Joshua Casteel (1979-2012) was an interrogator and linguist at Abu Ghraib Prison from June 2004 until early January of 2005. While stationed there he slept near, and later worked at, open-air burn pits. After eight years in the Army, and one particularly clarifying interrogation in which a self-proclaimed jihadist spoke to him about the teachings of Jesus, Joshua became a pacifist and a conscientious objector, an experience he described in his book, Letters from Abu Ghraib (Essay Press); in his plays, The Interrogation Room and Returns; and in a number of speeches he gave. I met Joshua in the spring of 2005 in Iowa City, Iowa. This is my last letter to him.
22 September 2012
There were two kohlrabi and a cucumber waiting on the porch this morning. I chopped the cucumber and stirred in some oil, the last of a few different vinegars, and salt. Then I added sweet corn, green onions, and basil. The kohlrabi are supposed to be treated like turnips; that’s all anyone has on the kohlrabi front. So maybe I’ll mash them? Or roast them? Or put them in a soup?
If this were a conversation, we wouldn’t have made it past salt. I know that. We’d be knee-deep in ontology by now, with you in the absolute lead. But it’s just me, and we haven’t talked in a while, and I owe you a letter.