A Cautious Man
March 21, 2004
 
Sorry for the Things That We Done
Note to government: Real people are being hurt by these games.
A day after the Army dropped its charges that Muslim chaplain Capt. James Yee mishandled secrets at a prison for terror suspects, his mother said military officials owe him and the family an apology. Fong Yee of Springfield called the dismissal of charges against her 35-year-old son "a victory," but said the family remains "crushed" by the six-month ordeal.


Those charges were dropped Friday by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, commander of the joint task force that oversees the Guantánamo base. Military officials said they could not proceed with the case because presenting evidence in court would raise national security concerns.

At the Springfield home where Yee was raised, his mother said yesterday there was little celebration. She chided military officials for branding her son a spy and jailing him for 76 days, then dropping the charges without clearing his name. "Realize you made a mistake and apologize," Fong Yee said in a telephone interview. "What's wrong with that? It's an honorable thing to do. That's just basic human decency."
Instead, she said, officials have continued to say that Yee may have been carrying classified documents at the time of his arrest, adding to what she called a pattern of efforts by the military to save face even as its case unraveled.

"People will always remember this spy stuff," she said. "I want to impress on the government how many people that they hurt."
This refusal to concede error means that Captain Yee will continue to be demonized by those for whom "Muslim=Terrorist" is an article of faith. That's a simplistically erroneous view which Captain Yee himself worked to overcome, as demonstrated by his writings in the Guantanamo base newsletter a year ago:
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.
Captain Yee was trying to explain that Americans should not fear all Muslims. Unfortunately, our government's behavior suggests that the converse is not true.

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