Ian Fishback, MA Philosophy ‘12, passed away on November 19th in Bangor, Michigan. He was 42 years old.
Born in 1979, Ian Fishback graduated from West Point with a Bachelor of Science degree in Middle Eastern studies in 2001 and served in the Army until 2014, including four combat tours with the 82nd Airborne and Special Forces. He is best known for reporting that fellow members of the 82nd Airborne Division had “systematically abused detainees in Iraq”. His allegations led to the passage of far-reaching anti-torture legislation championed by John McCain.
He received his Master’s degree in Philosophy from the University of Michigan in 2012. He went on to teach at West Point, helping future soldiers work through the philosophical implications and complications of war. About his teaching, one student has said that Fishback had “the force of a deep thinker who had gone to war and returned a witness to the gravity of our studies...He illustrated as much not with imaginary trolleys and imaginary people on their tracks but with improvised explosive devices, the platoons that awaited us, and the noncombatants between the two” (Lipsky, Theo. “The Lessons Ian Fishback Taught Us.” Modern War Institute, Westpoint, 23 Nov. 2021).
Ian returned to the University of Michigan for his PhD, and even as a graduate student he became known in philosophical circles for his work on the morality of war. In 2020 he defended his thesis on this topic, “Method and the Morality of War”. We are heartbroken to see his academic career stopped so suddenly.
Fishback’s death has struck a chord with veterans around the country. The implications of his military career and veteran experience were discussed at length by the New York Times in the following article, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/23/us/ian-fishback-dead.html.
Memorials may be directed to Human Rights Watch, 350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor, New York, New York 10118-3299 or at https://donate.hrw.org, and Women for Women International, 2000 M Street, Suite 200, Washington, D.C. 20036 or at www.womenforwomen.org in Ian's memory.
A Philosophy Department memorial ceremony will be held on Friday, December 10th at 10 AM in the Kuenzel Room of the Michigan Union. Light refreshments will be served. Due to current Covid-19 safety measures, masks are required for all University building visitors.