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The Real Story of John Walker Lindh
January 25, 2006 5:21 AM   Subscribe

The Real Story of John Walker Lindh as told by his father.
posted by leapingsheep (153 comments total)

 
this is the story of a decent and honorable young man, who embarked on a spiritual quest

and ended up fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan.

With all due respect to this guy's father, I opposed and oppose the war in Iraq, but the Talban... those bastards got what they richly deserved. As for Lindh, if you lie down with dogs don't cry about fleas.

I supported the war against the Taliban - and still do. Afghanistan was the only "war on terror" that needed to be fought. Pity the Bush administration lacked the resolve to fight and cut and run from Afghanistan to purse their neo-con stupidity in Iraq.
posted by three blind mice at 5:44 AM on January 25, 2006


Wow, that's really sad. I assume it's true, since he WAS only convicted on the one charge. But I can't imagine Bush commuting his sentence... he never, never admits to being wrong, and that's what it would amount to.
posted by Malor at 5:44 AM on January 25, 2006


Unmitigated bullshit, IMO. He met bin Laden and at the very least fought side-by-side with members of Al Queda but had never heard of the organization. The father's position I can empathize with but the posters on AlterNet should be asking themselves, "does this account seem remotely feasible?"
posted by jperkins at 5:44 AM on January 25, 2006


That's an excerpt? How long is the whole speech?
posted by twine42 at 5:50 AM on January 25, 2006


I supported the war against the Taliban - and still do. Afghanistan was the only "war on terror" that needed to be fought. Pity the Bush administration lacked the resolve to fight and cut and run from Afghanistan to purse their neo-con stupidity in Iraq.

I completely agree and would've said as much if I'd caught your post on preview, three blind mice.
posted by jperkins at 5:51 AM on January 25, 2006


hmmm... obviously I (like the rest of us here) can say very little about the accuracy of this story.

What I will say is that if it is fiction then it is a very believable fiction that works very well at highlighting both the American government's meddling in other countries, and the prejudiced way it deals with those who it thinks are guilty.

I can understand why any foreign citizens would want to have such a government kept away from their shores.
posted by twine42 at 6:02 AM on January 25, 2006


jperkins said '"does this account seem remotely feasible?"'

Well, it does seem fairly plausible to me that a footsoldier in the Taliban could be wholly unaware of Al Queda, but since the terrorism charges were dropped as part of a plea bargain, I assume the evidence relating to those charges was never made public or examined in court? In which case, who knows what he was up to.

That aside, it seems clear that his human rights were violated, and that his treatment was, as his father says, hugely influenced by the climate in the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks, and the prejudicial comments from Ashcroft et al definitely call into question the validity of his trial (I mean, I'm pretty sure the Attorney General shouldn't follow the announcement of a prosecution with a statement of the defendant's guilt.)
posted by jack_mo at 6:03 AM on January 25, 2006


Summarizing the points made so far:

American soldiers in Iraq: "Just following orders."
JW Lindh: "Traitorous fuck who got what he deserved. Despite having little or nothing to do with Al-Qaeda."
posted by Rothko at 6:27 AM on January 25, 2006


The guy has inconvenienced untold numbers of Americans through stepped up airport security after he tried to blow up a plane with a bomb in his shoe. He deserves whatever the government feels like doing to him.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:28 AM on January 25, 2006


StickyCarpet, you're thinking of Richard Reid.
posted by rxrfrx at 6:30 AM on January 25, 2006


Um, yeah, but my point is what's the difference? The president doesn't like him.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:32 AM on January 25, 2006


Back when all of this mess began, we needed someone to hate. Bin Laden wasn't enough; we needed evil personified in the same way that we needed heroism personified. Lindh was perfect in the role of Evil-- dark, bearded, and a traitorous American. (Heroism was personified by a cute, blonde female who wanted to be a grade school teacher, but that's the other side of the coin and another story.)

Did we ever hear the whole story of either the "evil" or the "heroism?" No, nor will we. I didn't believe either story at the time but a lot of folks did so they served their purpose to the government.
posted by leftcoastbob at 6:37 AM on January 25, 2006



posted by matteo at 6:40 AM on January 25, 2006


The president doesn't like him.

Are you suggesting I should like him? He went overseas to fight for a totalitarian government in an armed conflict against his own country. I don't exactly see him as a sympathetic figure.
posted by rxrfrx at 6:41 AM on January 25, 2006


Rothko: Neither of those points were made. What thread are you reading?
posted by rocket88 at 6:41 AM on January 25, 2006


Umm, if I have to explain the difference, maybe you should contribute to another thread. Man tries to get on board civilian airliner with bomb, vs Man enlists on one side of a conflict in Afganistan and fights using the normal rules of engagement and is caught.... Am I simplifying this too much for you StickyCarpet?

So guys the Presdent doesn't like him, so that's OK then. Why not be honest and confine him to Guantanamo rather than SoCal. Oh, yeah there is no evidence that he was involved with terrorism so, eehm, that's why he's not in Gitmo. After all everyone in Gitmo must be a terrorist, otherwise they wouldn't be there right.

Glad we straightened that up.
posted by Wilder at 6:43 AM on January 25, 2006


He went overseas to fight for a totalitarian government in an armed conflict against his own country.

According to the article, the US was aiding and reaching out to the taliban when he went over.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:44 AM on January 25, 2006


This is a tragic story. Young Lindh was a foolish young man who got caught up in something much larger than he knew. It is completely plausible, IMHO, tha Lindh would have known nothing about al Qaeda because he was merely another young madrassa "talib"--"Taliban" meaning, of course "The Students [of Islam]"--recruited as cannon fodder for a remarkably incompetent, "faith-based" regime.

Lindh's absurdly long prison sentence is another manifestation of America's tendency to express symbolic moral opprobrium by meting out Draconian prison terms to hapless individuals.
posted by rdone at 6:45 AM on January 25, 2006


If it is untrue that he did the things I mentioned, then I don't believe he should be punished. But I think it's most likely that he did do those things.
posted by rxrfrx at 6:46 AM on January 25, 2006


Rothko: Neither of those points were made. What thread are you reading?

This one.
posted by Rothko at 6:46 AM on January 25, 2006


America's tendency to express symbolic moral opprobrium by meting out Draconian prison terms to hapless individuals.

Yeah, 'cause we totally invented that...
posted by rxrfrx at 6:47 AM on January 25, 2006


(I guess I'm going to have to do that [/sarcasm] thing from now on.)
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:47 AM on January 25, 2006


Lots of accusations from this government, lots of charges. No trial, most charges dropped, and a plea bargain.

Given the improper conduct on the part of this government, both in handling of this individual and his case, as well as their now admitted deliberate, premeditated violation of both law and Constitution, who has more credibility?

John Lindh violated law of which he very likely was unaware. It is quite likely that he had no means with which to be aware. His mission was to oppose a force which the United States had itself opposed.

According to the article, Lindh was witness to gross violations of international law on the part of American forces. Coincidence? I can't help but wonder.

Before you are so quick to condemn John Walker Lindh, please consider that he was not sworn to defend the United States Constitution, but his accusers were, and they failed miserably and deliberately. Who's the real traitor?
posted by Goofyy at 6:48 AM on January 25, 2006


jperkins: He met bin Laden and at the very least fought side-by-side with members of Al Queda but had never heard of the organization.

It was my understanding that "Al Queda" was a name the US pinned on Bin Laden & Co. If that's true, then of course JWL would never have heard of Al Queda. Is there evidence to the contrary?

Can't read the story, link's not working right now.
posted by Western Infidels at 6:49 AM on January 25, 2006


Summarizing the points made so far:

American soldiers in Iraq: "Just following orders."
JW Lindh: "Traitorous fuck who got what he deserved. Despite having little or nothing to do with Al-Qaeda."


Taliban: nice, friendly people who did nothing wrong and who did not deserve to be held responsible for their support of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
posted by three blind mice at 6:49 AM on January 25, 2006


Is that picture supposed to make feel sorry for him? Boo-fucking-hoo.

this rotten.com article is a more accurate true story, methinks.
posted by jonmc at 6:49 AM on January 25, 2006


I hated the Taliban before it was cool. (i.e. before 9/11).

