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An Iraq interrogator's nightmare

Former contract interrogator Eric Fair writes in the Washington Post:


A man with no face stares at me from the corner of a room. He pleads for help, but I'm afraid to move. He begins to cry. It is a pitiful sound, and it sickens me. He screams, but as I awaken, I realize the screams are mine.

That dream, along with a host of other nightmares, has plagued me since my return from Iraq in the summer of 2004. Though the man in this particular nightmare has no face, I know who he is. I assisted in his interrogation at a detention facility in Fallujah. I was one of two civilian interrogators assigned to the division interrogation facility (DIF) of the 82nd Airborne Division. The man, whose name I've long since forgotten, was a suspected associate of Khamis Sirhan al-Muhammad, the Baath Party leader in Anbar province who had been captured two months earlier.

The lead interrogator at the DIF had given me specific instructions: I was to deprive the detainee of sleep during my 12-hour shift by opening his cell every hour, forcing him to stand in a corner and stripping him of his clothes. Three years later the tables have turned. It is rare that I sleep through the night without a visit from this man. His memory harasses me as I once harassed him.

It's... not easy for me to feel sympathy for this man. His suffering, real though it may be, pales in comparison to the suffering he and the likes of him have inflicted on their detainees, many of whom were never charged with any crime (for more on the nature of what people like Fair got up to, who they did it to, and the effects what they did has had in some of the better-documented cases, I refer to Obsidian Wings' coverage of torture and detention, especially Hilzoy's posts, especially those on the torture of Jose Padilla). In addition, Fair could have avoided his present nightmares by not doing evil in the first place.

Nevertheless, by owning up to what he did, admitting it was wrong, describing what torture does to those who practise it, and arguing strongly against it based on his own experiences, Fair has made a significant first step towards his rehabilitation. I hope it will also contribute to the whole story of what went on at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and other American military prisons around the world coming to light, and to the end of the practices Fair describes.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 10, 2007 12:31 AM.

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