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'American Taliban' John Walker Lindh To Be Released From Prison In May 2019; Three Poems He Wrote In Prison – From The MEMRI JTTM Archives

The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.

John Walker Lindh, the U.S. citizen who joined the Taliban in mid-2001 and was captured in November of that year by U.S. forces as an enemy combatant in Afghanistan in 2001, is set to be released from prison in May 2019, after serving a 20-year sentence.[1] The news of his upcoming release was criticized by the mother of American journalist James Foley, whose 2014 beheading by the Islamic State (ISIS) was filmed and disseminated widely on social media. She said: "I don't think he should be released if he is going to continue to sow hate and terrorism around the world."[2] As of May 2016, according to a report in Foreign Policy magazine, Lindh "continues to advocate for global jihad and to write and translate violent extremist texts."[3]

Three Poems By John Walker Lindh

An Islamist organization devoted to supporting Guantanamo Bay detainees and other prisoners held on charges of terrorism posted, on September 23, 2010, three poems that it said it received from John Walker Lindh.

Each of the poems is signed "Abu Sulayman Al-Irlandi, Detainee #001," and dated Ramadan 1431 (i.e., August-September 2010). "Al-Irlandi" means "the Irishman," and the poems themselves contain additional nods to Lindh's Irish heritage, including a reference to himself as "a Mussulman [i.e. Muslim] Paddy."

The first poem, "The Ballad Of The Fleas," is about the war in Afghanistan, and depicts the Americans as callous Crusaders, their local allies as un-Islamic hypocrites, and the Taliban as noble soldiers who have been unjustly maligned: "For wolves may foam and bark and bite / And gnash and gnaw and hiss / But if a sheep should dare bite back / He'd be a terrorist." The second poem, "Ode To Omar Khadr," is dedicated to Omar Khadr, a Guantanamo Bay detainee accused of having been a teenage Al-Qaeda operative. Much of this poem deals with alleged misconduct in Khadr's detention and trial: "I end with a message to every oppressor / To each gavel-grasping bench-squatting cross-dresser / As you judge you'll be judged and my closing remark is / A victory jig on the back of your carcass." The third poem, "A Mussulman Paddy's Epistle To Barry," is addressed to President Obama, and uses an inversion of Revolutionary War-era imagery to promise him defeat in Afghanistan: "So lie on the ground like a parcel of noodles / And sing how the Yankees were beat by Pushtoodles [i.e., the Pushtun]."

Following are the three poems, as posted on the Cageprisoners website on September 23, 2010:[4]

"One Fateful Autumn Thus They Came / With Vengeance As Their Code"

The Ballad Of The Fleas

It's said that black death spread by fleas

On backs of rats they rode

One fateful autumn thus they came

With vengeance as their code

Like blight they spread from crags to plains

To hilly dusty turf

To rocky lunar landscapes 'neath

The rooftop of the earth

They hid behind the highest clouds

To fly as swift as sound

With daisy cutters cluster bombs

And spies upon the ground


Their leader stepped out swaggering

Declaring a crusade

He called the world to follow him

And most of them obeyed

For wolves may foam and bark and bite

And gnash and gnaw and hiss

But if a sheep should dare bite back

He'd be a terrorist

The knights of Malta raised their spears

The knights Templars came next

The rabble cheered them in the streets

Priests quoted Bible texts


Their quislings all crawled out to them

Each kneeled to give his oath

They squealed and cried "Islam is peace"

But disbelieved in both

They ushered ashen donkeys forth

Jackasses bearing scrolls

They brayed in fervent fever pitch

For dollar bills in rolls

The words they spoke those days were such

That had he known their name

Old Abdullah Ibnu Ubayy[5]

Would cringe and blush in shame


They send their drones to level homes

And blow up wedding feasts

They heap more arms in warlords' hands

To spread democracy


"If They But Knew That With Each Act / Of Torture And Abuse / Around The Neck Of Uncle Sam / They Tighten Up The Noose"

They roam at night to break down doors

To search and strip and rape

To bind and kidnap anyone

To shoot those who escape

With muzzles full of lofty talk

Free speech and human rights

They drive out millions from their land

And say it's worth the price


An aid worker clerk or farmer

Sold like a modern slave

Gets beaten by their boots and guns

And thrown into a cage

He's sat upon and spat upon

Broke by the brave and free

By brave crusaders brave and bold

As brave as brave can be

If they but knew that with each act

Of torture and abuse

Around the neck of Uncle Sam

They tighten up the noose


Mirages in the distance glow

Lads line up in the queue

As one more body bag comes back

Hid from the public view

A blistered bloated jarhead face

Deep purple findernails [sic]

A smell seeps out that's foul enough

To cleanse a man's entrails

Their rulers lurch and boast and strut

But keep far from the fray

They swoon and quake from fear to tread

Where lurking lions lay


"Where Stars And Stripes And Union Jacks / And NATO Flags Once Flew / Black Banners Rise In Khurasan / In Hands Of Every Hue"

As tawheed's[6] caravan moves on

And marches in the dusk

The crimson wound of one of them

Emits the scent of musk[7]

To rule God's earth by God's own law

They sacrifice their lives

They spill their lifeblood willingly

Until God's help arrives

Although victory entices them

What soothes them even more

Is hope to enter gardens lush

With honey milk and hur[8]


Where stars and stripes and Union Jacks

And NATO flags once flew

Black banners rise in Khurasan[9]