(in fact, one of the things that pissed me off about Bush was how he seemed to be coddling them)
posted by delmoi at 6:54 AM on January 25, 2006


delmoi, I agree with you on Bush's dumbassery, and the idiocy of the War in Iraq, but let's not make this monumental nitwit into some kind of hero or victim.

I just hope he gets to be cellmates with someone related to a 9/11 victim.
posted by jonmc at 6:56 AM on January 25, 2006


StickyCarpet, sorry I missed your sarcasm! I laid it on a bit! I detest the Taliban but this man did not engage in a war against the US. We may completely disagree with his actions, political views, but doesn't his own constitution protect his rights to have them? Where is the evidence that what he did was traitorous?

on a derail, I think I just took part in one of the famous Metafight flame-threads. Too early to say but this could be a pass the popcorn moment. How cool!
posted by Wilder at 6:57 AM on January 25, 2006


Taliban: nice, friendly people who did nothing wrong and who did not deserve to be held responsible for their support of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

I'm sorry, just to be clear, was that before the Reagan, Bush and Bush II administrations propped them up or after?
posted by Rothko at 7:00 AM on January 25, 2006


Rothko, I don't think anybody here would deny the history of stupid foreign policy moves by Republican administrations that led up to the current situation. Dosen't mean I have to cut this moron any slack.
posted by jonmc at 7:03 AM on January 25, 2006


"Traitorous fuck who got what he deserved. Despite having little or nothing to do with Al-Qaeda."

Takes up arms with the Taliban against US troops in Afghanistan, meets bin Laden after training in an Al Queda camp, fights at the side of Al Queda, etc., etc. How about a quote from him during his sentencing:
The judge asked Walker to say, in his own words, what he was admitting to. "I plead guilty," he said. "I provided my services as a soldier to the Taliban last year from about August to December. In the course of doing so, I carried a rifle and two grenades. I did so knowingly and willingly knowing that it was illegal."
A paragon of innocent youth that lost its way. Fuck him.
posted by jperkins at 7:04 AM on January 25, 2006


As much as I deplore the Taliban, it was wrong of Bush to invade Afghanistan - from a legal aspect - because Afghanistan did go to America and blow anything up. That was Bin-Laden and his group Al Queda who happen to be living there.

Bin-Laden is a monstrous criminal and what one does with them is prosecute them in court, not invade countries where they might be living. What should have happened is that a demand to extradict him should have been made.

I'm sure it would have been rebuffed, but that's not the point. You don't just go invading countries that you don't like, unless you are Bush, of course, and don't believe in following international law.

If Bush was serious about putting the boots to Bin-Laden, and not just posturing, he'd put the boots to government of his Saudi Arabian homeland. How exactly do you think that he is getting his personal money - millions of it - from his home country?

But wait, the Saudis are Bush family friends - literally, even though something like 17 or 18 of the World Trade Centre Bombers are from there. Don't see the Saudis getting invaded.

America is so physically remote from its enemies that the last time they were attacked on their own soil as an act of war was Pearl Harbour. Both WTC bombings were crimes, not acts of war, and Bush does not consider those who did it - or those they think affiliated with what happened - as soldiers, hence their disregard of the Geneva Convention.

Unlike Britain and countries in Europe, America and Americans have no clue what it is like to have your enemy drop bomb after bomb every night for years on end and kill thousands of civilians. Maybe if they did, they wouldn't spend so much time illegally invading other countries and killing off their non-combatant people.
posted by TrinityB5 at 7:13 AM on January 25, 2006


Rothko's point #2 was arguably an accurate paraphrase of previous posts here.

No one in this thread said anything resembling 'American soldiers in Iraq: "Just following orders." '
posted by Eyebeams at 7:13 AM on January 25, 2006


Steve Earle does a good song about this guy.
posted by thirteenkiller at 7:13 AM on January 25, 2006


sorry, that should read "...because Afghanistan did NOT go to America and blow anything up"
posted by TrinityB5 at 7:14 AM on January 25, 2006


I hope he gets destroyed. Because he is the most pretentious person ever. Did you ever talk to a white person who converted to a non-christian religion after coming from a vaguely christian background? You know how pretentious they were? Well, he's like that times 100 because he actually elected to go kill for his new invisible superhero.

Did you hear him briefly interviewed after his capture and hear him speaking with a fake arabic accent even though he wasn't denying that he was John Walker, a native speaker of English? Like I said, most pretentious fucker to ever walk the face of the earth.

Do what you want with that little asshole, DOJ. He sucks.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:15 AM on January 25, 2006


Steve Earle does a good song about this guy.

Steve Earle hit his high point with "Copperhead Road."
posted by jperkins at 7:15 AM on January 25, 2006


I'm sorry, just to be clear, was that before the Reagan, Bush and Bush II administrations propped them up or after?

You tell me Rothko.

If Lindh was fighting for Hamas or Hezbollah I wonder how many Mefites would be taking the same sympathetic view.
posted by three blind mice at 7:16 AM on January 25, 2006


How about this analogy: a lost soul named Jim joins a Christian fundamentalist group because it feeds his need to belong, and he likes their brand of ritual. Sometime thereafter a splinter group of that cult (mostly from a different country) orchestrates a large scale coordinated attack on abortion clinics.

The compound he is in is bombed, flooded and burned by the government. Jim stumbles out with his hair on fire.

What to do with Jim now? Demonize him and chase him through the streets whipping him with branches?
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:17 AM on January 25, 2006


What to do with Jim now? Demonize him and chase him through the streets whipping him with branches?

Sure. I have no problem finding Lindh and say, Paul Hill or Eric Rudolph equally repellent.

(actually I'd have to give Hill & Rudolph the nod as more repellent, since they are actually proven killers, but I am equal opportunity in my rage against moronic zealots)
posted by jonmc at 7:20 AM on January 25, 2006


What to do with Jim now? Demonize him and chase him through the streets whipping him with branches?

The judge asked Jim to say, in his own words, what he was admitting to. "I plead guilty," he said. "I provided my services as a soldier to the Christian fundamentalists from about August to December. In the course of doing so, I carried a rifle and two grenades. I did so knowingly and willingly knowing that it was illegal." (via jperkins)

What to do with Jim now?
posted by three blind mice at 7:23 AM on January 25, 2006


jperkins: Plea-bargain arrangements are legal coercion. I don't see any reason to attach any significance at all to a statement made under such an arrangement.

I think JWL should do some time. I also think 20 years, when he hasn't even been accused of hurting anyone, is ridiculous. Inappropriate direction of anger is for animals.
posted by Western Infidels at 7:23 AM on January 25, 2006


Inappropriate direction of anger is for animals.

and what are we, ultimately?
posted by jonmc at 7:24 AM on January 25, 2006


Very irritating that people can't seem to see the difference between the guy making some bad choices and his being a "traitor" or someone deserving something less than the full protection of the law as outlined by the Constitution.

Dosen't mean I have to cut this moron any slack.

No, you don't. Hold court, without evidence, in your private little courtroom if you like. Hell, if John Ashcroft can operate on the "guilty until proven innocent" principle, so can you.

I think JWL should do some time. I also think 20 years, when he hasn't even been accused of hurting anyone, is ridiculous. Inappropriate direction of anger is for animals.

Yes to both.
posted by eustacescrubb at 7:26 AM on January 25, 2006


"I plead guilty," he said. "I provided my services...

"...and I have been instructed that if I don't read this plea the way it has been written for me, then I will most likely be executed."
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:27 AM on January 25, 2006


jperkins: Plea-bargain arrangements are legal coercion. I don't see any reason to attach any significance at all to a statement made under such an arrangement.

So which is it? The government had no case and had to enter into a plea arrangement with Lindh or the government had a case and Lindh was forced to accept a plea agreement. Both are being offered as evidence in this thread as Lindh being railroaded.
posted by jperkins at 7:28 AM on January 25, 2006


Is that picture supposed to make feel sorry for him?

no, it's just a Rorschach test, and an interesting one.

some of us see a violation of the Geneva Conventions. others may very well see a white traitor who sided with the infidel brown peoples and was rightly punished for it.

it's all about, you know, points of view.
posted by matteo at 7:28 AM on January 25, 2006 [1 favorite]


Inappropriate direction of anger is for animals.

The Taliban (and by association Lindh) were IMO the ONLY appropriate direction of anger after 9/11.

