Where have you gone Joseph Darby? Not that a nation turns its lonely eyes to you (with apologies to Paul Simon).
Joseph Darby is a genuine hero and he’s paying a hefty price for being one. He didn’t abandon right and wrong when it would have been the easiest route for most to take.
So where is his parade? Where are the welcome home crowds?
No, Darby returned to ugliness and threat to himself and his family. Vileness issued by the hypocritical uber-patriots. The ones who splash around in the trough of the visceral and are plumb happy to remain there in full wallow, with shade being provided by an enormous billboard containing the message NO THINKING ALLOWED – NEVER – EVER.
Joseph Darby should have been brought to the White House and, in the brightest of limelights, saluted with the highest praise from President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, etc. Instead, he and his family have been consigned to the military version of the Witness Protection Program.
This exposes the degenerate ‘belly of the beast’ of so many in this country–the same individuals whose ‘core values’ have been touted as the true heartbeat of America. In reality, these loathsome troglodytes are noxious purveyors of the worst obscenity to be found: blatant, chosen inhumanity.
QUESTION: DOES ANYONE HAVE AN UPDATE ON JOSEPH DARBY?
When Joseph Comes Marching Home
In a Western Maryland Town, Ambivalence About the Son Who Blew the Whistle at Abu Ghraib
By Hanna Rosin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 17, 2004; Page C01
On TV, Spec. Joseph Darby’s neighbors here in the Allegheny Mountains have heard him called a hero, a brave soldier who tipped off superiors to the abuses at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison. And given the way small towns usually honor their soldiers, you might expect preparations for a proper homecoming, maybe even an impromptu parade.
But at the bar in the community center just down the road from Darby’s house, near the trailer where his mother and younger brother live, none of the handful of patrons is in a parade kind of mood.
“If I were [Darby], I’d be sneaking in through the back door at midnight,” says Janette Jones, who lives just across the border in Pennsylvania and stopped here at midday with her daughter for a Pepsi and a smoke.
What captures their attention this day is not Darby but the ubiquitous photo of another young man, Nicholas Berg, handcuffed and stooped in his orange jumpsuit, moments before he is beheaded by Islamic militants who claimed to be avenging the humiliations suffered by Iraqis at Abu Ghraib.
“Maybe if [Darby] hadn’t turned them in, that boy would still be alive,” Jones says.
“Come on, Mom, you can’t blame him,” says her daughter Janice, giving a friendly shove. “They’d hate us no matter what.”
Janette Jones’s husband was in the service, and so was her son-in-law. The Joneses live not far from Spec. Jeremy Sivits, a military police officer involved in the prison scandal who will face a special court-martial Wednesday. They knew Sivits, 24, growing up: He was a “nice guy, a quiet guy,” says the elder Jones. She remembers he once helped her with the barbecue when the coals wouldn’t light.
“Who knows what those boys were going through out there,” she says. “The Iraqis did to us worse than we did to them.”
In this mountain range where three states meet — Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia — everyone seems to have a brother or uncle or grandfather in the armed services, especially since the coal and steel industries collapsed. Every small town has a war memorial honoring local fallen soldiers. Veterans Day is a serious affair.
Wives used to trade stories about finding someone to talk to in Korea or the right chocolate bars in Germany. Lately they talk about the latest funeral. The shame brought on by the prison scandal centered on the 372nd Military Police Company, based one town over in Cresaptown, has only made them cling to each other more.
In Washington, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld praised Darby for his “honorable actions.” But Washington is a universe away. “They can call him what they want,” says Mike Simico, a veteran visiting relatives in Cresaptown. “I call him a rat.”
The sentiment is so deeply felt that even those who praise him do so only anonymously, or with many reservations.
“That boy’s got a lot of courage,” says Alan St. Clair, who lives down the road from Darby’s high school home. “But when you go against your fellow man like that, I don’t know. Some people won’t like it.”
The feeling is starting to bubble up elsewhere, too, among people who feel that what Darby did was unpatriotic, un-American, even faintly treasonous. “Hero A Two-Timing Rat,” reads a headline from last week’s New York Post. The story is about his personal life, but the metaphor lingers.
The Army says it’s considering giving Darby a medal, although Army spokesman Dov Schwartz said it can’t say when. It took the Army 30 years and the intervention of a dogged professor to give a medal to Hugh Thompson, who reported to his commanders what came to be known as the My Lai massacre.
In the meantime, members of Darby’s family find themselves in a situation not unlike the Sivitses’ — refusing interviews, hiding from neighbors and strangers alike. Events have shoved them into history but not yet sorted out their individual fates.
Darby’s mother, Margaret Blank, has had cancer and diabetes, and lost one eye. Her husband died a few years back. She now lives in a cramped trailer steps from a railroad track, at the edge of a line of trim clapboard houses.
“I’m proud of — ” Blank yells out her car window at a reporter as she pulls onto the grass by her trailer, having just picked up Montana, her younger son, from school.
Then abruptly she changes her mind “Get the [expletive] off my property. Now. Before I call the police.”
“He said that he could not stand the atrocities that he had stumbled upon,” Blank told ABC News on May 6. “He said he kept thinking, what if it was my mom, my grandmother, my brother or my wife.”
For the family, however, pride is tainted with fear. His sister-in-law, Maxine Carroll, who’s served as the family spokeswoman for the last couple of weeks, told reporters she’s “worried about his safety,” about “repercussions.” “It scares you a little,” she told the Associated Press, when asked if some might consider him a traitor. On May 8, she and her husband slipped away from their housing complex in Windber, Pa., to an undisclosed location.
An Army spokesman confirmed that Darby is on leave in the United States but wouldn’t disclose where he is. At his home in Corriganville, the shutters are closed, a day’s worth of mail sits outside the front door. A man ambles down the street to the tiny post office. Two houses down an older couple rock the afternoon away. The white church across the street seems empty.
Nobody answered knocks on the door or phone calls. There are three cars parked outside, each with a flag decal and one with a sticker saying “Support Our Troops,” the only sign that a soldier might live there.
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