Friday, October 19, 2012

John Walker Lindh and the Fog of War

John Walker Lindh was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and now he's a prisoner in Terre Haute.

Most of us can remember where we were when the news networks started to report the sensational news that U.S. forces, in the course of their sweep into Afghanistan shortly after the 9/11 attacks, had caught up an American in the fog of war.

John Walker Lindh went to Afghanistan at a time when the United States was not at war with Afghanistan, and he went to help forces that the United States was helping at the time. However, during the post-9/11 hysteria, it was far more important to the U.S. government to have someone that they could make an example out of, than to act with integrity.

As the Free John Walker Lindh website points out,
Lindh was given 20 years in federal prison simply for participating in another country's civil war. Ironically, Americans have a long history of doing just that. Thousands joined the Lincoln Brigade during the Spanish civil war. Thousands have fought in Israel's army and continue to do so. Others fought for Bosnia's Muslim-led government against Serb forces. Some fought with the Contras in Nicaragua. Others have joined the French Foreign Legion.


Lindh was caught up in the fighting when the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance fought the Taliban unit he of which he was a member in November, 2001, and then again during a prisoner-of-war camp uprising shortly thereafter.

Based on the description provided in the Wikipedia article on Lindh, it is clear that the body of John Walker Lindh made a perfect object upon which the U.S. state could demonstrate its dominance at a moment when it was desperately searching for the means to rebuild its image after 9/11:
Sometime during the initial uprising Lindh was shot in the right upper thigh and found refuge in a basement, hiding with a group of Saudi, Uzbek, and Pakistani detainees. On the second day, the Red Cross sent in workers to collect the bodies. As soon as they entered they were shot by those inside, one died. The basement was bombarded with repeated RPG and grenade attacks, as well as fuel being poured into the basement and set alight. Lindh was found seven days later on December 2, 2001, when Northern Alliance forces diverted an irrigation stream into the middle of the camp in an attempt to flush the remaining prisoners out of their underground shelters, drowning many in the process. Lindh and about 80 survivors from the original 300 were forced out of hiding and recaptured, with the Northern Alliance captors then tightly binding Lindh's elbows behind his back.

Shortly after his recapture, Lindh was noticed and interviewed by [Embedded CNN reporter Robert Young] Pelton. . . . Pelton knew Lindh was receiving his first medical treatment since being shot in the leg more than a week prior and had been given morphine by a medic prior to Pelton's interview. Lindh's parents maintain that Pelton acquired footage that was prejudicial and manipulative, and that Pelton contributed to the poor image of their son by sharing the footage with the world community without context.

Upon his capture, Lindh was given basic first aid and then questioned for a week at Mazār-e Sharīf, before being taken to Camp Rhino on December 7, 2001, the bullet still within his thigh. When Lindh arrived at Camp Rhino he was stripped and he was restrained to a stretcher, blindfolded and placed in a metal shipping container, which was procedure for dealing with a potentially dangerous detainee associated with a terrorist organization. While bound to the stretcher his picture was taken by American military personnel. At Camp Rhino he was given oxycodone/paracetamol for pain and Valium.

. . . [O]n December 14, 2001 with other wounded detainees, where his wound was operated on and he received further care.[30]
Readers are encouraged to read the extensive profile of John Walker Lindh published in Esquire magazine, the title of which says it all: 'Innocent".


Write to John Walker Lindh at Terre Haute:

John Walker Lindh
P.O. BOX 33
Terre Haute, IN 47808

See SALAM Illinois Guidelines for Writing to Prisoners.

More information at:
Free John Walker Lindh

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