Former diplomat that he was, he tried to go through channels; he did not want to embarrass the president, even though he disagreed with him. Only after it seemed the White House was sticking to the uranium-in-Africa charge — and this was months after the war was launched — did Wilson go public. Because Wilson decided to divulge the truth, at least two persons in the Bush administration (and maybe more) went after his wife, endangered her secret anti-WMD work (and perhaps that of her CIA colleagues) and impaired U.S. national security. And when Wilson complained about this payback, he was widely assailed by Republicans for being a — gasp! — Democratic partisan.
Then there’s Joseph Darby. His is the saddest story of the lot. He is the 24-year-old Army reservist who worked at Abu Ghraib prison. After hearing that there had been a shooting at the prison’s so-called “hard site,” he asked a military-police officer named Charles Graner Jr. if he had any photos of the cell where the shooting had occurred. Graner handed him two CDs of photographs. They contained much more than pictures of the cell; there were hundreds of photographs of Iraqi prisoners being abused.
Darby told investigators that Graner had said to him, “The Christian in me says it’s wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, ‘I love to make a grown man piss himself.’” Darby slipped an anonymous note reporting the abuse under the door of investigators working for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division. He then came forward and gave a sworn statement. “It was just wrong,” Darby told the investigators. “I knew I had to do something.”
Darby’s actions triggered the investigation that led to the prison abuse scandal. But he has not been widely hailed for this courageous whistle-blowing. When a Washington Postreporter recently visited Darby’s hometown of Corriganville, Maryland, his neighbors in this mountain community rebuked him for being a snitch. His relatives have refused interviews; some have slipped out of town. The New York Postran a story about Darby beneath the headline “Hero a Two-Timing Rat.” The article focused on his personal life — as if that matters much — but the title sent another message. According to the Washington Post, “The Army says it’s considering giving Darby a medal, although Army spokesman Dov Schwartz said it can’t say when.”
There are no signs that the military is rushing to honor Darby, who is unlikely to receive a hero’s welcome in his hometown anytime soon. By the way, it took the Army 30 years to honor a whistleblower who reported to his commanders the My Lai massacre in Vietnam.
America, of thee I sing. But not the sour notes. Darby, Wilson, and Breitweiser and the 9/11 widows all acted on the assumption that serving the truth is the obligation of a good citizen. Each has learned the hard way that not all of their fellow Americans agree with this radical idea.