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Jewish World Review Jan. 2, 2002 / 18 Teves, 5762

Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow
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Treason by any other name

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- TREASON is in the air. There's American John Walker Lindh, discovered while in captivity at the Afghan fortress of Qala Jangi. He has proclaimed his support for the World Trade Center attack, as well as served with the Taliban, and is in U.S. custody on a Navy vessel in the Arabian Sea.

Authorities are considering whether to charge him with treason.

A 26-year-old Australian, David Hicks, has also been captured by the Northern Alliance while fighting for the Taliban. Apparently trained by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization, he, too, faces possible legal charges. A Frenchman serving with al-Qaeda is also in custody.

Although many Americans seem shocked by a traitor in their midst, this is not a new phenomenon in the United States, or in other nations. After all, during America's revolutionary birth, one of its most celebrated soldiers, Benedict Arnold, changed sides. His name is now synonymous with traitor.

U.S. poet Ezra Pound broadcast propaganda for fascist Italy in World War II; indicted for treason, he was confined in a mental institution and eventually released. Engineer Julius Rosenberg helped turn the secrets of the atomic bomb over to Joseph Stalin's Russia, a crime for which he was executed.

A Central Intelligence Agency case officer, Ron Howard, defected to Moscow in the 1980s. In recent years CIA and FBI agents and military personnel have been exposed as turncoats. A Cuban-American, Gerardo Hernandez, has just been sentenced to life in prison for spying for Havana.

Australia found spies in its midst during World War II and the Cold War. France continues to struggle with a World War II legacy of collaboration with Nazi Germany.

Britain was bedeviled by its pampered elite, many of whom turned into spies for Moscow. The celebrated Kim Philby and associates effectively waged war on their own nation, albeit from comfortable offices in England, rather than from the rugged hills of Afghanistan.

"Good" traitors also arise. Germans, such as the July 1944 conspirators, who attempted to kill Adolf Hitler. Soviets, such as the KGB's Oleg Penkovsky, who spied for America. Despite the political changes in both countries, these heroes to Americans are still viewed by many of their fellow citizens as traitors.

Moreover, people have long found ethnic, ideological, or religious ties abroad to be as great if not greater than their loyalty to The United States. For instance, before World War II, U.S. citizens fought with the communist-backed Spanish republic against the fascists led by Francisco Franco, a fascist.

Americans have also joined Israel's military and the ethnic-Albanian rebels in Kosovo. Some backed Serbia during the break-up of Yugoslavia. And now at least one has joined the Taliban.

What makes the latter case different, though, is that Lindh fought against his home country. While venturing to Afghanistan before America went to war, he stayed on after the United States entered.

Getting out would not have been easy, but there is no evidence that he desired to do so.

So what to do with Lindh? He seems to fall squarely within the definition of traitor under U.S. law. Article III of Section 3 of the United States Constitution states: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort."

A declaration of war would have made it easier to prove that, in supporting the Taliban, Lindh was "levying war against" the United States. But he certainly seems to have adhered to her enemies, "giving them aid and comfort." To assist al-Qaeda is to threaten America.

There's no excusing his conduct. Supporting oppressive killers is hardly a "youthful indiscretion." Although apparently the principal of his old high school, Marcie Miller, doesn't get it, announcing that she, reports the Associated Press, "remains proud of Walker as well as [the school's] other students, who tend to be self-directed."

The best argument against prosecuting him is that he isn't worth the effort. Such a trial would likely become a media circus. Lindh's father, an attorney himself, has already retained James Brosnahan, a liberal celebrity attorney.

In fact, it's too bad Lindh was taken into custody by the United States. The best thing probably would be to simply leave Taliban-groupies like Lindh to the tender mercies of the Northern Alliance, against which they were directly fighting.

Even now, Lindh's military keepers could turn him over to the new Afghan government. What could be more appropriate than allowing local Muslims to punish this would-be Muslim warrior?

Like Jesus said of the poor, we are likely to have treason with us always. So, too, will we have the problem of how best to punish it.



JWR contributor Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Comment by clicking here.

Up


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08/15/00: European garrison for Kosovo?
08/08/00: Journalistic cleansing at the Boston Globe
08/04/00: Junk science on trial
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05/25/00: The silence of the international community
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05/04/00: How not to save the Constitution

04/28/00: American tripwire in Korea long ago disappeared: Why are we still involved?

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© 2002, Copley News Service