An American Taliban
December 2, 2001 10:21 AM   Subscribe

An American Taliban Abdul Hamid, age 20, is an American. He is not a naturalized citizen or disaffected Arab-American youth rebelling against Western culture. He is a white, educated-sounding, apparently middle-class American, a convert to Islam who came to Afghanistan six months ago to help the Taliban build a “true Islamic state.” The question is, how long before the movie comes out? Wonder what his parents think...
posted by Rastafari (23 comments total)
And before you ask, yes, he did support the 9/11 attacks.
posted by Rastafari at 10:31 AM on December 2, 2001

CNN gives his real name as John Walker, from the Bay Area. Off to Wake Island with him for a military tribunal, I guess.
posted by nicwolff at 11:09 AM on December 2, 2001

I saw a television program/mini documentary (not sure when, at least 6 months ago, maybe a year or more) about some white guy from San Diego area who converted to Islam and fought and lost a leg (or two?) in Chechnya. Showed him firing his AK back home (I guess that's where). Pretty wild stuff. Anybody else see that?
posted by techgnollogic at 12:02 PM on December 2, 2001

CNN's story: Taliban fighter from prison uprising says he's American.
posted by Carol Anne at 12:09 PM on December 2, 2001

He can't be tried by a military tribunal under the current regulations, as he is an American citizen. A citizen fighting for an enemy power against Americans is a death penalty offense under the current la. He can be tried in Virigina for Johnny Spann's death ... and a needle or a life sentence will surely be his fate thereafter.

If he'd formally renounced his citizenship, however, he'd be entitled to treatment as a prisoner of war (which means quick release as soon as the situation stabilizes)... but also subject to prosecution by the tribunals as a foreign war criminal if such facts were alleged.
posted by MattD at 12:11 PM on December 2, 2001

I know I should probably have more patience for this brand of wonder-white boy guilt-ridden, self-flagellation--but it gets all over my last good nerve in the most annoying way.
posted by Tiger_Lily at 12:12 PM on December 2, 2001

He has perspectives and experiences no one else does. The CIA will be all over "John". He could end up being a national hero.. but no one will know.
posted by stbalbach at 12:56 PM on December 2, 2001

Since when do traitors to this nation become national heroes?
posted by Tiger_Lily at 1:56 PM on December 2, 2001

techgnollogic: I saw that was Robert Young Pelton's 'Worlds most dangerous places'. His shows on Afghanistan & Phillipines were awsome; it's amazing how he is able to get in these places. Last I heard, he said the most dangerous place on earth is Panama City.
posted by Mack Twain at 3:38 PM on December 2, 2001

This is even better than that British guy. If Mr. Walker survives the wounds inflicted upon him during the uprising (quite likely) he should be brain-drained by the CIA, NSA, and FBI... Then shot.

I've said it before, and it seems I'll be saying it a lot more as stories like this emerge: I really hate deserters, traitors, and treasonous arseholes. They deserve anything they get, as long as it's not pleasant.
posted by phalkin at 4:40 PM on December 2, 2001

Hmm, could've been a Robert Young Pelton production, but that doesn't seem quite right... I can almost hear Stone Philips' narration... So maybe Dateline, maybe not. This is gonna drive me nuts.

Back on topic: I heard from one source that this American Taliban had a mid-atlantic accent, but the video of him talking on CNN reveals a completely non-American accent alltogether... Guess details are sketchy at this time.
posted by techgnollogic at 4:50 PM on December 2, 2001

Amen Phalkin!
In peacetime, words like loyalty and treason are bandied about for cynical political ends and often applied to undeserving people.
This however is not peace time and this asshole richly deserves the name traitor. If they wre to hang this little prick, I'd applaud the minute his legs stopped twitching. He's gone well beyond exercising his first amendment rights and joined the other side to give aid and comfort to the enemy.If that isn't treason I don't know what is.
posted by jonmc at 4:51 PM on December 2, 2001

When did this guy willfully pledge his allegiance to the United States? How did he betray the United States' trust when the U.S. never trusted him individually in the first place?

He knows this has nothing to do with his first amendment rights... you think he wants to come back?

