Neoconscience: Disclosure and exposure

Sgt. Joe Darby

US Army Reserve Sgt. Joe Darby was the Abu Ghraib whistleblower. He was the first soldier to react humanely when shown the now-infamous photos of prisoner abuse. He was the first to not giggle. Once he understood what he was looking at, he was the first who did not luxuriate in the images, nor gawk at their novelty. He was the first to not eagerly and happily pass them along.

Sgt. Darby’s hands and eyes were instruments of conscience, not neoconscience. His reaction was the late arrival of an important, forgotten idea: that where the US is compelled to appear in force, it is also compelled to appear lawfully.

This idea is not some historically abiding impetus. For example, it in no way thematically reflects US foreign policy before or after WWII. Far too many times before or since the US has, without compulsion, appeared in force on the world stage, so it cannot be taken seriously as the voice of principle and diplomacy. Not even in Poland.

Such barrier to overstatement thus placed, what Sgt. Darby re-animated in his refusal to hoot and jabber at the disgraceful abuse photos was an American impulse last displayed to the world at the Nuremberg war trials in the months following WWII.

Nuremberg was an American project. England and the Soviet Union, having their societies near mortally-shaken by the war, each wanted less than traditionally legal proceedings for the captured German high command. Churchill made distinctions between “major” and “minor” war criminals, preferring the latter receive “judicial” trials. The implication of a trial that is non-judicial is left for the reader.

Instead, the US judges and counsel tried 185 defendants and found 142 guilty of at least one of the charges. 24 received death sentences, of which 11 were subsequently converted into lifetime imprisonments; 20 were sentenced to lifetime imprisonment, 98 received prison sentences of varying lengths. 35 were acquitted.

It’s doubtful that a legal exercise conducted by the Soviet Union, having lost twenty million of its people to German aggression, would result in such a diversity of outcomes.

And it’s this notion of lawfulness that arose in the actions of Sgt. Joe Darby when he fingered his idiot sadist colleagues at Abu Ghraib, and by extension, the lawless neocon enablers at the Pentagon, State Department and White House.

Lawfulness today buys you a life of looking over your shoulder. Blow the whistle and no less than Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, from the floor of Congress, will rat you out on national TV. Next thing you know, you’re speaking with BBC radio about how you need an armed guard with you wherever you go.

Harbor no illusions about US policy – neither its appalling abuse at the hands of neocons nor its expression of high principle on display at the most important event in human history. Joe Darby doesn’t.

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1984-89: Defoliants
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August 2007
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