Democratic Underground

Will John Walker Walk?
December 8, 2001
by Tommy Ates

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So far, there have been no racial divisions regarding the fundamental principals of the war and the original intention for sending U.S. troops to Afghanistan. However, this unity may change if John Walker, the young "American Taliban" is not charged with any crime. Just like President Bush has declared a war on terrorism, we need a war on hypocrisy.

This ironic situation with this American Taliban is much more about perception of the facts than about the facts themselves. The sight of John Walker, the American Taliban soldier, fighting for the regime that attacked our country and our version of freedom, made me wonder why he would make such a statement. His story reads like a movie: only 20 years old, he is taken as a prisoner of war by the Northern Alliance and becomes among the last survivers of a prison uprising. And in true Hollywood fashion, John tells the reporter who he is and where he is from. After months of silence and attempted assimilation, it appears Taliban John Walker now wants to be found, charade over. Like Dorothy, I guess he knows he's not in Kansas anymore.

Now he will have to deal with American justice, and this is where things may prove problematic for the stern Bush administration, as he may be the first Taliban P.O.W. to face possible military tribunals. Yet, I fear the conclusion seems all but certain; in America, mercy tends to come to those who can pay, and all the while Afghan people (with no money) continue to pay dearly.

Mind you, I am not one for harsh prison sentences or undue punishment. However, I do advocate that individuals who join the opponents' army should receive no better treatment than the soldiers who fought with them. Most middle class Americans cannot fathom why a young man would go off to Afghanistan and join up with such an extreme group. After all, isn't living the American Dream enough? But with the Newsweek interview excerpts with the parents, the scenario becomes one all too familiar: an innocent young man corrupted by vulgar tyrants, not unlike the sweet suburban boy thrown into an inner city school. In short, he never stood a chance.

I wondered to myself, "Could I get away with this escapade?" Somehow I feel my non-upper class upbringing and closer to Afghani skin color places myself in the column of "prisoner-qualified." Anyone else would get internment like a prisoner-of-war save our own, especially the "best" and "brightest," or should I say the most valued among us, the 15-percenters (one of the 15% of the upper class in which 85% of mainstream network advertising is geared toward). The episode may be good for media outlets, but bad for the war.

I know this much, minorities will not continue to support the conflict if the supposed bad guys get preferential treatment based on how most of the good guys look like. The media's hypocrisy of treating the soldier as if he was some innocent gone wrong rings hollow, while during 'homeland security,' his fellow not-so-wealthy young men are considered thugs and much worse. This American Taliban may have killed. He may have done atrocities; but does the military have a right to suspend judgment based on only the kind words of parents and a sympathetic media? Sadly, only Fox News and Newsweek magazine have brought up the possibility of a military tribunal; meanwhile, the U.S. army has had little comment, probably in an attempt to low-ball the story itself, like it has done with the errant missiles hitting villages in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

To make matters worse, the media bias displayed at John Walker, treating this young man's actions like they were youthful folly, should disturb many citizens, especially since apparently the American admitted he was an active soldier who took part in battle, like many Taliban his age. Would the U.S. military condone sedition with a slap on the wrist? What example would letting John Walker go free send to the world community? None. Freedom for the American Taliban sends a clear double standard for the war against terrorist groups and their supporters.

For the military, this foray into Afghanistan is not like the Gulf War, America can't afford to put economic interests and ahead of humanitarian, this time it's personal. It is about the events of Sept. 11 and the hunt of Osama bin Laden. American values are at stake and we must live by those principles upon which those victims' lives were taken. Equality and individual civil liberties must be upheld, especially to our political prisoners who must be treated fairly with any punishment or reward. At all times, America must take the higher ground. Let's not stop now with hypocrisy.