The Washington Times | 12.19.01
By Alan W. Dowd
Some 3,000 Taliban and al-Queda troops have been taken prisoner. Most are being held in makeshift POW camps near Mazar-e-Sharif or Kandahar, but one POW is receiving special treatment. His name is Suleyman al-Faris. But you may know him as John Walker, the American Taliban. While the Pentagon tries to figure out what to do with him and U.S. forces fight against his co-combatants, al-Faris is safe and warm aboard the USS Peleiu. His capture has ignited a legal brush fire that could end in a full-blown trial in the United States, but if we keep in mind who al-Faris is–not who John Walker was–a stateside circus trial can be avoided.
Legal analysts have criticized the Pentagon for holding al-Faris incommunicado and depriving him of his right to counsel. Remarkably, some have argued that al-Faris should have been read his Miranda rights–in the middle of a war zone, no less. But with a global war on terror underway, it’s fair to assume that U.S. Marines and Special Forces have enough to worry about without informing each POW that he has the right to remain silent.
Advocates of al-Faris’ return to the United States misunderstand not only when this war began, but how it must be waged and who al-Faris is.
The carnage of September 11 was just an exclamation point to decades of terror–most of which went unpunished, and all of which led inexorably to the war in Afghanistan. As British historian Niall Fergusson observes, "Since 1968, there have been 500 hijackings around the world and more than 4,000 recorded terrorist bombings." Men like al-Faris imprisoned American civilians in Tehran, kidnapped American emissaries in the Middle East, and bombed American servicemen in Berlin and Beirut.
By 1993, al-Faris’ fellow jihadists threw their first blows at the WorldTradeCenter, killing 6 Americans and injuring 1,000. Later that year, Osama bin Laden, first made news by taking credit for the ambush in Mogadishu, which claimed 17 U.S. soldiers. In 1998, bin Laden’s network bombed a pair of American embassies in East Africa, murdering 224 civilians and injuring more than 5,000. And in October of 2000, bin Laden’s men used a rubber boat to blast a hole in the USS Cole, killing 17 sailors.
Each act of terror won more converts to bin Laden’s radical strain of Islam, and al-Faris was one of thousands who willingly joined up. In a search for what he called the purest form of Islam, al-Faris effectively renounced his citizenship and traded his birthright for a bayonet. He cast his lot with Afghanistan’s Taliban tyrants, with the mass-murderers of September 11, with men who cheer when innocents are incinerated and cities are maimed.
He trained with al-Queda and met with bin Laden. It’s important to note that he fought alongside America’s enemies after September 11. He was silent as they plotted to murder the men who showed him mercy on the bloody battlefields between Mazar and Kunduz. And as Mike Spann scoured the POW camps for intelligence, al-Faris was the bait for a Taliban trap.
Given those facts, it doesn’t take an FBI profiler to figure out that al-Faris was not swept away by events. He played an active part in making war against the United States and its allies. And like his suicidal brethren who hatched September 11, his long-term plans probably included a return trip to America, where he could use our freedoms and his apostate citizenship against us.
As a result, the Pentagon is under no obligation to expedite al-Faris’ transfer back to the country he turned against. For that matter, the DoD is under no obligation to transfer him at all. Al-Faris made a choice to disavow his native land–and worse than that, to fight against her. It may have been misguided and short-sighted, but it was his choice and now he must bear the consequences.
If, as the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words, then al-Faris’ actions make it clear that he may be an American by birth, but he is certainly not an American now. Nor is he a common criminal. Like all followers of Bin Laden, al-Faris is a motivated and tenacious military adversary bent on destroying America. And he must be treated as such, whether he goes by al-Faris or Walker.
In a very real sense, John Walker has sentenced himself. Contrary to the media’s melodramatics, he is not a man without a country. In fact, his country--the one he chose to fight for--is now occupied by the United States and its allies. And the government he chose to serve is now a relic of history. At best, he is an enemy prisoner of war. At worst, he is a traitor. Either way, we should respect his wishes and allow him to live out the rest of his life in Afghanistan--in a military prison.