Washington Post - July 20, 2002; Page A-20
(Published as the lead letter of six)


John Walker Lindh is certainly paying a heavy price for committing foolish, misguided crimes against his country. But his parents should bear much of the responsibility for what led to their son's preventable transgressions.

Indeed, it comes as no surprise that the two upscale members of the "me generation" supported young Lindh in his clueless path of self destruction, simply because they were taught -- and led their son to believe in -- moral relativism, that there is no truth, no good or evil, and that what is right and wrong depends on differences in individual values. In other words, selfish interests to all.

Loving one's child notwithstanding, Frank Lindh removed all doubt about failing his son -- and his irresponsibility -- when he had the audacity to compare him to Nelson Mandela serving 26 years in prison, and that Mandela is a good man like "John." How could anyone of sound mind rationalize that?

Daniel B. Jeffs
Apple Valley, CA

Note: The last paragraph of the original letter above was edited out, but the thought is contained in fellow letter writer Christopher Bova's letter below.

In a most astonishing interview, John Walker Lindh's father compared his son's 20-year prison sentence to that of Nelson Mandela. "I told John when he first came back from Afghanistan that Nelson Mandela served 26 years in prison -- he was a good man like John," he said.

We can argue until the cows come home whether the young man was a true traitor. To compare his plight to that of the heroic Mandela, who gave his all to a noble and just cause, is beyond the pale. The senior Mr. Lindh is at the very least an abysmal student of history, but more likely from a far away planet.


If it is possible for a being to exist who is more monstrous, more barbaric than the American-hating Arabs who perpetrated our day of infamy, Sept. 11, it is our American-born traitor, John Walker Lindh, who abandoned all that his native country stands for to fight with those who would destroy us.

Mr. Lindh's loving parents have the audacity to stand before us with straight faces and tell us that we do not know their son, the loving, harmless boy they raised, and to present him as a dedicated Muslim who was following his religion in his murderous pursuit.

In the good old days, traitors could be assured of being sentenced to death or at least life in prison without parole. Mr. Lindh's plea bargain, however, could enable him to serve only 17 years -- a tap on the wrist, considering the enormity of his crime against humanity. Mr. Lindh could be given an opportunity to live a full and productive life, unlike those whose lives and bodies he contributed to shredding last year.

Upper St. Clair, Pa.

As soon as John Walker Lindh was dubbed the "American Taliban," there was a rush to judgment. This is easy to understand, in our need to find justice for and resolution to what happened on Sept. 11. But most Americans may not fully understand or appreciate Mr. Lindh's actions. And Mr. Lindh, when compared with the crooks who have ravaged some of America's biggest companies, may not be such a bad guy after all.

Mr. Lindh, whose primary motivation may have been spiritual, is possibly a victim of his own religious devotion, a naive understanding of the Taliban and, simply, really bad timing. Contrast him with our current batch of crooks, whose primary motivation has only ever been about greed and getting ahead. If Mr. Lindh never fired his weapon in an attempt to kill American soldiers, his 20 years is way too much. The paltry sentences that will be handed out to the greedy corporate executives, on the other hand, will be far too little.


Fredrick Kunkle's East Coast prejudice is showing. By referring to John Walker Lindh as "the pampered child of lefty Takoma Park and flaky Marin County, Calif." [news story, July 16], he perpetuates a negative stereotype of Northern California. While I don't presume to speak for Takoma Park, I was raised in Marin County, and am neither flaky nor have I joined forces with the Taliban.


Oliver North sold weapons to an enemy of the United States. Despite his treason, Mr. North is a national hero. John Walker Lindh hung out with terrorists. He didn't hurt a living soul, but he's going to jail for 20 years. Who do you think had the better lawyer?

Upper Marlboro

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