Dissension in the Ranks of Officers

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Sometimes Leviathan suffers a reprimand from the most extraordinary quarters.

Our Rulers relied heavily on psychiatric “evidence” at their recent sentencing of Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen who was 15 years old when US troops fired on an Afghani farmhouse full of “militants” (that’s “patriots” if you’re Afghani) he was visiting. Omar was severely wounded in the firefight; the Feds nonetheless insist he lobbed a grenade that killed an American hitman—sorry, soldier. For this imaginary self-defense, they’ve imprisoned and tortured Omar at Guantanamo Bay for the last 8 years.

The Feds planned to persecute him further at one of their “military tribunals.” But to avoid the international embarrassment attending the American Empire’s picking on a boy, they struck a deal with him: if he’d plead guilty to murder (for self-defense that never happened on a battlefield: geez, these tyrants have no shame), they’d go straight to the sentencing phase. Depending on the term his judges handed down, Omar might be freed immediately, or he might remain in jail for another 8 years—but no more: any sentence beyond that would be voided. The judges didn’t know about the cap. No matter: they slapped another 40 years on this innocent victim.

Their merciless malice was probably due in large part to an “expert witness, forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner, whom [prosecutors] called upon to offer a medical opinion on Khadr’s mental condition. Welner, a physician in private practice in New York and a professor at New York University, is developing the Depravity Scale, a tool that is intended to help juries judge the heinous or evil nature of a crime.”

This guy’s testimony is as tainted as a politician’s promise: he’s published articles detailing his disgust for Moslems. So it’s no surprise that he “depicted Khadre as a continuing risk to society, “In my professional opinion, Omar Khadr is at a high risk of dangerousness as a radical jihadist,” Welner said.

But another “expert witness,” this one “a child and adolescent psychiatrist and a retired Army brigadier general” whom “the defense had asked…to evaluate Khadr’s physical and mental health,” deals two more blows against this travesty with an op-ed in tomorrow’s Washington Post. First, says Stephen Xenakis, “radical jihadism is not a clinical condition, and diagnosing it is not within the domain of psychiatric experts. Radical jihadism is an ideology — and can be embraced by the psychiatrically sane and insane alike.”

Then, as if that weren’t knock-out enough, he adds, “As I listened to the prosecution’s expert testimony depicting Khadr’s state of mind, I was reminded of psychiatry and the politicization of mental health under the Soviet regime.” Yes! “Those were the years when political dissidents were accused of insanity simply because they had the audacity to challenge the Soviet system. The medical profession, especially psychiatry, was a political instrument of control and repression. …In totalitarian regimes, the government often exploited psychiatrists to label citizens as ‘enemies of the state’ without substantive clinical data.”

Naturally, this is a former brigadier general writing in the WaPo, so he quickly adds, “I don’t believe that happened here.” But still, the truth sometimes outs!

11:39 am on December 11, 2010