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The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo's First 100 Days Paperback – September 27, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0199754113 ISBN-10: 019975411X

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (September 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019975411X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199754113
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,073,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Book Description
In January 2002, the first flight of detainees captured in the global war on terror disembarked in Guantanamo Bay. They were dazed, bewildered, and--more often than not--alarmingly thin. Given very little advance notice, the military's preparations for this group of predominantly unimportant ne'er-do-wells were hastily thrown together, but as Karen Greenberg shows, a number of capable and honorable Marine officers tried to create a humane and just detention center--only to be thwarted by the Bush Administration. The Least Worst Place is a gripping narrative account of the first one hundred days of Guantanamo. Greenberg, one of America's leading experts on the Bush Administration's policies on terrorism, tells the story through a group of career officers who tried--and ultimately failed--to stymie the Pentagon's desire to implement harsh new policies in Guantanamo and bypass the Geneva Conventions.

She sets her story in Camp X-Ray, which underwent a remarkably quick transformation from a sleepy naval outpost in the tropics into a globally infamous holding pen. Peopled with genuine heroes and villains, this narrative of the earliest days of the post-9/11 era centers on the conflicts between Gitmo-based Marine officers intent on upholding the Geneva Accords and an intelligence unit set up under the Pentagon's aegis. The latter ultimately won out, replacing transparency with secrecy, military protocol with violations of basic operation procedures, and humane and legal detainee treatment with harsh interrogation methods and torture. Guantanamo's first 100 days set up patterns of power that would come to dominate the Bush administration's overall strategy in the war on terror. Karen Greenberg's riveting account puts a human face on this little-known story, revealing how America first lost its moral bearings in the wake of 9/11.

Photographs from the Book

These photographs were taken at Camp X-Ray, a temporary detention center at Guantanamo Bay. The camp was closed on April 29, 2002.




Detention cells surrounded by wire mesh


Interrogation booths


A wooden building called a SEAhut under construction in the U.S. Marine compound





--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This study of values corrupted by the war on terror examines how the Guantánamo Bay detainee camp declined from a relatively enlightened place to a symbol of American brutality. Legal scholar Greenberg (Terrorist Trial Report Card) covers the period from December 2001 through March 2002, when Camp X-Ray opened to house suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives captured in Afghanistan. The story's hero is X-Ray's first commander, Marine Gen. Michael Lehnert, who scrupulously observed the Geneva Conventions; he emerges as an almost saintly figure as he tearfully pleads with detainees to end a hunger strike. The villains are Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Bush administration lawyers, led by John Yoo, who advanced specious rationales for stripping detainees of legal protections that would ban harsh and abusive treatment. Greenberg's account is not an exposé of Guantánamo horrors; instead, she draws a lesson on the banality of goodness—that dutiful adherence to international law, not personal integrity, is the ultimate guarantor of humane policy. Unfortunately, her story's restricted scope and its celebration of Lehnert's personal integrity blur her focus on the legal and institutional determinants of good and evil. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Phillip Taylor on February 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I come to this book from a very different standpoint to that of Karen Greenberg because I have served in the armed forces, and I am a practising lawyer.

For anyone involved in law enforcement and custodial systems, certain rules must be followed in a civilised society- they weren't here.

Greenberg, from her perspective, outlines (with edge) the initial phase of this 'custodial operation' beginning with the concept of confinement which gives the public a rest from these alleged terrorists' acivities, to outright torture...without trial.

The 'T' word (torture, not trial) must be used sparingly but the evidence which Greenberg assembles from observers and participants between December 21, 2001 to March 31, 2002 is compelling...and damning.

The book makes disturbing reading, especially for Obama supporters who now see some idea of the measure of responsibility and the task set for the new President to make amends.

There is only one conclusion to this book- it mustn't happen again. And how many times have we heard that before?

The title 'The Least Worst Place' is just the start of the twisting and the bending of policies which Allies and supporters had trustingly placed in Bush's administration.

To say the US has lost its moral bearings with this camp is strong but just when Greenberg provides excellent footnotes to justify her assertions albeit it from her left wing perspective which I have no quarrel with here as this is not about 'left' or 'right' wing to me.

This book should be read to remind people of how not to behave when we are the 'good guys' for fear of turning us into the 'bad guys'...which is exactly what has happened with Guantanamo.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By James R. Maclean on April 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The creation of Camp X-Ray, Guantanamo, was in haste. There was no administrative consensus as to the status of detainees, and hence no standard for how they were to be treated while in detention. Soldiers trained to guard the camp, and contractors employed to build it, were advised only that the detainees would be "the worst of the worst"--hardened Taleban/al-Qaida terrorists, with totally fanatical zeal to kill.

After the logistical achievement of building a maximum security detention center in so little time (2 months) the first detainees arrived from Bagram AFB, Afghanistan: in most cases the staff at Camp X-Ray knew nothing about them: in most cases, even their language was a mystery (few spoke Arabic). The circumstances of their capture or their personal effects were unknown to anyone, and the Pentagon refused to support any policy measures that would pin down their legal status. The staff initially sought to create a detention facility that would comply with the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

After the first few months, the priorities of the Guantanamo Base were changed. Initially left on its own, in legal and administrative limbo, the local staff had struggled to find the appropriate balance of control and humane treatment for prisoners. In March '02, however, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld took a direct interest in the center and its ability to validate his narrative of the Global War on Terror. At all times, officers in the chain of command were eager to prove their usefulness to the nation by jumping through whatever hoops Rumsfeld held out.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Barton Gellman on March 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Karen Greenberg has done the best kind of contemporary nonfiction, discovering a history we did not know we had. We all know what Guantanamo Bay has become; Greenberg shows exactly how it began, and how the good intentions of honorable people were subverted.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Joan Reis on March 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In The Least Worst Place, Greenberg presents a detailed history, in strikingly readable format, of the way in which one of the nation's most embarrassing mistakes came to be.

From Greenberg's description the reader discovers, first, that the detention mission in Guantanamo did not have to devolve into indignity (although what caused it to do so, namely the creation of an unlawful interrogation facility, may have been the intent of its creators from the very beginning); second, that what caused it to devolve was the hijacking of a military mission away from the professional military leadership by civilian leadership; third, the efforts of on-the-ground, military leadership to maintain a lawful, upstanding detention facility; and fourth, the efforts and manipulations by the administration to undermine the ability of the military to do so.

Greenberg's book is vital not only to an understanding of the mistakes and abuses of the past administration, but in order to understand how those mistakes could have been avoided, how they can be in the future, and what about our system works well. While many may find the history outlined in this book to be a source of anger and frustration, it may also be a source of optimism; about the professionalism that can be, and historically has been, created in our military, and about the possibility for our country to handle war and detention in a manner that we can be proud of.

To address these issues, The Least Worst Place follows not only the facts but also the people involved. Greenberg's description of the marines, soldiers and JAG lawyers at Guantanamo makes the book interesting and easy to read. I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone with any interest in the subject whatsoever.
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