Responses to S. Douglas Saunders 12/11/12 letter to the Post-Standard about John Pilger’s article on Dr. Dhafir’s case:

John Pilger is a veteran investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker of some 40 years.  He has twice won Britain’s Journalist of the Year Award, and his documentaries have gained awards in Britain and worldwide. (See Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq.) His coverage of Dr. Dhafir’s case has given the Syracuse public an opportunity to view the case from a viewpoint other than the government’s.

I have had a passion for the defense of civil liberties since seeing a documentary of the Allies going into Bergen-Belsen as a teenager almost 40 years ago and, although I did not know Dhafir before the trial, I attended almost every day because I was alarmed at the demonization of Muslims in post-9/11 U.S. Before attending 14-week trial of Dr. Dhafir I felt completely secure in my civil liberties; I now know this was naïve in the extreme.

The government made this case very complicated by design and the magnitude of information is overwhelming. Fortunately I took notes for 5 hours each day and, after 8 years of working on the case, I was finally able to write an article that lays out the government’s game plan and execution of the Dhafir prosecution, “Anatomy of a ‘Terrorism’ Prosecution.” It is available for free download as an e-book (pdf 24 pages). So please give another citizen 30 minutes of your time and read it, because it is information that the Syracuse public has never had access to. (248 Words)

Katherine Hughes

And another letter sent in response to Saunders':

To the Editor:

Re the letter (12/11) from S. Douglas Saunders on John Pilger’s essay on the trial of Dr. Rafil Dhafir: Saunders plays the oldest and least ethical trick in the journalistic book. He hints darkly that “all the facts haven’t been presented,” that those facts (in his sole possession) would change everything–but somehow neglects to mention just what those facts are. This is called innuendo (thanks, Post Standard, for legitimizing it by printing his letter)–hardly a basis for anything other than one’s own unsupported opinion and evident bias. And it doesn’t matter if federal agents or the Messiah himself told Saunders about these supposed “facts”: simple hearsay is disallowed in any court in this country. Saunders should state his facts, and back them up–as John Pilger did, and as hundreds of supporters and national advocacy organizations who have indeed reviewed the facts of Dr. Dhafir’s case have done, concluding that a terrible miscarriage of justice occurred. Only then can the court of public opinion be asked to judge.

Jeanne Finley

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To the Post Standard Editor:

The letter by S. Douglas Saunders Camillus concerning Dr. Rafil Dhafir is a piece of gross misinformation. No doubt, men and women who do know Dr. Dhafir will write to you and tell you that he is in prison because he has acted bravely to help suffering innocent people. Few of us have the courage to do so, but we should at least not denigrate, but admire and reward human-rights heros like Dr. Dhafir. Please do what you can to correct the false information spread by the Camillus letter.

David Steindl-Rast

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To the Post Standard Editor:
Please let me thank all those who have written to express the reasons why those of us who have the good fortune to know Dr. Dhafir are still shaken by the imprisonment of a man of such caliber, intelligence, and heart.  Have we really become so fearful as a society that we cannot distinguish between a threat and someone who hears the cries of the poor?  Then again, since when have we *not* had problems with that distinction?  Anyone who knows the life story of the person whose birth some of us celebrate this season can vouch for that.
Patricia Carlson
Ithaca, NY

To the Post Standard Editor:

Please let me thank all those who have written to express the reasons why those of us who have the good fortune to know Dr. Dhafir are still shaken by the imprisonment of a man of such caliber, intelligence, and heart.  Have we really become so fearful as a society that we cannot distinguish between a threat and someone who hears the cries of the poor?  Then again, since when have we *not* had problems with that distinction?  Anyone who knows the life story of the person whose birth some of us celebrate this season can vouch for that.

Patricia Carlson, Ithaca, NY

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To the Editor:

This is in answer to the letter of S. Douglas Saunders.  The key point is that Dr. Dhafir is a humanitarian.  He acted only to alleviate the starvation, particularly among children, resulting from the sanctions on Iraq that caused 1.5 million deaths, by donating, by our government’s own admission, over $1.4 million of his own money.  He did not plea bargain because he knew he was innocent of all charges. Nevertheless he is serving a 22 year sentence.

Let’s compare his case to that of Oscar Wyatt, the Texas oil billionaire.   He got to spend just 1 year in jail by plea bargaining and pleading guilty to conspiring  to commit wire fraud in connection with paying kickbacks to the Iraqi government to steer the oil to his company.  The actual amount of the illegal kickbacks in the original indictment  that was funneled was at least $3.9 million. Michael J. Garcia, the United States attorney in Manhattan, said, “When Oscar Wyatt agreed to defraud the oil-for-food program by making illegal payments to the Hussein regime, he traded the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people for the satisfaction of his own greed.”

A doctor gives his own money away to help starving children and gets 22 years.  An oilman pays kickbacks to enrich himself and gets 1 year.  This is justice?

To find out how compassionate a physician Dr. Dhafir was, I suggest that people, in addition to talking with federal agents, speak with his former patients.

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S. Douglas Saunders letter to the Post-Standard about John Pilger’s article:

John Pilger’s essay in his support of Dr. Rafil Dhafir on Sunday’s Readers’ Page is nothing short of ridiculous. 

As a journalist, he has no idea of the criminal investigation that went on to support Dhafir’s prosecution and conviction. When he was sentenced and all his patients and friends cried out in protest, I shook my head in disbelief, as I did reading Pilger’s piece. I know several federal agents based here in Syracuse who worked this case and were involved with it to the end. They told me that Dhafir is right where he belongs: in federal prison. If all the facts were presented in a newspaper article showing where Dhafir funneled money to, the extent of his involvement and his Middle East connections, the ignorant people who still support Dhafir would see how foolish they are.


S. Douglas Saunders
Camillus