Inappropriate direction of the public's anger to pursue an imperial foreign policy is for Republicans. Animals are smarter than that.
posted by three blind mice at 7:29 AM on January 25, 2006


eustacescrubb: I'm not his judge or his jury, I'm just a guy following the story. By all means give him all the legal protections of the Constitution.

Just don't ask me not to loathe the little prick.
posted by jonmc at 7:29 AM on January 25, 2006


No one in this thread said anything resembling 'American soldiers in Iraq: "Just following orders." '

Lindh was a nobody, a bit player of no consequence for the operations and direction of the Taliban, who had no connection with Al Qaeda, yet is being vilified for doing the very same thing American soldiers are doing of their own free will every day of the week in Iraq.

People's excuse that the Taliban was a terrorist organization is bullshit, given the last three Republican presidents armed, trained and funded the Taliban. If they are terrorists, we are worse for having made them terrorists. If Lindh is a terrorist and a traitor, you and I made him one with our tax dollars.
posted by Rothko at 7:30 AM on January 25, 2006


Lindh was a nobody, a bit player of no consequence for the operations and direction of the Taliban, who had no connection with Al Qaeda

You keep saying "no ties to Al Queda" in spite of numerous, documented counter examples and admissions by Lindh himself. Why is that?
posted by jperkins at 7:34 AM on January 25, 2006


I dunno about that Rothko, I agree that there's culpability all around, but the Taliban and Lindh are not rats in a cage working on a simple stimulus-response, people have minds and make choices. And what you mean "We," kemosabe? I don't know about you but I wasn't invited to the meeting where we decided to prop up up the Taliban

(and truth be told the average Taliban soldier makes more sense to me than Lindh does. The Taliban is at least fighting for a (warped) version of his own culture. This dope went on some bizarre vision quest that leaves me (and probably most Americans) shaking their heads in disbelief).
posted by jonmc at 7:35 AM on January 25, 2006


A great song about him
posted by mike3k at 7:35 AM on January 25, 2006


What should we do with Lindh?

Kill him.

Forget Bush's previous support for the Taliban. The fact that Bush did something wrong doesn't make it more right when others do it. Forget terrorism for a moment. Forget Bin Laden. Forget 9-11, and the whole ball of wax. Lindh was fighting on the behalf of the Taliban. This is a group that held mass public executions. That beat women for daring to not wear the burqa. A group that massacred thousands members of ethnic minorities. A group that forbid little girls the right to go to school, and that beat those girls if they were found in public without a male escort. The taliban regularly practiced massacres and atrocities by the barrelful. This was official Taliban policy.

John Walker Lindh knew this, and he chose to fight on their behalf, and to sympathise with what they had done and were doing.
posted by unreason at 7:36 AM on January 25, 2006


mike3k, I'm a big Earle fan, but that song is a crock of shit.

And I've seen all those kids in the soda pop ads
But none of 'em looked like me


huh? look at the young Lindh's pic in here. Looks pretty soda pop ad to me.
posted by jonmc at 7:38 AM on January 25, 2006


You keep saying "no ties to Al Queda" in spite of numerous, documented counter examples and admissions by Lindh himself. Why is that?

Taliban is not Al Qaeda. You keep claiming otherwise. Why is that?
posted by Rothko at 7:38 AM on January 25, 2006


Taliban is not Al Qaeda.

Hemmorhoids are not diarrhea. I can still without either.
posted by jonmc at 7:41 AM on January 25, 2006


And what you mean "We," kemosabe? I don't know about you but I wasn't invited to the meeting where we decided to prop up up the Taliban

Me neither. But my federal taxes appeared on my behalf, as I presume were yours.
posted by Rothko at 7:42 AM on January 25, 2006


Our federal taxes probably support grain subsidies too. That dosen't make us wheat farmers.
posted by jonmc at 7:43 AM on January 25, 2006


Hemmorhoids are not diarrhea. I can still without either.

Me too, but if eating spicy food makes those hems swell up, maybe it's time to change your diet instead of blaming Preparation H.
posted by Rothko at 7:43 AM on January 25, 2006


Our federal taxes probably support grain subsidies too. That dosen't make us wheat farmers.

It does fill our bellies with inexpensive bread, presumably.
posted by Rothko at 7:44 AM on January 25, 2006


An in depth article on Lindh from the Journalist who first identified him and interviewed him.
Quite simply, in my opinion, Lindh was a terrorist, a member of what we call al Qaeda, and a man who chose to stay with killers even though he was afforded numerous opportunities to separate himself from his murderous associates. Twenty years in jail may be a blessing compared to how many of his friends have been dealt with since...

Frank Lindh cannot be blamed either for the emotions behind his need to reinvent history or for doing what he can to get his son out of jail. But he is lying. His son did not “love America”: He fought for bin Laden, against us. His son is not “honest”: He lied to his parents and others. His son is not a “decent” young man: He trained to be a murderer. His son went to kill strangers in a stranger land. A spiritual quest? What part of grenades and AK 47s can be described as spiritual? What part of patriotism is eating bin Laden’s food, listening to Usama’s droning hate-filled speeches against America, and sitting obediently within strangling distance of our greatest single enemy?

To think that the American public is that stupid is an insult. John Walker Lindh was an Arabic-speaking member of bin Laden’s terror legions. He called it Al Ansar (the correct term); we call them al Qaeda. He was never a member of the Taliban. Why? Because Lindh only spoke Arabic and English. He would have been useless in a combat situation among Pashto- or Dari- speaking troops. I have seen Taliban ID cards and spent time with bin Laden’s “055 Brigade, “al Ansar” members and al Qaeda. Lindh was exactly the person we were trying to kill in Afghanistan and now around the world. He was an educated, idealistic young Muslim who chose murder of innocent people as his path in life. He is no different that Mohamed Atta, Zarqawi, or thousands of other terrorists that come from nice middle class families.
posted by jperkins at 7:45 AM on January 25, 2006


Re: the appropriateness of targetting the Taliban in response to 9/11 -

Does anyone else remember hearing that there was a deal on the table at some point (prior to and unrelated to 9/11) whereby the Taliban were going to hand over bin Laden to us? And at the 11th hour they backed out? (Maybe it was in the 9/11 Commission report - no time to look now, sadly.) I'm pretty sure that we overthrew the Taliban with a LOT more justification than "But that's where the training camps are!" They were truly and actively providing safe-haven.

At least, that's what I assume. The government wouldn't like to us about going to war, would they?

As for JWL, I never got it. I mean, if he's fighting us on the battlefied, he needs to be treated as an enemy. But it always felt more like a pr campaign than justice.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 7:54 AM on January 25, 2006


I'm using one-liners, Rothko, but I hope you're actually getting the larger point I'm trying to make here:

yes, our governments short-sighted foreign policy blunders helped create the current situation. That dosen't mean I don't despise what the Taliban & Al Qaeda stand for. Or that I'm any less disgusted by Lindh and feeling that way does not make me or three blind mice neo-cons or warmongers.
posted by jonmc at 7:55 AM on January 25, 2006


After reading the vindictive comments in this thread, I assume that none of these fools will miss the absence of the Equal Protection clause in the now-defunct 14th Amendment. You can possess no rights you won't defend for others, only privileges.

This guy was a hapless fool used as a scapegoat. Know of any other cases of convictions for serving in a foreign army - which is the only thing he was found guilty of? Americans in the French Foreign Legion, or other armed tourists? Nope, there aren't any.
posted by warbaby at 7:56 AM on January 25, 2006


"Those who, like Mr. Lindh, merely fought the Northern Alliance, cannot be deemed terrorists. Their motivation was to serve and to protect suffering Muslims in Afghanistan, not to kill civilians."

I suggest everyone reads that a few times.
posted by iamck at 7:58 AM on January 25, 2006


Quite simply, in my opinion, Lindh was a terrorist, a member of what we call al Qaeda

In your opinion, perhaps. But even the CIA recognizes that Taliban and Al Qaeda are distinct entities, even if they collaborated in some terrorist activities. So, again, you keep claiming the Taliban is Al Qaeda to justify your opinion about Lindh. Why is that?
posted by Rothko at 8:00 AM on January 25, 2006


jperkins quotes: [John Walker Lindh was] sitting obediently within strangling distance of our greatest single enemy

It's this kind of hyperbole that makes me uncomfortable. Yes, ObL is responsible for a horrendous crime against us, and he deserves to be the subject of a great and global manhunt. But for crying out loud - we TRIED the Nazis! (I know, I know - Godwin-city.) We executed 'em, to be sure, but AFTER DUE PROCESS! And this after MILLIONS of deaths and GENOCIDE.

