American heroism the way it ought to be

Be sure to read this great post, which includes the complete letter that decorated, West Point-educated officer Ian Fishback wrote to Senator john mcCain. It is truly beyond belief. He has exposed the institutionalization of torture by Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq, and how is he rewarded? He is sequestered, smeared, belittled and threatened with punishment. It’s a shocking story and the lack of outrage is even more shocking. He is defending the “little guys” in the field who are fulfilling policies coming down from the top. In other words, he is trying to protect his fellow soldiers, who end up getting scapegoated and imprisoned because they are doing what they’ve been told to do. And for that, he is portrayed as a traitor.

As Sully says:

The overwhelming majority of our soldiers are as decent and as honest and as moral as this hero. They have been betrayed by incompetence, brutality and treachery at the very top of this administration. And those responsible must be brought to justice. But we also owe them new legislation to draw a line between the stain of the Bush era and the future. We cannot undo the profound damage this president has done to this country’s honor and military. But we can stop it now. And we must.

Thanks God America has a free media where this story can be told, from the newspapers to the blogs. Now, if only the people would listen.

The Discussion: 41 Comments

Richard, did you not receive your memo from Karl Rove this AM? It’s all Lyndie Englund’s fault!

September 29, 2005 @ 1:19 am | Comment

Talk about a tragic scapegoat. She’s not my favorite person, but she sure got the short end of the stick. And as usual, those at the top slither away on their bellies. Is this how we “support our troops”?

September 29, 2005 @ 1:22 am | Comment

Yeah…It’s not like she doesn’t deserve some punishment. What she did was heinous. but how much longer will this nonsense about all the “abuse” (e.g., “torture”) being the actions of a few bad apples be allowed to stand? It’s obvious that this is deliberate, systemic and pervasive, and that it’s coming from the very top.

September 29, 2005 @ 1:28 am | Comment

welcome to the New Order. You all think a little thing like free speach is gonna stop all this? We are only now sniffing the tip of the iceberg. in the months and years to follow, we will be inundated with far worse things, and we will all forget, or be drowned out by the coming deluge. The future is here, and we havent got long enough to change much.

September 29, 2005 @ 2:32 am | Comment

No, free speech certainly won’t stop all this, but combined with rule of law and an energized public willing to throw the perpetrators out of office, we might be able to get somewhere. I’m nearly as gloomy as you are, Chris, but at least there are signs that the Bush structure is crumbling. Tom Delay, Bill Frist and Karl Rove are all in deep shit, Bush’s numbers keep getting worse and the public is sick and tired of Iraq. Again, at least there’s some cause for hope.

September 29, 2005 @ 2:51 am | Comment

My cynical side agrees completely with Chris but as the saying goes “It may not be a great system but it’s all we got.”

My idealistic side agrees more with the Duck. The people do have the power and we should take advantage of this right. Not doing so is an insult to the billions of people that are denied what we often take for granted.

September 29, 2005 @ 5:29 am | Comment


Just to offer you some historical perspective – oh yeah, sometimes I feel almost as apocalyptica as you, for good reasons – but let me tell you something which one of my best mentors (a great historian, now in his 80s) always told me:

He always tells me, that the balance of good and evil in the world always remains about the same (with the good side just BARELY winning) – and more importantly, that….

….well, please let me take some license to be a BIT religious here….

…he always told me (and gave me examples) that he perceives some kind of EXTRAordinary pattern in how ALL lies and corruptions die in the long run. In the LONG run, all lies, and all evils, die and disappear – precisely because they are all based on UNreality.

And I agree with him, that this is a sign (which we can only see vaguely, “through a glass darkly” as Saint Paul said) of an EXTRAordinary Divine influence in the affairs of Humans. Randomness and “evolutionary progress” cannot account for it. If it was all due to “evolutionary progress” then Hitler would have won the war. Hitler WAS HALF RIGHT about how Humans are conditioned by “survival of the fittest” – but Hitler never acknowledged (or he refused to acknowledge) the other, more peculiar, extraordinary qualities of Humans.

That’s why he lost the war. Seriously. And that’s why the world hates and curses him now – just two generations after he died – while other, more truthful men are still loved and remembered thousands of years after they died. Moses, Jesus, Muhammed, for starters.

In a similar way, Gandhi said something like (I’m quoting imperfectly from memory): “There have been tyrants and liars throughout history, but in the long run they always fail. Think of it: Always.”

