(March 14)

When quiet diplomacy doesn’t work to secure basic human rights for a U.S. citizen imprisoned abroad, a U.S. administration should feel obliged to unleash verbal fireworks — and then to back them up.

Instead, the Biden administration’s silence on the fate of Jordanian American Bassem Awadallah is the very definition of useless pusillanimity. Because of Joe Biden’s weakness, the president could soon have a dead American citizen on whatever conscience Biden still has.


As recounted here multiple times, Awadallah was arrested nearly two full years ago on suspicion of sedition and then sentenced to prison without being allowed to see his family or call witnesses in his own defense. His family alleges that Awadallah also was subjected to heinous forms of torture. To this day, neither Biden nor any top State Department official has made a public case for the man’s release.

Now Awadallah is on a hunger strike and in parlous condition. His family says that after more than three weeks on a hunger strike, he was “rushed to a military hospital … suffering from extremely low blood pressure and sugar levels, [and] was given glucose intravenously, but refused further intervention once his vitals stabilized.”

“My client’s life remains in danger as his health declines daily,” said Michael J. Sullivan, Awadallah’s American attorney, who has been denied the right to visit the prisoner. “As Ramadan approaches, Dr. Awadallah’s family continues to strongly urge the US government to take immediate action to secure Bassem’s release from the Kingdom of Jordan. His family also reiterates that they place full legal, ethical, and moral responsibility on King Abdullah and his government for the harm caused their son.”

Even for those of us who think hunger strikes are incredibly counterproductive ways of getting one’s point across, the plight of Awadallah should be galvanizing. To repeat: This man is an American citizen who was denied the most basic due-process rights and who for two years has been subjected to allegedly brutal treatment in a facility known for horrid conditions. He denies plotting against the Jordanian king and certainly did absolutely nothing that came close to carrying out any alleged plot or discussions.

Yet the Biden administration won’t make a public case for him….. [The rest of the column is here.]