Former Spc. Tony Lagouranis left the U.S. Army in January 2005 after a tour of duty in Iraq as an interrogator. Disgusted by the detainee abuse he saw there, Lagouranis has since written a book about his experiences ("Fear Up Harsh: An Interrogator's Dark Journey Through Iraq" due out in 2007). On Sept. 27, he addressed a standing-room-only crowd as part of a panel discussing the military's interrogation practices organized by the Richmond Peace Education Center and Amnesty International USA. Style caught up with Lagouranis last week for a recap.
StyleHow did you get involved with the Army?
Lagouranis: I went in because I realized that I could put in my contract that I could learn Arabic. I had been studying Hebrew and it was a related Semitic language, and I also wanted the Army to pay off my student loans [for St. John's College in Santa Fe, N.M., a university where the curriculum is organized around the great books cannon.] It was May 2001, so I wasn't expecting to go into combat. [With those conditions] it wouldn't be like the nightmare army stories that you hear about.
When did you start being uncomfortable with what you were doing?
I didn't realize how deeply I had gotten into detainee abuse until about halfway through [my time there]. And then it really hit me. There was an episode with a man we had in a shipping container. We used dogs on him, strobe lights, loud music, sleep deprivation, it was also freezing cold he was getting the whole treatment. The chief warrant officer of interrogation had decided to use those techniques, and I was implementing them. Not only did I believe he was innocent, but it became apparent he was really noble.
He was Yezidi; they're not really Christian or Muslim; they're their own thing, and they've been persecuted by everybody. I think the experience that his people have had for 1,000 years in Iraq being persecuted allowed him to view the experience differently than someone like me might, and I began to recognize that I was a very small person.
What made you decide to speak out?
I'm pretty angry at the administration. I think that they lied to get us into the war, and then they lied about torture methods. They weren't open about that. It seemed like they deliberately confused what we were supposed to know about torture. I was at Mosul when the Abu Ghraib story broke, and I was watching the proceedings, and they said that dogs had never been approved for Abu Ghraib, and I had been using dogs that week, and it was authorized.
How do you feel about those techniques now?
I believe torture's wrong. I believe that the methods authorized out there were terrible. I believe that we caused a lot of harm. S