Hm. Well I also mentioned Muhammed here – with admiration – and I know he doesn’t have a great reputation in America right now. And I’m not a Muslim, but I do think Muhammed was a truthful, good man.
Many of his putative “followers” have corrupted his teachings – just like many nominal “Christians” and “Jews” have betrayed Moses and the ancient Prophets and Jesus.
But about my – imperfect, but realistic – conviction that Humanity is under the protection of a transcendent, but still essentially HUMANIST GOD, let me tell you the line I love best in the Koran:

God said: “Muhammed, if it were not for you, I would not have created all the stars.”

There are various possible ways of reading that, but I (and some good Muslims) read it as an affirmation that THIS world, and Humanity, is the center of God’s gaze.

Alright. Now let me take a break and get back into my comical mode….


September 29, 2005 @ 5:57 am | Comment

Ivan, you White Christer America, you try on the hegemony on your human right and you say it all White Christer.

How you can say Muhammed is same as Christian? You say Muhammed want the Human Right like White Christian for the Xinjiang province, you are foolish way, they hate you in Xinjiang, they is terrorist, maybe you like terrorist in your Christ Church of America hegemony?

And you say you like the Moses Jew, how you can say Moses is Christer American? Moses and Jew is no America, you don’t know, many Jew are in bank and they steal from America Christers, they hate Communism, all Jew hate Communist, all Jew want to destroy socialism. That is why Stalin kill Jew Trotsky, Trotsky is Jew enemy of Socialism.

As we all know, Karl Marx is good German, he write against Jew. Maybe Hitler is not so bad, Hitler against Jew, Hitler agree with Marx.
And Hitler is against America hegemony. You America, you too much Christ to understand.

You don’t understand China. China is good German Socialist like Marx with Chinese characteristics, if you like Jew then you against Socialism.
Maybe Hitler is good friend of China like Marx against the Jew and Muslim.

Sincerely yours,

Ivan the Ignorant and Unhinged Chinese Nationalist (second year undergraduate without a girlfriend. Or boyfriend. And my middle school teachers used to humiliate me.)

September 29, 2005 @ 6:26 am | Comment

Oh man, please tell me that the last comment by Ivan is some sort of twisted joke.

September 29, 2005 @ 6:40 am | Comment

Whoa, I’m confused. Are you arguing that poor little Lindy is being oppressed.

How can you (1) abhor Abu Gharab and (2) complain that the little white trash, chicken farmer, torturer is a victim?

I am very concerned about what happened in Abu Gharab, and the first step to remedying it is to punish the fuckers shown on film to have actually done it.

If it can be proven that someone higher up ordered it, then punish them too. but, either way, England deserves the 3rd degree.

Do you know that the Iraqi’s are quoted as being very pissed off over the lightness of her sentence?

September 29, 2005 @ 8:10 am | Comment

Er, no, Conrad. Why don’t you read both my comments? I said, “I think what she did is heinous” and that she deserves some punishment. What I object to are the attempts by the Administration to pass off all of this “abuse” as being the work of a few, low-level “bad apples,” rather than as the consequence of policy from the top down.

September 29, 2005 @ 10:31 am | Comment


…the suicide thinker is typically a Western academic or journalist or politician whose mission it is to destroy the West’s will to resist not just terrorism but any ideological challenge at all.

But al-Qaeda didn’t create the ugly streak of nihilism and self-loathing that afflicts too many Western intellectuals. Nor, I believe, is it a natural development. It was brought to us by Department V of the KGB, which was charged during the Cold War with conducting memetic warfare that would destroy the will of the West’s intelligentsia to resist a Communist takeover. This they did with such magnificent effect that the infection outlasted the Soviet Union itself and remains a pervasive disease of contemporary Western intellectual life.

Consider the following propositions:

There is no truth, only competing agendas.

All Western ( and especially American ) claims to moral superiority over Communism/Fascism/Islam are vitiated by the West’s history of racism and colonialism.

There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such standards is an evil oppressor.

The prosperity of the West is built on ruthless exploitation of the Third World; therefore Westerners actually deserve to be impoverished and miserable. [the origin of the left’s anti-white Nazism]

Crime is the fault of society, not the individual criminal.

Poor criminals are entitled to what they take.

Submitting to criminal predation is more virtuous than resisting it.

The poor are victims. Criminals are victims. And only victims are virtuous. Therefore only the poor and criminals are virtuous. ( Rich people can borrow some virtue by identifying with poor people and criminals. )

For a virtuous person, violence and war are never justified. It is always better to be a victim than to fight, or even to defend oneself.

But “oppressed” people are allowed to use violence anyway; they are merely reflecting the evil of their oppressors.

