Monday, May. 08, 2006

Ian Fishback

The West Point creed, "Duty, Honor, Country," is constantly recited but hard to find exercised in the fog of war. Army Captain Ian Fishback's singular stand — after witnessing prisoner abuse in Iraq, he cut through the fog and upheld the creed's ideals — sends a shiver of respect down my spine. Unable to square what he knew of systemic interrogation abuses in the global war on terror with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's testimony that the U.S. already followed the Geneva Conventions in Iraq, Fishback saw his duty clear to question company and battalion commanders, lawyers and other officials up the chain of command all the way to the Secretary of the Army.

Honor undaunted by arguments that explicit antitorture standards would limit the President's ability to wage war and by a commander's warning to "remember the honor of the unit was at stake," Fishback persevered to restore true honor. After 17 months of frustration and failure to get his superiors' attention, he went outside his chain of command to Senator John McCain, who in turn successfully spearheaded "antitorture" legislation. Country Fishback, 27, downplayed his heroism as nothing more than supporting clear standards in accordance with U.S. values. But his actions were similar to helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson's heroism that ended Vietnam's My Lai massacre. When fighting for one's country becomes a simple exercise in staying alive or following orders without question, it is remarkable that someone like Fishback comes along who can remind us, even in times of war, of true loyalty to country. In a letter to McCain, Fishback wrote, "I would rather die fighting than give up even the smallest part of the idea that is America."

FBI whistle-blower Rowley was one of TIME's Persons of the Year in 2002