He makes paper out of veterans' old uniforms. He writes poetry, including the poem he read for us during our Witness Against Torture fast January--2020. The art is therapy for his PTSD, having served 76 days in solitary confinement. Had they not arrested him, he figures, he would still be in the military.
Outside a hearing of his case he is pictured wearing military dress in 2004 with his wife and young child. The charges including sedition, aiding the enemy, and espionage, were eventually dropped but they had carried the threat of the death penalty. He might have argued with the pathos of Job, they call me not guilty but they don't apologize or call me innocent. The Book of Job:
"I am clean and without transgression; I am innocent; there is no guilt in me. Yet he invents pretexts against me and reckons me as his enemy. He puts my feet in the stocks; he watches all my ways!" (Job 33: 9-11)
A convert to Islam in 1991, James Yee grew up Christian in a third generation Chinese-American Lutheran family. The diversity of Islam attracted him, how at Mecca all walks of life converge. He met his wife Huda Suboh in Syria where he studied for five years to become a Muslim Chaplain in the mid-late nineties. When James felt compelled to speak out against Guantanamo, defend human rights, combat the manipulation of Islam into a weapon of torture--she was raising their daughter Sarah at home. When he returned, his symptoms of anger, sleep disorder, depression, spilled over. The stress and fear of further retaliation was so much they divorced twice, in 2006, and in 2009. Sarah, now 21, came with her mother to New Jersey for a college preparatory. While she and her generation continue to be impacted by evolving Islamophobia, her father continues speaking out against the weaponization of religion at Guantanamo in the war against Terror.
At Guantanamo religion was used as a weapon against the prisoners, according to Former Muslim Chaplain James "Yusuf" Lee who served at Guantanamo in 2002 and early 2003.
"Interrogators used Islam against these prisoners, desecrating Koran, the sacred writing of the Prophet Mohammed, female interrogators sexually humiliated men, and interrogators dressed as a Catholic priest and performed forced baptisms."
"For example, a prisoner complained. When he arrived in the interrogation room he saw a large circle was marked on the floor--a pentagon star-shaped symbol, a satanic symbol. It was understood that Muslims believe in the oneness of God, a pure monotheistic belief in one God, and that the Muslim prisoners held strong to this. Attempting to break the prisoner's belief in this one God, they forced him, shackled to the floor, to bow down the way Muslims pray pushing their forehead to the floor, while the interrogators screamed in his face, 'Satan is your god now', not Allah the almighty. Using our faith, using religious belief against them, that was one method of torture, one tactic to break them."
Psalm 42: My tears have been my food day and night, as they ask daily, "Where is your God?"
Here David laments the mockery by non-believers whose violence undeterred presents a proof of God's nonexistence.
Psalm 26 is David's prayer of innocence:
"I do not sit with deceivers, nor with hypocrites do I mingle.
I hate the company of evildoers; with the wicked I do not sit.
I will wash my hands in innocence
and walk round your altar, LORD"
Oliver Burkeman, "He is not guilty and He is Not Innocent." The Guardian. 30 March 2004. <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/mar/30/usa.guantanamo>.
James Yee, Aimee Molloy. For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire. Cambridge, MA: Perseus, 2005.
James Yee--see minute 50. Feb. 21, 2021 Orange County Veterans for Peace event posted to Veterans for Peace channel: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=je9QeBzQZwQ&ab_channel=VeteransForPeace>.
James Yee, speaking 14 minutes June 30, 2010 Minneapolis Torture Forum, Plymouth Congregational Church <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNAtriYNPO8&ab_channel=MichaelMcIntee>.
April Xu, "From Prison Chaplain to Imprisoned Chaplain" July 14, 2017
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