John Walker Lindh Statement Denouncing Terrorism

Last year, I felt that I had an obligation to assist what I perceived to be an Islamic liberation movement against the warlords who were occupying several provinces in Northern Afghanistan. I had learned from books, articles and individuals with firsthand experience of numerous atrocities committed by the Northern Alliance against civilians. I had heard reports of massacres, child rape, torture and castration. I also knew that many of these warlords had fought alongside the Soviet Union in the 1980s during the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. I went to Afghanistan because I believed there was no way to alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people aside from military action. I did not go to fight against America, and I never did.

I saw the war between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance as a continuation of the war between the mujahideen and the Soviets. I knew that the mujahideen had been supported by the United States. In addition, I knew that the Northern Alliance continued to be funded and armed by the Russian government throughout the 1990s and up until last year. My experience of living in Afghanistan was limited to military life as a trainee and as a soldier. In retrospect, I had no real exposure to the life of civilians under the rule of the Taliban. Since returning to the United States, I have learned more about the Taliban, such as reports of the Taliban's repression of women, which I did not see or hear of while I was in Afghanistan, and which I believe is strongly condemned by Islam. I have also become aware of the relationship between the leaders of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's organization. Bin Laden's terrorist attacks are completely against Islam, completely contrary to the conventions of jihad and without any justification whatsoever. His grievances, whatever they may be, cannot be addressed by acts of injustice and violence against innocent people in America. Terrorism is never justified and has proved extremely damaging to Muslims around the world. I have never supported terrorism in any form and never would. I went to Afghanistan with the intention of fighting against terrorism and oppression, not to support it. Although I thought I knew a good deal about the Taliban when I went to the front line, it's clear to me now that there were many things of which I was not aware. I made a mistake by joining the Taliban. I want the court to know, and I want the American people to know that had I realized then what I know now about the Taliban, I would never have joined them.

When I began my studies in Islam, I had the ambition of one day teaching, writing, and translating Arabic texts into English. I still have these ambitions and hope to pursue my studies in Islam, the Arabic language, world history, linguistics, sociology and English literature. I hope to use this knowledge to serve Islam and the interests of Muslims in America and around the world to the full extent of my capability. To conclude, I would like to again thank the court for giving me this opportunity to speak.

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