Monday, May 03, 2004

A Man Stands Up

Today's Baltimore Sun has a profile of Spc. Joseph M. Darby, the 24-year-old reservist who blew the whistle on the atrocities being committed at Abu Ghraib.
Bernadette Darby, his wife of six years, said she didn't know a thing about her husband's role in uncovering the scandal until a reporter called yesterday. But it sounded like something he would do, she said.

"Whenever he knows something's wrong, he doesn't stand by it," she said. "I'm behind him 100 percent." [...]

[Maj. Gen. Antonio M.] Taguba's report mentions Darby twice - once in a list of witnesses and again with two other soldiers "we observed and believe should be favorably noted."

Darby, the report states, "discovered evidence of abuse and turned it over to military law enforcement." The other soldiers mentioned are a dog handler who refused to participate in improper interrogations and a military policeman who stopped an instance of abuse and reported it up the chain of command.
Three soldiers - of how many who had contact with that prison? Three soldiers stood up for what was right. Spc. Darby wasn't swayed by the praise and attention of MI and civilian interrogators, like his NCO Chip Frederick was. The unnamed dog handler doesn't seem to have needed a copy of the Geneva Conventions on hand to know that he shouldn't sic his animal on a helpless prisoner. These three guys did what anyone should have done - but the fact that there were only three of them suggests that the sense of common decency which motivated them was far from common among their fellow soldiers.

Bernadette Darby lives in Cumberland MD, a town of 24,000 people who are heavily invested in supporting the 372nd Military Police Company. I hope the Darbys are being treated well there. Certainly, he's the man that Cumberland should be proudest of, but I suspect it doesn't work that way. So does Mrs. Darby.
Bernadette Darby said she is a little nervous about how other military families will react to her husband's role in uncovering the scandal, but she said she is proud of him and would do the same if she were in his situation.
The wife of one of the only Americans in Abu Ghraib with a moral compass is afraid that people will see him as the enemy. She's been an Army wife for a long time, so I doubt that she's worrying without cause. She knows these people. She's seen them rallying around their boys, even after the news came out from Abu Ghraib. She's probably seen these angry letters sent to 60 Minutes after they broke the story. (Sample: "Why in God's name would you choose to air such a story at this time? This is something our country didn't need to know now. [...] We are losing our fight with other countries to support us, and now you have just sealed it. ... We've just lost the goal of helping anyone over there because of this show, and God help us. You are no better then those who did these horrible acts. Your reports are bringing down this country.")

Bernadette Darby is probably right to be afraid. Jesus. Is there any aspect of this story that doesn't feel like a punch in the gut?