It is a name that many people have already forgotten, but when the US invaded Afghanistan after 9/11, his capture made headlines around the world. “American Taliban” they called him, and everywhere you looked there was a photo of him looking all evil and dangerous. He was imprisoned at facilities for some of the most dangerous criminals in the US. It seemed the public, much like the media, had accepted the story that he hated the US, he trained with the Taliban, and was therefore rightfully imprisoned and this most despicable type of terrorist.
I hadn’t thought much about John Walker since those first years of his imprisonment, though like alot of the lackluster reporting on the activities of the US military, I’d long figured we were only informed about a fraction of the full story.
So last friday when DemocracyNow interviewed John Walker Lindh’s parents, I was curious to hear the parents account of how John got to be who, what and where he was. Some will say “well they’re parents, they want to defend their son”, which is fine to keep in mind. But when you read about how he became interested in Islam after watching Spike Lee’s Malcolm X Film, and later went to Yemen with the goal of becoming fluent in Arabic. Then comes the part where he consults his parents for their support for him to study the Koran in Pakistan. Even these few steps show alot about where his interests were and how he found himself in that part of the world. Even if it isn’t 100% true and doesn’t excuse his actions later, my point and the larger point is that the story of John Walker isn’t as simple as they painted it years ago.
Perhaps it isn’t interesting to you to hear the testimony of two parents all these years later, who actually don’t seek to portray their son as some kind of saint or martyr. However I feel their words are compelling and very much worth hearing.