- The Washington Times - Friday, January 18, 2002

Choosing terror

"For John Walker Lindh, the so-called 'American Taliban,' the biggest foe he may have to overcome in the courtroom is himself.

"Prosecutors are likely to build much of their conspiracy case against the California native using testimony he provided willingly in interviews with the FBI and news media after his capture in Afghanistan. …

"Walker's alleged role as a lone American-born youth in league with [Osama] bin Laden raises captivating moral and social questions: Why did a teen-ager from a well-off family near San Francisco apparently turn on his own nation? …

"Attorney General John Ashcroft, in announcing the indictment, emphasized Walker's actions were his own at every step.

"'At each crossroad, Walker faced a choice, and with each choice, he chose to ally himself with terrorists,' Ashcroft said. 'Terrorists did not compel John Walker Lindh to join them. John Walker Lindh chose terrorists.'"

Seth Stern, writing on "Walker case hinges on his prior statements," in yesterday's Christian Science Monitor

September 11 gamble

"By the morning of September 11, [director Ridley] Scott already had a cut of ['Black Hawk Down] and was in the middle of postproduction in L.A. when he got a call from his son, Luke, who lived two blocks from the World Trade Center. A few weeks later … the director met with [producer Jerry] Bruckheimer and the heads of Revolution Studios and Sony Pictures to hash out what to do. While the film had originally been slated to come out in March, it was decided that not only would Sony not shelve it, but it would push the release up to December so it could qualify for Oscar consideration.

"[A] postscript tacked onto the end of the movie … drew connections between the United States' lack of foreign intervention in the wake of the Somalia tragedy and the cause of the September 11 terrorist attacks. 'About half the audience thought we should keep it and half thought we shouldn't,' says Bruckheimer. 'And the 50 percent who said to take it out felt pretty strongly … so we took it out.'

"Still, Scott and Bruckheimer insist that nothing else in the film was changed in light of current events. And both stand by their high-stakes gamble to go out early with 'Black Hawk Down' even though they do admit they're nervous."

Chris Nashawaty, writing on "Salvation Army" in the Jan. 18 issue of Entertainment Weekly

'Braveheart' in 'Nam

"In November of 1965 … elements of the 7th Cavalry under the command of Lt. Col. Harold Moore rode helicopters into the Ia Drang Valley in the central highlands of South Vietnam, a tiny corner of an obscure place in which our country seemed to be fighting a marginalized war. There, 450 American troopers were surrounded by nearly 2,000 soldiers of the North Vietnamese army. … It was the first major engagement of the Vietnam war.

"There's a movie ['We Were Soldiers Once,' which opens March 1] about that great battle now, and it is directed by the guy who wrote 'Braveheart' and 'Pearl Harbor,' and Mel Gibson is playing Col. Moore, so people will go and see it, and they will learn about the battle in the Ia Drang Valley, many of them for the first time. …

"And, unlike any other Vietnam movie you can mention, the North Vietnamese are presented neither as jabbering subprimates … nor as faceless incoming ammunition. … They are presented as formidable professional soldiers. …

"'They had a grievance. I mean, what would you do if somebody came into your country?' Gibson says. 'No matter what you think about the whole conflict … that doesn't change the fact that it had to be dealt with by someone, and these Americans were ordinary people.'"

Charles P. Pierce, writing on "Tough Guy: Mel Gibson," in the February issue of Esquire

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