Socialist Worker

Guantanamo chaplain exposes US torture

Issue No. 2081

James Yee served in the US army and was posted as a Muslim chaplain to Guantanamo Bay.

He started raising concerns about how prisoners were being treated – and promptly found himself arrested and charged with sedition.

Yee, who was cleared of all charges and honourably discharged from the US army in January 2005, has been touring Britain for the past two weeks to raise awareness of the plight of the Guantanamo prisoners.

“I talk about the realities of Guantanamo Bay,” he told Socialist Worker. “I was the Muslim chaplain assigned to the camp and I witnessed abuses of prisoners. I also started to become aware of what was going on in the interrogation rooms.

“The authorities would degrade and humiliate prisoners in a systematic way by attacking their religion. It tore me up inside to see other human beings and members of my faith being humiliated in that way – but as an officer I focused on controlling my emotions.

“On returning from duty in 2003 I was arrested on charges of spying and aiding the enemy. I was shackled in the same manner as the Guantanamo prisoners, held in solitary confinement for 76 days and forced to undergo sensory deprivation.

“I believe I was arrested because I was raising concerns about conditions and abuses in Guantanamo. Also I was both a Muslim and a Chinese American, so it was easy to brand me a ‘terrorist spy’ based on popular suspicions towards both Islam and China.

“I’ve written a book that was published in October 2005 and is a detailed insider account of Guantanamo Bay. This has been my first international speaking tour and I’ve had a positive response from every audience I’ve spoken to.

“I want to raise awareness about Guantanamo Bay and warn the people of this country of the dangers of eroding of civil liberities in the post 9/11 era.”

Yee draws a distinction between the civil liberties issues he campaigns on and the wider questions about the war, but he believes that the attitudes of the US government and military towards Islam have fuelled the bloodshed and chaos in Iraq.

“Instead of winning hearts and minds they have only insulted and offended people. We’ve had Abu Ghraib, people’s homes and lives violated by American troops, mercenary companies like Blackwater – all of this has contributed to an all time high in anger at the US.”

For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire by James Yee and Aimee Molloy is published by PublicAffairs (£14.99)

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Article information

Tue 11 Dec 2007, 18:44 GMT
Issue No. 2081
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