The American Taliban

I was thinking about the young American who was found in the ruins of the fortress where the Taliban prisoners were taken after the fall of Kandihar. He was one of the few who survived the onslaught of the Northern Alliance revenge attack when, backed by American bombers, they set the makeshift prison ablaze murdering (they thought) everyone who had been brought to that hell hole.

I first read about him the other day when the newspapers told of the curious incident of finding a white American with the surviving Taliban prisoners. Then, today, it turned out that he was just twenty years old and from a middle-class family in Marin. A sensitive young man, so his mother said when asked about her son. It seems he converted to the Muslim faith when he was seventeen and still in high school. Then he went off to Pakistan to study – with, it seems, his parents’ consent. They lost track of him this past summer only to find out the other day that he had been fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now he is a prisoner of the American forces there. What will happen to him is anyone’s guess, but I hope that they treat him decently.

According to the mother – who is a Buddhist while the father is a practicing Catholic – her son began his interest in the Muslim religion after reading the autobiography of Malcolm X. It will strike some as odd that a white, middle class boy from the affluent suburbs of San Francisco would have been drawn to the passions of the black dispossessed, but he wouldn’t have been the first. It will be hard for his elders to understand or even recall those passions of their own youth. (It seems they named him after John Lennon). Yet maybe it will make them think a bit. If anything, it might serve to humanise what’s going on there.

How very, very sad it all is…