The morning John Walker Lindh appeared in federal court in Alexandria, Va., a television reporter kept referring to the youthfulness and boyishness of the American Taliban soldier.
The 20-year-old captured al-Qaida jihadi repeatedly is referred to as a "boy," a "youth," a "youngster" or "practically a child." People who make these remarks either attempt to excuse his treachery or are ignorant of history.
At age 20, Alexander the Great ruled Greece and led the Greek army on a series of remarkable military victories.
Napoleon Bonaparte was commissioned into the French artillery at the age of 16 en route to a brilliant military career.
History, both foreign and domestic, is filled with military exploits of young men.
Except for two or three "grandpas," everyone in my San Diego boot camp company was younger than Lindh — or Walker or Suleiman or whatever this turncoat chooses to call himself.
Uniformed Americans younger than Lindh went to Afghanistan, where they risked their lives trying to defeat Lindh and his fellow terrorists-in-arms.
Lindh volunteered for al-Qaida training camps, where he learned to shoot, bomb, poison, ambush and kill his enemies, which he knew included American civilians.
Every day, Americans younger than Lindh join the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force, where they learn how to defend the United States against its enemies. It's a darn good thing they do.
The United States would not have the freedoms it has today were it not for the bravery and sacrifices of its young men and women, many much younger and less privileged than Lindh.
Lindh has admitted that he was a member of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida global terrorist army.
His parents, Frank Lindh and Marilyn Walker, say their boy was brainwashed during his quest, which they financed, to find a form of Islam that suited his beliefs.
"John loves America. We love America," the father said Thursday morning after the hearing in the federal court located only a few miles from the Pentagon where their son's al-Qaida allies crashed a civilian airliner on Sept. 11.
If "little Johnny" loves America, he has a disgusting way of showing it. He has said that he supported the Sept. 11 attacks by his comrades that killed thousands of innocent Americans. He had the pleasure of meeting bin Laden, who is committed to the destruction of the United States.
Lindh volunteered for training to commit terrorist acts. Had the war in Afghanistan turned out to his liking, Lindh would have made an ideal al-Qaida sleeper agent. Perhaps he is one now.
Not only will Lindh's lawyers emphasize that their client is a mere child, they also will claim that he was abused by his American captors, who violated the polite youth's constitutional rights by not giving him battlefield Miranda rights and a lawyer.
That's an interesting argument coming from a soldier fighting in a terrorist army attempting to destroy the United States and the constitution that holds the world's oldest democracy together.
Lindh may be young, but he's not an innocent. He's an intelligent young man who made calculated decisions to align himself with the brutal Taliban and the al-Qaida terrorists.
"My heart became attached to the movement," he said to a CNN reporter on Dec. 2. "I wanted to help them, one way or another."
That's not a guileless boy talking.
Lindh's Taliban and al-Qaida friends accepted him as a man. So should Americans.
Rowland Nethaway is senior editor of the Waco (Texas) Tribune-Herald. E-mail: RNethaway@wacotrib.com.