The videotape of Omar Khadr, then 16-years-old and being interrogated at Guantanamo, is difficult to watch.Who among us with a heart, certainly any of us with a child, could help feeling badly for Khadr?That is a tribute to our capacity as human beings and as Americans to care for others, especially given the facts that Khadr is now 21 and about to stand trial for murdering one U.S. serviceman and blinding another.
The tape, however, reveals more than Khadr's desperation and more than our capacity for empathy.It also reveals facts that should be reassuring to Americans, even amidst complex and pressing questions about how we should detain and how we should treat prisoners in a time of war.
Khadr was not physically abused in the tape.He was not threatened with death.He was not made to endure uncertainty about whether America will seek retribution on his family.He was clothed.He was told honestly that his questioners could not trade his cooperation for his freedom.
Khadr was not hallucinating.He inflicted no harm upon himself.He did not plead for his life or beg for food or for the beatings to stop.Perhaps most revealing, he did not seem afraid of his interviewers, and seemingly had the capacity to withhold from them the information they seek.Instead, he pleaded for medical help-when he had already been successfully treated for nearly lethal wounds sustained in combat.
Khadr's lawyer reportedly stated that his client was psychologically abused at Guantanamo by being deprived of sleep and moved from cell to cell every three hours for weeks.If he presents evidence to that effect in court, along with other evidence about Khadr's detention, we will know more about the stress his client endured.
This Guantanamo tape itself isn't, however, the smoking gun many portray it to be.While it makes us-as fathers and mothers and as Americans-feel for the young man accused of murder, it doesn't prove that he was tortured.What it does prove is that the war has been terribly painful, that it has brought suffering to millions of families and that we Americans have not lost our capacity for empathy in a time of war-even for our enemies.
Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatry correspondent for FOX News Channel and a New York Times bestselling author. His newest book, "Living the Truth: Transform Your Life through the Power of Insight and Honesty" has launched a new self-help movement. Check out Dr. Ablow's website at livingthetruth.com