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Consequence: A Memoir Hardcover – April 5, 2016
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An Amazon Best Book of April 2016: There are many exceptional accounts written about the war in Iraq--so many that, despite their merits, I must admit to experiencing a bit of “war book” fatigue. So, for a story of this stripe to rise above the fray, it has to possess something special that sets it apart. Eric Fair’s Consequence very much does. Chronicling his experiences as an interrogator in prisons, including the infamous Abu Ghraib, Fair’s disarmingly matter-of-fact memoir addresses the moral ambiguity and emotional toll our soldiers’ actions take. Yes, Consequence fuels the debate about enhanced interrogation techniques, but in a human rather than partisan way, and in doing so, holds a mirror to the country’s face and asks: Do you like what you see? --Erin Kodicek
Named one of "8 Books You Need to Read This April" by Vulture
"Important. . .candid and chilling. . .At once an agonized confession of [Fair's] own complicity as an interrogator at Abu Ghraib and an indictment of the system that enabled and tried to justify torture.. . .here the sense of the absurd is infused with real horror and injustice. . .[a] profoundly unsettling book." ―Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Essential reading. . .An overdue reckoning. . .[Fair] never shirks responsibility or offers excuses...he gives us simply a record of what happened. . .[CONSEQUENCE's] pages comprise an atrocity measured in maimed Muslim bodies and minds ― and the associated moral injuries to U.S. service members. Scars of the soul do not easily heal. Nor perhaps should they. No other book guides readers so honestly and so succinctly through this grim chapter in U.S. history." ―Kael Weston, The Washington Post
". . .Brave, chilling, necessary. No one is absolved." ―Atul Gawande, author of Being Mortal
"[Fair's] decision to assemble [his experiences] into a memoir isn’t necessarily heroic, but his self-lacerating moral clarity might be. Fair’s journey from Pennsylvania to the army, the police, government-contract work, a Christian seminary, and a heart transplant ― all narrated in staccato present tense ― fills out the picture of a good soldier doing bad work in a terrible war." Vulture's "8 Books You Need to Read this April", New York Magazine
"An act of incredible bravery. If we, as a country, are ever to fully account for the past decade of war and what it meant, we need those who participated to have the courage to tell us what was done in our name. Eric Fair does not speak in euphemisms. He does not justify or condemn. He merely tells us what happened. And that is something we desperately need to hear." ―Phil Klay
“. . . .Harrowing. . . .Fair is a gifted writer, and his capacity for self-examination makes this work both deeply insightful and moving.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review
Startling...affecting...candid and deeply unsettling ...Eschewing abstract discussions of torture and the war, the author offers a beguiling personal narrative that forces readers to share his pain and uncertainty over his circumstances...Told against the background of his failing heart (he required a transplant), his failing hometown (Bethlehem Steel went bankrupt), and his war-strained marriage...[Fair's story] points up the larger failures of interrogators like himself to prevent abusive acts and of the country to end its endorsement of torture." ―Kirkus, starred review
"It takes a lot of courage to write honestly about one's own mistakes, and even more courage to write about the mistakes of one's country. Eric Fair has done both. This remarkable book is both an agonized confession and a chilling exposé of one of the darkest interludes of the War on Terror. Only this kind of courage and honesty can bring America back to the democratic values that we are so rightfully proud of." ―Sebastian Junger
"I don't think Eric Fair writes so we might laud him for courage or artistry. The complex reckoning within these pages mirrors our wars, which have been fought in a similar, gray morality. So this book deserves that singular and highest of compliments: It is honest." ―Elliot Ackerman, author of Green on Blue
"A glimpse into the inner workings of someone who has been at the center of some of the most vexing issues of the past decade...Artful, understated, surprising...We have read a lot about war lately, but we have never read anything like this." ―Nick Flynn
"Eric Fair writes hauntingly and sparingly...This book is an important step for our country, in coming to terms with the reality of what we did, and what Eric and others did in our name." ―Scott Cooper, National Security Outreach Director at Human Rights First
"In Eric Fair’s earth-shaking memoir, Consequence, we hear a profoundly courageous, essential voice of personal and national accountability." ―Kelle Groom, author of I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl
"The story of Eric Fair's headlong plunge into this 'nightmare in Iraq' and its aftermath remains with the reader long after the last page, as we consider the ethical consequences not only for Eric's own life but for all citizens with any sort of conscience."―Kelly Denton-Borhaug, Ph.D., author of U.S. War-Culture, Sacrifice and Salvation
Top customer reviews
CONSEQUENCE is so disturbing that it is a hard book to critique. Fair, who grew up a chubby, bullied kid in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, came from a staunchly Prsbyterian family, and religion played a pivotal role in his life. He was active in church youth groups and attended a Christian college for a year before transferring to Boston U. He then enlisted in the Army, where he learned Arabic at DLIFLC in Monterey, California. Then on to Airborne and Special Ops training and a tour in Egypt. A long way from the shy kid who was mercilessly bullied. He also drifted away from his religious roots. After the army he marries and joins the Bethlehem Police force, but after a few years he learned he had a rare heart defect, which effectively ended his law enforcement career. Then, leveraging his army training and language skills, he signs on with the infamous CACI and heads to Iraq to join a growing cadre of civilian contractors. He is, from the beginning, repulsed by what he witnesses in this job, and then, gradually finds himself becoming part of it all. Remember the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, where a handful of low-ranking military types took the fall for torture and mistreatment of prisoners? Well they were merely scapegoats. The orders came from much higher up, and the civilian contractors were in just as deep. Fair also does a stint as an analyst with the National Security Agency before a return trip to Iraq.
But here's the thing. I'm barely skimming the surface here with this summary. Fair recounts it all in a flat present-tense voice. It's like a recitation of sins, a confession. Is there remorse? Yes. Regret? Yes. Shame? Oh, yes. In fact, Eric Fair is filled with shame and remorse, and, his life and marriage in shambles, he is trying desperately to find his way back to the man he once was. He studies scriptures with a friend, searching for solace. He finds in Maimonides that "the transgressor is required to engage with the aggrieved persons, actively seek their forgiveness ... The remedies are often described as lifelong pursuits." Fair's change of heart and search for forgiveness brought to mind Bernard Malamud's character Frank Alpine in THE ASSISTANT. Except this is not fiction. This is a real person. And he is in real pain.
In 2006 Fair published some newspaper op-ed pieces about his work as an interrogator that brought him thousands of email replies, many of them ugly hate-mails. He admits that his articles were not entirely forthcoming, saying: "I haven't yet mustered the courage to confess ..."
Over the next several years, there was a brief failed stint at Princeton Seminary, he became a father, underwent a heart transplant, and thought often of suicide. In this book, Fair has finally found the courage for a full confession.
"I am a torturer. I have not turned a corner or found my way back. I have not been redeemed. I have no right to expect that I ever will. But I am still obligated to try."
Eric Fair is a tortured soul. He tells his story unflinchingly. He is guilty of terrible sins and he admits it. Scripture tells Fair that seeking forgiveness is a "lifelong pursuit." He is working on it.
This is a memoir of war and its consequences. It will haunt you. Very highly recommended.
- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, SOLDIER BOY: AT PLAY IN THE ASA