So what are we to make of John Walker, the 20-year-old All-American kid whoturned Taliban warrior -- and even condoned the Sept. 11 attack on hishomeland?
I was always troubled by the president's repeated references to "the evilones" -- from his first press conference after the attack, when he mentioned"the evil one" and "evildoers" five times, to his recent vow that "acrossthe world and across the years, we will fight the evil ones, and we willwin." I objected not because the terrorists aren't evil but because, as muchas we would love it to be true, such a simple demarcation of good and evilflies in the face of history, religion and human nature.
The lure of this kind of reductionist thinking is not a new one. AlexanderSolzhenitsyn, himself a victim of some of the most horrific evil of the 20thcentury, warned against it in "The Gulag Archipelago": "If only there wereevil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it werenecessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. Butthe line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every humanbeing."
Since Walker's capture, his friends and family have described him as "asweet, kind, intelligent kid" with "a wonderful sense of humor," a devoutMuslim who planned to go to medical school, then minister to the poor ofPakistan. So how did this "sweet kid" end up fighting arm-in-arm with theTaliban in the bloody riot at the Kala Jangi fortress in which a CIA agentwas savagely beaten to death?
The answer is as simple as it is complex. "Now is the time to draw the linein the sand against the evil ones," said the president. The problem is theline in the sand is inside each human being. Walker crossed that line whenhe made the choice to embrace evil. Might the shocking revelation of "one ofus" among "one of them" stop the president from being so smug as to thinkthat carrying an American passport somehow exempts us from crossing thatline?
Since the president seems convinced that evil is an Al-Jazeera exclusive, Isuggest he take a look at the mounting evidence that the terroristsresponsible for the anthrax attacks are homegrown. New tests show that thepowder used in the deadly mailings was of a strength that has only beenproduced by the U.S. military. The FBI is focusing on the likelihood thatsomeone connected to America's now defunct biowarfare program is behind theattacks.
"I don't think they're manufacturing this in caves," said Dr. Ken Alibek, ascientist who used to work in the Soviet Union's germ weapons program. "It'scoming from another source." One with a U.S. return address.
Nevertheless, the president continues to divide humanity into the moralequivalent of shirts and skins. "Our responsibility to history," he said,"is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil." Andthis is a man who balked at nation building? Not only is this a ludicrousprinciple on which to base a foreign policy but also an equally ludicrousinterpretation of the world's major religions. Mr. Bush should pull out histrusty Bible and brush up on what it says about original sin.
American ingenuity has come up with a vaccine against anthrax. But it hasnot come up with a way to inoculate us against evil. To pretend otherwise isto hold a worldview that cannot incorporate developments such as an AmericanTalib, American bioterrorists, or whatever other red, white and bluebombshells the future may hold.