Like Ernest Hemingway during the Spanish Civil War, John had volunteered for the army of a foreign government battling an insurgency. He thought he could help protect Afghan civilians against brutal attacks by the Northern Alliance warlords seeking to overthrow the Taliban government. His decision was rash and blindly idealistic, but not sinister or traitorous. He was 20 years old.
Before 9/11, the Bush administration was not hostile to the Taliban; barely four months before the attacks it gave $43 million in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. There was nothing treasonous in John’s volunteering for the Afghan Army in the spring of 2001. He had no involvement with terrorism…
On May 2 and 3, I had two long visits with John. He remains idealistic and spiritual, and a practicing Muslim. He once told me he thought Bin Laden had done more harm to Islam than anyone in history. As I said farewell, we both felt a sense of closure. I saw grief in his eyes over the pain he has caused himself and his family.
John was a scapegoat, wrongly accused of terrorism at a moment when our grieving country needed someone to blame because the real terrorist had gotten away. Now that Bin Laden is dead, I hope President Obama, and the American people, can find it in their hearts to release John, and let him come home. Ten years is enough.