Debra J. Saunders

Shourd never quite comes out and says that she thinks that as Iraq War-opposing liberals, she and her friends should be treated differently than other people in the Middle East. But surely, she noticed that she was an unmarried 31-year-old woman and traveling with her 27-year-old boyfriend throughout the Arabian Peninsula, among people who would not tolerate the same behavior from their own.

Unjust imprisonment? Bauer should talk to a 10-year-old bride.

Before Bauer and Fattal's release, reader Dan Brown of San Rafael, Calif., sent me a note urging me to write about the San Francisco Chronicle's extensive coverage of the hikers compared with the minimal coverage of Alan Gross. Cuba sentenced Gross to 15 years in prison for illegally bringing satellite phone equipment to Jewish groups in Havana.

Now, I know that the hikers garner media coverage in the Bay Area, where I live, because they went to school here. Parents here look at the travelers and think of their own kids. (Yes, here age 29 is still childhood.) And Bauer has written for the Chronicle.

Gross is from Maryland. He's 62, and he crossed the Castro government. It's no contest.

But Brown had a point when he wrote that Bauer and Shourd "lived in Syria, enjoying privileged lives," different from the lives of ordinary Damascenes. Yet instead of criticizing Syria's brutal dictator, Bauer wrote articles hitting America, and Shourd wrote a piece that criticized not Assad, but Israel. Gross, Brown wrote, worked for human rights. Bauer, Fattal and Shourd just "took a hike."

It is my sincere wish that Bauer, Fattal and Shourd return to the United States and realize what a great country America is. Iran arrested them. Iran framed them. Iran jailed them.

The United States, in contrast, gave them a university education that trained them to blame America first. Or, after serving time in prison -- for hiking -- coequally with Iran.

Debra J. Saunders

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