[The account below by a contractor in Iraq regarding his guilt for torturing Iraqis may be part of a larger picture of abuses to which Americans and those impacted by Americans are being subject on a day to day basis.
In the good old days one had person-to-person contact with others.Â I can even remember as a child being told by a local phone operator (one picked up one's phone and one was asked "Number, please" by ladies who sat at a switchboard) that my grandmother was talking to her cousin (Henry Luce's mom), but that as soon as she finished she would tell her that I was ready for my Peter Rabbit story (then published in the NY Herald Tribune daily).
More and more we are being separated from each other in our daily transactions.Â Place a call to one of the various services which we must use these days either in routine matters or to straighten out more serious ones (denial of coverage by a medical insurance company of this and that or challenge of a credit card charge for something not ordered, etc.) and one is as likely to be talking to someone across the country or on another continent which can only be figured by slight accents or asking where the person is.
Needless to say with such distancing those employed by particular long range operations are going to protect their own interests by defending those of their employers.Â One is no longer dealing with a local business that can be criticized among one's neighbors when it gets out of line.Â And people do feel anxious about losing jobs.Â There are all those stories about whistle blowers being cast into outer limbo when they blow the cover on even the most egregious violations of fellow human beings.
Needless to say outsourcing or sub contracting is only the newest American game designed for dodging responsibility.Â The thousands of men who sacrificed their lungs working on "the pile" (cleanup after 9/11) are still trying to collect their pay from such despite the fact that the principal contractors who subcontracted out received full governmental compensation as reported by one of my students who is doing a book on this subject with the assistance of a Pulitzer prize winning journalist.
Having said all the above Eric Fair's report below is pretty courageous.Â It could presumably subject him to criminal charges.Â G-d only knows what his employment options are now.Â He is to be commended for doing the right thing after having done some of the worst.Â May his future be better and his nightmares calmed.Â And note that face to face contact has made a difference.
P.S. I should mention that Paul Moses referred to above as the Pulitzer prize winner broke the story of our Brooklyn gulag where Muslim immigrants were being secretly held and tortured by (among others) one of the guards who went on to do the same at Abu Ghraib for which he was convicted and sentenced when a fellow soldier blew the story with those horrendous tapes.
An Iraq Interrogator’s Nightmare
Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2007 19:13:31 -0000
An Iraq Interrogator’s Nightmare
By Eric Fair
Friday, February 9, 2007; Page A19
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.
Despite my best efforts, I cannot ignore the mistakes I made at the
interrogation facility in Fallujah. I failed to disobey a meritless
order, I failed to protect a prisoner in my custody, and I failed to
uphold the standards of human decency. Instead, I intimidated,
degraded and humiliated a man who could not defend himself. I
compromised my values. I will never forgive myself.
American authorities continue to insist that the abuse of Iraqi
prisoners at Abu Ghraib was an isolated incident in an otherwise
well-run detention system. That insistence, however, stands in sharp
contrast to my own experiences as an interrogator in Iraq. I watched
as detainees were forced to stand naked all night, shivering in
their cold cells and pleading with their captors for help. Others
were subjected to long periods of isolation in pitch-black rooms.
Food and sleep deprivation were common, along with a variety of
physical abuse, including punching and kicking. Aggressive, and in
many ways abusive, techniques were used daily in Iraq, all in the
name of acquiring the intelligence necessary to bring an end to the
insurgency. The violence raging there today is evidence that those
tactics never worked. My memories are evidence that those tactics
were terribly wrong.
While I was appalled by the conduct of my friends and colleagues, I
lacked the courage to challenge the status quo. That was a failure
of character and in many ways made me complicit in what went on. I’m
ashamed of that failure, but as time passes, and as the memories of
what I saw in Iraq continue to infect my every thought, I’m becoming
more ashamed of my silence.
Some may suggest there is no reason to revive the story of abuse in
Iraq. Rehashing such mistakes will only harm our country, they will
say. But history suggests we should examine such missteps carefully.
Oppressive prison environments have created some of the most
determined opponents. The British learned that lesson from Napoleon,
the French from Ho Chi Minh, Europe from Hitler. The world is
learning that lesson again from Ayman al-Zawahiri. What will be the
legacy of abusive prisons in Iraq?
We have failed to properly address the abuse of Iraqi detainees. Men
like me have refused to tell our stories, and our leaders have
refused to own up to the myriad mistakes that have been made. But if
we fail to address this problem, there can be no hope of success in
Iraq. Regardless of how many young Americans we send to war, or how
many militia members we kill, or how many Iraqis we train, or how
much money we spend on reconstruction, we will not escape the damage
we have done to the people of Iraq in our prisons.
I am desperate to get on with my life and erase my memories of my
experiences in Iraq. But those memories and experiences do not
belong to me. They belong to history. If we’re doomed to repeat the
history we forget, what will be the consequences of the history we
never knew? The citizens and the leadership of this country have an
obligation to revisit what took place in the interrogation booths of
Iraq, unpleasant as it may be. The story of Abu Ghraib isn’t over.
In many ways, we have yet to open the book.
The writer served in the Army from 1995 to 2000 as an Arabic
linguist and worked in Iraq as a contract interrogator in early
2004. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)
– Ed Kent 718-951-5324 (voice mail only) [blind copies]
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