Following is a statement read today by John Walker Lindh during his sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va.
To begin, I would like to thank God who has protected and sustained me. I would also like to thank the court for giving me this opportunity to accept full responsibility for violating the U.S. sanctions on Afghanistan last year, to express my remorse for what's happened, and to express my gratitude to my family and those who have supported me. I would also like to explain how and why I went to Afghanistan as a soldier with the Taliban in its conflict with the Northern Alliance. First, I want to express my deepest gratitude to my family for their unfaltering love and support. I know they have experienced a tremendous amount of pain throughout this past year and for that I am sorry.
I would also like to say that I am very grateful to my attorneys whose support of me never wavered, to those who treated my wounds on the USS Peleliu, and to those who helped bring me home. I also want to express my appreciation to the many Americans who have supported me and my family through letters, e-mails and editorials. I understand why so many Americans were angry when I was first discovered in Afghanistan. I realize that many still are but I hope that with time and understanding, those feelings will change.
I would like to take some time to explain how I ended up in Afghanistan.
Prior to May of last year, I was a student of Islam at a school in Pakistan, having previously studied the Arabic language in Yemen. In June, after receiving three weeks of military training in Northern Pakistan, I traveled to Afghanistan in order to assist the Taliban government in opposing the warlords of the Northern Alliance. After being required to take additional military training at a facility in Afghanistan, I volunteered as a foot soldier on the front lines in the province of Takhar, in northeastern Afghanistan. I arrived there on Sept. 6, 2001.
I went to Afghanistan because I believed it was my religious duty to assist my fellow Muslims militarily in their jihad against the Northern Alliance. Because the term "jihad" has been commonly misunderstood, I'd like to take a few minutes to explain the meaning of the term. In the Arabic language, jihad literally means "struggle." In Islamic terminology, jihad refers to the spending of one's utmost exertion in the service of God.
I have never understood jihad to mean anti-Americanism or terrorism. I condemn terrorism on every level — unequivocally. My beliefs about jihad are those of mainstream Muslims around the world. I believe that jihad ranges from striving to overcome own personal faults, to speaking out for the truth in adverse circumstances, to military action in the defense of justice. The type of jihad one practices depends upon one's circumstances, but the essence of any form of jihad lies in the intent.