In hands of every hue

Just as how warsteeds' coats are cleaned

And purged of lice and fleas

The cavalcade of martyrs fights

An empire to its knees

All praise and thanks are due to God

To Him alone they bowed

And peace be on His messenger

Whose face beams in his shroud

Ode To Omar Khadr

An avuncular man whose sole name is Sam is

Inscribing his memoirs in history's annals

His quill dips and scribbles lifts and scribbles some more

With a fist to his jaw and shibshibs on the floor

His inkwell runs dry so he rises to fill it

From a flask of fresh blood that's corked by a bullet

He sits right back down and starts scratching the pad

To write of an innocent bright faced young lad


Top brasses spray spittle with all of their curses

"He's worse than the worst of the worst of the worstest

He's worse than a storm-trooping Third Reich cadet

More wicked than Eichmann more than Pinochet

He endangers our freedom if he's left alone

He's spent more years in prison than Big Al Capone

We must needs make hast to hoist Khadr on the gibbet

He threatens our country and all that's within it"


He was just a wee lad in the fine town of Khost

From a high noble family that feared God the most

Always good to his father a hardworking man

True and sweet to his mum and beloved to his clan

When down from the clouds a most foul beast alighted

And out of its bowels plopped a doughboy excited

All wild-eyed and yelling then out squeezed another

'Midst gunfire and shelling they nabbed our wee brother

When they saw his round face they shot twice out of fright

Then they plucked out his eye in display of their spite

They tied up his limbs though his mind was unconscious


Feed him to the beast…

And behold as it launches…


"I End With A Message To Every Oppressor / To Each Gavel-Grasping Bench-Squatting Cross-Dresser / As You Judge You'll Be Judged And My Closing Remark Is / A Victory Jig On The Back Of Your Carcass"


They flew him to Bagram which lies north of Kabul

Locked him in a cage though he scarcely could hobble

They threatened to rape our young friend in a prison

(For 'tis don't you know an old Yankee tradition)

They drugged our young hero with needles and potions

And sent him blindfolded past mountains and oceans

A black hole on land that they'd bagged from the Cubans

Became his new home as they hacked him to ribbons


Comes now His Dishonour's sleek sable abaya[10]

The ladylike robes of his silky attire

"Boy we grant you your freedom and cherish your rights

Now confess boy you know you done wrong in our sights

You hold in your heart a plumb evil religion

Your face has the same savage shade as an injun

You know you done wrong boy now speak to My Honor!

A sand-nigger's place is a grave or a slammer!"

I end with a message to every oppressor

To each gavel-grasping bench-squatting cross-dresser

As you judge you'll be judged and my closing remark is

A victory jig on the back of your carcass


"Ye See Now Ye Yankees How Much Ye're Mistaken / For Kabul By Rabble Can Never Be Beaten"


A Mussulman Paddy's Epistle To Barry[11]

Och Barry it seems ye're but yahoos and fools

With your brains in your breeches your drawers in your skulls

Get home with your flintlocks and put up your swords

And look in your books for the meaning of words

Ye see now ye Yankees how much ye're mistaken

For Kabul by rabble can never be beaten

How brave ye went out with your muskets all bright

And thought to be-frighten the folks with the sight

But when ye got there how they slaughter'd your chums

And all the way home how they pepper'd your bums

And 'tis not yet Yankees a comical crack

To be proud in the face and be shot in the back


"So Lie On The Ground Like A Parcel Of Noodles / And Sing How The Yankees Were Beat By Pushtoodles"

We were truly tickl'd by all your grand speeches

If only ye'd tarried to do some researches

For 'twas quite odd ye fancied they did not know how

To be after their firelocks as smartly as yous

Why ye see now ye Yankees 'tis nothing at all

But to pull at the trigger and pop goes the ball

O'Bama 'tis one thing to be full of hope

But to ride in your Humvees on bridges of rope

And send out your wee'uns in full fightin' gear

When they hear the takbir[12] they pass water for fear

And look at ye now buildin' bridges to hell

Did ye think ye'd outdo the great Fionn mac Cumhaill?

And what have ye got now for all your designin'?

A Homeland without victuals to sit down and dine in

So lie on the ground like a parcel of noodles

And sing how the Yankees were beat by Pushtoodles

I'm sure if ye're wise ye'll repent like a sinner

For if ye keep fightin' ye won't be the winner


[1], March 21, 2019.

[2], March 21, 2019.

[3], June 23, 2017.

[4], September 23, 2010.

[5] 'Abdallah Ibn Ubayy was a contemporary of the Prophet Muhammad considered in Muslim tradition to be the archetypical munafiq ("hypocrite"), that is, one who outwardly converts to Islam but inwardly harbors enmity towards it.

[6] Tawhid, sometimes translated as "monotheism," is the Islamic doctrine of the unity of Allah.

[7] According to Muslim traditions, the scent of musk is a sign of martyrdom.

[8] The hur, or hur al-'ayn, are the virgins of paradise promised to martyrs.

[9] Khurasan is a classical Arabic toponym corresponding roughly to today's Afghanistan.

[10] The abaya is a black women's garment; the term is used here as a mocking reference to a judge's robes.

[11] Regarding this poem, Lindh wrote in his letter to Cageprisoners: "Note that the poem 'A Mussulman...' is not an entirely original composition; rather, it was based on a poem from the American Revolutionary War called 'The Irishman's Epistle to the Officers and Troops at Boston' which was published anonymously in 1775."

[12] Takbir is the cry "Allah Akbar!"