Post-9/11 life tests chaplain

January 29, 2008
By

For God and Country, by James Yee (Public Affairs, $49.95):

James Yee could have been the poster boy for the United States Army.

The West Point graduate and New Jersey native was a second-generation army man, following in the footsteps of his father and his brothers.

He converted from Christianity to Islam shortly after his 1990 graduation and decided to take up the invitation to enter the US Army Chaplain Corps as one of the first Muslim chaplains.

Captain Yee’s first real experience of being in the spotlight came after the 9/11 attacks in the US in 2001. Being one of only a handful of Muslim chaplains meant soldiers went to him with questions about those who had carried out the attacks. Soon, he was briefing both his superiors and the press on Islam.

This led to him being offered the role of Muslim chaplain to the inmates at the notorious Guantanamo Bay in 2003.

However, the two-time distinguished service medal-winner was to find his life turned upside down.

The chaplain says he found deep hostility towards Muslims there — not just the inmates but also the troops — and that religion was used as a weapon.

He was arrested when returning from duty at the naval base in September, 2003, and charged with sedition, aiding the enemy, spying, espionage and failure to obey a general order. Yee was blindfolded, placed in manacles and taken to a Navy brig, where he spent 76 days in solitary confinement.

He was persecuted by anonymous briefings to the media and subjected to a seeming endless parade of accusation and innuendo.

A few months later, all the charges were quietly dropped and Yee was left wondering what had become of his life.

Jillian Allison-Aitken

I come from the other land down under, where men are men, and sheep are nervous. I'm a sub-editor and in the past have been a proof-reader, news editor and web editor. I am also an ex-columnist, and book and software reviewer for the local daily newspaper.I still read. A lot. And surf the web. Also a lot.You'll find a little about both of those pastimes here, and on By George.

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