A question of killing



John Walker Lindh is accused of betraying his country.

Walker was born and raised in the United States. He graduated from high school in Marin County in California. Then, according to Attorney General John Ashcroft, Walker signed up for the terrorist life, joining the Taliban and then al-Qaida. He went to the front lines, as he supposedly asked for, and went to war for these groups.

If these allegations are true, Walker has pushed the definition of what treason is beyond the archetypal Benedict Arnold.

Arnold, compared to this betrayal, was simply a turncoat. A traitor would now be defined by John Walker Lindh, and the choices he is accused of making.

The case against him claims he chose to fight when American and Northern Alliance forces began battling Taliban forces in Afghanistan soon after the Sept. 11 attacks.

That he chose to be trained at two terrorist training camps, chose to align himself with these fanatical psychotics.

But that is not Walker's most damning choice, what I see as the greatest reason to label him, and possibly charge him he is a traitor.

His most heinous alleged act was that he chose not to tell any American when he learned in June of 2001 that Osama bin Laden had sent suicide squads into the United States.

He knew three months before Sept. 11, three months before more than 3,000 people were destroyed, that plans for several suicide attacks in the United States had been put in motion. And he told no one.

And for that, I'm fairly sure, John Walker Lindh should die.

You'll note the "fairly sure". Even in a case like this, I can't be completely sure we, as a country, should be putting people to death. Try as I might, I can't see how we think we should be able to end a life, no matter what was done.

But then again, there are the obvious cases: Ted Bundy, Timothy McVeigh and Hitler come to mind. It's also hard to argue against self defense, especially since I believe in it.

So I agree and disagree. Probably. Or not.

The point is this: Walker knew the attacks were coming, but we'll never know if he knew the extent of those attacks before they happened. But even if he knew it was three, 30, or 300 people who would be killed, the number is not important Walker needed to let someone know suicide attacks were going to happen, here or anywhere.

And because he didn't, innocent lives, in this case an unbelievable number of innocent lives, were lost.

So he should be put to death.

I'm fairly sure.

I think I'm looking at it like this: The saying goes "Evil occurs when good men do nothing." Maybe in this case something will occur when good men do nothing, and that something is what we call, appropriately enough, a necessary evil.

It's possible, very possible, that I'm rationalizing. A large part of me has no qualms to pay for what he did and didn't do, Walker should die.

But there is still another part, a much smaller part, that continues to ask questions.

Do reasons or justifications differentiate killing from killing?

If not, what does that say about us, our lives, our world?

Are we betraying something just at the edge of our understanding by taking lives, even after "due process"?

Maybe because it bothers me, that I have to struggle with the decision, means that my support of putting Walker to death is different from his support, by silence and action, of the terrorists.


I hope so, because if he is sentenced to death, I know I'll support it. Mostly.

I'm just glad I won't have to push the button. Mostly.

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