Human rights groups are demanding that the U.S. release "children" being detained at Guantanamo Bay. The detentions are a "shocking indicator of how cavalier the Bush administration has become about respecting human rights," said Amnesty International spokesman Alistair Hodgett.
Before you cry buckets over the poor, abused tots at Gitmo, let's make one thing clear: We are not talking about hordes of peace-loving, cherubic grade-schoolers (like the kind who were freed from Saddam's prisons by American troops). We are talking about four male juveniles captured as active enemy combatants against U.S. forces -- and suspected of having links to the al Qaeda terrorist network of Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime.
These "children" weren't playing Nintendo or lolling around in a sandbox when they were taken into custody. They were at war, armed and dangerous, carrying out jihad.
One of the youths reportedly in custody at Gitmo is 16-year-old Omar Khadr, who, as I noted last week, is a suspected al Qaeda soldier accused of lobbing the hand grenade that killed Sergeant First Class Christopher Speer, a 28-year-old medic with the U.S. Special Forces. At least one eyewitness said Khadr was no confused little boy. He knew exactly what he was doing: trying to kill Americans.
But according to the Amnesty International worldview, none of these little munchkins is capable of cold-blooded acts of murder -- and none should be held culpable: They've been brainwashed. They're too young to be held responsible for their behavior. They are emotionally and morally underdeveloped.
We've seen the same excuses made for another accused kiddie killer in federal custody: 18-year-old sniper suspect Lee Malvo. At the time of his arrest last fall, media profiles painted him as a baby-faced dupe. He was just a poor youngster who "spent childhood looking for father figure" (Seattle Times); a "boy of bright promise and no roots" (Washington Post); "quiet and well-behaved" (CNN.com). Child advocates and human rights groups argued against capital murder charges because of Malvo's age (17 at the time of arrest).
Steven A. Drizin, an associate clinical professor of law at Northwestern University School of Law, went so far as to compare the "young, impressionable" Malvo to kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart.
Virginia prosecutors rejected the sob mob. And they have been vindicated. Malvo's behavior since his arrest has shown him to be anything but a Little Boy Lost under the spell of his accused partner, John Muhammad.
Left alone in an interrogation room in late October, Malvo attempted to escape from federal custody by slipping off a handcuff, putting a chair on a table and climbing up through ceiling tiles.
Last week, Malvo was charged with two jail violations after deputies discovered a letter he wrote to another inmate that contained a veiled threat toward a sheriff's deputy. "That 'House Negro,' " Malvo wrote, " . . . Someone should ensure that boy is fatally injured."
Court papers filed recently describe Malvo as "rather boastful" in admitting to killing a number of the Beltway sniper victims. It was not Malvo who was the sniper's little aide, but apparently just the opposite in many cases. Malvo described Muhammad as his "spotter and helper." He calmly told authorities that "both were equals and either could call a particular shot on or off."
Further undermining the image of Malvo as a clueless young puppet, The Washington Post reported this week that Malvo laughed as he described shooting FBI agent Linda Franklin in the head at a northern Virginia Home Depot. He "smiled and chortled" as he recounted another shooting involving a young boy victim. "His demeanor was calm and relaxed," according to prosecutors. "He never expressed or exhibited any fearfulness or nervousness."
Cold-blooded killers and blood-thirsty warriors come in all sizes -- including pint and junior. Here is what the blind advocates for the "Boys" of Gitmo and "Boy" Malvo fail to grasp at their peril: There is no age limit on evil.