Originally created 07/17/02

Lindh term too light



Does the plea bargain struck between lawyers for John Walker Lindh and the federal government satisfy justice? It depends on how you feel about the young American Taliban foot soldier.

Lindh's parents think the 20-year sentence was a great deal for their son, who pleaded guilty to providing services to Afghanistan's former rulers, the Taliban, and to carrying explosives for them.

That didn't sit well with the parents of Johnny Spann, the CIA officer who was shot and killed in the Taliban prison uprising at Mazar-e-Sharif on Nov. 25, shortly after interviewing Lindh.

The Spanns can't believe Lindh didn't play a role in their son's death. They were looking for a life sentence.

Many Americans - especially those with sons and daughters in the front lines - would have liked to have seen the Marin County mullah tried in a military tribunal for treason and, if convicted, executed.

Rightly or not, it's official U.S. policy to try American citizens caught on the wrong side of the war on terrorism in civilian, not military, court. That basically ruled out the death penalty.

But when the government dropped nine serious counts - including charges of conspiring to kill U.S. nationals - life in prison was also ruled out. That was a mistake.

Jihad Johnny Lindh got off too light; with time off for good behavior, he'll be a free man before he's 40. A lot of talk about choices have surrounded this case. Lindh made the wrong choice in joining the Taliban, say his apologists, but that doesn't mean he should spend the rest of his life behind bars. Why not?

Spann and many other young Americans also made choices - to serve, protect and fight for their country, not against it. Those were the right choices, and for their courage and patriotism they have paid a much dearer price than 20 years and out.