Some will object that Lindh pleaded guilty knowing he could receive this sentence. His plea was entered, however, under what one can only call extreme duress. A poll of potential jurors in the Eastern District of Virginia at that time found that more than a third were ready to sentence him to death without even hearing the case against him. His lawyers cut the best deal they could, but Lindh has spent nearly a quarter of his life in custody for his foolish decision to pursue his religious convictions by aiding another country in its civil war. Without relief, he will spend another dozen years, at least, behind bars.
The concept of mercy spans testaments and faiths, and any system of justice requires the embrace of mercy for leavening and legitimacy. In this case, justice has been served by Lindh's time in prison. Now Bush is uniquely positioned to grant mercy, for while many will long argue over the effectiveness if his war on terror, none question his commitment to it. By giving Lindh a commutation, Bush could prove that his war is, as he often and properly asserts, not against Islam but against those who seek to harm America. Lindh never sought to harm his country; he has served long enough. Bush should send him home.
Esquire magazine wrote an excellent piece last year that explores Lindh's background, his conversion to Islam, his zealousness that drove him to Afghanistan, and his life at present in jail. Reading things like this, it makes me take a step back to examine my life. Lindh and I are almost the same age. We come from similar family backgrounds, and sought to escape the white mundaity that was suburbia, although his path to a turn mine didn't before returning to Islam. Malcolm X peaked both our interests in Islam. And yet, he ended up in prison, not allowed to speak arabic, at the same time I was safely attending classes at University and flirting with the idea of putting on hijab, my big jihad. Granted, our similarities are probably only superficial, but it does make me ponder the choices I've made and where I've ended up.
I hope the brother has found some stability at last and that he can grown and mature in his deen. It'll be interesting to see if anything becomes of his case.