News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Friday, January 5, 2007

NVB Person of the Year

Joe Darby, right, joined a military police unit in the Army Reserves. He ended up on active duty as a clerk at the Abu Ghraib prison. When he asked some buddies if they had pictures of the site that he could show to the folks back home, he received a disk that had the infamous photographs of GIs abusing Iraqi prisoners on them. Joe Darby did what law and duty required. He turned the pictures over to the adjutant's office.

Although Joe Darby received many commendations from the Pentagon, the military, and Congress, many people out there felt that he betrayed the U.S. by exposing what was going on in the prison.

The commander of his hometown VFW said: "He was a rat. He was a traitor. He let his unit down. He let his fellow soldiers down and the U.S. military. Basically he was no good."

The reason that I cite Joe Darby as the person of the year is the abuse inflicted upon him and his family by the numerous people who condone criminal acts and think it is some kind of patriotism to cover them up. It harks back to the theme of that Spencer Tracy movie "Bad Day at Black Rock." There is an element in America that thinks patriotism is tkhe violation of every principle of decency and fair treatment that our laws and our history militate against.

At this time when we have been acknowledging the lives of decent and honorable men, such Gerald Ford and Tim Johnson, there is a danger in getting too comfortable and forgetting that some insidious, malignant seeds are sprouting and growing in our own society.

They are more responsible for the ills in our society than Lynndie England. She was our person of the year last year. She is doing three-years in a military prison for the part she played at Abu Ghraib. Here is an update on by Tara McKelvy in
Marie Claire magazine:

Lynndie England smells like soap. She rubs her hands constantly, and her
cuticles are raw and bleeding. Her hair is pulled back in four tortoiseshell
clips, and it's streaked with premature gray. She is no longer the waiflike girl with a devilish grin who appeared in the infamous Abu Ghraib photos. On this warm fall afternoon, England, 23, now 30 pounds heavier, wears short-sleeve Army fatigues and black, waffle-soled boots. Her name is stitched across her chest. Dangling from her waist is a yellow-and-white badge that reads, "PRISONER."

Most of the people who were in command of Lynndie and her fellow soldiers and had responsibility for the way they discharged their duties did not get any discpline.

Next year, I would like to report a better outcome for Joe Darby.

But has long as we are mired in this obscene and immoral war, I am not counting on good outcomes for any of us.

Perhaps if the new Congress takes the mandate from the people seriously, we can occupy ourselves with such trivial matters as equality, freedom, and justice for all. In the meantime, Lynndie England and Joe Darby will be the NVB persons of the recent years.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States