Politics

Captain Ian Fishback’s Long Hard Slog Against Torture

By  | 

What happens when you know something is wrong, but everybody around ignores you? I would guess that most of us would simply shut up and fall back in line for fear of serious reprisal.

Not Army Captain Ian Fishback. He saw the “pretend it’s not there” policy on torture in Iraq and tried to stop it. Needless to say, his concerns fell on deaf ears.

From the LA Times:

WASHINGTON � When Army Capt. Ian Fishback told his company and battalion commanders that soldiers were abusing Iraqi prisoners in violation of the Geneva Convention, he says, they told him those rules were easily skirted.

When he wrote a memo saying Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was wrong in telling Congress that the Army follows the Geneva dictates, his lieutenant colonel responded only: “I am aware of Fishback’s concerns.”

And when Fishback found himself in the same room as Secretary of the Army Francis J. Harvey at Ft. Benning, Ga., he again complained about prisoner abuse. He said Harvey told him that “corrective action was already taken.”

At every turn, it seemed, the decorated young West Point graduate, the son of a Vietnam War veteran from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, whose wife is serving with the Army in Iraq, felt that the military had shut him out.

And, of course, Fishback fought back and blew the whistle anyway.

This summer, after weighing the possible effects on his career, he stepped outside the Army’s chain of command and telephoned the Human Rights Watch advocacy group. He later met with aides on the Senate Armed Services Committee. On Friday, he authorized them to make public his allegations, along with those of two sergeants, of widespread prisoner abuse they had witnessed when they served in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 as members of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.

Now word from Andrew Sullivan that Fishback is paying the price.

My sources tell me that he has been subjected to a series of long, arduous interrogations by CID investigators. Predictably, the CID guys are out to find just one thing: they want to know the identities of his two or three NCO corroborators. The CID folks are apparently indifferent to the accounts of wrongdoing – telling him repeatedly not to waste their time with his stories. Fishback knows if he gives their identities up, these folks will also be destroyed – so he’s keeping his silence, so far. The investigators imply that he failed to report abuses, so he may be charged, or that he is peddling falsehoods and will be charged for that. They tell him his career in the Army is over. Meanwhile the peer pressure on him is enormous. I’m reliably told that he has been subjected to an unending stream of threats and acts of intimidation from fellow officers. He is accused of betraying the Army, and betraying his unit by bringing it into disrepute. His motives are challenged. He is accused of siding with the enemy and working for their cause. And it goes on and on.

And this bit that Sullivan reports about Rumsfeld is particularly frightening, albeit purely anecdotal.

Another source informs that the word is around that Rumsfeld has taken a strong interest in this. He is quoted as saying “Either break him or destroy him, and do it quickly.” And no doubt about it, that is just what they are doing. Expect some trumped up charges against Fishback soon, similar to what they did to Muslim Chaplain Captain James Yee, whom they accused of treason with no solid evidence and then, when those charges evaporated, went on to accuse him of adultery.

And The NY Times reports what Rumsfeld is aying in public about the situation:

“All I know is that the Army is taking it seriously,” Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon news conference. “To the extent somebody’s done something that they shouldn’t have done, they’ll be punished for it.”

Hmm…sounds like Fishback is being set up for the “fall guy” role.

Sullivan sums it up best.

What more do you need to know? We have administration memos allowing for de facto torture of “enemy combatants” if “military necessity” demands it; we have new, Bush-approved legal definitions of torture that nevertheless allow all the kinds of horrors we have seen at Abu Ghraib, Camp Cropper, Bagram, Guantanamo, Basra, Camp Mercury and dozens of other sites in the war arena. We have decorated captains testifying at great risk to themselves what has been happening – and we have a clear record of the administration’s attempts to silence and initimidate them. I wonder what is required for this to become the national outrage it should be.

Agreed.

This ridiculous torture policy can’t keep going on and I’m shocked that more Americans who supported the war aren’t speaking out against it. In short, a policy that allows any torture to be used can only weaken our country’s image as a beacon of justice. Apparently, Captain Ian Fishback shares this belief.

You have my respect sir.

Godspeed.