When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner is to apologize for past sins, understand the terrorist’s point of view, and make concessions.

These ideas travel under many labels: postmodernism, nihilism, multiculturalism, Third-World-ism, pacifism, “political correctness” to name just a few. It is time to recognize them for what they are, and call them by their right name: suicidalism.

Trace any of these back far enough ( e.g. to the period between 1930 and 1950 when Department V was at its most effective ) and you’ll find a Stalinist at the bottom.

The Communist atheists of Department V understood that Christian self-abnegation tends to inculcate a cult of self-sacrifice even among Westerners who are themselves agnostics or atheists. All the propagandists had to do was make the case that the value of self-abnegation applies to culture as well as individuals. By doing so, they were able to entrench the idea that suicidalists are morally superior to non-suicidalists.

I think it’s important to understand that, although suicidalism builds on some pre-existing pathologies of Western culture, it is not a native or natural development. It is an infection that evildoers and their dupes created and then spread as part of a war against the West; their goal was totalitarian control, and part of their method was to talk the West into slitting its own throat.

September 29, 2005 @ 10:42 am | Comment

You know, I criticize my own country more than most, but to say there are no objective standards by which we may judge cultures is a cop-out. I can think of three standards for you:

1. How does a culture treat its members?
2. How does a culture treat those outside of it?
3. How does a culture treat the environment?

By those standards, the US doesn’t come off spotless either, and one must allow for differences in material circumstances (e.g., it’s a lot easier for a country that has material bounty to treat its members well than one that is impoverished). But for example, I am perfectly willing to say that a culture which treats women like chattel is not as objectively “good” as one that does not. A quick measure of overall circumstances in a nation/culture is how well its women are treated and the extent to which they are partners, rather than property.

September 29, 2005 @ 11:36 am | Comment

While i suspect that the media in the US is considerably more “free” than that in China, i have to say this is the first i’ve heard of this story, and i have considerable doubt that i will hear of it in any mainstream media outlets because the Hon. Mr. Fishback dares to accuse the highest leaders of sanctioning torture as a policy, which means at best being ignored as much as possible by MSM and at worst being vilified as a “traitor” or “un-American” or some other hogwash….oh wait, i guess that’s happened already. Surprise!

thanks for posting this, though, and for creating/maintaining this site in general. as an American who’s fascinated with China, it’s an invaluable read. i will try to send info on this story to the blogs i read regularly and hopefully it will start more of a stir.

keep up the good work

September 29, 2005 @ 11:38 am | Comment

Hey look, the WaPo reprinted the letter. Maybe the tide is really turning in the aftermath of the Katrina fiasco, and the MSM is finding itself with a rudimentary backbone after all! Let’s hope the trend continues.

September 29, 2005 @ 11:43 am | Comment

Sardonicus, it was also reported front page in the LA Times, among others.

September 29, 2005 @ 12:07 pm | Comment

YES, Dan, the last comment by me, Ivan, WAS a joke.

If you read the comment I made BEFORE that weird one, then you will see what I mean.

Oh God, you must be American. Irony deficiency…… 🙂

September 29, 2005 @ 1:06 pm | Comment

Oh Holy Shit.

I tried to read the comment by
“Tian Li” but – maybe I’m too drunk at this moment. Or maybe it would hurt my brain even more if I was dead sober.

Holy shit.

Even when I’m sober I’m no good at abstracting my brain into the zones of intellectual masturbation….
What the F— was “Tian Li” trying to say?

I can’t follow Sardonicus either. And I’m medium-fluent in Latin, so now I’m really worried about how I can’t understand Sardonicus.

All I can say in my drunken state, is that Lyndie Englund deserved a few years in prison and Donald Rumsfeld deserves to be hanged and drawn and quartered. Does that make any sense?

September 29, 2005 @ 1:17 pm | Comment

Ivan. What you said.

September 29, 2005 @ 1:26 pm | Comment

I totally concur with Ivans last statement. wha???? i had to read that very slowly, and still it made so little sense.

Anyway, thanks for your previous post Ivan, it made me feel alot better, and you are right. It usually, sorry, ALWAYS gets sorted in the end.

September 29, 2005 @ 2:17 pm | Comment

I understood your comment very well Lisa. You said that, while she deserves “some” punishment, you are for more interested in using her actions to score political points when neither you, nor I, know whether or not orders from higher up influenced her actions.

She deserves more than the 3 years she got, even if GW Bush is own self called her personally and told her to do it — the defence of “just following orders” having been discredited long ago.

