Monday, July 30, 2007

Free John Walker Lindh?

If it’s good enough for Scooter Libby, it’s good enough for the American Talib: The Los Angeles Times editorial page wants President Bush to commute the prison sentence of John Walker Lindh. The editorial states:

John Walker Lindh broke the law. He pleaded guilty to the one crime of which he was guilty — aiding the Taliban — and to carrying a gun and hand grenades in the service of that regime’s war against the Northern Alliance. For that, he deserved to go to prison, and he should not receive a pardon. He is a felon, and his record should never be cleared.

The issue, then, is not Lindh’s guilt but his sentence. He was ordered to spend 20 years in prison, far longer than comparably situated defendants. Maher Mofeid Hawash pleaded guilty to violating the same law, and, after he agreed to cooperate, the government recommended that he serve seven to 10 years in prison. Yaser Esam Hamdi, who fought with Lindh in the Taliban military, was released back to Saudi Arabia in 2004, having spent less than four years in custody. David Hicks, an Australian, pleaded guilty to terror charges before a military commission and was sentenced to nine months. Of all the suspects rounded up across the world in the administration’s war on terror, only shoe bomber Richard Reid, who actively attempted to destroy a plane in flight, is serving a longer sentence than Lindh.

Chris Suellentrop


Surge Protectors

Time political columnist Joe Klein isn’t persuaded by the optimistic take in today’s New York Times Op-Ed by Michael E. O’Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack, in which O’Hanlon and Pollack suggest that the surge has “the potential to produce not necessarily ‘victory’ but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.”

I agree with many, but not all, of the conclusions,” Klein writes, “but you really can’t write a piece about the [war] in Iraq and devote only two sentences to the political situation, which is disastrous and, as [Gen. David] Petraeus has said, will determine the success or failure of the overall effort.” He continues:

It could be argued that what the U.S. military is now accomplishing is clearing the field of foreigners — i.e. the Al Qaeda in Iraq foreign fighters — so that the indigenous Sunnis and Shi’ites can go at each other in a full-blown civil war, complete with Srebrenica style massacres … I see absolutely no evidence that the majority Shi’ites are willing to concede anything to the minority Sunnis, and there are significant signs that Baghdad is being ethnically cleansed.

The progress made against Al Qaeda in Iraq “should not be extrapolated into anything resembling optimism,” Klein writes. The progress, “such as it is,” has been made in primarily Sunni areas, he adds. “But Iraq is primarily a Shi’ite country — and we’re not doing so well with those guys, especially the most prominent of them, Muqtada al-Sadr.”

Chris Suellentrop

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