What is John Walker Lindh guilty of?

Category: Americas, World Affairs Topics: Conflicts And War, Osama Bin Laden, Taliban, Terrorism Views: 2741

John Walker Lindh, the American who served as a soldier to the Taliban, "now faces up to 20 years in prison for admitting he aided the Taliban and possessed explosives while committing a crime."

But what crime did Lindh commit?

The explosives the Taliban supporter possessed were two hand grenades. These, he received, along with a rifle, when he "aided the Taliban," an act that amounted to enlisting in what effectively comprised the Afghan army.

"I provided my services as a soldier to the Taliban last year from August to November," Lindh told a U.S. District Court.  "During the course of doing so, I carried a rifle and two grenades."

Okay, so Lindh, initially dubbed Taliban Johnny, converted to Islam, traveled to Afghanistan, and offered his services as a soldier to the Afghan government, where he was issued a rifle and two grenades. Lindh is hardly a sympathetic character, but as far as I can tell, enlisting in a foreign army, and being issued a couple of hand grenades, is hardly a crime, especially when the military you've enlisted in is not officially at war with your country of citizenship and isn't, according to your own government, a terrorist state.

Lindh's crime, it seems, is to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

After he becomes a solider, two airplanes crash into the Twin Towers and one into the Pentagon. The aircraft, it is alleged, are hijacked by Saudis and Egyptians, not Afghans or Taliban, and not Iraqis, Iranians or North Koreans, citizens of the so-called "axis of evil" countries. And, as far as can be told, none has any connection to John Walker Lindh, an insignificant grunt in an insignificant army of an insignificant government whose last budget was one-tenth of what the US spends on a single B-52 bomber.

Washington accuses Osama bin Laden of plotting the attacks, and orders the Taliban government to hand over the Saudi, who's taken refuge in the country after being kicked out of his native Saudi Arabia and, later, Sudan.

Curiously, neither bin Laden nor al-Qaeda claim responsibility for the attacks, a departure from the usual terrorist practice of making clear to the population being terrorized who's doing the terrorizing and what needs to be done to stop it.

Instead, George W. Bush helpfully fills in the gaps, pointing out that it's a bin Laden job, carried out because bin Laden doesn't like democracy, and that what needs to be done to prevent future attacks it is to line up behind Bush's war on terrorism, applaud the abridgment of civil liberties, and channel more money away from social services to the Pentagon, while accelerating tax cuts for the wealthy.

The Taliban asks to see Washington's evidence of bin Laden's guilt, offering to hand him over to a third country, but Washington refuses. You don't negotiate with the Emperor.

Later, British Prime Minister Tony Blair discloses his much heralded "brief'" which he claims definitively implicates bin Laden, but Blair's proof turns out to be a farrago of innuendo, old newspaper clippings, and leaps of logic.

By the time the US and British attack Afghanistan -- illegally, without justification, morally or under international law, and without an official declaration of war -- neither country has put a shred of serious evidence on the public record implicating bin Laden or al-Qaeda. And bin Laden still isn't saying he did it.

Later, a grainy "smoking gun" videotape surfaces that seems to implicate the al-Qaeda leader, but it's the only evidence of significance Washington produces, and it comes long after the bombing campaign has begun; again, inviting the question of whether Washington had any sound evidence of bin Laden's culpability to begin with. The official translation of the tape is called into question, and bin Laden's words are not the self-incriminating statements that would get him convicted in any self-respecting court of law.

Neither the Taliban or Afghan civilians are accused of carrying out the 9/11 attacks, but it is people like Lindh, who have offered their services as soldiers, and, more numerously, Afghan civilians, who pay the price.

When the bombing stops, more Afghans are blown apart than the total number who died in the 9/11 attacks.

While Lindh is carrying a rifle and two grenades,  he and his unit surrender to the Northern Alliance, a collection of thugs as vicious, misogynist, benighted and cut-throat as the Taliban, but who, working for the US, are elevated to being heroic freedom fighters (as thugs, bandits and terrorists who do the US's dirty work always are. Bin Laden himself was once so designated, at a time he was working on behalf of the US, drawing the Soviets into their own Vietnam.) The Northern Alliance promises Lindh's unit safe passage to Pakistan, but reneges, shepherding the Taliban soldiers into the Qala-i-Janghi fortress, where CIA interrogators await.

What happens next is unclear, but the outcome isn't. There is an uprising, American and British forces call in air strikes, and the prisoners are slaughtered.  Some are later found shot with their hands bound behind their backs. Lindh, against all odds, survives.

Taken into US custody, he's maltreated and denied access to a lawyer, though the press later says it's unclear whether Lindh was ill-treated at all.

Astonishingly, The Globe and Mail, Canada's "national newspaper," denies the existence of firm evidence of Lindh being abused and denied his rights, and then goes on to say "there is no question he was held in solitary confinement in an unheated cargo container," "was repeatedly interrogated" without a lawyer being present, and that the US government has accepted a plea bargain "to avoid an embarrassing and possibly comprising series of revelations about the detention, interrogation, and treatment of Mr. Lindh."

