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John Walker Lindh
American Taliban

John was the son of a Catholic lawyer and his Catholic wife who lived in Maryland until he was ten, at which time they moved to California. There his mother left the Catholic church for Buddhism, and his father left the family for a homosexual relationship. Little John, a gentle and shy boy, looked for something better than his family to anchor his identity. He found a role model with an assertive masculine identity and strong conviction in Malcolm X. The year his father defected the family John joined a mosque.

In October 2000 John was studying Islam in Yemen, when Al-Queda attacked the USS Cole. John knew it was Islamic radicals because he was amongst them already. That month he went to Pakistan. He trained to fight Hindus in Kashmir, but quit that group, probably because they were more interested in blood than Islam. Instead, he joined the Taliban in Afghanistan, who were building a strict Muslim nation. Because he spoke Arabic and not Pashtu, the Taliban sent John to Al-Queda, where he continued his military training. Al-Queda offered him a choice between soldiering and terror attacks. John chose to fight as a soldier.

During the post 9-11 US invasion he was captured by Rashid Dostum’s men. John probably knew his Al-Queda comrades were planning to attack the guards. A CIA agent, Mike Spann, was killed in the fight, but the prisoners were defeated. John spent a week hiding in the prison basement standing in icy water with a bullet in his thigh, while the Uzbeks threw grenades down the stairs and US planes bombed surface. After surrender, he was handed over to the US military, who tortured and interrogated him for weeks more. To hide the mistreatment, the courts offered John a deal, 20 years incarceration without parole, which he took.

Young, idealistic and looking for a cause, John was typical Taliban or Al-Queda. Many Al-Queda were juvenile delinquents and petty criminals who knew so little of Islam they had to take classes in the base camps. The religious schools of Pakistan sent thousands of teenage boys to the Taliban to fight in the ranks. When we bombed the enemy lines we probably killed twenty of these well-meaning and easily led boys for every mature man who understood the choices he had made. Armies the world over are ignorant youth, spent on causes beyond their understanding by their elders.


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