I’ve now forwarded every email you’ve sent so far in support of Ian Fishback. Around 400 or so so far. But here are three emails I wanted to highlight. They speak to the core of this issue. Look, I believe in fighting the enemy with everything we have; I believe we have to win in Iraq to stem the tide of Islamo-fascist terror; I believe in ferocious, smart and unrelenting warfare against the enemy. But when they are in our custody, when they are defenseless, it is a mark of Western civilization that we treat them humanely. That has been the American rule since Washington insisted on refraining from torture. There is no issue today that goes so deep into the soul of a nation. Here are emails that struck home to me, and illustrated what is now at stake in getting to the bottom of this horror – and stopping it. The first one:

I hesitated to write because I am not a military person, don’t know the parlance, but when I first heard your story, I thought “they’ve got to listen to one of their own.” I’m 54 years old, and I always remember a story that a girl told me back in grade school – – how her father was guarding Japanese prisoners of war duing WWII and how the Japanese prisoners got better food than the American soldiers… and I never forgot that story and that’s what I thought this country was about… that the American flag flying over some place meant that you’d be safe as a prisoner, that you’d be treated humanely and that torture happened in those “other” places — those third-world countries that were just backward.

I also remember hearing Elie Wiesel, who wrote extensively about the Holocaust — when he was asked if he were surprised the Holocaust happened, he said his only surprise is that it happened only once — and I saw that sentiment being acted out in the photos I saw — how easily decent people can be made to participate in torture. I don’t know what a man or woman has to tell himself to make that OK.

Anyway, you are right, and you’ve just got to find tremendous strength in that. You will not be guilty of the sin of silence, and no matter what the outcome, you will be able to look yourself in the mirror and know that you did the right thing. I have been so disheartened and so disturbed and so you are a bright light to me and to many.

And another:

My nephew served in Iraq until recently, and it breaks my heart that his honest and deeply felt service to his country has been smeared so thoroughly by those who are now turning on you. The Abu Ghraib scandal and other tales of torture coming out of Iraq have demoralized me more than any of the long list of horrendous decisions made by our leaders in the war in Iraq.

Even more difficult has been the tacit acceptance of these outrages by most of the media, pundits, political leaders, and voters. Your integrity, bravery and patriotism in the face of what must be unimaginable pressures has been a true inspiration.

To those who say exposing these horrible acts will harm our country, I say the damage has already been done. Our only hope now is to bring it all out in the open and hold people accountable. You are doing more to serve our great country than your critics could even begin to comprehend. You make me proud to be an American.

And this:

Your courage is so uniquely American that I cried when I read about you. You have given everyone in my family – dozens of us across all walks of life – reason to believe again, to hope that the dragons of mediocrity and dishonor that have attached themselves to our beloved military may actually be slain. You have single-handedly lifted so many of us up from a place of despair and shame.

I know that Fishback has given me hope that this evil in our midst can and will end.