Now that I've extracted a promise from my son that he will never, ever join the Taliban - or any other enemy of the United States - I humbly submit that John Walker is a traitor and should be treated as such.
Sorry, Mom, my heart goes out to you. Dad, too, though I'd feel better if the father of a boy who went missing for seven months and turned up wounded and starving in a Taliban-occupied dungeon filled with dead bodies showed just a speck of emotion.
Appearing on "Larry King Live," Walker's father, Frank Lindh, said he'd like to get his son home, give him a big hug and then a kick in the behind "for not telling me what he was up to and for not getting my permission, because I would not have given him permission to go to Afghanistan."
Lindh reminds me of my 10th-grade study-hall teacher, Mr. Slack, who, when someone misbehaved, would turn crimson and sputter, "If you don't stop that, why, why I'll suspend your magazine privileges!"
(start italics) Oh, no, Mr. Slack, not that! (end italics)
Lindh is second only to Russell Yates, spouse of Andrea Yates (charged with drowning her five kids in a tub), in the Deadpan Olympics. Yates, you'll recall, was pretty upset at his wife after she was arrested in the killing of their children, but he couldn't be really mad because, well, she wasn't herself.
Have these guys had their tear glands removed, or are they using Botox as aftershave? Digressively speaking of which, millions of American women would let John Walker date their daughters were he to reveal that his true purpose in joining the Taliban was to infiltrate and confiscate the entire Central-Asian supply of botulism, thereafter ensuring that no mother should ever have to frown again.
Since that's probably not the case, and since John Walker, indeed, has confessed to joining the Taliban, which has supported (or is owned by, take your pick) the murderous Osama bin Laden, he has to face the unfortunate consequences.
Which, clearly, are that he is culpable of, if not indictable for, treason.
The question of his potential indictment centers on all sorts of constitutional arguments best left to legal experts, many of whom can be found shouting at each other on television most weeknights. The problem seems to stem from the constitutional definition of treason, which requires that two people witness the act of treason.
Another option is to charge Walker with seditious conspiracy, which has a lower standard of proof.
Whatever gets decided, we can count on the usual response from the whimpering classes, including the lousy-childhood defense.
Of course, if the latter were an excuse for joining a suicidal branch of an extremist religious group, we could all call off the war, stay home and blow ourselves up.
Friends and relatives already have begun reciting the inevitable quiet-neighbor mantra we hear every time somebody without a gun rack in his truck turns violent. He was a "sweet, shy kid," says his mom. A family friend described Walker as a "very sweet, unassuming, very spiritual young man - rather frail, not an all-American football player or anything like that, certainly not a fighter."
Last time we checked, all-American football players weren't lining up to plot mass murders. After you've exhausted your spleen butting heads and locking shoulder pads with a few other 300-pound meat grinders, life can seem pretty uncomplicated. No, it's the sweet, shy, skinny ones you have to watch out for. See bin Laden and company.
Either these guys are on speed, in which case they're a little frayed around the edges and living life with one finger on the trigger, or they're starving and blame all-American football players for hogging too much of Earth's resources. Or they're anorexic, which means they're control freaks. Questions?
In any case, I'm less worried about an overfed couch potato, who would rather remain At One with his La-Z-Boy, than I am about the thin, soft-spoken types. Not to profile or anything, but Unabomber Ted Kaczynski wasn't known for his gregarious, hey-hey-hey, back-slapping personality. Nobody ever said about Ted: "Helluva guy!"
Do I feel sorry for John Walker? A little bit, but not enough to absolve him.
His parents' arguments on his behalf are compelling, but Americans in a state of war against a ruthless enemy can't afford to be so understanding.
At age 20, John Walker is young to have chosen such a life-altering course, but no younger than most soldiers in any war. He willingly joined the Taliban and declared himself a "jihadi" (holy warrior) six months ago when, in his words, his "heart became attached to them" and their movement. Someone should have taught the boy that when you sleep with dogs, you pick up fleas.