Maybe JWL is a bad dude, but to me there's still a long way to go before we should start adopting frontier justice.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 8:01 AM on January 25, 2006


...change your diet instead of blaming Preparation H.

I really wish I could come up with some even more tortured metaphors, but for that I would need another cup of coffee.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:02 AM on January 25, 2006


But for crying out loud - we TRIED the Nazis!

Agreed, but it took invasions and wars to put them out of business first, remember?
posted by jonmc at 8:03 AM on January 25, 2006


He chose to fight in a war against his country. The people he was fighting for, the Taliban, are murderous thugs.

I feel bad for him that he was a young and confused person, but I think he got what he deserved.

Suppose during WWII we came across a U.S. soldier that as fighting for Russia against our troops. Surely that would have been considered treason?

I've seen the father on T.V. and he is very charismatic and well spoken. However, the attempts to spin his son's actions into a youthful transgression on the scale of Ferris Beuhler's day off won't wash. This kid committed about as serious a crime as one can.
posted by xammerboy at 8:06 AM on January 25, 2006


jperkins: So which is it? The government had no case and had to enter into a plea arrangement with Lindh or the government had a case and Lindh was forced to accept a plea agreement. Both are being offered as evidence in this thread as Lindh being railroaded.

If the government had a strong case, why would it offer a plea-bargain at all? If the government had a very weak case, wouldn't the accused want to go to trial?

Don't plea-bargains usually happen when the outcome of a trial is in question, but the punishment may be very, very severe? The government wants to avoid the chance of an acquittal, and the accused wants to avoid the chance of severe punishment.

I don't think the strong-case/no-case dichotomy you're imagining is an appropriate model of the situation.

three blind mice: The Taliban (and by association Lindh) were IMO the ONLY appropriate direction of anger after 9/11.

It's largely the "by association" part that gets us in trouble. If we're to make enemies of everyone who "by association" is responsible for 9/11, we'll have to go after a few American states and flight schools, for starters.

The people responsible for 9/11 died on 9/11. Hunting down some associates of theirs isn't going to change what happened, and it isn't going to prevent future attacks, either. The whole point of suicidal terror tactics is that there's no good way to retaliate. Retaliating anyway is just giving in to hate.
posted by Western Infidels at 8:06 AM on January 25, 2006


Suppose during WWII we came across a U.S. soldier that as fighting for Russia against our troops.

The Russians were our allies in WWII. The Germans were our enemy. Take a history refresher.
posted by jonmc at 8:07 AM on January 25, 2006


Or that I'm any less disgusted by Lindh and feeling that way does not make me or three blind mice neo-cons or warmongers.

My initial point was that it's odd no irony whatsoever is seen in calling Lindh a filthy traitor, yet seeing our soldiers in Iraq as brave defenders of freedom. Or that such vitriolic focus is on Lindh's infinitesimal contribution to the Taliban, given the effect of thousands of American soldiers who, of their own free will, just like Lindh, are fighting a war that makes them pretty much terrorists almost everywhere outside of the US.

Now: which party has more effect on the world? Which party deserves more critical, focused attention on its actions and effects on the world?
posted by Rothko at 8:10 AM on January 25, 2006


I'm pretty sure the Taliban offered to extradite bin Laden if we gave them proof he was involved in the attacks, and that we told them to go fuck themselves. (However, there will be no link forthcoming because I'm running out the door. Sorry.)

Look, the Taliban are not awesome guys. But they also had nothing to do with bin Laden's plans other than letting him live there. And as far I understand, they were rather pissed that he was helping start shit again, because you know, if you're running a country, you don't really want some hothead bringing the Americans in. And most of the traing camps were in fucking Pakistan.

Lindh was a tool who got caught up with some theocratic assholes. That's lame, but no reason for him to rot in prison.
posted by dame at 8:11 AM on January 25, 2006


Yeah, he got screwed, wrong place, wrong time but he put himself in that place. I feel badly for his father but what else would he do but defend his son?

And a 20 year sentence for violating economic sanctions is trumped up crap.

jonmc, come on now, history's like Silly Putty, you can pull it into whatever shape supports your argument.
posted by fenriq at 8:12 AM on January 25, 2006


Now: which party has more effect on the world? Which party deserves more critical, focused attention on its actions and effects on the world?

I think you'll grant that the situation is nowhere near that simple, but obviously the current situation in Iraq deserves more attention. But Lindh was offered as the subject of this thread and we offered our opinions on the man. I shouldn't have to preface every remark I make about him with "I don't like Bush either." My veiws should be clear by now.
posted by jonmc at 8:13 AM on January 25, 2006


Western Infidels: The people responsible for 9/11 died on 9/11. Hunting down some associates of theirs isn't going to change what happened, and it isn't going to prevent future attacks, either. The whole point of suicidal terror tactics is that there's no good way to retaliate.

Al Qaeda trained the 9/11 attackers, and Al Qaeda and the Taliban government supported each other. Suicide terrorists need ideology, but they also need coordination and stuff; that's why Israel's border-tightening cut down on suicide attacks even though it made people mad.

Attacking Afghanistan deprived Al Qaeda of its safe haven, which was a good thing to do.

And while Lindh was unlucky that his chosen pals wound up allied with people attacking the US right while he happened to be over there, he deserves blame for the fact that his "heart became attached" to a bunch of murderous, oppressive assholes in the Taliban.
posted by ibmcginty at 8:15 AM on January 25, 2006


rothko: "In your opinion, perhaps. But even the CIA recognizes that Taliban and Al Qaeda are distinct entities, even if they collaborated in some terrorist activities. So, again, you keep claiming the Taliban is Al Qaeda to justify your opinion about Lindh. Why is that?"

That was a quote from yet another source that I've provided. And the quote was further quoting Lindh's claim of membership in Al Ansar which the author claims is the same as Al Queda and argues that there's no way that someone who doesn't speak either language common in Afghanistan would have been any use in the Taliban where a westerner who could speak English and Arabic would've been most useful to Al Queda/Al Ansar.
posted by jperkins at 8:16 AM on January 25, 2006


What a lot of garbage spewed in this thread. Try this on for size - the U.S. Armys' actions in Iraq have caused an increase in terrorism. Thus, they are supporting terrorism. Thus they are traitors. Thus, U.S. soldiers must die, for treason.

/same type of tenous thread people are arguing here
posted by iamck at 8:24 AM on January 25, 2006


That was a quote from yet another source that I've provided.

You were quoting another's opinion as your own. Lindh's statements and those of the US government only indicate membership in the Taliban, including what you have quoted so far. I don't deny the possibility of your other point of usefulness of an American member of Taliban to Al Qaeda, except to say it is speculation without any foundation of fact presented to date by Lindh or the US.

The same sloppy, "patriotic" thinking that equates Taliban with Al Qaeda, that equates Lindh with the hyperbole-filled label of "Islamic terrorist", is what allows 2/3rds of the US public to equate Saddam Hussein and Iraq with terrorism and 9/11. The PR-fueled irony in this is deeply worrisome to me.
posted by Rothko at 8:27 AM on January 25, 2006


Now some are defending Lindh and suggesting we were wrong to go into Afganistan?

Is this an attempt to confirm the characterizations of the left made by the right-wing talking dittoheads?
posted by dios at 8:36 AM on January 25, 2006


You were quoting another's opinion as your own. Lindh's statements and those of the US government only indicate membership in the Taliban, including what you have quoted so far. I don't deny the possibility of your other point of usefulness of an American member of Taliban to Al Qaeda, except to say it is speculation without any foundation of fact presented to date by Lindh or the US.

From the wikipedia article I linked to:

"Upon capture, Walker signed confession documents while he was held by the United States Marine Corps on USS Peleliu and informed his interrogators that he was not merely Taliban but al-Qaeda."

From the article from the CNN journalist who initially interviewed Lindh (before any interrogation):

"John Walker Lindh was an Arabic-speaking member of bin Laden’s terror legions. He called it Al Ansar (the correct term); we call them al Qaeda. He was never a member of the Taliban. Why? Because Lindh only spoke Arabic and English. He would have been useless in a combat situation among Pashto- or Dari- speaking troops."

