Captain Mohammed Dreyfus
(First published March 29, 2004). In 1893 Alfred Dreyfus, a captain of the French Army, was accused and tried for treason. In spite of evidence to the contrary, he was convicted and sent to prison in Devil’s Island for the rest of his life. The Dreyfus’ case unleashed a storm of anti-Semitism all over France (he was a Jew) and it was only through mighty efforts of people of good will all over France that he was finally exonerated of all charges in 1906 and then too, only after a change of government. He was re-instated in the army with the rank of Major and fought gallantly in WWI as Lieutenant Colonel.
In 2003 Captain James Yee, a Muslim Chaplain at Guantanamo Bay, was placed in solitary confinement, in shackles for most of 76 days in a military brig where he was not even told what time of day or night it was so he could pray. No one was told where he was or what the charges were against him and the word “espionage” was widely used by various spokes people; his military lawyers were told to prepare for a death-penalty defense.
Even the school for Muslim clerics where Captain Yee got his credentials, the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences, was vilified at all levels from the Senate on down as a hotbed of potential terrorists.
The charges, by the time they came, were reduced to “mishandling classified documents”. It later turned out that the documents were not even classified; they were lists of who was in which cell which is perfectly reasonable for a chaplain serving over 600 prisoners. Towards the end of this nightmare, the Army had added “Pornography on a government computer” and “Adultery” to the charges.
Months later, the Army mumbled something about dropping charges “but only because of the sensitivity of the information” and still held on to pornography and adultery as potential charges. At least the French went through a trial process with Captain Dreyfus even though it was a sham; The US Army did not even show that much courage. It seems that the Brave in the Army were sent to the battle zones while the moral cowards remained behind to polish the military’s tarnishing image.
Airman Ahmed Halabi served at Guantanamo Bay as a translator. He was also arrested at about the same time as Captain Yee. The charges against him were also espionage but strangely, included, “giving Baklava to the prisoners” and like Yee, “mishandling classified documents”.
Halabi, we are told, had subversive things the prosecution intends to use; items like a tract on the virtues of fasting, a drawing of a Mosque, the Arabic word for God (“Allah”) and a book on Jihad which in Islam does NOT mean “Holy War”.
By a bizarre twist of fate, members of the investigative staff against both men had one member each who was found to have also “mishandled classified documents”. They were merely re-assigned; they were neither Arab nor Muslim.
It appears that the Military, along with the rest of the government agencies (down to the Department of Agriculture), are in high gear to persecute people because they are Muslims.
When a Reservist signed up for the Military in 2002, her husband (of Palestinian descent) was “detained” indefinitely as she reported for training. She was followed everywhere at her training center and harassed with questions like, “ are you a spy?”. When she complained, the officers recommended she seek discharge from the Army. She was finally forced to quit but her husband remained in jail…still without charges.
In France, there was an almighty uproar against the racist charges and cover-ups by the French Government, its judicial system and its Army but it took thirteen years for justice to prevail there. It is baffling that in this country of ours, we do not seem to have a similar tide from people of goodwill. It must not take thirteen years for us to stand up to our own flaws in the pursuit of a better tomorrow for our children.