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John Walker Lindh 

John Walker Lindh represents nothing and nobody. He signifies neither a movement nor a generation, not even a grouplet. He is no Tokyo Rose, Ezra Pound or John Reed. He is not even a typical Taliban soldier. The inordinate attention he is receiving is the expression of public frustration over our inability to catch the big bad guys. Walker Lindh is an embarrassing substitute for Osama and Omar. He is also a media-convenient artifact. We know where he is, so we can report his every move, which is not, sadly, the case with the real culprits. A bird in hand is Lindh, but what a puny bird! If he is worth anything besides a whole lot of ink, it is as an opportunity for the nation's moralists to call out liberals for allowing Californians to make exotic choices. And just to make sure that he appears bigger than he actually is, he is being called "the American Taliban," as if he was, somehow, a whole army. The Taliban is an army, but Lindh, if he is anything, is a Talibanist, or a Talibanchik, or a Talibandit. Certainly not the American Taliban, which is a fiction. Alas, quite a few Americans now believe that the American Taliban runs rampant. My friend Dave's mother whispered the other day, "There are Taliban in New Orleans." "Where?" I said. She smiled indulgently. Everywhere. On TV. On the radio. One could try to look at John Walker Lindh as some kind of manifestation of one of those individuals, like Manson, Hitler or Dahmer, whose behavior will upset a whole community. Unfortunately, that's too big a Hegelian stretch. Walker Lindh got caught in a whirlwind and went with the flow. He signed on the dotted line without reading the small print. He is not even a good mercenary. There are plenty of soldiers of fortune who sign up for one war or another, not necessarily caring whether they might be injuring the interests of their country. We understand them and don't make much of them, even if we catch them and try them. Unfortunately, we are making something else of John Walker Lindh, and his puny frame won't accommodate the projection. Let's get Osama and put Walker where he belongs, in the footnotes.
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