That's Lindh being cited as the source of information that he was Al Queda.
posted by jperkins at 8:37 AM on January 25, 2006


Is this an attempt to confirm the characterizations of the left made by the right-wing talking dittoheads?

I'm desperate for a parliamentary system with proportional representation here in the US.
posted by jperkins at 8:40 AM on January 25, 2006


xammerboy wrote: "Suppose during WWII we came across a U.S. soldier that as fighting for Russia against our troops. Surely that would have been considered treason?"

As a matter of fact, there was a US soldier who had been captured by the Germans, escaped, and met up with the Red Army, and fought with them in Germany. I cannot remember his name, though I do remember that he wasn't considered a traitor.

Also, JonMC wrote: "The Russians were our allies in WWII. The Germans were our enemy. Take a history refresher."

Quite right. Now take your meds.
posted by Tullius at 8:40 AM on January 25, 2006


"Upon capture, Walker signed confession documents while he was held by the United States Marine Corps on USS Peleliu and informed his interrogators that he was not merely Taliban but al-Qaeda."

Was that before or after his interogators "took the gloves off?"
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:42 AM on January 25, 2006


I'm curious then why the US government would be happy to prosecute him for membership only in the Taliban. If he was a member of Al Qaeda, if there was evidence for it, then the US government (and especially the majority of the American public) would have been happy to nail him for it.

That they chose not to suggests his confession to Marines interrogators was under duress, which is not beyond the realm of possibility. My only theory for why federal attorneys would only pursue a Taliban charge when Lindh "admitted" to CNN of his involvement in Al Qaeda, is that he really didn't have any verifiable involvement with them at all, and they knew they wouldn't have a case.
posted by Rothko at 8:46 AM on January 25, 2006


Of course they took the gloves off. He wouldn't have been able to sign anything while wearing them. Duh.
posted by fandango_matt at 8:48 AM on January 25, 2006


(the article is dead.)< \small>
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:49 AM on January 25, 2006



posted by StickyCarpet at 8:49 AM on January 25, 2006


Was that before or after his interogators "took the gloves off?"

Exactly why I quoted the next source with Lindh claming membership in Al Ansar to the reporter from CNN and I noted that the statement was made before any interrogation took place.

That they chose not to suggests his confession to Marines interrogators was under duress, which is not beyond the realm of possibility. My only theory for why federal attorneys would only pursue a Taliban charge when Lindh "admitted" to CNN of his involvement in Al Qaeda, is that he really didn't have any verifiable involvement with them at all, and they knew they wouldn't have a case.

You really have to start reading the links because his questioning after requesting the presense of an attorney (in a combat zone in Afghanistan) was exactly why the US felt its case was weak. Or weaker than it could have been.
posted by jperkins at 8:50 AM on January 25, 2006


Now some are defending Lindh

I don't see that. what I see, again, is you defending torture, again, in a perfect characterization of the cowardly, unAmerican Right
posted by matteo at 8:51 AM on January 25, 2006


You really have to start reading the links because his questioning after requesting the presense of an attorney (in a combat zone in Afghanistan) was exactly why the US felt its case was weak. Or weaker than it could have been.

I read the link and it's a smear job from someone with a bias so obvious I have to doubt the "evidence" provided in it. Really, the quote from the CNN journalist doesn't make sense. That admission is apparently on the record. The US could have skipped a plea deal and nailed Lindh easily, if it was true. It just doesn't pass the smell test.
posted by Rothko at 8:58 AM on January 25, 2006


It's largely the "by association" part that gets us in trouble. If we're to make enemies of everyone who "by association" is responsible for 9/11, we'll have to go after a few American states and flight schools, for starters.

Point well taken Western Infidels. A broad definition of association is a large part of the problem with the Bush administration's feckless response to terrorism.

What I should have said is by Lindh's particular association with the Taliban.
posted by three blind mice at 8:59 AM on January 25, 2006


Summarizing the points made so far:

John Walker Lindh was arrested and tried by the Bush administration, therefore he must be completely innocent because absolutely everything the government does and indeed has ever done has been wrong.

Only the US is evil. Anyone else considered evil was made that way by the US. All enemies of the US are good.
posted by rocket88 at 8:59 AM on January 25, 2006


i've never understood the visceral level of hatred and righteous anger exhibited toward lindh. president bush said of him

"...this poor fellow. Obviously he has been misled. It appears to me he thought he was going to fight for a great cause; and in fact, he was going to support a government that was one of the most repressive governments in the history of mankind. Surely he was raised better than to know that a government that suppresses women and women's rights, that doesn't educate young girls, is not the kind of government worth dying for."

from here (claims to be from a bush interview with barbara walters, though that link is broken).

some of you are acting like he actually tried to kill american soldiers and had a hand in planning the events of 9/11. for once, i agree with the president's assessment of a situation.

(determining whether some parts of the president's statement can be applied to u.s. troops and/or the nascent govt. of iraq is left as an exercise for the reader.)
posted by lord_wolf at 9:06 AM on January 25, 2006


what I see, again, is you defending torture, again, in a perfect characterization of the cowardly, unAmerican Right

I'll go on record as despising torture. Don't make the false equation of thinking that anyone who is baffled and disgusted by this young man's actions is some kind of hawkish torture-monger. That kind of simplistic thinking is beneath us.
posted by jonmc at 9:06 AM on January 25, 2006


The National Security Archive's Taliban File is a collection of declassified US government documents on Al Qaeda and the Taliban, including a July 2001 State Department report on U.S. Engagement with the Taliban on Usama Bin Laden [PDF].
posted by kirkaracha at 9:08 AM on January 25, 2006


posted by dame I'm pretty sure the Taliban offered to extradite bin Laden if we gave them proof he was involved in the attacks, and that we told them to go fuck themselves.

If I remember correctly, the Taliban considered bin Laden "a welcome guest" of Afghanistan, and after September 11 they refused to hand him over, instead offering to hold an Islamic trial at which the US would need to present evidence of bin Laden's involvement in the attacks. As far as the Taliban was concerned, until September 11 I doubt they expressed anything except support for bin Laden--he probably wasn't going around describing his plans and I suspect most of his rhetoric was the standard "Death to America!" stuff with which the Taliban vehemently agreed.

I think it's sort of like a big college house, where you've got students, grad students, and post-grads all living together, and they all smoke weed, and then someone sublets his room to someone else who lets a friend of an ex-roommate live in the attic for a while, and then that person sets up a meth lab in the basement crawlspace. So it's not like he wasn't welcome, but they probably had no idea what he was up to.
posted by fandango_matt at 9:12 AM on January 25, 2006


i've never understood the visceral level of hatred and righteous anger exhibited toward lindh.

I think it's more incomprehension than anything else, lord wolf. I have plenty of serious beefs with my government. And I can certainly understand why some Afgan peasant might hate the US, even if I don't condone the actions some may take. But in my wildest imagination, I couldn't imagine joining up with an organization like the Taliban or Al Qaeda.

But Lindh is a guy who was pretty much handed the world on a platter and winds up hooking up with an organization (the Taliban) that stands for theocracy, repression, sexism, homophobia, and a whole raft of things I (and most right-thinking people) despise. It kind of beggars the imagination. Add the post-9/11 (understandable and somewhat justified) anger and paranoia to the mix and it triggers a pretty strong emotional response.

(as should be obvious, I don't think our visceral emotional responses are a good basis for governmental conduct, merely describing them. But it seems to be neccessary to state the obvious to avoid being mischaracterized these days)
posted by jonmc at 9:13 AM on January 25, 2006


So, let me get this straight: from sometime in August 2001 up until 8:46:39 AM on Sept. 11th 2001, Lindh was on the same side as the Bush administration, in giving aid to the Taliban, (although this was in violation of Clinton era laws prohibiting it). He was engaged in a war against America's enemies - the Russian-backed Northern Alliance.

At 8:46:40 AM, he instantaneously transformed into a traitorous enemy terrorist fighting (the very same war) against America.

Granted, if it was me, I would've gotten the hell out of Afghanistan (and any part of the Middle East) at that point, but I don't know the difficulties of staging a one-man retreat from the front lines of a war. Don't people usually get shot for that?

