On Tuesday morning, and later guest-hosting for Rush, I discussed the deeply troubling case of Bowe Bergdahl, a deserter at best and at worst enemy collaborator. Nevertheless, Barack Obama decided to honor this man in the Rose Garden, and to embrace his parents. In front of the President and the world, Bergdahl's father sent greetings to his son in Arabic and Pashto, and began with the words, "In the name of Allah the most gracious and most merciful..."
This is, to put it at its mildest, odd and unsettling.
And yet millions of Americans don't find it so. For example, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut:
Really sad to watch Obama haters attack this kid who CHOSE to fight to protect the rest of us, just to score political points.
I doubt a US senator Tweets his own Tweets. So this is presumably the considered view of his "office" - the vast Gulf Emir-sized retinue of staffers who sat around and brainstormed and decided this is the way to spin this: Bergdahl's a "kid" who "chose" to serve, and now partisan "Obama haters" are ganging up on him.
Jim Geraghty isn't buying it:
1. The strongest, and certainly most consequential, denunciations of Bergdahl are not coming from "Obama haters" but those who fought alongside him and those who looked for him after he disappeared.
2. The New York Times reports Bergdahl "left behind a note in his tent saying he had become disillusioned with the Army, did not support the American mission in Afghanistan and was leaving to start a new life." So he actually chose to not fight to protect the rest of us.
4. If the Taliban's claim is correct, Bergdahl helped the Taliban kill Americans â€” effectively choosing to fight for the other side.
I wish Jim the best, but Senator Murphy's Tweet suggests that these guys have taken the decision to dig in and drag Bowe Bergdahl into the pantheon of American heroes regardless of the truth. In the bad old Bush days, we were told that dissent is the highest form of patriotism. Now Murphy & Co are taking it to the next level: Desertion is the highest form of patriotism.
As I wrote earlier, the Afghan war is going out the way it came in:
In years to come, when archaeologists are prowling through the ruins of our civilization and wondering how it all happened, I would offer this snapshot. Here's the history of America's longest war in two anti-American losers, John Walker Lindh and Bowe Bergdahl, confused young men with a gaping hole at the heart of where their sense of identity should be, stumbling through the Hindu Kush trying to "find themselves".
In the fall of 2001, the first confused anti-American loser trying to find himself, John Walker Lindh was on the enemy's side - and was tried, convicted and jailed for 20 years.
By the spring of 2014, the last confused anti-American loser of the Afghan war, Bowe Bergdahl, was on our side - and was honored by the President with a family photo-op in the Rose Garden and declared by the laughably misnamed "National Security Advisor" to have "served the United States with honor and distinction".
I wrote about John Walker Lindh in my anthology of 9/11 and its aftermath, The Face Of The Tiger, personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available from the Steyn store and whose sales go to support my pushback against a different group of mullahs - the Big Climate crazies. Anyway, here's what I had to say about the first "troubled young man" with a gaping hole where love of country is supposed to be, back when America's longest war was still new:
A fortnight ago two Americans met in the northern Afghan desert, at the Qala-i-Jhangi prison. One was a CIA special-ops man, Mike Spann. The other was a prisoner he was interrogating, a Taliban soldier called "Abdul Hamid", the nom de guerre of John Walker, formerly of northern California. Mr Spann will be buried tomorrow by his wife and three young children in Arlington National Cemetery. He was kicked, beaten and apparently bitten to death in an uprising of captured Taliban, who then booby-trapped his body with grenades. Mr Walker, by contrast, is one of 86 people to survive the four-day prison battle, and the question now is what to do with him.
If nothing else, he's usefully nailed one of the self-serving myths peddled after the awesome intelligence failure of September 11th: awfully sorry we failed to see it coming, said the high-ranking suits, but it's impossible to do any covert deep-cover stuff out in Afghanistan; these fellows are all cousins and brothers-in-law - a guy from Jersey would stick out like a lap-dancer in a burqa.
As we now know, instead of being full of fearsome Pashtun warriors renowned down the centuries, the Omar/ Osama ranks were like a novelty Gap ad, "Losers of Many Nations" - misfit Saudis, Pakistanis, Brits and Californians. Anyone can walk in off the street and be assistant supervisor of the third-floor latrine in Tora Bora by nightfall. The only distinguishing feature about John Walker is that he's such an obvious compendium of clapped-out clichÃ©s from America's Left Coast the wonder is the mullahs didn't automatically take him for a CIA plant.
But no, Mr Walker is for real - born John Lindh in 1981, and comes from a bastion of well-heeled pothead progressivism, California's affluent Marin County. Just north of San Francisco, Marin is the kind of place where Taleban are rare and Republicans are rarer, and your average hippy-turned-lawyer can stay true to his Sixties values on property that stays true to its late Nineties values (average house price: just shy of a million bucks). This is the aging of the dawn of Aquarius: a lotta latte, a little dope, environmentalism, multiculturalism, and everyone likes feeling religious, or at least "spiritual" - as a New York Times headline put it: "Religion Makes A Comeback (Belief To Follow)". Following the traditional Marin pattern, his parents divorced, his mother converted to Buddhism, and the children were taught Native American spirituality. John was sent to an "alternative" high school. (In the Bay Area, all the high schools are "alternative". The problem for parents is trying to find any alternative to the alternative.) The set texts included The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and John liked it so much that, like the late Mr X, he decided to embrace Islam and change his name, to Sulayman. His parents, putting their foot down for what seems to be the first and last time, demanded the right to continue calling him John. They had, after all, gone to the trouble of naming him after one of the colossi of the age, John Lennon. To this, he consented. In return, they let him study at the Mill Valley Islamic Center.
