Chilling Journey Into Torture at Abu Ghraib and A Man's Battle with Guilt
By Daniel C. Lavery (reviewer)
Consequence: A Memoir
by Eric Fair
(Henry Holt and Co., 2016)
"Consequence," by Eric Fair, is a dark, chilling memoir. Fair held fundamental Christian beliefs, was determined to become a minister, but also serve his country. He joined the Army and learned Arabic at Monterey Airborne and Special Ops in Egypt. He married and became a Bethlehem Police Officer, but a heart defect ended this stint and, without having to take a physical, he became a contracted interrogator for CACI at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Under Dick Cheney's deranged torture tactics, he was ordered to find Saddam Hussein's WMD. His victims were mostly by-standers found "leaving after an explosion," and occasionally a terrorist. His Arabic became a tool used for the unspeakable acts at the prison and led to his feelings of guilt and loss of integrity. He began returning innocent captives to their families despite the danger. His guilt drove him to take risks to free innocent Iraqis caught in the net. For those killed by torture he sought out their grieving parents who adored this unique and conflicted American.
Soon alcohol became a new demon that numbed him when needed. He married Karin who bore him a son, but they had their troubles. He tried to deal with his anger and guilt demons as this confessional memoir unfolds into a difficult nightmarish story. Finally CACI sent him home but soon he regretted not being with his buddies with whom he developed a strong bond. After a second tour much like the first but heavily redacted by some intelligence censor, he entered Princeton Theological Seminary where his guilt stabbed him. He had nightmares of the "Palestine torture chair," the broken bodies, the stench of war, and his remorse.
After a heart transplant in his 30's, he switched churches to a more liberal one and found meaning while he rejected stilted hard line fundamentalist views. He even made a strong friendship with a gay Jew who introduced him to a Jewish philosopher, Maimonides, who required the transgressor to engage with the aggrieved persons, actively seek their forgiveness, a lifelong pursuit. This was no miraculous instant solution like confession, or the blood of Christ that left Fair's unique spirit unchanged and wanting a more meaningful method to pursue as his morality demanded.
"Consequence," is a moving and necessary read to understand the consequences of US torture policy in Iraq, and to appreciate a thoughtful and moral man's struggle to overcome depression rather than end it in suicide. One cannot help but wonder that one of the reasons contractors like these used torture as instructed in Iraq was because they were highly paid civilian employees not subject to the UCMJ's rigid requirements that apply to the military. Perhaps because many indoctrinated in the military would not follow these unethical torture policies as did the contractors removed from the daily reminder in the military influence. But then there is always the Vietnam debacle to remind us how quickly a My Lai could spring up from some of the incompetent soldiers mentioned in McNamara's Folly.
Dan Lavery graduated Annapolis, navigated a jet, then a ship to Vietnam. He resigned, joined VVAW, and became a civil rights lawyer for Cesar Chavez's UFW, the ACLU and in private civil rights practice. His memoir, All the Difference, describes his change from a pawn in the military to crusader for justice. http://www.danielclavery.com (author website)