TALKBACK SACKS: Glenn Sacks, whose innovative defense of Tali-Boy John Walker resulted in hundreds of Blog-blasts, has written a defense of his defense, and emailed it all over the place.
Here it is. My comments are enclosed [in these].
I sent this out to the hundreds of people who've written to me voicing disapproval of my defense of John Walker. You may (or may not) find it interesting.
Thanks you for your letter regarding John Walker [thanks you? You’re welcomes]. Since my article "In Defense of John Walker" was published in the San Francisco Chronicle and Philadelphia Inquirer last week I've received hundreds of e-mails [good for you!]. While it is obviously impossible to respond to even a fraction of these letters personally [not even a fraction? Why?], I have tried to select the dozen or so most common questions people have asked me, and to answer them below.
Question #1: Most reports have described John Walker as a Taliban foot soldier. What will your reaction be if it turns out he was involved in terrorism?
As I have made clear on several radio shows, I sympathize with Walker only if he served as simply a foot soldier [the Nuremberg defense would work if Sacks was on the jury]. If evidence comes out that he was a terrorist, or that he committed atrocities against civilians, my sympathies for him end [but hey, Sacksy boy, as a foot soldier he would have assisted in defending terrorism. Same thing, Glenn]. In my San Francisco Chronicle/Philadelphia Inquirer column "In Defense of John Walker" I referred to him only as a foot soldier, which is what the information at the time indicated [he was a volunteer soldier from the nation that was attacked. Different, Glenn.]
Question #2: You wrote "Those who are willing to sacrifice for what they believe in deserve respect, even if what they believe in is foolish."
This statement has been singled out and blasted in several newspapers, numerous radio shows, and on many Internet sites. "Doesn't the same thing could apply," your critics have written, "to a Nazi SS officer, an abortion clinic bomber, or even to bin Laden himself?"
My critics have a point – my statement was far too broad, and I left myself open to this criticism. I do not have sympathy for "a Nazi SS officer, an abortion clinic bomber, or even to bin Laden himself" because their acts are atrocities against defenseless civilians. However, if in 1942 a 19 year-old German kid was told that fighting in the German army (not the SS--which acted against civilians) during WWII was the noble and right thing to do, and he did it, I do have a certain sympathy for the sacrifices he made, even though it was for an abominable cause [Walker wasn’t remotely similar to a "German kid in WWII". He was an American kid fighting against Americans in 2001]. The same can be said, as I noted in the original version of "In Defense of John Walker," [enough self-referencing, already] for young soldiers who fought in defense of slavery [ignorant clown] for the traitorous Confederacy during the Civil War.
Question #3: What if Walker, instead of being a white, middle-class kid from wealthy Marin County, had instead been a poor black kid from Oakland? Would he still have as many defenders? Would you still defend him?
I think he would probably have less defenders, because I believe these critics are correct in saying that our society, in general, identifies and sympathizes more with people who are white and middle class. However, were Walker a poor black kid from Oakland, I would have defended him just as earnestly [and just as stupidly].
Question #4: Many other critics have pointed out that while you cite Walker's youth as a mitigating factor, most of those Americans who fought in WWII, Vietnam, or Afghanistan today are no older than Walker. What about them?
They clearly made better choices [!!!] than John Walker did, and they should be honored and respected for their sacrifices. They were young and naive [naïve? How do you know?] but still managed to make the right decision [so they weren’t naïve after all]. My grandfather, a sixteen year-old [you mean he WAS a sixteen-year-old] who lied about his age so he could enlist in World War I (and who was wounded and received the Purple Heart for his service in the decisive Battle of the Argonne Forest) made a better decision. John Walker didn't [disgraceful … as though personal choice is the only issue in selecting a side to fight for in wartime].
Question #5: Walker took up arms against America. Why shouldn't he be tried for treason and shot?
Walker traveled to Afghanistan and joined the Taliban at a time when nobody [nobody except Osama bin Laden] could have imagined that the US would end up fighting a war in Afghanistan. How many readers could tell us, honestly, that they believed back in the spring (when Walker went to Afghanistan) that we'd be fighting a war there? Nobody [except, perhaps, the relatives of the seven people who were killed by bin Laden’s bombers in the 1993 car park attack on the World Trade Center, or the people who’d read bin Laden’s denunciations of the US, or anybody with any brains at all].
Question #6: But what if American was at war with the Taliban and then Walker went to Afghanistan and joined the Taliban? Would you consider him a traitor then?
Yes [Glenn, the CNN interview – in which Walker refuses to back down from his pro-Holy War position – would seem to indicate that Walker was a determined traitor.]
Question #7: But once America entered the war, shouldn't Walker have refused to fight against his own country?
Walker could not simply have told his commanders "Sorry – gotta go now." He would have been shot as a deserter [how ironic!]. We know what the Taliban did to deserters. Walker's only hope of survival was to stay with them and try to escape at an opportune time, and we don't have any evidence that he did anything but that [except that he didn’t].