If this guy is reviled for merely sitting and listening to Bin Laden (pre 9/11) then how do we feel about those folks in our government who sent Bin Laden arms and money?

Still, I do think he deserves some jail time for the sanctions violation at a minimum, and for the inability to, within 4 months, figure some way out of his predicament. But 20 years is a bit steep. 3-5 seems more reasonable.

But if there was any hard evidence (not obtained through torture) of him knowingly conspiring with Al Quaeda, then I'd like to see him rot in jail, along with the government prosecutors who dropped the charges.
posted by bashos_frog at 9:13 AM on January 25, 2006


But Lindh is a guy who was pretty much handed the world on a platter and winds up hooking up with an organization (the Taliban) that stands for theocracy, repression, sexism, homophobia, and a whole raft of things I (and most right-thinking people) despise. It kind of beggars the imagination.

Is this a not-so-subtle attack at people who enlist in the US army? That's how I read it.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:17 AM on January 25, 2006


Wow--the article from Robert Pelton Young that Jperkins linked above is really damning. It puts Lindh at the center of the prison rebellion that killed Mike Spann and others. If true, at that point Lindh was fighting against the U.S. and is guilty of treason.
posted by LarryC at 9:18 AM on January 25, 2006


I agree with lord_wolf that there was a lot of hatred expressed for Lindh.

Maybe my view is biased-- I can't hear about him without thinking of a story my brother told me. The day after his (Lindh's) capture, a NY Post-or-Daily News vendor trying to stir up interest in her paper repeatedly called out, "Traitor or rat, you decide!"
posted by ibmcginty at 9:23 AM on January 25, 2006


If true, at that point Lindh was fighting against the U.S. and is guilty of treason.

Is it substantiated or are we now on the level of "some people say" reasoning?
posted by Rothko at 9:31 AM on January 25, 2006


was pretty much handed the world on a platter and winds up hooking up with an organization (...) that stands for theocracy, repression, sexism, homophobia,

WAIT, HE'S A REPUBLICAN????
posted by matteo at 9:31 AM on January 25, 2006


matteo, you know that I don't like the Repubs much either. And for the same reasons. I don't appreciate the mischaracterization.
posted by jonmc at 9:36 AM on January 25, 2006


matteo, you know that I don't like the Repubs much either. And for the same reasons. I don't appreciate the mischaracterization.

That seems to be how it goes around here. Lots of "with us or against us."
posted by jperkins at 9:51 AM on January 25, 2006


Is it substantiated or are we now on the level of "some people say" reasoning?

Does being an eye witness to the events count in your world?
posted by jperkins at 9:53 AM on January 25, 2006


Does being an eye witness to the events count in your world?

Not as much as having two independent eyewitnesses, let alone someone who saw Lindh shoot Spann et al.
posted by Rothko at 9:56 AM on January 25, 2006


Not as much as having two independent eyewitnesses, let alone someone who saw Lindh shoot Spann et al.

So you're giving that the article is based on more than what "some people say." And the article never makes the claim that Lindh personally shot Spann. What it does say is that Lindh knew the uprising was coming, is segregated from the other prisoners and says nothing to the two Americans questioning him alerting them to the coming uprising during which one of them is killed.
posted by jperkins at 10:03 AM on January 25, 2006


So you're giving that the article is based on more than what "some people say."

Not really. I saw you steal a loaf of bread from your grocery store. Should people believe my accusation?
posted by Rothko at 10:07 AM on January 25, 2006


I do.
posted by matteo at 10:14 AM on January 25, 2006


Not only that, I saw him use the stolen bread to make a sandwich. A BABY SANDWICH.
posted by fandango_matt at 10:17 AM on January 25, 2006


Not really. I saw you steal a loaf of bread from your grocery store. Should people believe my accusation?

The judge asked jperkins to say, in his own words, what he was admitting to. "I plead guilty," he said. "I stole a loaf of bread from my grocery store. In the course of doing so, I carried a rifle and two grenades. I did so knowingly and willingly knowing that it was illegal."
posted by three blind mice at 10:21 AM on January 25, 2006


A BABY SANDWICH.

The other, other white meat.
posted by three blind mice at 10:24 AM on January 25, 2006


A BABY SANDWICH.

no, it was pork. and he tried to force-feed it to a homeless Muslim man. in France.
posted by matteo at 10:24 AM on January 25, 2006


jonmc: I'll go on record as despising torture.

I just hope he gets to be cellmates with someone related to a 9/11 victim.

So you hope some criminal thug will do the torturing for you?
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:28 AM on January 25, 2006


StickyCarpet: I was expressing anger not making a serious suggestion. That's all a lot of rhetoric is. Simply locking him up is enough for me.
posted by jonmc at 10:34 AM on January 25, 2006


Hahaha. You go out for lunch and come back a bread stealing, baby sandwich eater.
posted by jperkins at 10:48 AM on January 25, 2006


what kind of bread did you use in the baby sandwich. I find seeded rye works best, myself.
posted by jonmc at 10:54 AM on January 25, 2006


what kind of bread did you use in the baby sandwich

French!

posted by jperkins at 11:13 AM on January 25, 2006


Doesn't it say in your passport that taking up arms for a foreign army negates your citizenship?

IMO putting Lindh in prison is completely unfair. They should have done with him what they did with all the other Taliban caught that day. I have no idea what they did with those other guys - maybe they killed them, maybe they sent them to Guantanamo, maybe they're free in Afghanistan - but Johnny shouldn't have been allowed back in the USA.

Also, fuck anyone who compares US military to Taliban.
posted by b_thinky at 11:14 AM on January 25, 2006


Taliban: nice, friendly people who did nothing wrong and who did not deserve to be held responsible for their support of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

I'm sorry, just to be clear, was that before the Reagan, Bush and Bush II administrations propped them up or after?


Rothko: The Taliban took over Afghanistan in 1995-1997. The Clinton administration did reach out to the Taliban (the infamous Texas meeting took place in the late 90s), but this ended with our 1998 bombing of al Qaeda camps in the wake of the embassy bombings.

The infamous $43 million in drug enforcement assistance was given not to the Taliban, but to international NGOs. The Powell statement (I can't find verbatim) made it clear that the US still had major concerns about the presence of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and was not going to fund the Taliban directly.

Lindh was on the same side as the Bush administration, in giving aid to the Taliban, (although this was in violation of Clinton era laws prohibiting it). He was engaged in a war against America's enemies - the Russian-backed Northern Alliance.

Again, the US offered no support to the Taliban. The Northern Alliance were not the enemies of the US, either; if anything, they had become the last of our dogs in the fight. US policy was opposed to a Taliban victory, but we hadn't to that point committed anything to that goal other than tacit support of Russia's role. Keep in mind that the Taliban had virtually no friends left -- all of the Six Powers then meeting regularly over Afghan issues (including the US, Russia, Iran, and Pakistan) agreed on that. Of those, all but the US was in fact offering sub rosa support to at least one faction inside Afghanistan. But the Taliban government had full diplomatic relations with almost no countries, and an exile government held its seat in the UN.

I have no wish to defend this administration, but I have to correct misunderstandings of history.

I have great sympathy for his father's point of view that Lindh was railroaded, and his sentence is almost certainly excessive. There's likely little evidence, RPY excluded, that he was in any sense a "terrorist". He did, however, almost certainly know that the Taliban government of Afghanistan was broadly disliked and viewed as illegitimate -- unless you were from a wack-job madrassa in outer Pakistan. In many ways he knowingly dug his own grave here, and that shouldn't be overlooked. Almost certainly, like many Muslim-born jihadis, he wasn't honorably fighting the puppets of the godless Russians (spare me the rhetoric -- on both sides), but seeking a combat death to achieve holiness. The Taliban, at that point, were winning -- the Northern Alliance was boxed up, the fighting was ritualized and seasonal, and everybody expected the Taliban to eventually pacify this last little corner. It wasn't some sort of desperate fight, and there wasn't some sort of rolling war-crimes brigade emanating from Massoud's hand. It wasn't a moral fight, unless you were seeking a jihadi death. I can't escape the sense that Lindh knew that, and that's why he went.
posted by dhartung at 11:40 AM on January 25, 2006


We should be getting down to the real issues here and locking up people who go on skiing holidays.
posted by sgt.serenity at 11:49 AM on January 25, 2006


and those cunts that go to India.
posted by sgt.serenity at 11:50 AM on January 25, 2006


unreason nailed most of it -- I wouldn't wish death upon anyone, but Lindh's father is cutting him a lot of slack when he says this:

Secretary of State Powell released a press release in which he said "we will continue to look for ways to provide more assistance to the Afghans." This is the context in which John goes to Afghanistan.

