Eric Fair in Salon:
One of the interrogation booths at Abu Ghraib has comfortable chairs. I like to use this booth because there's a small space heater inside that cuts through the chill of the Iraqi winter. There's even a hot plate to boil water for tea, but it only works when you run an extension cord from the generator, and that prevents you from closing the door all the way. I'm interrogating an Iraqi general today, so I make the tea. It's hard to schedule this booth because everyone wants to use it, and we're only supposed to use it when we have someone important to talk to. It's always a good thing if you're interrogating a former Iraqi army officer, especially a major or a colonel. And if you get a former general, like today, then the booth is yours for sure. The comfortable interrogation booth is designed for an approach called change of scenery. The prisoner is supposed to think he's somewhere else; he's supposed to be tricked into thinking he's just holding a normal conversation in an office building or his living room; he's supposed to forget he's being interrogated at Abu Ghraib prison. But it's still just a plywood interrogation booth that smells like fresh- cut lumber, and it's still surrounded by the mud and the filth and the incoming mortar rounds that mark Abu Ghraib.
It's early morning—the afternoon sun is still a few hours away—so when two U.S. Army soldiers deliver the general to the booth he is shivering from the cold. I haven't had time to read the screening report, so I don't know much about him, but I'm sure his story is similar to so many of the others I've already heard. He's Shia, which means he probably commanded some poorly trained army unit that probably had more men than rifles. And he probably couldn't pay his men because he embezzled the unit's payroll in order to fund the bribes that got him promoted to general in the first place. He probably deserted during the invasion, never wanted to fight U.S. troops, and just wanted to go home and live in an Iraq free of Saddam Hussein. This is what all the former generals tell us. None of us believe it. The report says something about the general's sons being involved in anti-Coalition activities, which doesn't make much sense because he's Shia, and it's January 2004 and the Shia haven't turned their guns on us yet. But it's hard to know what's true inside Abu Ghraib, and it's hard to make sense of anything going on in Iraq.