The book intrigued me at the library and my friend was mildly alarmed that I could consider this reference material for my job, but when I started, I found that it was a more fascinating book than I realized.
Nutshell: The book is a chronicle of the experiences of a US interrogator (or 'gator as they are known) Matthew Alexander, as he uses various techniques to extract useful intelligence out of suspected terrorists in Iraq.
Why this book is fascinating
Firstly, the style of the book and the manner in which Alexander approaches his subjects are vastly different from that described in another book about the Iraqi War that I read, which was this:
Of course, you would notice that both men worked in different fields, one in intelligence and the other as a Navy SEAL sniper. The difference that struck me the most though was in the attitude both men had towards their subjects. In Kyle's autobiography, I felt a dehumanizing attitude towards the Iraqis. They were referred to as 'insurgents', not as people. Also, he had a callous way of describing how he shot down his targets, as if he was describing a Counterstrike session.
In his defence, I also think this is a result of his training. He was, after all, a Navy SEAL and trained for combat.
Alexander's attitude is different because of the nature of his work. He was not trained to kill but rather to extract information and he was trained in newer post-Guatanamo techniques. Hence, he talks of building rapport with the prisoners, by talking about their family, sometimes pretending he faced the same family issues as them so that to foster understanding. He also pleads to the prisoners to cooperate so that he can help them or their families.
This is the fascinating bit for me. He employs subtler psychological techniques in his field and altogether has a more sympathetic view towards his subjects, since he has to build a relationship between them before he can do his job. As a result of this, I find that he has a more balanced view towards the war. He does not view his subjects simply as moving targets but more like people with fears and worries for their own lives and those of their families and friends.
While the book is not exactly a manual of interrogation techniques, Alexander does drop some bits about what he uses and his narrative style reads almost like a novel, so it's very easy to read.
You might not know or suspect, but I have read more books than those reviewed on this blog. Those books are tracked in my Goodreads account:
Interested? Here's the link to the site.