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Walker must not be let off the hook

By Paul M. Weyrich
web posted December 24, 2001

The radio talk shows are buzzing about what to do with John Walker. Walker is the Californian who went to study the Koran and who, in the process became a devout follower of the Taliban. He trained with them. He fought with them. Indeed, it may even be that he used his AK-47 against American officials. The first American casualty of the war in Afghanistan, Mike Spann, had interviewed Walker just before a prison riot broke out. What part Walker played in the uprising isn't clear.

John WalkerIn any case the question is whether or not John Walker is a traitor to his country. I think he clearly is. True the Taliban was not a nation as such and so the case of his treason is definitely harder to make. In that case, Walker just might be subject to one of President George W. Bush's military tribunals.

I am far from a legal expert so I have no idea exactly how Walker should be tried. What I do know is that he was a rational human being. He was old enough to make a choice. Thousands of young people made a different decision. They elected to join the United States military and to fight for their country. Walker elected to defend the events of September 11th.

Frankly, it was upsetting to hear President Bush speak of John Walker as if were just some poor confused fellow who didn't understand what he was doing.

Not quite. Walker refused to answer questions from American officials but when it came to the American news media Walker was more than willing to open up. And what he said was pure propaganda for our enemies. So however Walker is brought to justice, the point is he must face the consequences of his actions.

It would have been one thing had Walker begged for understanding and forgiveness when he was first apprehended. There was none of that. So fine, let the chips fall where they may. Walker cannot be let off the hook. He cannot be regarded as simply misguided. His parents have hired a high-priced lawyer to defend their son.

Fine. That is to be expected. Any parent would do the same thing. But Walker is not due mercy. It would be a terrible insult to the men and women of our armed forces if Walker were to somehow be let off.

I don't much care if he is tried as a traitor. I don't care if he is subject to the military tribunal. I don't really care if he is left in the hands of the Northern Alliance. The suicide rate among those being held by the Northern Alliance is extremely high. Apparently dying is preferable to being alive when the Northern Alliance is in charge. One way or another though he has to be brought to justice.

If somehow Walker is accorded a false sympathy, it will have terrible consequences on our young people in uniform for years to come. Why the President isn't as outraged as much of the rest of the country is over Walker is a mystery. Perhaps his demanding schedule just hasn't accorded Bush the time to think through what the ramifications will be of having Walker go free. I hope he does so soon because the Justice Department will be determining what to do about Walker in short order.

Paul Weyrich is president of the Free Congress Foundation.

Other related articles: (open in a new window)

  • John Walker: A man of no importance by Barton Wong (December 17, 2001)
    Barton Wong is curious why commentators are spending so much time discussing American Taliban member John Walker. He's a traitor and nothing more
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