September 29, 2005 @ 11:35 pm | Comment

Conrad, stop twisting what I say to serve your own agenda. I said Lyndie Englund deserves punishment. But if I’m trying to score “political points,” what the hell is it that YOU are trying to do? Deny that there is some sort of larger pattern of abuse here? Come on. We saw it at Abu Ghraib, we saw it at Guantanamo, we saw it in Afghanistan, and here’s another case in Iraq. Where is all this coming from? Little Lyndie thought it up herself? Give me a break.

I am objecting to actions and policies that to me, violated the deepest moral and legal principles of this country. What, do you support torture? Do you think such actions honor this country?

Well, I don’t. And I am sick of slavish supporters of this Administration who refuse to condemn policies that shame us all.

September 29, 2005 @ 11:54 pm | Comment

Conrad, did you read the Andrew Sullivan post I linked to? Clearly there are orders coming down from the top, and that’s where everyone’s turning a blind eye. You are, too. I really don’t think you have any right to accuse lisa of trying to exploit this story to “score political points.” Maybe it just makes us sick, and it’s the type of about whether it was being perpetrated by Donald Rumsfeld or Li Peng.

September 30, 2005 @ 12:13 am | Comment

No, Lisa, you said she deserves “SOME” punishment. Stop trying to evade your own words.

And, yes, it’s entirely possible that “Little Lindy” and her cohort of ignorant trailer trash “thought this up themselves” — abuse. sadism and torture being, sadely, a near universal human trait and particlarly so among the ignorant.

On the other hand, it is also entirely possble it came from higher up. If it did, I stated very explicitly (see above), that those higher ups, however high they may be, should also be punished.

I’m sorry that you are having trouble understanding this. I can’t, however, think of anyway to make it more simple to cater to your limited logical abilities. Perhaps you should limit yourself to the ANSWER site in future, where the BUSHCHIMPHITLERLIEDANDSTOLE ELECTION, editorial policy should prove less challenging for you.

September 30, 2005 @ 12:13 am | Comment

Conrad, get a grip.

September 30, 2005 @ 12:15 am | Comment

Conrad, I don’t even know you. But the first time you ever engaged me in comments, you were personally insulting to me. That was before I tended to state things as bluntly as I do now. I’ve never forgotten it. Now you are playing word games and, surprise, insulting me again.

So I have to wonder, what is your problem?

It’s really kind of pathetic.

September 30, 2005 @ 12:22 am | Comment


I am sorry that Muslim men suffered the horrible unspeakable offense of being sexually degraded by a mere woman. On the otherhand I am even more sorry about the hundreds of years of systematic sexual degradation women have suffered at the command of Islam.

Let’s be very clear, the outrage directed against England by Muslims has as much to do with the ‘uppity woman’ factor as it does with the actual offence. How dare some mere female put a leash on a man? [Hell, I underwent far worse hazing — with no ill effects — when I was selected for USMC Recon] Where is the proportionate Muslim outrage over the gang rape of Muhktar Mai and the endless Islamic honour killings?

September 30, 2005 @ 12:23 am | Comment

You know what? I think the sexist aspects of some Muslim – or maybe it’s more accurate to say – tribal – cultures – are utterly repugnant. They also stand in the way of progress in these cultures. This is the kind of issue where any sympathy I have for the virtues of “cultural relativism” goes out the window.

But your statement utterly confuses me. Now you’re defending Lynndie Englund by saying that the “Muslim” reaction to her sentence is out of proportion because of the sexism in those cultures?! I mean, what?! And you blast me for using the qualifier “some” in front of “punishment”?!

Talk about inconsistent. And I think you need to do a gut check in terms of your reactions to “uppity women.”

And by the way, I hate ANSWER.

September 30, 2005 @ 12:31 am | Comment

All I can say, Conrad, is some hazing. Oh, and the fellow in the first photo is dead. Poor thing.

These were Americans who committed these atrocities, people on a mission of liberation. I expect Middle East Muslims to treat women like animals, and you know I’ve posted in disgust about this in the past. (Remember the article you and I both wrote up, on the woman who murdered her own daughter, and the fight that folLowed, with both of us on the same side?) We’re supposed to be there as mentors, on a moral high ground. Don’t adopt that Rush Limbaugh b.s. about how they were “just letting off some steam.” I heard an interview this morning on BBC with one of their victims, and I wanted to cry. What Ms. EnglaNd did was reprehensible and she deserves punishment. But this was systemaTically being done in Afghanistan and Iraq and Gitmo, with carbon-copy techniques approved by the Justice Department. Something is way wrong, and if you, as a compassionate and free-thinking individual, don’t see it, then I just don’t get it.

