Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Someone more deserving

In my rant last month on Sami Al Arian, I alluded to a number of individuals who deserve our attention and outrage. I think it's about time to cover one. His name is James Yee, and for those who don't recognize his name, here's a little background (care of wikipedia).

A Chinese American who converted to Islam in 1991, James Yee worked as a chaplain for the military ministering to Muslim prisoners in Guantanamo post 9/11. Upon his return from Guantanamo, he was found with a list of prisoners and interrogators, and charged with a number of charges, including espionage and spying. The charges were later reduced to mishandling classified information and some minor charges, and he was transferred to a US navy brig in South Carolina. 8 months later all charges against him began to be dropped. He was released to resume his military duties, and eventually was honorably discharged. During the time he was held, he was kept in solitary confinement for 76 days and subjected to sensory deprivation.

What most disturbs me in all this is that Yee is not only a US citizen but an officer of the Navy. There are a ton of abuses when it comes to our treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, and while some can argue that non-citizens are not guaranteed the same rights as citizens, there is no question in this case. It is difficult as a nation to find a balance between protecting our civil liberties and national security. Yet blatantly tossing aside the 8th amendment like that for someone who served this country is ridiculous and scary.

Perhaps more so frightening is that I just found out about this recently. Now this may be because I don't watch the news often, but did anyone hear about his case much? And if not, is it prejudice that keeps the suffering of Muslim Americans out of the news? Or perhaps willful ignorance of what happens when our own country crosses the line?

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