Yeah, and in Fall 1998/Spring 1999 I signed a petition one of my fellow high school students circulated that demanded the US government not deal with the Taliban unless very particular requirements were met. Women who had lived very public lives were forced out of their jobs and denied rights they previously had. Human rights hit a low. That information was just as readily available as Powell's press release.

If Lindh is a terrorist and a traitor, you and I made him one with our tax dollars.

The US may have trained some of the men who became the Taliban. They may have supplied them with money to destroy opium fields (an action I disagree with, but that's another issue). At no point did the US government tell Lindh to empathize with his new friends at the expense of his home country.
posted by mikeh at 11:52 AM on January 25, 2006


I'm with bashos_frog. I think it's disingenuous to suggest that Lindh went to Afghanistan with the express purpose of fighting against the US. If his father's timeline is to be believed, he joined the army in August, before the attacks. I thought the Taliban was repellent well before 9/11, for destroying 1500-year-old buddhas, among other things, but it's a stretch to equate supporting an unpleasant regime, and even fighting for them against a neutral third party (the Northern Alliance, pre-9/11) with treason.

The Robert Young Pelton article makes me extremely wary just from its vitriolic tone. I also don't see how this is necessarily true:

He was never a member of the Taliban. Why? Because Lindh only spoke Arabic and English. He would have been useless in a combat situation among Pashto- or Dari- speaking troops.

Isn't it reasonable to assume that most of the other Afghani fighters (presumably also fundamentalist muslims) would speak enough Arabic to communicate with Lindh?
posted by whir at 12:03 PM on January 25, 2006


Oh, nearly forgot about this. Social freedoms and religious relativism? That sounds like an implicit endorsement of radical islamic fundamentalism!
posted by whir at 12:06 PM on January 25, 2006


The other big problem I have with Pelton's account is that it is long on assertion and short on clear sourcing. He gives no indication of where his account of the two CIA officers questioning Lindh comes from. Obviously, Pelton wasn't present at the time, but he inserts his story as straightforward narrative, not unlike that in a true crime story, without the usual journalistic "sources told me" qualifiers.

In fairness, one could say the same thing about a good deal of Frank Lindh's timeline, but as Lindh's father I'm inclined to believe his recollection of events, assuming that he's credible in the first place.
posted by whir at 12:35 PM on January 25, 2006


The other big problem I have with Pelton's account is that it is long on assertion and short on clear sourcing. He gives no indication of where his account of the two CIA officers questioning Lindh comes from. Obviously, Pelton wasn't present at the time, but he inserts his story as straightforward narrative, not unlike that in a true crime story, without the usual journalistic "sources told me" qualifiers.

Thank you. So that's two people who independently think there's a problem with Pelton's opinion-as-"journalism" piece, jperkins.
posted by Rothko at 1:27 PM on January 25, 2006


Hahaha. You go out for lunch and come back a bread stealing, baby sandwich eater.

Nice one, that you conveniently ignored the point I made.
posted by Rothko at 1:28 PM on January 25, 2006


Nice one, that you conveniently ignored the point I made.

Yeah, it was a stupid point. That's why I ignored it.Now if you and I had been at the same place and you'd witnessed me doing something that would be something. But the inanity of your thought experiment reminded me of something and then I remembered the adage about arguing with fools on the Internet.
posted by jperkins at 1:51 PM on January 25, 2006


Yeah, it was a stupid point. That's why I ignored it.

Pelton wasn't there, dummy. He's repeating someone else's accusation as if it was true, and throwing in enough vitriol to melt paint off a car.

Which, funny enough, is exactly what you're doing because you can't think for yourself. Good luck with that Internets thing.
posted by Rothko at 2:08 PM on January 25, 2006


Agreeing with Rothko: because Pelton was not there in the fortress when the 2 CIA operatives were there, his account of what was heard is hearsay and would be excluded from being proffered as evidence in court.

In any event, here is more of what Pelton has said regarding Lindh:

"Lindh, in Pelton’s judgment, was polite, apologetic—and utterly out of his element. “Knowing fighters the way I do, I just felt that this guy was not a fighter. He seemed like he should have been at a poetry reading with a beret and a cigar pretending to be a communist or something.”

As for the terrorism charges, Pelton says Lindh “was not part of that world. ... He wanted to fight with the Taliban to create an Islamic state. None of those issues tie into what happened on September 11.”

So, clearly Pelton has waffled on whether Lindh was a terrorist. Regardless, Pelton is a mere journalist ... 'terrorist' is not an agreed upon term ... and finally, Pelton was hanging out with (and supportive of) Dostum, who has significantly more blood on his hands than does Lindh. Should Pelton be tried for war crimes or mass murder?

Also, Lindh was under no obligation to tell the CIA operatives that they might be ambushed, nor is there any indication the Lindh knew of the ambush. A CIA operative going into that fortress with 400+ Taliban prisoners, should have been prepared for anything.

The whole Lindh story is not about whether we individually think he was culpable, a shit, a nitwit, misguided or innocent. The point is that he did not get a fair trial and was subjected to physical maltreatment by the U.S. military.
posted by Azaadistani at 2:11 PM on January 25, 2006


The whole Lindh story is not about whether we individually think he was culpable, a shit, a nitwit, misguided or innocent. The point is that he did not get a fair trial and was subjected to physical maltreatment by the U.S. military.

but then our Self-Righteous Patriotic Brigade won't be able to have the usual "Terrah = Bad" cockfest!
posted by matteo at 2:28 PM on January 25, 2006


Here's a 2002 interview with Pelton at Salon, conducted just after the National Geographic one Azaadistani linked. Among his more interesting statements:

Salon: ...you seemed to have access that members of the mainstream press didn't have.

Pelton: Well, I'm not a journalist first of all, so that's probably why I have better access.


Indeed, Pelton seems to be a travel writer, rather than a journalist. (Later in the piece he just calls himself a "writer.") He's got some interesting comments on media coverage in Afghanistan, though, and the article is a pretty good read.
posted by whir at 2:34 PM on January 25, 2006


Okay, jperkins, we're up to three people now who've independently come to the conclusion that your source isn't worth jackshit.
posted by Rothko at 2:37 PM on January 25, 2006


fandango_matt: If I remember correctly, the Taliban considered bin Laden "a welcome guest" of Afghanistan, and after September 11 they refused to hand him over, instead offering to hold an Islamic trial at which the US would need to present evidence of bin Laden's involvement in the attacks.

Isn't that fair? I mean, if you step away from the OMG Taliban Terrorists Evil!!! thing a moment, isn't it fair for a nation to say they will try someone in their court? Doesn't everyone have extradition hearings? Not to mention that the invasion of Afghanistan netted us neither bin Laden nor cramped him sufficiently nor made anyone safer.

And dios, I know it hurts your puny little brain to consider that reasonable people can disagree about something that seems so apparent to you, but there are some of us who were against the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and still are. In my case, it began with plain empathy (ie, I remember how much New York sucked when someone blew up part of it and don't really feel correct inflicting that on anyone else) and the more I find out about that region (you know, from people who actually study it and were there for parts of the war), the more it seems that it was a poor choice.

I mean the Taliban were cockwads (not that the warlords are any better), but invading Afghanistan hasn't done much to make us any safer. Bin Laden would have been more inconvenienced in a Taliban jail than he is now. And working on the Saudis and the Pakistanis might have undermined the global jihad network a sight more.
posted by dame at 2:51 PM on January 25, 2006


The New Yorker has an article on Lindh that undercuts much of the official story and does much to corroborate his father's story. If this story is to be believed, then it looks like I was wrong about my condemnation of Lindh.
posted by jperkins at 5:03 PM on January 25, 2006


It was my understanding that "Al Queda" was a name the US pinned on Bin Laden & Co. If that's true, then of course JWL would never have heard of Al Queda. Is there evidence to the contrary?

Yes there is. Check out this excerpt from The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda's Leader, which includes the Tareekh Osama (Osama's History), a set of files dating back to 1988 & found on a computer seized in Sarajevo in 2002.