You don't have to like Mr. Lindh or the Taliban to see that the US has no legal or moral basis to be in Afghanistan. And it has no legal grounds to kidnap Afghans and lock them away at Guantanamo Bay, to throw US citizens into military brigs indefinitely without charge, or to imprison others because they were issued a rifle and two grenades in a country the US decided to attack illegally in a war that's not all it seems to be.

Moreover, it's clear Washington has exploited 9/11 to advance a far right agenda that bears -- in its muscular militarism, expansionism, contempt for international law, insistence on American global primacy, and crack down on civil liberties -- more than a passing resemblance to fascism.

What's not clear is what crime Lindh committed.

One critic may have come closest to revealing the real reason Lindh may face up to 20 years in prison: to make an example of anyone who deviates "from the whitewashed mythology of pure American patriotism."

Stephen Gowans is based in Canada and writes for "What's Left"

Other links:
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. JOHN PHILIP WALKER LINDH,   a/k/a "Suleyman al-Faris," a/k/a "Abdul Hamid,"

  Category: Americas, World Affairs
  Topics: Conflicts And War, Osama Bin Laden, Taliban, Terrorism
Views: 2741

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Older Comments:
Madmax, word. Dino, you say we're going after Bin Laden, Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan? Hmm, well the last time I heard Bush on CSpan he said the military's objective was not to get Bin Laden. That is what BUSH said. Sooo Bin Laden? No. Now Taliban? Pakistan is our ally. We give them money. Pakistan funded(created & sustained) the Taliban. Now Pakistan is poor as heck. They have a HUGE debt. The funds they gave the Taliban was funneled through Pakistan from US, the DOD & CIA. Sooo Taliban? WE created them. And now the issue of "Al Qaida." Before the U.S. govt. started talking about al qaida, not one single muslim I know had ever heard of it. It's just a term created to allow us, the U.S. govt. to attack anyone wherever and whenever we want to. We have a convenient label to put on anyone that opposes us. So we're not out to get "Al Qaida". There is no such thing. I have never seen evidence of it's existence. If you have, Dino, then show it to me. And don't bring up Bin Laden, he's living in a cave eating dirt. He's not some international super terrorist. Oh woops, I'm about to use up all of my commentary space.

Lindh's crime is that he's a young Muslim, and unfortunetly a guy who was at the wrong place and the wrong time.
The anti-Muslim wackos are ofcourse overjoyed at this....wonder why they're so quite when it comes to the little matter about the USS Liberty and terrorism. Yep, typical hypocrisy on the part of our American "friends."

Great article. Unfortunately for them, it's people like Dino Demars that will end up loosing at the end, people who swallow everything and anything their government and the poor quality
journalism feed them with. These nave people have no clue what is happening in their own country, much less in the world at large. If they think they can eradicate "terrorism" by resuscitating the McCarthyism, people over there in America cannot expect it to die as quickly as it did in the 1950s. They need to know that from what the world is noticing, that the "free" country of the United States of America is currently being run by military dictators (the FBI and CIA + the Pentagon). Dino I can assure you that you will be automatically labeled as un-patriotic if you dare to even question your president and your vice-president about their involvement in the current scandal of corporate crimes that is making noise all over the world. But the nave ones probably do not differentiate between the love for their country and the acceptance of their rulers mediocre work. The nave people have absolutely no clue WHY their country is being criticized and sometimes terrorized, perhaps it is because it is a free country and some "jealous bad guys" just hate free countries, the "bad guys" just could not comprehend what is a free country for anyway? Freedom must be boring after all and terribly useless, so we'll go ahead and crash planes or blow up buildings in that "free country" that will make them think again about that absurd freedom.
What's that thing Bush and his soldiers came up with again? TIPS? Well Dino rest assured that America is becoming a totalitarian and communist-like country, and you wont even know how it happened, just watch over your own shoulder, TIPS project is fully implemented now. Good luck to you.

John Walker should not be a prisoner of America.

Osama bin Laden has claimed credit for the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam bombings, as well as the USS Cole bombing in Yemen. That in and of itself is enough guilt. He really doesn't have to admit to the 9/11 tragedy, does he?

As for Lindh, I believe that aiding a terrorist organization that has declared war on your country is a crime. Some legal types will tell you that an organization can't declare war, but one only has to look at the results to realize that yes, they can. However, since the author wishes to emphasize that Mr. Lindh's legal rights were trampled, he should accept that Lindh's status is not the same a criminal, but rather an enemy combatant which does not confer the rights of your garden variety purse snatcher or mugger. It is a step below the rights of a prisoner of war.

The author seems to know what the US shouldn't have done. Apparently they shouldn't have gone after bin Laden, they shouldn't have destroyed al Qaeda or the Taliban, and they shouldn't have arrested Lindh. What he neglects to mention is what the US should have done.