In 1998, after an awkward trip to their ancestral Ireland in which John trudged dutifully round the auld sod wearing his turban and white robes, Frank Lindh agreed to let his 17-year-old son spend a year in Yemen, on the next stage of his "spiritual odyssey". Last year, John e-mailed home to say al-Qa'eda's attack on the USS Cole was justified - oh, and by the way he was off to enrol in a Pakistani madrassah. So Dad wired him a couple thousand bucks, which goes a long way in Bannu. Aside from a glowing school report from his imam, that was the last Mr Lindh heard from Junior until he turned up brandishing an AK47 and declaring his approval of the events of September 11th.
John Walker's CV bears eloquent testament to his parents' scrupulous observance of the Bay Area's First Commandment: Thou shalt be non-judgmental. Yeah, man, Yemen. Cool. Whatever's your bag. As one headline put it: "A Product Of Bay Area Culture". Exactly, I thought. But, this being The San Francisco Chronicle, they were applying the label with pride. Rhapsodising about the area's "religious tolerance" and the way children are taught to value "critical thinking about the US role in the world", Louis Freedberg concluded that Walker's only misfortune was that "his search for identity intersected precisely with the World Trade Center attacks". If not for this unfortunate "intersection", Walker might have become an "idealistic doctor". The President, he said, should allow the boy home "and let him get his life back on track. We'd want nothing less for our own children, who could easily have found themselves in a similar mess."
In fairness to the youth of northern California, that last part is an unjust slur. The marvel is that, after labouring under the twin burdens of the education system's multicultural orthodoxies and the preening moral superiority of their boomer parents, no more Bay Area teens have signed on with Mullah Omar. Nonetheless, there is a difference between "tolerance" of other cultures and the moral void inhabited by the Lindhs. We can, in any case, guess the limits of Marin County's much-vaunted "tolerance". Imagine that the Marinated Muslim had instead announced that he was going to do what the late Mike Spann did at his age: enlist in the Marines. Would Marilyn Walker have seen that as a valid part of his "self-discovery"? Or would she have got out her joss sticks and wailed, "Oh, my God, where did we go wrong?"
Mom says she's "proud" of John, but says he must have been "brainwashed". From the look of him, his brain's the only thing that's been washed: John Walker resembles one of those hairy, smelly, cadaverous, vaguely deranged guys who stumble up to you late at night at remote Greyhound stations and demand money for medication. But right now that's shrewd image-positioning. President Bush seems to have bought the "misguided" line, describing Walker as a "poor fellow" who thought he was fighting for a "great cause". "I can't see him as being unpatriotic," says a neighbour. "This is where his journey led him." And anyway, as everyone says, he's just a "boy".
John Walker is a 20-year-old man - though one can sympathise if protracted exposure to the Bay Area's "critical thinking" (if only) has left him in a state of arrested development. For four decades, supposedly "non-judgmental" flower-children like Marilyn Walker have reflexively characterised men like Mike Spann as the dark agents of right-wing militarism. We are entitled to judge Marilyn's son, the comrade of Spann's killers, as the dark agent of left-wing Marinism. Raised by peaceniks and Marinated in "tolerance", he took up an AK47 in defence of misogynists and gay-bashers: that's not an internal contradiction, but the logical reductio of the left's moral nullity. Cocooned in one of the most prosperous enclaves on the planet, he was taught everything - from Buddhism to Indian spirituality to Malcolm X - except what it means to be an American citizen.
When a 13-year-old girl wants an abortion, the Marin County crowd insists that "a woman's right to choose" is sacred. Twenty-year-old men make choices, too. John Walker chose to go to war against his own country. Americans should respect his "right to choose" and let him live with the consequences.
I'm not in favour of trying him for treason: Alan Dershowitz and the other high-rent lawyers are already salivating over the possibility of a two-year circus with attendant book deals and TV movies. But there is another way: on page four of John Walker's US passport, it states that any American who enlists in a foreign army automatically loses his citizenship. Mr Walker wants to be Abdul Hamid: Mr Bush should honour his wishes. Let us leave him to the Northern Alliance and let his fancypants San Francisco flawyers petition to appear before the Kabul bar, if there is one. It would, surely, be grossly discriminatory to subject Mr Hamid to non-Islamic justice.
As I said, the above was written at the end of 2001 but much of it rings very familiar now. Like John Walker Lindh, Bowe Bergdahl is, as Senator Murphy tells us, just a "kid". It is "unfortunate" that "his search for identity" "intersected" with the Taliban, but why be judgmental? Yet in late 2001 the relativists were fighting a losing battle: the wounds of 9/11 were still raw. Thirteen years later, it's different, and so a deserter is venerated at the White House and hailed for his "service" by the National Security Advisor and the distinguished Senator from Connecticut.