Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The Conscience of Joe Darby

Unless I'm mistaken, GQ Magazine didn't really become popular for it's political commentary, military exposés, in-depth analysis of international affairs, or intellectual essays on controversial topics. Men's fashion tips, photos of scantily-clad women, and sports articles seemed to be the standard subjects in this stylish publication. That's why I was thrilled to see an article on Joe Darby in such an unlikely soapbox. Here's an excerpt from the article by Wil S. Hylton:

When he saw the horrific abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, Joe Darby knew he had to blow the whistle. But coming forward would change his life—as well as his family's—forever, and for the worse. Because back in his own community and in the small towns of America, handing over those photos didn't make Joe Darby a hero. It made him a traitor.

They shut him up. Fast. You never even saw him. No footage of him coming off the plane, no flags or banners waving, no parade in his honor. He came home from Iraq in May, but there wasn't even a formal announcement. In fact, you're not supposed to know he's here.

He lives in a secret location. It might be just down the street, or it might be halfway to nowhere. Maybe he was sitting at the next table last night, having dinner right beside you. You have no way of knowing: Nobody knows what he looks like. The only picture most of us have seen is the one from 1997, the high school yearbook portrait, with his hair parted in the middle and the impish smile on his face. That was before he lost the hair, before he gained the weight and his chest filled out, before he got married and became a man. But that was the picture that ran in all the papers when the scandal broke. It was the only one that slipped out.

He hasn't done any interviews or made any statements since it happened, hasn't talked publicly about what he saw in Abu Ghraib prison or what made him turn in those pictures on that January night in Iraq. All we know is that he did turn them in and that everything changed because of it. The rest is speculation. He's been under a gag order for three months.

He wouldn't mind talking, actually; he wants you to know the truth. The desire to tell the truth was how he got into this thing in the first place. He was the guy who stood up to evil when everyone else fell silent, the guy who put himself on the line when nobody else would. No wonder they won't let him talk. No wonder he can't say what he knows. It would be easier if he could, if Joe Darby could tell you himself, but this will do for now.

E.P. Tuesday, August 24, 2004