Tony Lagouranis was a soldier. An American soldier. An American soldier who tortured Iraqis.

He conducted mock executions, forced men and boys into agonizing stress positions, kept suspects awake for weeks on end, used dogs to terrify detainees and subjected others to hypothermia.

I don’t know how he is going to cleanse his self loathing. As he says himself, he deserves it. Guilt is natural. It is built into us. Yet, for some actions no amount of guilt will compensate for the evil done. Lagouranis is trying at least, if not to repair what he has done, to help others see into the bottom of the pit.

I heard him interviewed on NPR today. Of everything he said, what stuck me most was that many soldiers there wanted to torture. Men walking by the interrogation cells wanted to have a hand in it– not to get information. They wanted to dominate. They didn’t even know who the prisoners were, or what they might have done. They wanted to terrify them.

Lagouranis knew he was in the pit himself when he understood he was reading a Holocaust memoir for tips on torture.

Fear Up Harsh His book is called Fear Up Harsh: An Army Interrogator’s Dark Journey Through Iraq and he’s making the rounds talking about it. One longs for interviews of pornographers instead.

He is articulate, and repentant. He knows what he did and says many others did it. He knows the history; that the US went off the rails with emulations of the Soviets and the British (against the IRA.) He knows, given the proper circumstances, that almost everyone can be persuaded that torture of the enemy is just the thing. [See the Lucifer Effect – Zimbardo] I hope he can find peace in himself and that he helps others find the courage to do what he could not do: STOP.

He thinks he got not one piece of relevant information, saved not one soldier. He thinks it happened because those at the top wanted it to happen and that the US is losing the war in good part because as a strategy torture is a guaranteed loser. Nowhere in the history of the world has an army tortured its way to victory.

[A caller opined that torture had worked for the French in Algeria — because he had just seen “The Battle of Algiers.” Darius Rejali, another guest on the show and professor of political science at Reed College, suggested the caller stop watching movies and read the data. Rejali has spent the last ten years reading, in French, recent memoirs of the now elderly junior soldiers and logs and reports of the era. Didn’t work then; isn’t working now; won’t work tomorrow. You might want to check out his book, Torture and Democracy ]