When the New York Times editor of the Sunday Book Review mentioned, during a recent panel discussion at The Times, that Eric Fair regretted publishing his memoir “Consequence,” I thought I could understand why. The book about torture he had seen and inflicted in Iraq had to have been hard to write and harder still to live with, despite the many essays Fair had already published on the subject.

I was only halfway through the book when I attended the panel discussion. At the time, I did not respect Fair. He had been unwilling and/or unable to take a stand against the torture he witnessed while working as a civilian interrogator at Abu Ghraib and Fallujah. By the end of “Consequence,” however, I had stopped judging. Fair had not given up. He found ways to connect with his moral center. He — and I — began to understand the complexities of what had happened to him and his cohorts at those “hard sites.” By asking forgiveness, he started to better live with his actions and not use his rage against himself and his loved ones.

“Consequence” is an honest memoir about a young man’s time spent in Iraq in order to serve his country. He had a life-threatening heart condition, most likely due to a viral infection while in the service, that prevented him from continuing in his career in the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, police force or in the military, where he had previously served for six years. By signing up with CACI, a company that contracts with the military to provide qualified personnel for the war effort, he was able to forego the physical examination required by the military. In early 2003, CACI was neither qualified nor prepared to follow through on their contract with the government.

Fair’s memoir tells, in short, precise sentences, how he grew up in Bethlehem during the slow and sure death of its steel industry. He was a devout Presbyterian who left when a congregation did not exhibit compassion. He was an odd mix of warrior and worshipper, practically guaranteeing a severe case of post traumatic stress disorder. It is said that the greater the disconnect between one’s moral code and the atrocities witnessed or practiced, the greater the likelihood, and probably severity, of PTSD.

Fair was never a ruthless or barbaric interrogator. He cut his prisoners slack whenever he could, but it seemed as if the escalation of injuries and casualties among his American cohorts coincided with the escalation of rough and sometimes brutal acts in the interrogation rooms.

More importantly, he looked the other way when noticing outright torture and even sent his prisoners to those American interrogators known to use brutal techniques. He was in the thick of it when the Abu Ghraib photographs of abused prisoners were made public, though, at the time, he was interrogating in Fallujah. It does not appear that he witnessed or practiced waterboarding, but he did witness use of the Palestinian chair in Fallujah and even had himself photographed with one. These are short, small wooden seats very close to the ground that force a prisoner to put all his weight on the balls of his feet, compressing his chest and suffocating him eventually. The pain is excruciating.

Fair’s life after his short stints in Iraq went drastically downhill. He worked as an intelligence analyst for the National Security Administration, no doubt stunned to find himself assessing intelligence gathered by CACI interrogators he knew to be untrained, uneducated and largely incompetent. The idea that U.S. intelligence includes at its core such data of questionable veracity must have galled him.

One of Fair’s highly marketable skills was Arabic, which he learned in the military. By the time he left Iraq, he knew a great deal about its people, its complicated politics, the war effort and the execution of that war. His expertise was most likely viewed as invaluable.

But Fair was drinking heavily, yelling and fighting with his wife, and he was dying. He had heart failure and he was behaving in suicidal ways. He never describes himself as suffering from PTSD but he was fully engulfed in the syndrome. He couldn’t sleep and when he did he had nightmares. He renewed his contract, at one point, and returned to Iraq. His decisions seemed at odds with his needs.

He’s upset with a church that doesn’t speak out against the war. He cannot abide his wife Karin, a good and loving woman who does not lecture or accuse. It’s almost as if he cannot be around anything “normal” or “good.”

Fair hits rock bottom and his suffering takes many forms. He will have to reconcile his deeds with his expectations of himself and others. He will find acceptance. He will write not just essays published locally but a book that is released nationally. He will continue on his journey of understanding. “I am not redeemed. I do not believe that I ever will be. But I am still obligated to try.”

Memoirs are an artful balance between that which disturbs and that which compels. Fair finds this place in “Consequence” and, I think, in his life. He should embrace this book. It holds the promise of an easier way going forward.

— Rae Padilla Francoeur’s memoir, “Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair,” is available online or in some bookstores. Write her at rae.francoeur@gmail.com Read her blog at http://www.freefallrae.blogspot.com/ or follow her @RaeAF.

“Consequence” By Eric Fair. Henry Holt and Co., New York, 2016. 243 pages. $26.