Monday, July 22, 2002
The American Taliban: I didn't write much about it at the time, mainly because I was disgusted by the way the entire issue was handled from beginning to end. John Walker Lindh should have faced a military tribunal and then been executed for treason -- nothing more, nothing less. Instead, the plea deal gets Lindh out in 17 years with good behavior. Let's hope once he gets out he is forced to wander the land, shunned by all. But that won't happen.
Liberal apologists and race-baiters see the Lindh plea deal as a case of special treatment.
A piece in Saturday's Washington Post by liberal thinkers Angela Davis and Marc Mauer argue for compassion for other "misguided young men" and women now serving time in America's prisons.
Lindh's case is obviously unique in many respects, not least of which is that he is a young white man from a privileged background. This has led to intense speculation in the media and to popular discussion regarding where this "foolish young man" went wrong. Was it the influence of his birthplace in the liberal enclave of Takoma Park, or the trendy Marin County, Calif., environment of his teen years?
The truth is that it was only liberals like Davis and Mauer who were wondering how Lindh went wrong. Most Americans didn't really care. Where did murderer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer go wrong? We don't care. He was evil. We don't care how it happened most people understand that there is evil in the world. Some people simply are evil.
Behind all this is a collective national sigh of relief at the sentence. This young man will be punished severely, but at least he will have a chance to get out of prison and make a life for himself someday.
Only among Davis and Mauer's friends is there a sigh of relief. Most of America is disgusted by the fact that Lindh will get out of jail in 17 years. I think he should be executed -- at the very least he should rot in a prison cell.
Contrast this with the scene in most American courtrooms, where 70 percent of the defendants are African American and Latino, most of them from low-income backgrounds. Their "day in court" is often a fleeting affair. More than 90 percent are convicted, as was Lindh, through a plea agreement. In this era of pervasive mandatory sentencing, the incentives to plead guilty are powerful. Prosecutors can threaten a defendant with serious prison time -- 25 years to life for even nonviolent first offenders charged with drug offenses and other crimes far less serious than the violent acts to which Lindh pleaded guilty. Like Lindh, many of them have given statements or have been detained or searched under circumstances in which law enforcement officers are alleged to have violated their constitutional rights.
The race card has been played.
Kemba Smith, for example, was the girlfriend of one of the biggest cocaine dealers on the East Coast in the 1990s. Her involvement in drugs was minimal and clearly under the direction of her boyfriend. Yet, after her boyfriend was murdered, Smith bore the brunt of the drug conspiracy charges and was sentenced to 24 years in prison. In the last days of the Clinton presidency, her sentence was commuted to the time she had already served. Smith's case and others like hers exemplify the extremes to which federal sentencing policy can lead.
Let me be skeptical for a minute. From the little Davis and Mauer have described about Smith's case I'm not really sympathetic. She was dating "one of the biggest cocaine dealers on the East Coast," she obviously knew what he was doing -- that's why she was convicted. She also helped. How many lives were destroyed with her complicity. You can't associate with the scum of the earth and expect not to get dirty.
The crime rate is down because we've committed over the last decade or so to put criminals behind bars. It's as simple as that.