American found as Taliban fighter

Christine Owen, Editor in Chief
Christine Owen, Editor in Chief

The emergence of the “American Taliban” this week has created another sticky situation for the government to deal with, not to mention given fuel to “Saturday Night Live” (how can they pass it up?) The lingering debate that will no doubt continue for some time is, what should be done with John Walker?

His name is about as ‘American’ sounding as Bob Smith, but that means little as to where his heart lies regarding the war in Afghanistan. Actually, it is unclear what his name is. The name he gave himself after converting to Islam is Sulayman al Faris, but he told reporters in Afghanistan that he was Abdul Hamid. Well whoever he may be, he sure has sparked a lot of debate and controversy.

Let’s start with where Walker’s story began.

When he was 16, he read “The Autobiography of Malcom X” and converted to Islam. But this conversion was not the typical conversion that takes place over the TBN hotline, Walker was seriously practicing Islam, even going as far as to grow a beard, wear a robe and a turban.

In 1998, Walker graduated early by taking his high school equivalency test.

College next, right? Wrong.

Walker then moved to Yemen at the age of 17 to learn Arabic and pursue religious studies. About a year ago, Walker told his parents that he was moving to Pakistan to continue his studies with the Tablighi Jamaat movement. From there, he somehow ended up at Mazar-e-Sharif fighting with the Taliban and al-Qaida.

His parents say he was brainwashed.

President Bush told ABC news that he is a “…poor fellow” who has “obviously…been misled.”

Now the question remains of what to do with him.

‘Let’s try him for treason!’ shout the terrorism experts.

Well that’s not possible because by definition, Walker has not committed treason.

‘Let’s try him at a military tribunal!’ shout some Senators.

Well, that’s not possible either because under the President’s order/decree, only non-Americans charged with war crimes can be brought before a military tribunal.

But is Walker a U.S. citizen?

According to U.S. law, there are several ways one can lose their citizenship, one of which is taking up arms against the U.S. and fighting in a foreign army.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that he does not know what the Pentagon is going to do about Walker.

It seems in this mess that the government is worried about quite a few things, largely of which is image. The government is very conscious about what message would be sent to the public if this incident was quietly pushed out of the spotlight without being sufficiently addressed.

Is Walker just really confused? Did he simply get sucked in by a cult? What about the religious aspect of the case? Walker/al Faris/Hamid was obviously very devoted to his religion.

Walker told journalists that he wanted to live with a government “that actually provides Islamic law.” It cannot be argued that a strict Islamic government is what he found.

Clearly, if he has taken up arms with the Taliban and al Qaida, he has renounced his American citizenship, as American law states, and he should be a prisoner of war, protected by the Geneva Convention.

This might not be popular with the American public who are thirsty to see justice served, but as veteran Washington defense attorney Plato Cacheris asked, “What are they going to charge him with?”

For the American public, it is disconcerting to think that a person whose blood should run red, white and blue might just be different colored.

That which made Walker pick up a gun and and stand united with the Taliban might never be known. But this situation is not new (think Patty Hearst) and Walker should be treated humanely and the same that any other prisoner of war would be.

Christine Owen, a senior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at

Other Stories

Journalism operations manager at the University of La Verne. Production manager and business manager of the Campus Times.

Latest Stories

Related articles

Powell’s struggles explored in new play

A powerful position can have its pitfalls, which Colin Powell learned as the first African American to serve as Secretary of State. This was the story told in the play “The Agony of Colin Powell,” starring Lavelle Wilson, Friday and Saturday in Dailey Theatre.

Pentagon corrupts military media

An investigative report in the New York Times revealed that many media military analysts have been paid by the Pentagon to push the Bush administration’s pro-war message on several cable news networks.

Author analyzes fundamentalism

Educator Jean Rosenfeld presented “Holy Terror: Al Qaida and Other Fundamentalisms” in La Fetra Auditorium last Wednesday.

‘Mask’ tackles Bush’s politics

“The Unreasoning Mask,” a dramatic play by William A. Cook, professor of English, and D’Arcy Jones Cook was performed in Dailey Theatre last weekend by the Theatre Arts Department.