I first heard writer Eric Fair on NPR’s Fresh Air recounting his time in Iraq as a private contractor providing security at Abu Ghraib and later for the NSA in Bagdad. As an intelligence analyst his job was often to interrogate detainees and it’s clear from his experiences the cliches about war true–that war is hell, that there is never a good war.
I don’t pretend to be an expert on the conflict in the Middle East, so I can’t speak to the accuracy of Fair’s revelations. But Consequence: A Memoir is his story–one man’s perspective on Iraq and how he comes to terms with his actions.
The tours covered in the memoir weren’t his first forays into security. After high school, Fair served with the U.S.Army and studied Arabic in language school. After his tour, he worked as a police officer before a heart condition sidelined him. It was that inability to serve in law enforcement that drove Fair to seek out a private contracting firm so he could continue as a security officer in Iraq.
If we believe his account (and I have no reason to disbelieve him), our wars today are managed by both the military and private contractors. In Fair’s experience, the lines of command were often unclear and it was sometimes easy for military commanders to look the other way and let contractors do the dirty work. As an interrogator, Fair used sleep deprivation and forced standing as tactics–and he sees no line separating the terms enhanced interrogation and torture. And although he didn’t personally witness any of the publicized atrocities at Abu Ghraib, Fair was not the least bit surprised.
Fair lives in the shadow of what he experienced in Iraq. He fights his own personal demons now, accepting the anger, shame, and guilt as the consequence of his actions in Iraq.
It turns out there’s more than one way to be imprisoned.