Reversal of fortune
Yee was not exactly cleared. Back in March 2004, AP reported that “in dismissing the charges, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo, which operates the detention center, cited ‘national security concerns that would arise from the release of the evidence’ if the case proceeded.”
National security concerns would arise from the release of the evidence if Yee’s case proceeded? That’s a very strange statement, and it cries out for an explanation (none was ever forthcoming, to my knowledge), but it is not quite the same thing as saying, “This man was completely innocent, and should never have been charged.” Maybe they just don’t want to admit a mistake. But questions persist.
In any case, this article says that Yee saw the Qur’an desecrated at Guantanamo, but in this report, he says of the desecration reports (which he was and is eagerly passing on) that he did not see any desecration himself:
The Korans were thrown on the floor by guards when they conducted cell searches. It has been reported and I have learned now that interrogators also were throwing the Korans on the floor or stomping on it. This was happening when I was there, and this was an issue.
Interviewer: You actually saw this happening?
Yee: I didn’t see it because I wasn’t a part of the intelligence operation, but I was aware directly from the prisoners, when they came to me with the complaints and concerns.
But now some time has passed, and memories have grown hazy, and lo and behold, he did see the Qur’an desecration:
“Denver latest stop on Yee’s unlikely journey,” by Danny Westneat for the Seattle Times, August 25 (thanks to all who sent this in):
DENVER “” Nobody’s come as far as James Yee to be a delegate to this Democratic National Convention.
Five years ago, Yee, an Army chaplain of Muslim faith, was shackled and tossed into solitary confinement for 76 days because the U.S. government felt “” wrongly “” that he was a terrorist sympathizer and spy.
Now the Olympia man is here, ready to cast his vote as part of the Washington state contingent for Barack Obama.
His story is a useful reminder, he says, of the danger of America chucking aside civil liberties. […]
“There is some worry that I might be a lightning rod,” Yee said Sunday. ” ‘Accused terrorist spy is national delegate for Obama,’ ” he intoned, imagining how Fox News might broadcast his story.
Yee, formerly a chaplain at Fort Lewis, is something of a celebrity at the convention. Fox, PBS, The Washington Post all have called. It’s because of what happened to him at GuantÃ¡namo Bay, Cuba, back when America was gripped in a war-on-terror fever.
Yee was no radical. A West Point grad, he was deeply committed to both his Muslim faith and the military “” “serving both God and country,” he says. He voted for George W. Bush in 2000.
Then he was sent to Gitmo in the fall of 2002, to minister to prisoners and be an unofficial Muslim spokesman for the U.S. military.
By the spring of 2003, though, he was objecting to the treatment of detainees and the “anti-Muslim hostility” that he says pervaded the place. He felt it came down from the top “” from the “you’re either with us or against us” doctrine that he now describes as “a terrorist mentality.”
Some intelligence officers suspected Yee of conspiring with the enemy, and he was arrested that September.
Spying, espionage, mutiny and sedition “” all were alleged by the government. Infamously, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. “” whom Yee will probably meet at this convention “” said Yee’s arrest was proof that al-Qaida had infiltrated the U.S. military.
“Basically, they said I was a traitor,” Yee says.
The case fell apart almost immediately. Eventually all charges were dropped, and in 2005 he quit the Army with an honorable discharge. […]
“Some of it is because I challenged the system at GuantÃ¡namo,” he said, “but most of it was because I am Muslim.”
So now, in 2008, does he feel welcome in American politics?
It is not far from Yee’s mind that the Obama campaign in the spring asked two women wearing Muslim head scarves to move so they wouldn’t appear in the TV shots of the crowd behind him.
But Yee says he got active in politics after quitting the Army because he feels Muslims must “speak up, volunteer and engage,” or continue to be marginalized.
“I can see why Muslims wanted to go underground after 9/11,” Yee said. “But I have found that if you speak up in politics you can have a positive influence.” […]
When he says this, we are sitting outside what’s billed as the first-ever “interfaith” event for a Democratic convention. We listen as Christians, Jews, Buddhists and, yes, Muslims, openly profess their faiths.
Then there’s a reading from the Quran, the same book Yee says he saw desecrated, as a form of psychic abuse, at GuantÃ¡namo. It’s a passage about how the true nature of righteousness is more about compassion than “whether you turn your face towards East or West.”
Yee taps the passage.
“That they’ll now read from the Quran at a national political convention “” that shows we have come a long way in this country,” he says.
“That I’m here “” that shows it, too.”