Question #8: Walker joined the Taliban, one of the most evil regimes in modern history. Even if the US never got involved in Afghanistan, isn't this enough to condemn Walker?
Walker certainly bears responsibility for supporting such a vile regime, but I would cite three mitigating circumstances [of course you would]:
1) In Pakistan, where Walker was studying Islam, the Taliban were very well thought of [in certain areas of the Deep South, the KKK is very well thought of. Your point, Glenn?]. The Pakistanis who went into Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban were cheered as heroes in the Pashtun villages [Hitler was cheered – is this how we measure goodness?], and were often given a hero's sendoff. No doubt Walker was told that the Taliban were these legendary, holy warriors who had set up the world's first morally pure Islamic state based upon the Koran [so we should excuse the dumb fuck for believing it?]. If millions of Pakistanis could mistakenly believe that the Taliban were a force for good, it would seem plausible enough that a naive young American might [and thus I conclude my defense for the Manson Family, the SS, and everyone else who has ever done anything bad].
2) In Afghanistan, the Taliban were originally welcomed into power by most of the population [see "History of WW2"]. Tired of years of Northern Alliance/Mujahedin civil war, violence, and rape, the Afghan people believed that the Taliban would bring peace, stability, and a certain amount of justice to their country. Obviously they were very wrong, but if the Afghan people themselves could have been fooled into supporting the Taliban, again, it seems easy enough to believe that a naive young American could [Walker joined long after these obviousnesses had vanished].
3) For over a decade the US supported the Afghan Mujahedin/Northern Alliance and gave them billions in aid. Much of the Mujahedin were radical Muslim fundamentalists, too. They were known for throwing acid in the faces of unveiled women or for skinning school teachers alive for the "crime" of teaching young girls to read. Yet they were our allies, and many Americans armed them, trained them, and some even fought with them side by side. None of those involved in this have ever been questioned or called to account for their actions in support of radical Muslim fundamentalism – why is only John Walker blamed? [because there is a difference between real politik assistance of a lesser evil, and an individual’s decision to revolt against his homeland.]
Question #9: Walker has made anti-American statements at various times. Granted, that when he joined the Taliban he never could have imagined that he'd fight the United States, but he had to have known that the Taliban had an anti-American world view. Why should we excuse him for joining a group known to be anti-American?
If one travels outside the United States to anywhere except England, Israel, or maybe Luxembourg, one is going to be exposed to a lot of anti-Americanism [no, you’ll never encounter anti-Americanism in England! Read the papers, idiot]. I saw a tremendous amount of it when I traveled the world at age 19, and I doubt if it is any different today. It would not surprise me at all that the Walker bought into it, and I don't see that as particularly damning [!!!].
Question #10: What about 18 year-olds who commit crimes? Or gang members? We don't use their youth as an excuse to justify their actions. Shouldn't John Walker be punished, just as they are?
We need to make a distinction between committing a crime and fighting in an army. Fighting in an army is not a crime [words completely fail me].
Question #11: Was Walker "brainwashed," as his mother claims? If so, does this excuse his actions?
I know little about "brainwashing" in the psychological sense [on the contrary, I expect you know a great deal about it]. Internationally recognized brainwashing expert Steve Hassan, a former cult member, claims that Walker was brainwashed. In his statement "John Walker: American Indoctrinated with Cult Mind Control Techniques by Taliban" Hassan, the director of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center in Somerville, Massachusetts, says that Walker was a victim of cult-like techniques. Readers can see his statement at and judge for themselves. While I think what Hassan says sounds plausible, I don't know enough about brainwashing, cults, etc., to offer an informed opinion [you’re qualified – you work at the SF Chronicle].
Question #12: Is Walker simply a right-wing religious nut – sort of a radical American Christian fundamentalist with a Muslim twist?
Andrew Sullivan, a senior editor of the New Republic, advanced this theory as a possible explanation for Walker's bizarre behavior. Sullivan, who was none too kind to me in his daily Internet column (see "Glenn On-line" page), may well be right [Sullivan is only ever right when he ATTACKS the right, right?].
Question #13: If Walker is simply a right-wing religious nut, do you still have respect for Walker?
Again, as long as he is only fighting in an army, and not part of a terrorist group [definitions, please], I'd give Walker some credit for being willing to put his life on the line for his religious beliefs, not matter how insane they may be [so anything goes as long as it’s dressed up in religion? Glenn Sacks, defender of abortion clinic bombers!].
Question #14: Doesn't it offend you that Walker may well end up on talk shows like Oprah and write a book about his life? Does someone like him deserve to be allowed to do that?
My copy of the constitution [you’ve got a personal copy? Signed by Jefferson?] doesn't say anything about talk shows and book deals. There are plenty of immoral and/or idiotic people in America [I can name at least one] who become famous because of their unsavory actions, and yes, they do get to go on talk shows, write books, etc., etc. I don't like it, but I accept it as one of the costs of living in a free society. John Walker is entitled to be judged based upon the law and the constitution, not by the possibility that his bad decisions may, in the end, make him something of a celebrity.