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Obligations Of Citizenship

The most fundamental duty of a citizen is to be loyal to the United States. Allegiance is not an unquestioning acceptance, but a general faith in the U.S. system. In times of national emergency, citizens can be required to defend the country, through military service or alternative service such as employment in a hospital.

Issues surrounding the duties of citizens often arise in the same context as the freedoms enjoyed by citizens of the United States. In one of his more famous speeches, The Duties of American Citizenship, President THEODORE ROOSEVELT said, "It ought to be axiomatic in this country that every man must devote a reasonable share of his time to doing his duty in the Political life of the community. No man has the right to shirk his political duties under whatever plea of pleasure or business. …"

In the wake of the SEPTEMBER 11TH ATTACKS in 2001, the case against one American citizen, John Philip Walker Lindh, demonstrated the attitude that the U.S. government takes against nationals who breach their duty of citizenship. Lindh, also known by the Islamic names Suleyman al-Faris and Abdul Hamid, as well as the nickname "the American Taliban," converted to Islam in 1997. After visiting such countries as Yemen and Pakistan to study Islam at various times from 1997 to 2000, Lindh began training with the terrorist organization al-Qaeda in 2001. Both before and after the terrorist attacks in September 2001, Lindh served the Taliban regime of Afghanistan in an ongoing conflict with the Northern Alliance in northeastern Afghanistan. Lindh was captured by Northern Alliance groups in November 2001. He was eventually turned over to the U.S. military, who returned him to the United States on January 23, 2002.

In the case of United States v. Lindh, 198 F. Supp. 2d 739 (E.D.Va. 2002), Lindh was indicted on ten criminal charges, including conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals, contributing to and conspiring to contribute to al-Qaeda, and using and carrying firearms and other destructive devices during crimes of violence. Lindh pled guilty in July 2002 to a count of supplying services to the Taliban government and received a 20-year sentence.

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