According to first-hand accounts in the Tareekh, Al Qaeda was founded at a meeting in bin Laden's home in Peshawar, Pakistan on August 18-20, 1988.
posted by scalefree at 8:17 PM on January 25, 2006


Isn't that fair? I mean, if you step away from the OMG Taliban Terrorists Evil!!! thing a moment, isn't it fair for a nation to say they will try someone in their court? Doesn't everyone have extradition hearings? Not to mention that the invasion of Afghanistan netted us neither bin Laden nor cramped him sufficiently nor made anyone safer.

No it isn't fair for a nation that's an avowed ally of the accused to say they'll try them instead of the nation the crime was committed in & against.

As for the legitimacy of attacking Afghanistan for al Qaeda's attacks, I believe it's appropriate for a nation state to hold another nation state accountable for the actions of non-state actors allied with & harbored by them. If not then any country would be free to create front groups to do their dirty work & then throw up their hands & say "it wasn't us!" when caught. Which certainly goes on all the time already, just it should be OK to call them on it, with force if necessary.

Your final argument, that it didn't do anything to make us safer, is more a result of incompetence than illegitimacy.
posted by scalefree at 8:43 PM on January 25, 2006


Word up, dame! Some people seem to think that the only way to engage with other countries is via the military. Afghanistan had nothing to do with the attacks on the US, and I fully believe that the people of Afghanistan would have rebelled against the Taliban and presented Bin Laden et al in chains had they been offered the chance of some stability after the 25+ years of being used as a target range by the super-powers.

To quote Abdul Haq:
'"I was from the beginning against this campaign," he said.

"I told the Americans the thing to do is keep the pressure but don't use it. The most important thing is, let's work on a political process."

Before the bombing, he said, the Taleban had exhausted almost all sympathy they had in Afghanistan.

The locals were hungry, angry and fed up. '

More from Abdul:
'The problem is that America is like an elephant. It is very difficult to get moving - it takes fifty men to push it. But when it starts moving, it can't be stopped, and tramples everything in its path.

Ideally, what should happen is this. We all together get rid of the Taliban, and in six months or so from now, the King goes back to Kabul, and calls a Loya Jirga [grand national assembly] from there. We cannot have a Loya Jirga outside Afghanistan - would be illegitimate. And inside Afghanistan, much better that should be in the capital. And someone, preferably some neutral force, has to provide peace and security in Kabul so that people in the Jirga can talk freely. This won't lead to the restoration of the Monarchy. Zahir Shah is just a father figure who will unite the country in preparation for the Loya Jirga.

But if the US keeps bombing and helps the Northern Alliance, then our work will be much more difficult. The problem is that the Americans cannot control Alliance commanders on the ground if they decide to attack Kabul or massacre people. How can they control them? By threatening to bomb them too?'

Earily prescient.

Unfortunately for Haq, he was not a mindless puppet for the US, so he was expendable once they had decided that they needed to bomb Afghanistan to appease the electorate at home.

Knowing the US weren't interested in diplomacy or the wellfare of Afghanis, he set out to rally the moderates with a small band of men. He was a true war hero, who understood humanity:
'"War is easy. Disagreeing with someone, trying to find a compromise, that's more difficult."'

scalefree writes "Al Qaeda "

ALso damn useful for the feds when trying to convict WTC bombers as gang members after the 1993 bombing.
posted by asok at 8:55 PM on January 25, 2006


posted by dame Isn't that fair? I mean, if you step away from the OMG Taliban Terrorists Evil!!! thing a moment, isn't it fair for a nation to say they will try someone in their court? Doesn't everyone have extradition hearings? Not to mention that the invasion of Afghanistan netted us neither bin Laden nor cramped him sufficiently nor made anyone safer.

Well, maybe--but bin Laden committed an act of war. I'm not a lawyer but I believe attacking a U.S. military complex and killing American soldiers--in this case, the Pentagon--constitutes an act of war. Since bin Laden was "a guest" of the governing body of Afghanistan, the US gave them a choice: hand over bin Laden or we'll come in and get him--the message essentially was, "choose your side." The Taliban chose not to hand over bin Laden, and the rest is history. If he hadn't already done so with the other bombings for which he was responsible, bin Laden forfeited his right to be tried anywhere except the United States at 9:37:46 EST.

I would be remiss not to point out I am not a supporter of the Bush administration but after the events of September 11, their demand for bin Laden was the only appropriate one to make. The decisions that followed, well, that's where we part ways.
posted by fandango_matt at 10:23 PM on January 25, 2006


Kudos to jperkins for admitting to the possibility of error in the face of new evidence. Something that we should all strive towards.
posted by dopeypanda at 12:04 AM on January 26, 2006


The New Yorker has an article on Lindh that undercuts much of the official story and does much to corroborate his father's story. If this story is to be believed, then it looks like I was wrong about my condemnation of Lindh.

Good on you to have an open mind. No hard feelings.
posted by Rothko at 6:37 AM on January 26, 2006


The New Yorker has an article on Lindh that undercuts much of the official story and does much to corroborate his father's story. If this story is to be believed, then it looks like I was wrong about my condemnation of Lindh.

Good on you to have an open mind. No hard feelings.
posted by Rothko at 6:37 AM on January 26, 2006


To clarify my own reading: If we are evaluating Robert Young Pelton's charge, or the original USG indictment, that Lindh was a "terrorist" with training for and knowledge of "martyrdom operations", the New Yorker article appears to give little support to either.

If we are evaluating Lindh's conviction on aiding the Taliban government in contravention of US law, the New Yorker article seems to pretty concretely support that.

As to the length of his conviction, I have stated above that it is likely excessive.
posted by dhartung at 8:54 AM on January 26, 2006


I believe it's appropriate for a nation state to hold another nation state accountable for the actions of non-state actors allied with & harbored by them. If not then any country would be free to create front groups to do their dirty work & then throw up their hands & say "it wasn't us!" when caught. Which certainly goes on all the time already, just it should be OK to call them on it, with force if necessary.

So, when do we start invading Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, etc...?
posted by amberglow at 9:20 AM on January 26, 2006


Tha Taliban met with US officials in 1998 to discuss letting the US kill bin Laden, but nothing came of it.

On October 5, 2001, the Taliban said it would negotiate trying bin Laden in Afghanistan or extraditing him if the US provided evidence he was involved in the September 11 attacks. They renewed the offer to extradite bin Laden on October 14, 2001, after the US had started bombing. President Bush rejected the offer:
Turn him over. Turn him over, turn his cohorts over, turn any hostage they hold over, destroy all the terrorist camps. There's no need to negotiate. There's no discussions. I told exact -- told them exactly what they need to do, and there's no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he's guilty. Turn him over. If they want us to stop our military operations, they just got to meet my conditions. And when I said no negotiations, I meant no negotiations.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:32 AM on January 26, 2006


amberglow: So, when do we start invading Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, etc...?

Just because it's legitimate doesn't make it the smart thing to do. In the case of Afghanistan I think it was necessary to take out the camps, although I take issue with how they went about it.

kirkaracha: On October 5, 2001, the Taliban said it would negotiate trying bin Laden in Afghanistan or extraditing him if the US provided evidence he was involved in the September 11 attacks. They renewed the offer to extradite bin Laden on October 14, 2001, after the US had started bombing. President Bush rejected the offer:

You could make a case that this was a sincere & reasonable offer and that this was a prefiguring of Bush's Iraq strategy, to attack no matter what they said. But I think the reality is that although neither side was interested in real negotiation, there are times when obvious facts give one side's arguments greater weight.

It was immediately obvious to the entire world that bin Laden was behind the attacks & that any demands for proof were just stalling tactics or fishing expeditions for access to intelligence, which would be passed on to al Qaeda & used against us. We did not have a sincere negotiating partner & we did have an urgent need to manage the threat posed to us by al Qaeda. In spite of all the bad motives of the neocons & in spite of the gross mismanagement of the war, I still believe the decision to go to war was valid & just.
posted by scalefree at 2:06 PM on January 26, 2006


It was immediately obvious to the entire world that bin Laden was behind the attacks & that any demands for proof were just stalling tactics or fishing expeditions for access to intelligence, which would be passed on to al Qaeda & used against us.

why was this obvious?
posted by telstar at 2:13 PM on January 26, 2006


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