Topic: Science & TechnologySociety

Army Spc. Joseph Darby
(May 2004)

This Ethics Hero designation is obvious.

Darby made the principled and courageous decision to report the abuse of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison his own 372nd Military Police Company. He slipped an anonymous note under the door of his commander’s office, and in so doing was the catalyst for a crucial re-evaluation and reaffirmation of American ethical values. He also prevented untold numbers of Iraqi prisoners from experiencing humiliation and pain.

Far too much has been made in the media of the similarities between the upbringing and background of Joseph Darby and Lynndie England, the young woman who has become the face of American abuse and torture. Ethical values and courage know no class distinction, and the paths to ethical awareness or ethical blindness are too serpentine to track. The undeniable fact is that any of Darby’s comrades could have done as he did, but did not. He alone among them asked the right question. According to his mother, as quoted by ABC News, he saw the abuse and asked himself, ‘What if that was my mom, my grandmother, my brother or my wife?’ ”

Exactly. And having arrived at the obvious answer, Darby did not talk himself out of taking action by using any number of rationalizations at his disposal: “This isn’t my business”…”It’s not my place”…”Don’t get involved”…”They’re only the enemy”…”The Iraqis would do the same to us if they could” and a dozen more.

Oklahoma’s ethically-challenged Senator Imhofe, in response to a radio commentator’s question about his opinion of all the damning photos that have come to light in the wake of Joseph Darby’s actions, responded, “We obviously have to do something about all those cameras.” This, in all its stained and filthy glory, is the response of an unethical man when confronted with wrongdoing. Joseph Darby’s response, in contrast, is that of an Ethics Hero.

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