In their first extended interview, the parents of John Walker Lindh, Marilyn Walker and Frank Lindh, join us for the hour to tell their son’s story. He was born in Washington, DC in 1981. At the age of sixteen, he converted to Islam. In 1999, Lindh left the United States for Yemen to study Arabic and the Koran. He later traveled to Pakistan and then to Afghanistan, before 9/11, where he received military training from the US-backed, Taliban-run Afghan Army to fight against the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan’s civil war. He was captured in late 2001, found emaciated and wounded, one of the few to survive a massacre by the Northern Alliance. To his parents’ relief, he was handed to US forces, but they brutalized him, as well. Donald Rumsfeld had ordered them to “take the gloves off.” He was designated Detainee 001 in the war on terror. When he returned to the United States in January 2002, he was being held as a prisoner accused of conspiring to kill Americans. As part of a plea deal, Lindh pleaded guilty to serving in the Taliban army and carrying weapons and was given a twenty-year sentence.
We turn now to a Democracy Now exclusive – for the first time in over seven years the parents of John Walker Lindh have agreed to sit down together for an extended interview to discuss their son who is known by many as the American Taliban.
The basic outline of John Walker Lindh’s story may be familiar to many listeners and viewers.
He was born in Washington D.C. in 1981 and later moved with his family to Marin County outside San Francisco. At the age of 16 he converted to Islam. In 1999 Lindh left the United States for Yemen to study Arabic and the Koran. He later traveled to Pakistan and then Afghanistan where he received military training from the Taliban-run Afghan Army to fight against the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan’s civil war.
When he returned to the United States in January 2002 John Walker Lindh was being held as a prisoner accused of conspiring to kill Americans. Newspapers around the world published photos of him naked, blindfolded and strapped to a gurney.
On January 15, 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced charges were being filed against him. At the time John Walker Lindh was 20 years old. Days after Ashcroft’s press conference, Lindh was allowed to briefly see his parents. His father spoke to the media soon after.
While John Walker Lindh was constantly being referred to as the American Taliban and as a traitor in the U.S. media, the government’s case against him largely fell apart. As part of a plea deal the Bush administration eventually dropped all of the terrorism-related charges and the charge that he had conspired to kill Americans.
In exchange Lindh plead guilty to serving in the Taliban army and carrying weapons. He was given a 20-year sentence. Attorney General Ashcroft imposed a gag order, prohibiting him from speaking to the press or having any visitors other than his immediate family. Under the gag order, he also was prohibited from speaking Arabic.
Since his sentence began, Lindh has never given an interview from prison. His parents, Marilyn Walker and Frank Lindh, have also avoided most interview requests over the past seven years but they have been quietly campaigning for their son to be released from jail.
Today, Marilyn Walker and Frank Lindh join us in the firehouse for the hour.
Frank Lindh, John Walker Lindh’s father.
Marilyn Walker, John Walker Lindh’s mother.