Duty, Honor, Country: Ian Fishback and the Idea of America

One day prior to Thanksgiving, newspapers reported that Ian Fishback, a graduate of West Point and veteran of America’s “forever wars,” had died at the age of 42. No cause of death was given.

Should a memorial honoring the US troops who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan one day grace the Washington Mall, Major Fishback’s name will surely deserve to be included—despite the fact that he died years after leaving active duty. He sacrificed his life for this nation no less than did the several thousand who fell in battle.

For a brief moment in the early years of our post-9/11 wars, Fishback achieved a measure of fame (or, to some, notoriety) by calling attention to the torture and prisoner abuse practiced by US forces in the field. He was a uniformed whistleblower who took seriously the values of “duty, honor, and country” he had learned at West Point. A classic straight arrow, Ian found intolerable even the slightest deviation from what the soldierly code of conduct required.

Encountering credible allegations of widespread misconduct by US forces, Fishback—as was his duty—brought those allegations to the attention to members of his chain of command. When they tried to brush him off or suggested that pursuing the matter might adversely affect his career, he refused to be silenced.

Read the full article in The Nation.

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