September 30, 2005 @ 1:24 am | Comment

Richard. What you said.

September 30, 2005 @ 1:33 am | Comment

Christ you people are especially obtuse today. To repeat what I said, several times, above:

1. The abuse of prisoners is reprehensible, illegal and must not be condoned.

2. I think England deserves MORE not less punishment than what she got. Three years isn’t enough.

3. If higher ups ordered or condoned what she and her merry band of morons did, they also deserve MORE punishment.

However, those sentiments don’t alter the fact that far worse things happen to many more people in prisons throughout the world every single day (e.g., China and every single country in the Middle East) without generating 1/1000’s of the public outrage. This can be attributed to primarlly to two things: (1) anti-Amercanism and (2) Islamic misogyny.

As for you Lisa, I attack you not because you are an “uppity woman” but because you are in illogical, duplicitous, fool who offers a target so easy and so obvious that I can’t resist.

You don’t need a sex change operation to avoid my scorn. You need a brain transplant. Sadly for you and those of us who must read your inane comments, the latter procedure has yet to be perfected.

September 30, 2005 @ 10:48 pm | Comment

Conrad, I absolutely can’t let you talk to Lisa that way. First, it’s profoundly, totally untrue, and second, she and Martyn help me manage this site, and you are a guest here – you don’t talk to your host like that, ever. We can disagree, and that’s great, but you are too smart, too educated and too experienced to lose control of yourself like this, hurting others and hurting yourself. Sorry Conrad, forget about the topic, just look at the tone of what you wrote. I’ve consisdered you a friend for three years, but this is disgraceful and it’s way beneath you. I think you owe Lisa an apology, not for anything to do with the subject, but for your tone and your inexcusable language. Thank you.

October 1, 2005 @ 5:45 am | Comment

I stand by every word I wrote and no apology is going to be issued. She’s an idiot I I’m not going to pretend otherwise. You are certainly free to ban me, it’s your site, the choice is absolutely yours and I won’t even be angry with you (except that sharing ANY distinction wth MAJ will of course be embarrassing). But as long as she posts stupidity here, I will continue to shout “moron”.

October 2, 2005 @ 11:40 pm | Comment

“She’s an idiot and I’m not going to pretend otherwise…” Damn, Conrad, I enjoy reading your comments, but that’s damned unfair. One of the appeals of this site is the variety of viewpoints expressed by people who essentially agree to disagree. And most who do so manage to remain civil.

October 3, 2005 @ 2:41 am | Comment


Well, I’m a well-spoken, successful idiot, at least. Poor Conrad.

October 3, 2005 @ 2:48 am | Comment

Thanks so much, Lirelou. Proof that one can be a hawk and still be a gentleman.

October 3, 2005 @ 2:49 am | Comment

Hey, I’m thinking, maybe it’s love. Not since elementary school have I had a guy pay so much attention to me by insulting me.

October 3, 2005 @ 2:55 am | Comment

Lost in all the repartee is the fact that this post was meant to call attention to the moral courage of a product of America’s military schools. I salute Fishback’s morale courage, and sincerely hope he has all his facts right, because this is an issue that will divide everyone acquainted with him. Two realities are in collision here. One, the driving need to crack the insurgent’s inner ring and stop the bombings. The second is a cultural value that says we will treat prisoners humanely. The crux here is the standard that should be applied to terrorists versus the standard that should be applied to insurgents who do operate within the general rules of war. This same dilemma was thrust upon the French Army during the Battle for Algiers (which produced a classic, albeit historically flawed, film of the same name.) The torture of prisoners during the battle for Algiers split the French Army. Ironically, the branch most closely associated with torture was the paratroops, one of whose greatest generals, Paris de la Bollardiere, resigned from the Army in protest. Despite the fact that the Army went on to win the battle of Algiers (contrary to the film), de la Bollardiere never let up in his insistence that the French Army must operate by rules consistent with the stated values of the French Republic. America should do no less, particularly since it seems to be beyond our ability to distinguish between terrorists and insurgents.

October 3, 2005 @ 2:57 am | Comment


Well, yes. Fishback represents the best part of the American military tradition and also our foundation of the rule of law.

Too bad these sound moral principles are lost on reflexive defenders of the Bush Administration.

October 3, 2005 @ 3:12 am | Comment

“Well spioken”????

Don’t kid yourself.

October 3, 2005 @ 5:27 am | Comment

Oh, Conrad, it’s so wonderful to know you care so much about my every word. It makes me feel very special.

October 3, 2005 @ 9:58 am | Comment

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