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Fixing Hell: An Army Psychologist Confronts Abu Ghraib Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1 edition (September 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446509280
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446509282
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #177,589 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Narrator Eric Kramer captures this contradiction in a sure voice that also projects James's (author) gentleness, creative thinking, and compassion. James bring listeners into the painful realities of Abu Ghraib with powerful dialogues, and Kramer's delivery makes the most of these conversations." (AudioFile 2008-01-00) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

A colonel in the U.S. Army, Dr. Larry C. James was awarded a Bronze Star for distinguished service in Iraq. He is the Chair of the Psychology Department at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, and is the former Chair of the Department of Psychology at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He is also a Fellow of the American Psychology Association and has published four books as well as more than fifty scientific papers. Colonel James has played a major leadership role in determining the appropriate, legal, and ethical role psychologists must play in national security and intelligence collection. Now retired from the Army, he is currently Dean of the School of Professional Psychology at Wright State University in Ohio.

Gregory A. Freeman is an award-winning writer in journalism and historical nonfiction. His most recent books are The Forgotten 500 and Sailors to the End.

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Customer Reviews

It's difficult to say James is homophobic as that word is typically used.
Julius
Yet the whole book is about his heroic efforts to "save the sinking ship" at both GITMO and Abu Ghraib.
Dienne
If you want to have a real sense of what things were like in Iraq when he was there, read this book.
NPS

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dienne TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As soon as I finished reading this book, I immediately headed to the nearest church, rent my clothes, fell on my face and repented. Col. (ret.) Larry C. James, Ph.D. is clearly the Second Coming of Christ.

Okay, no, not really. Even the briefest study of history or literature will teach you that in order to evaluate any written work, you must first evaluate the narrator. Who is telling the story and why? What point of view (first person, third person, limited or omniscient) does the narrator use to convey his/her story? What agenda does the author have in mind? How reliable is the narrator?

This book is narrated in a first-person voice by Col. James himself. Ostensibly, it is his story of how he cleaned up both GITMO and Abu Ghraib, stopped all prisoner abuses, and provided medical and psychological services to service members and prisoners at both locations, but I haven't read such a blatant piece of self-heroicizing since, well, James Frey's "A Million Little Pieces". As far as reliability, we soon figure out that the Morton company doesn't even make enough salt to take this guy with.

Col. James operates almost exclusively in black and white stereotypes, some of which I'm sure he doesn't even intend. For instance, he portrays all U.S. service members, officer and enlisted alike, as ignorant, potty-mouth, good-ole-boy rubes from Alabama. He tries to convince us he has nothing against gays and lesbians, but yet he portrays them in a ridiculously stereotyped manner (e.g., the fussy gay man worried about his nails while learning to fire a gun). His treatment of women has already been addressed by other reviewers.

And this is to say nothing of the typical stereotypes of Muslims as fanatic, irrational U.S.
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16 of 23 people found the following review helpful By S. J. Snyder on November 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As far as a rating level, this was a toughie, as I was reading through it, that bounced everywhere from low 2-star to low 4-star in my mind.

There's several things to like - beyond a psychologist who is also a career soldier putting the reader inside the military lingo and the "fog of war" mind - about this book.

On major thing is James' airing the question as to whether or not the "terrorist mindset" should be classified as a new category of mental illness. He uses Tim McVeigh as a reference, noting that, by all current classifications, McVeigh was "normal."

His describing his own PTSD symptoms, plus his "professional macho" refusal to get help for them at first, personalizes this book, as does his discussion of his history at Abu Ghraib with a class of young Army psychologists a few years later.

Finally, James rightfully defends himself, and Army psychologists in general, against SOME of the charges leveled against them.

BUT - this book also has many problems.

First, it is a matter of record that, as a profession, American psychologists, as opposed to psychiatrists, have never taken an unambiguous stand about being involved with torture in any way, via their relative professional associations. And James, in his self-defense conclusion, never discusses this.

What's Jeams' take on the American Psychological Association's refusal to follow the American Psychiatric Association with an unambiguous condemnation of the reverse engineering of SERE (corrected from original) and other "enhanced interrogation techniques"? (Finally, belatedly, some such condemnation was approved late last year) How does he square that with his "do no harm" mantra?
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16 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Anne on September 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Finally, someone who has actually been in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib is talking. This book addressed many of the controversial issues about the war today, namely psychologists and interrogations and the very uncomfortable topic regarding what happened in Abu Ghraib that led to those horrible pictures.

Dr. James doesn't provide the military party line about the current administration and he admits that mistakes were made. He provides information as to the evolution of improvements in the detention facilities, specifically regarding interrogations of terrorist suspects and changes to the leadership and routine at Abu Ghraib.

This first hand report was desperately needed. I didn't put this book down - it is no literary masterpiece but it is an incredible read all the same given the value of the information.
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By Phoebe Morgan on March 21, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book does a great job of describing the Abu Ghraib dilemma from the veteran's point of view. It is a worthwhile read for that reason.
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By NPS on July 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is well written and tells it like it is. Dr. James faced terrible situations that he was told to correct and he did what needed to be done at a high personal cost as well as facing the failure of what had been done before. If you want to have a real sense of what things were like in Iraq when he was there, read this book.
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15 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Julius on February 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
It would be hard to take this book seriously if it weren't for the fact that the author is now Dean of the School of Professional Psychology at Wright State University. (One wonders what they were thinking.) Here is one of my favorite excerpts from the book, although lesbian-with-assault-rifle-between-her-legs runs a close second:

"Sex was a complicating factor in much of our work at Abu Graib. I came to know several single women at Abu Graib who got pregnant, received adverse legal action, and were sent home. Private Jeni Nelson was a short, fat, seriously ugly young lady. She looked as though she was crying all the time. Neverthless, she got a boyfriend, got pregnant, and was promptly sent home by her company commander. Did she do it on purpose to get out of Abu Graib? Probably, and I'm sure she wasn't the first."

For more examples of misogyny, see pp. 162-164, and for homophobia/lesbian stereotyping that reads like a bad letter to Penthouse magazine, see 153-156 and passim.

Lest I be charged with selectively quoting, let me state that this book is about James, not about the significant issues of torture and interrogation which it purports to analyze. It is a bloated, fantasy memoir that reads like Captain John Smith's adventures with Pocahontas or the Turkish princess.

Subjects like this deserve serious scholarly treatment. I am sympathetic to the psychological and ethical dilemmas of the interrogators, and indeed a family member with whom I am close was an interrogator in the army, though not at Abu Ghraib or Gitmo. To understand this most complex subject we do not need self-serving epics or the undermining of our troops by offering up misogynistic narratives. It's difficult to say James is homophobic as that word is typically used.
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