January 22, 2006

“Taliban John” – His Father Speaks Out

Frank Lindh, father of "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh, spoke recently at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club about his son's past and his recent request to President Bush for clemency, claiming that John was "wrongly maligned as a traitor and a murderer." He illustrated his remarks with baby and childhood pictures of his son.

I understand a father's natural instinct to defend his son, but much of what he says flies in the face of reality and is in direct contradiction of his son's own comments. I have spoken at the Commonwealth Club and am surprised that they provided a forum for this drivel.

Let me address some of Mr. Lindh's specific comments.

Lindh said he is proud of his child, and hoped the story of his boy's journey from Marin County to Afghanistan will help him get a reduction in his 20-year prison sentence. "In simple terms, this is the story of a decent and honorable young man embarked on a spiritual quest. It's a wonderful thing for an American kid to go overseas and study, to learn another language, to learn another religion. These are great things."

It may have started out that way, but it ended much differently. Taking up arms in support of an Islamic fundamentalist regime responsible for public executions, defacing of religious symbols, refusal of women's education - yeah, lots to be proud of here.

According to Lindh, his son saw Usamah Bin Laden speak twice while he was training in Afghanistan, but had no idea that he was involved in terrorism against the U.S., his father said.

Reality check, Frank. Usamah Bin Ladin had been on the terrorism radar for years. To think that John was in Afghanistan listening to the anti-American, anti-Western vitriol spewed by Bin Ladin and not have any idea that he was involved in terrorism is ludicrous. Or are you saying that maybe Bin Ladin was involved in terrorism, but not against the United States? Just what do you or your son think all the training in the camps was about?

Lindh noted that the U.S. once supported Taliban fighters when they were fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. "What happened unfortunately for John is that the United States made an abrupt change after the 9/11 attacks," Frank Lindh said. "We switched sides. John was on the ground there when that happened."

Again, Frank, take a history course, but maybe at a different school than where you sent your son. The Taliban were created by the Pakistani intelligence service after the withdrawal of the Soviets. They took power in Afghanistan in 1996. So, John was on the ground there in 2001? Perhaps he knew about the attacks in New York and Washington?

Lindh said his son did no wrong. "He certainly didn't go to Afghanistan to do anything against America. He never fought against America. He never fired a gun at an American. He was simply rescued."

Please. Continuing to be in Afghanistan as a member of the armed Taliban after September 11 in itself is an action against America. Just what was he doing that led him to the Qala Jangji prison compound? Why didn't he just come forward and be "rescued?" I'm not buying it.

Lindh accused US forces of torturing his son. He showed a photo of his son's body strapped to a stretcher at a military base in southern Afghanistan. "The maltreatment and imprisonment of John Lindh was - and is - a human rights violation. He was treated in a way that is shameful to our nation and its ideals. John Lindh did not need to be tortured to tell the American forces where he had been and what he had seen," the father said. "I cannot fathom why the military felt it necessary to humiliate him in this way."

John Walker Lindh was not tortured. He shouldn't have been restrained? He was captured on a battlefield carrying a weapon as part of the opposing force. We in the military call those people "the enemy."

Lindh said he and Lindh's mother visit their son for long weekends each month at the medium security federal penitentiary in Victorville, California. "The silver lining in this whole cloud is that we have wonderful visits with our son. Ordinarily a son who is 25 doesn't have much time to spend with his father. But we have a lot of time."

Good. Enjoy it for the next 15 years. That's more than the parents, spouses and children of American troops killed in Afghanistan. Think of them the next time you visit Taliban John, or the next time you decide to speak out about his "innocence."