He's in big trouble now, sure, and he's not going to get away with what he's done, but the mouth-frothing in this thread is sorta ridiculous.. I don't see how he's worse than his Pakistani or Saudi comrades (though he may be much more useful to us).
posted by techgnollogic at 5:04 PM on December 2, 2001

I don't see how he's worse than his Pakistani or Saudi
techgnollogic-how about the obvious, the Pakistani's and the Saudi's are at least fighting for a warped and misguided version of their own culture and religion. This guy has turned his back on his own nation(for no clear reason that I can fathom)and decided to pledge his allegiance to mass murdering psycho's. I think that alone qualifies him for villification.
posted by jonmc at 5:41 PM on December 2, 2001

Perhaps this is what would have happened if Lawrence of Arabia had chosen the wrong side. Sounds like a sequel: "Walker of Afghanistan"

I'll bet anything he HATES is when you call him that.
posted by Poagao at 7:21 PM on December 2, 2001

I agree he's a bad guy... no question that he's qualified for villification... I just don't see how he's worse because he was born and perhaps grew up here.

If he'd just joined the KKK, and stuck to a warped version of his white american religion and culture, would the situation be somehow improved? Like, be a militant religious zealot extremist all you want, but for god's sake don't CONVERT?

I dunno... I guess we all feel betrayed when one of our own makes a decision to fight for the bad guys... I'm just not gonna get all worked up about this 20 year old doofus because it looks like he never really was one of our own to begin with.
posted by techgnollogic at 7:23 PM on December 2, 2001

Life is full of choices. Abdul Hamid, nee John Walker, simply made a piss poor one. I am a firm believer in the rule that if you make your bed, you should sooner or later be required to lay in it.
posted by MAYORBOB at 7:29 PM on December 2, 2001

Note to jonmc -- plural's don't need apostrophe's (hehheh).

But really, this kid made a choice to renounce his citizenship, whether formally or informally makes a difference only if he wants to come back.

During the Cold War, it seems to me that a number of folks had this looney idea that life would be better in the U.S.S.R. than in the States and later changed their mind. They were allowed to come back and faced no tribunal, military or otherwise.

posted by Bixby23 at 7:58 PM on December 2, 2001

I wonder what his parents think...
Marilyn Walker described her son as a sweet, shy kid''. (NYT reg req)
posted by Zootoon at 2:31 PM on December 3, 2001

Where the NY Times got its story: It was “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” that changed John Walker’s life. After reading the book in 1997 for a high school assignment, Walker, then 16, told he parents that he planned to convert to Islam. The news at first came as a surprise, but in time, both his father, a strict Irish-Catholic and his mother, a Buddhist, came to support their son’s new faith. “He was a spiritual kid,” father Frank Lindh told NEWSWEEK. “He was exceptionally devoted to his studies."
posted by Carol Anne at 2:57 PM on December 3, 2001

Sounds like a man of principle to me though perhaps a little misguided.

Judging from the remarks of the pack of Hitler Jungen assembled here, they'll tear him to shreds.
posted by lagado at 4:13 AM on December 5, 2001

The Boston Globe has an interesting piece on the legal aspects of the case.

''It creates a separate path,'' said Scott Silliman, executive director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University.

Silliman and others say lawyers for the foreign-born suspects probably would argue that Americans charged with the same crimes would get more rights in a civilian court.

Bush has authorized trying such noncitizen suspects in courts where the judges would be military officers. A two-thirds vote would be needed to convict. And, unlike in federal and state courts, there would be no need for proof beyond a reasonable doubt. But specialists say it is likely that someone like Lindh, who converted to Islam when he was just 16, would be tried in federal court.

''Here is the dilemma: How does the government come up with the option that satisfies the American people but doesn't set a precedent that won't interfere with the prosecution of members of Al Qaeda?'' Silliman said. ''They had their strategy put together, and I think they were gearing up to go to Congress, but now you have to deal with this issue. I think the administration would love to see it go away.''

posted by ferris at 9:51 AM on December 5, 2001

Also significant is that he is an eye witness to a massacre of POWs by Northern Alliance forces (and in the presence of American personnel).

Could be interesting stuff for a war crimes investigation, assuming such things are still possible.
posted by lagado at 3:45 PM on December 5, 2001

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