A Soldier Goes from Iraq to the Seminary
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
Eric Fair spent time in Iraq as a military interrogator. Now he's about to undertake something quite different.
Mr. ERIC FAIR (Former Military Interrogator): I am 35 years old. I am married. I own a home. I have my first child on the way. And I'm debt-free. You know, I'm about to turn of all that upside-down. Next week I begin classes at Princeton Theological Seminary. That will set the foundation for my ministry in the Presbyterian Church. For the next three years, instead of having my 401K and investing in education funds for my child's college years, my family will move into a two-bedroom apartment in Princeton so that I can spend long nights studying theology and ancient Greek.
By the time it's over, our hard-earned financial security will be gone. Why? Is it a calling from God, a midlife crisis, or maybe just a misguided attempt to salvage a damaged past? I held a variety of different jobs in life. I've been an Arabic linguist in the Army, a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division, a police officer in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, an interrogator in Iraq, and an intelligence analyst with the National Security Agency. I spent more than a decade in places dominated by suffering, poverty and war.
I chose to work for organizations that fought those issues with force because I believed it was possible to wield violence as a constructive tool. There's a typical resume for seminary students. I suspect it isn't mine. But after years of witnessing the terrible effects of violence, whether on the war-torn streets of the Gaza Strip, or the nightmare-inducing environment of Abu Ghraib prison, I was left deeply scarred.
When I returned home from Iraq for the second time in 2005, I had reached my breaking point. I was withdrawn, angry and depressed. As I worked to reassemble the pieces of my life, I recognized that something had changed. War was not what I thought it would be. It didn't solve the problem of violence. It simply contributed to it. It didn't protect the victims of this world. It simply made more of them.
A decade spent making arrests, conducting interrogations and supporting military operations has accomplished nothing. I don't have a solution to the problems of this world. But experience has taught me that the use of force, no matter how well intentioned, is not the answer. I've taken that road. It is a dead end. It is difficult to admit that you're wrong. But after years of witnessing the worse this world has to offer, I'm left with no other choice.
I've made a commitment to emulate a Jewish carpenter that lived nearly 2,000 years ago. He surrounded himself with the victims and the outcasts of this world. Instead of protection, he offered them compassion. Instead of force, he responded with peace. It ultimately cost him his life, but his legacy has changed the world. And as a Christian, I have an obligation to follow his example.
BRAND: Eric Fair is a former military interrogator in Iraq. He takes up residency at a seminary in Princeton, New Jersey next week.
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