Why So Few Brave Men?

The summary of the report on U.S. Torture, released yesterday by the United States Senate Intelligence Committee can only be read in small doses.  Almost every paragraph stuns one into vertigo.


This morning one man who took part in some of what was reported spoke about his lasting shame.

I can’t be forgiven for what I did at Abu Ghraib

I was an interrogator at Abu Ghraib. I tortured.

… , the Senate released its torture report. Many people were surprised by what it contained: accounts of waterboardings far more frequent than what had previously been reported, weeklong sleep deprivation, a horrific and humiliating procedure called “rectal rehydration.” I’m not surprised. I assure you there is more; much remains redacted.

Eric Fair is a brave man for saying this, publicly and in a widely read forum.  He is not as brave as he wishes he might have been.  In another piece he gives more details.

Eric Fair – An Iraq Interrogator’s Nightmare

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.

… 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.

So, the question is, how do we relearn the values of courage, of resistance to illegal orders, of non-participation in evil?  I dont’ know if Eric Fair has any good ideas.  I bet he wishes he had stood up after his first experience and said “no more,” and damn the consequences.  I know I wish hundreds more had said: I will not participate.

The stars and stripes are now the stars and bars, the red of tortured men running down.

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