Justice, Afghan Style
   By K. Douglas Burkhart ©

This war has become all the more complex and bizarre with the recent capture of an American who sided with
the Taliban in their fight to retain control of Afghanistan.  And, as stories filter out of Mazar-e Sharif, the world
is learning of not just one American, but perhaps several, who voluntarily took up arms to fight alongside the
forces of evil in defense of a global campaign of terror and carnage.

What became all the more sickening was to hear the heartbroken father of this treasonous American spout off
some garbage about his son, John Walker Lindh, being a soft and gentle kind of guy.  I guess this is the same
soft, gentle, touchy-feely kind of compassion that routinely implanted bullets in the back of innocents who may
have committed their own brand of treason in what was recently, Afghanistan under the Taliban.  Please, let’s not
forget the images of not too long ago of public executions in the Kabul soccer stadium, where kneeling women
took bullets in the back of their heads.  This same stadium also saw men dangling by their necks on the goal posts,
often for many days after they gasped their last breath.

The chorus is already beginning, and in America, the thought of letting anyone off the hook for treason,
while at war, seems incomprehensible.  However, stranger things have happened in America,
especially when the accused insist on having their ‘day in court.’

“Brainwashed,” is what’s being heard, and the media seems to have bitten the forbidden fruit, on this one!
The excuses are already flying faster than confetti in defense of the wartime behavior of traitor Lindh.

Excuse: He didn’t know what he was getting himself in to!
Excuse:  He joined the Taliban before the war started!

Excuse me?  Am I hearing this right?  John Lindh had no idea that his band of Taliban buddies and their
ideological sidekick and money front man, Osama bin Laden, had pissed off the United States to the point
of being on the exploding end of an aerial bombing campaign that is more than two months long and continuing!
Is this the same John Walker Lindh who converted to Islam, as his father observed, and became a devout
practitioner of his new faith, while at the same time, the senior Lindh is willing to dismiss his son’s perverted
interpretation of the Koran?

Oh, and there’s already been the reference, which I prefer to call ­ another excuse ­ that, he was somehow
brainwashed, similarly to Patty Hearst’s involvement with the gun brandishing bank robbing SLA?

In previous columns to The Saipan Tribune, Marianas Variety and the Philippine English language daily, Today,
I said that, in this war, there would be no excuses.  But, it seems that I might have been dead wrong.
There are, I am afraid to say, excuses, everywhere, on this one.  Think back to when you were in a sticky situation,
such as just before a police officer began writing you up for exceeding the speed limit or receiving a late charge
on a bill that was overdue.  Although it doesn’t always rectify the problem, an excuse is sort of the first thing that
follows anytime we feel a need to justify our actions when called into question by others.  Therefore, it’s
understandable that Mr. Lindh and his allies will spew forth excuses from sunrise to sunset, believing that there
ought not be any consequence for the actions of his son.

I’ve listened to the legal commentary on CNN and other networks, and have red numerous print and online
commentaries from newspapers throughout the United States and internationally.  Yet, there is no clear consensus
on where and what type of justice, if any, ought to be brought against this ex-pat American who took up arms
against the U.S. in the fight to promote and defend the murderous doctrine of al Qaeda.  I’ve even heard that
he may be allowed to return to the United States, possibly without any charges levied against him by the American government.  How preposterous, if true, for his Chechen, Pakistani and Egyptian compatriots will surely see
the swiftness of Afghani justice, if allowed to prevail.

Why shouldn’t Mr. John Lindh join all who fought elbow-to-elbow with the Taliban as a self-described jihadi,
to answer for their involvement in a campaign of terror that lasted for more than five years against the people
of Afghanistan?  In this instance, nationality should not be his ‘get out of jail’ ticket from a situation that could
very well have severe and dire consequences, if found guilty.

Excuses, anyone?

All precedents aside, I would simply favor justice under the current regime in the Afghanistan that John Lindh
took up arms to ‘protect.’  Yes, I am afraid that if he were to be repatriated to the United States and subsequently
indicted and tried for treason, a defense strategy that invokes the concept of being brainwashed might possibly
overshadow the fact that this country is at war, and that John Lindh is most definitely, a prisoner of this war.
Stranger defenses have certainly swayed jurors.

I am sure that his photo will grace the covers of People Magazine, Time and Newsweek, and that we’ll all read
and come to know about his loving family, his childhood sweetheart and his high school chums, all amounting to
what might be an expose of a normal all-American kid.  The only problem, as I see it, is that John Lindh traded
his value system for one that is diametrically opposed to everything that America and the civilized nation states
of this Earth believe in.  So, if such stories should appear, get out your barf bag and heave!

Now, consider this for one moment.  What if, and, it’s a mighty big if, the Taliban had succeeded in repelling
the Northern Alliance and others on the ground, even with the nonstop aerial bombing by the United States?
And, what if the POW’s in that prison uprising had been the opposition forces rather than the Taliban?
Had this been the case, Mr. Lindh’s reward might have been to serve as executioner, as he has already
demonstrated his adept skill at firing weapons of war in defense of the Taliban and al Qaeda.

No doubt, the legal wrangling is sure to get underway in blitzkrieg fashion by the Lindh family attorney.
If POW Lindh were to be returned to the U.S. to have his day in federal court, would this not set a
double standard for what President Bush has declared is this country’s fight against terrorism?

His appearance before a U.S. judge and impaneled jury would be a farce and an utter mockery of how
justice is dispensed with respect to prisoners of war.  Yes, Mr. John Walker Lindh was born an American,
but he surrendered much when he took up arms against this country and gambled that a Taliban victory
over the United States would be a victory that he, too, could enjoy.

Perhaps using the Kabul soccer field as a venue for dispensing justice at the conclusion of this war would be
equally inappropriate as when the Taliban used it for their own killing field.  However, John Lindh and his
ex-pat POW compatriots must answer to a jury of their peers, and in this instance, that jury resides in Afghanistan.

The military tribunals, as proposed, will not allow for Americans to be tried, so there are really only three choices:
release John Walker Lindh and allow him to return to his family’s comfortable California abode; repatriate prisoner
Lindh to face an American court with a jury that is not of his peers; or, allow wheels of Afghan justice to proceed,
thus closing this chapter on a very violent history that has not only scared the people of Afghanistan, but one that
has left thousands of innocents dead in New York, Washington, D.C., and in a lonely field in Pennsylvania.

The world may never know who died from the weapons that John Lindh fired, or whether he had any involvement
in the death of the American CIA agent who died in the prison uprising.  What is certain is that this American traitor
chose sides, and, much like gambling and the stock market, the person placing a bet and buying stock always knows,
but may deny, the sizeable downside risk that follows if fortunes go against them.  Lindh gambled, and lost.

As I have said before, John Walker Lindh deserves what he expected of others, and nothing less ­ justice ­ not in
the court of world opinion, but in the way that will soon be dispensed in the new Afghanistan.

I offer no excuses, only disdain for this traitor.  How about you?

K. Douglas Burkhart, is the author of
"America's Lost Paradise: An Expat's Micronesian Memoriors," and served in various public policy
advisory positions within the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, 1992-1998.

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