Orders, Truth and Torture at Abu Ghraib
A former interrogator in Iraq shares how he copes with the fallout from what he did and saw while working in Abu Ghraib.
“Domestic Violence: A7”
Illustration By Scott Waters
I enter my name in a search engine. There are 3,700 results. The word torture appears in most of them. I read the blogs. I read the comments that follow. I find more blogs. I pretend those don’t bother me either. I check email; 38 new messages.
Mr. Fair, I’m not at all sure why you have your panties in a twist. It seems clear that you were a willing participant, as a civilian contractor, in the interrogation process in Iraq. This is old news.
I navigate back to the opinion page of The Washington Post. The comments section is still growing. More than 800 now. I read the new ones and some of the old ones, too. I read my article again. I check email; 57 new messages.
Eric, your words are empty and hollow. I do not accept a single one of them. But let me offer you a suggestion if you want to do the honorable thing: kill yourself. Leave a note. Name names. Until that day, I hope you never sleep another hour for the rest of your life.
I keep pretending not to be bothered. Then I drink. In the mornings, I pretend to have slept. I watch Sarah drive off to work. We both pretend our marriage isn’t suffering. During the day I pack boxes; we are moving to Princeton. I’ll be studying at the seminary, pursuing ministry in the Presbyterian Church. I hope no one there reads the article.
The admission office calls. I speak with the Dean. “I can’t get most students to read a newspaper let alone appear in one,” he says. “Maybe your time in Iraq will become part of your ministry.”
I enter the seminary’s administration building to file paperwork for my veterans’ benefits. I am early. The office is closed. Other students wait with me. I avoid them. I look at the pictures on the walls. They are black and white, taken during the Civil War. There is a grainy photo of Brown Hall with a blurred image of a student walking across the quad. I wonder if he is a veteran of Antietam or Gettysburg. I wonder if he knew Andersonville or Camp Douglas.
I enroll in a summer language class. I study Greek in order to read the New Testament more effectively. It reminds me of the Army. I studied Arabic in order to interrogate Arabs more effectively. I settle into a life of muggy morning walks to class, followed by chilly afternoons in the seminary library. I arrive on campus in the early morning, review my homework, attend class, eat lunch, and then spend the rest of the afternoon memorizing verb chants and case endings. I return home in the early evening, tell Sarah about the day, eat dinner, watch the news, get drunk, and read emails with subject lines like Iraq, interrogation, and torture.
Mr. Fair, I still have a .45 caliber 1911. I suspect you know the firearm. I’d loan it to you gleefully if you get really depressed. And I’d happily take whatever legal consequence might come my way for having done so. You’d be doing the world a favor by removing yourself from the gene pool. With revulsion at the subhuman you and others like you surely are.
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