A Memoir

Eric Fair

Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2016, 256 pages

Book Review published on: April 21, 2017

Operation Iraqi Freedom affected many people in many different ways. Eric Fair, the author of Consequence, was a contract interrogator at Abu Ghraib in Iraq during 2003 and 2004. The eponymous consequence of his memoir could be said to be the guilt he carries from being part of a flawed detention system. Fair is a native son of Pennsylvania steel country and writes of his yearning to serve his country and protect people. After graduating from a Christian college, he served as a military intelligence soldier and Arabic linguist, and eventually as a local police officer. Serious heart problems ended his law enforcement career, and the author chose to pursue career opportunities through various federal agencies, most notably the National Security Agency. Yet, a yearning to go to war remained in this same defective heart. Fair, in denial of the seriousness of his condition, became a contracted interrogator in Iraq. He doesn’t admit to any aberrant behavior before his deployment. However, it would appear as an interrogator in Iraq he not only witnessed cruel and possibly criminal acts but also participated in them as well. He writes of his time in Iraq with a mixture of bitterness, regret, and yet undeniable nostalgia. His spare writing style has a pungency that recalls the sweat-stained shirts and uniforms of an Iraqi summer. Further, the author’s deliberate cadence and content are readily recognizable to service members. He is brutally honest in the manner in which he mercilessly portrays himself and others. It’s as if his narrative is meant to raise a curtain that hides shameful acts. He exposes with equal indifference personal embarrassments such as his physical reaction to Paris Hilton’s photos while deployed, to greater faults such as his very real daydreams of divorce and suicide. Most important to the reader are the details of his own interactions with the U.S. Department of Justice on the subject of prisoner mistreatment and the possible misdeeds of named colleagues. His own conclusion is that he is a torturer and that he has irredeemably betrayed his Christian values.

This book is authoritative because of Fair’s congruence, full disclosure, and personhood. He only vouches for what he knows to be true and what he has seen. He is primarily interested in facts and deliberately relies on contemporary accounts as source material. An interesting aspect of the work is that the he clearly does not view writing as a catharsis as the reader might expect. Fair neither expects nor does he receive universal credit for the written revelations that he has published since 2006.

Many veterans may understand and appreciate Fair’s themes while holding judgment of his actions in abeyance. A person seeking to go to combat who cares how personal ethos can be affected, or perhaps even damaged, by combat would be Fair's ideal reader. He clearly cared both about ethical choices and protecting people, yet he made deliberate decisions to participate in activities that promoted human suffering. This is invaluable information for those who are wish to go to war but have trouble comprehending what may follow afterward.

Book Review written by: Lt. Col. John T. Miller, U.S. Army, Fort Belvoir, Virginia