A Cautious Man
September 22, 2003
 
Being Cautious About the News
I'm a little uneasy about the story concerning the Muslim army chaplain who, as of this writing, is either under arrest or merely detained for espionage. There are reports that he had some documents, described as "classified", and/or he had diagrams of the Guantanamo detention facility and information about the detainees. I'm not uneasy because of worries about terrorism, because so far there has been no allegation that this guy was actually participating in a terrorist plot. I'm uneasy because the events seem to be unfolding in a way which could cause all Muslims to be viewed in a bad light. As described in an early CNN story:
Army Capt. James Yee was taken into custody by U.S. military authorities September 10 at the naval air station in Jacksonville, Florida, while in possession of classified documents "that a chaplain shouldn't have," an official told CNN, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The official said the documents included "diagrams of the cells and the facilities at Guantanamo [Bay, Cuba]" where about 600 al Qaeda and other "enemy combatants" are being held by the military.

Yee also was carrying lists of detainees being held there as well as lists of their interrogators, the source said.

In addition to the classified documents, Yee is "believed to have ties to [radical Muslims in the U.S.] that are now under investigation," the source said. He said he could not elaborate on the basis for that belief.
The "source" uses vague allegations, to appeal to that fear that has been instilled in Americans these days. Unfortunately, that fear isn't just focused on Captain Yee, since it doesn't take much to make many Americans jump to the conclusion that "Muslim = Terrorist". Look at a typical "Instant Pundit", who notes that Captain Yee had studied in Syria, married a Syrian, then returned to this country and re-enlisted in the military as a chaplain. "Sounds almost as if he were planted. Sadly, this will only produce more suspicion toward loyal Muslims." Yes, especially if people such as you automatically jump to conclusions like that.

In contrast, Bill Cork, whose blog, "Ut Unum Sint", is in my list to the right, had a much more thoughtful and helpful commentary from his viewpoint as a former military chaplain. This passage in particular really struck me:
"I had a patient who had been in combat in Central America. This was at a time when the US denied we had any combat troops there. This soldier told me the truth of what was happening, and that US soldiers had died. The one honorable act for which I respect Bill Clinton was his acknowledgement of what actually had happened, and his honoring of the dead from that illegal, secret war in a public ceremony at Arlington. I was only on active duty for 2 1/2 months at Walter Reed, and this was the only soldier who ever told me stories like that. But it raised questions. What if I had been the chaplain of his unit, knowing of illegal activities by my unit--and the nation?"
Captain Yee could have just been doing his job. For example, he had an article in the base newsletter:
"September 11th, the pending war on Iraq, and our own day to day experiences of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo mission have all contributed to the picture many of us as Americans have painted about Islam and Muslims. And now, this universal religion of more than one billion followers worldwide is scrutinized by a population that has little knowledge of its basic tenets and practices. It is with a fearful eye that Islam and its worshippers are now being examined with the notion that they have become our nation's greatest enemy. However, a truly objective look makes it quite clear that Islam is really nothing to be afraid of at all."
I don't know if it is crazy or not, to be concerned that by trying to humanize these detainees, and their faith, Captain Yee could have been viewed with suspicion.

If Captain Yee was in possession of this information, in the course of performing his role as a chaplain, then one has to wonder why the military proceeded as it did. If they knew he papers which they did not want to leave Guantanamo, why not simply take them from him before he left? Maybe I should be less suspicious of our government, and more suspicious of Captain Yee, but I feel the need to wait before jumping to conclusions about the man's guilt or intentions.

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