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.
Can a government be effective in deterring terrorism while still being completely transparent? Glenn Strachan has been asking this very question on twitter, and several weeks ago, I noticed. As someone who has worked in development for many years and travelled to almost every corner of the globe, Glenn is both interested in transparency as well as reducing the amount of terrorism in the world… yet he wonders if the two are mutually exclusive?
Watching the French news channels all weekend, I have but one simple statement… more of a rhetorical question. It came to me as I watched the Bin Laden video, followed by a security analyst, a beard analyst, a nothing analyst, and a guy who wrote two books with the world security in the title.
If the TV news didn’t air the Bin Laden video… would it really matter?
Or does the Bin Laden video matter, because the TV news airs it.
Last week, as I was doing the usual middle-of-the-night TV news network watching, the story of the train bombing aboard the Pakistan-India Friendship Express came up. Initially they called it a fire, and the details were few. I sat here, uneasy, as Im sure many observers did… that this was more than a fire and worst of all.. this was an attempt to break the peace process between the two countries.
It almost seemed typical. In my minds eye I could see India blaming Pakistan, and vice-versa.. then the train would be cancelled forever as would other travel links… and then it would be back to testing missiles and living on the brink of human annihaliation. As the next few details appeared on the television, I was already low on hope.
In fact that is NOT what happened. At least it doesn’t seem so, one week later. The Pakistani dictator-turned-president condemned the thing and vowed to keep working for peace. The Indian Prime Minister said the same. People mourned the tragedy, but in the news articles and editorials that I read, they didn’t call for blood. Which is some small way, seems encouraging.
Normally in the world, history repeats iself. Over and over. No lessons are learned, or at least, not enough lessons are learned by the people making decisions that can end or enhance human lives. Yet every now and then, I think we’re seeing an adjustment, a change. And in this case, I wonder if it isn’t a true change for the better… for peace between two longtime enemies.