The Interrogator's War: Inside the Secret War Against Al Qaeda by Chris Mackey with Greg Miller John Murray $165 'The more a prisoner hates America, the harder he will be to break. Interrogators must never be victims of their emotions.' It's telling that this statement is found early in the first chapter of The Interrogator's War and that much of this section is spent condemning the Abu Ghraib prison affair. The Interrogator's War is not about Iraq or Abu Ghraib. It concerns the duties of an interrogation officer operating in Afghanistan in the months after the US invasion, when the wounds of September 11 were still raw. The authors' decision to preface the tale with the above statement is clearly meant to sell the reader on the position that America is the good guy in the war on terrorism - scandals such as Abu Ghraib, though regrettable, are anomalies. The stories are told by Sergeant Chris Mackey, an American interrogator whose job it was to get inside the minds of detainees, from a Mobile Interrogation Team operating in Afghanistan. Mackey is frank about his shortcomings as an interrogator. Time and again he admits his failures or, worse, being outfoxed. Throughout the book, he stresses that physical coercion is anathema in his profession. Mackey goes to great lengths to distance his unit from any tactics that even remotely amount to 'putting the dagger on the table', a euphemism for threatening a prisoner with physical harm. Still, the spectre of torture of prisoners by American forces haunts every chapter - not because such scenes are written about, but precisely because they're absent. The authors describe in detail the massive array of non-violent, non-physical methods used by interrogators. We're asked to believe such interrogations are closer to extreme therapy sessions than what we'd normally consider to be interrogations. In chapter after chapter, the authors boast of the purely psychological methods used in the interrogation of Afghan detainees deemed to possess intelligence of value in the prevention of terrorism. Some of these methods have monikers that makes them sound like sales techniques: 'Establish your Identity' and 'Pride and Ego Up'. Yet towards the end of the book, cracks appear in Mackey's facade as he, after leaving his position for civilian life, is forced to confront the reality of the infamous Abu Ghraib photos. Instead of asking whether these atrocities might have occurred elsewhere, he questions whether the failures of his own 'schoolhouse' method of interrogation might have called for more extreme methods of intelligence gathering. It's a tough call, he says. 'The price of erring too far in either direction may be paid in blood.' In the wake of Abu Ghraib, many in the so-called civilised world want to be reassured that 'our side' is fundamentally good, that we're not the torturers, not the terrorists. If you need to believe this, then The Interrogator's War may well fill that need. But the book's convenient timing may make it hard for others to fully swallow.