Jewish World Review Jan. 21, 2002 / 8 Shevat, 5762
Debra J. Saunders
No 'Little Boy Lost'
The Marin, Calif., family of al Qaeda training-camp graduate John Walker has hit a new low. Father Frank Lindh and his wife Marilyn Walker (from whom Lindh is separated) are "disappointed" with the U.S. government's treatment of their 20-year-old son, who was captured on Dec. 1. In a statement released by family-retained attorneys, they complained that they have yet to communicate with him.
They shouldn't complain. They have things a lot better than the families of the some 3,000 Sept. 11 victims who spent the holidays bereft of their loved ones.
Of course, the lack of communication could be Walker's choice. After all, Walker dropped his father's name, which doesn't bespeak closeness. Walker had not contacted his family for six months prior to his capture, which doesn't bespeak good communication. In December, when a CNN interviewer offered to let Walker use his cell phone to call his family, the Taliban vet told the journalist to come back the next day with a laptop.
The family also complained that the government has not allowed Walker access to his lawyers, James Brosnahan and George Harris. This is really choice. Walker's parents apparently thought their son was so adult at age 16 that they sent him off alone to a Middle East trouble spot to study Islam. Four years later, when he's 20 and actually an adult, his parents think it's just outrageous that the government doesn't let them make his decisions.
It is ironic that it took Attorney General John Ashcroft to note that Walker "is entitled to choose his own lawyer." Ashcroft also told reporters that Walker waived his right to a lawyer. Which means Brosnahan and Harris aren't his lawyers.
Then there's the family's gratefulness that they "live in a nation that presumes innocence and withholds judgment until all of the facts are presented. " I guess that's supposed to be the family's way of telling Americans that they have to presume the former Taliban and al Qaeda soldier is innocent.
No, we don't.
A jury has to presume that Walker is innocent, but the public is free to think what it will. A trial will provide information as to Walker's mental state, it will provide Walker with a chance to refute certain allegations and inform a jury whether his actions meet the standards needed to convict on any or all of the charges against him.
That doesn't mean Americans have an obligation to forget what they saw Walker say on CNN. Asked what it was like fighting for the jihad, Walker answered, "It is exactly what I thought it would be."
Americans don't need a trial to believe Walker's admission that he fought for a group that set out to kill American civilians. Many of the dead were near Walker's age. Some were younger. Others left orphans and spouses.
One has to wonder if those people might be alive today if Walker had left the al Qaeda training camp after, according to a criminal complaint written by FBI agent Anne E. Asbury, he learned in June "from one of his instructors that bin Laden had sent people to the United States to carry out several suicide operations."
If he had a moral center that was revolted by the al Qaeda agenda, he could have been a hero. An al Qaeda training manual found by British authorities starts with a pledge "to make (the oppressors') women widows and their children orphans." It calls for "assassinating enemy personnel as well as foreign tourists" and the "removal of those personalities that block the call's path." Walker probably didn't see that manual, but he surely heard the same vile talk.
Walker's parents announced that they "pray for a just resolution of this case." It might be a smarter bet for them to pray for anything but a "just
Comment JWR contributor Debra J. Saunders's column by clicking here.
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