John Walker Walk?
by Tommy Ates
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
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.