrong. And this is not just the American system. The Canadian Government, as seen here, does very little to help Khadr.

As you can likely tell from reading thus far, the documentary is effective in conveying it's message. Even without the context of the interviews, the surveillance footage paints a pretty grim picture of the poor interview techniques used to obtain intelligence from within Guantanamo. Even if Khadr was responsible for the death of a serving American soldier, he deserved his rights. Instead, they were routinely crushed both as punishment in of themselves and for expediencies sake. I can't help but feel that if Omar Khadr had been an Owen or an Aaron, the Canadian Government would have done a lot more to try and get him back.

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