By Pvt. Charles A. Graner Jr., U.S. Army (Ret.)
Like many veterans of the Iraq War, I've been glued to the TV lately, and like many of my brothers and sisters-in-arms I've been extremely saddened to see pictures of terrorists swarming all over Iraq's cities, stealing equipment and routing security units.
This isn't the Iraq I or my fellow veterans from the 372nd Military Police Company remember: the Iraq we remember was an orderly place — one of dark cellars full of naked screaming men.
Now I have to wonder: was our sacrifice worth it just to ensure that thousands of prisoners were properly threatened with rape or terrorized by working dogs? I don't know if anyone can answer that question.
I first came to Iraq in May of 2003 and left one year later and even today I remember it like it was yesterday. The smell of a prisoner who just shit himself in fear, the feel of a brand-new leash as we buckled it around his neck, the tender touch on my wife's shoulder as we forced two grown men to masturbate each other at gunpoint. These are memories that even time and age can't fade.
When I left, I felt that I had done everything that I could do: beaten every detainee until my fists were raw, sodomized as many as I could before the broomstick broke, and of course documented it all to help the soldiers who would follow us continue the good work.
At the end of the mission, we could truthfully say that conditions in our little corner of Iraq were probably better than anywhere else.
We definitely made an impact on the lives of many Iraqis. Over the years I've gotten plenty of thank-you messages from my former inmates, like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, saying they wouldn't be where they are now if not for me.
I still remember one of those fat little goat fuckers, tears in his eyes, as he begged me to uncuff him from his bars of his cell window where I'd left him hanging. It's the little moments — or in his case, hours — like that that even Al Qaeda can't take away, the joy of watching Iraqis crawling across the floor to freedom with the bags of democracy over their heads.
But ultimately I don't think Iraq was about the mission. It was about the man or woman next to you, the one helping you slam someone's head into a wall, beating a prisoner with a chair, or photographing you posing with dead bodies. That's what it's all about.
"Non," as the French would say, "je ne regrette rien." No matter what happens, I will always fondly look back on my time in Iraq, and one day tell my children and grandchildren about the pride I took in a properly-constructed naked pyramid.
I really wish I could somehow go back and finish what I started. I'm off parole in December, so don't be surprised if you somehow see me on the TV back in the sandbox after that. Don't worry though, I've learned my lesson.
Next time I'm not taking prisoners.