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Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror Paperback – October 31, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: New York Review Books (October 31, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590171527
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590171523
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #376,434 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When the Abu Ghraib torture scandal broke in April 2004, Americans and the rest of the world were stunned. President George W. Bush condemned the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers and blamed it on a few bad apples who, he said, had "dishonored our country and disregarded our values." Mark Danner, a journalist with The New Yorker, argues that a key fact was lost amid the media coverage: the torture was part of a deliberate policy of "enhanced interrogation" planned at the highest levels of the administration. But no punishment awaits the senior U.S. officials who orchestrated the abuses in Iraq and other U.S. detention facilities around the world, Danner writes. With the help of a Republican-controlled Congress, the White House and Defense Department have so far succeeded in limiting the fallout from the scandal and blaming it on a handful of overzealous, low-ranking soldiers.

Danner's 580-page book is divided into three parts. The first consists of three essays he wrote on the Abu Ghraib scandal in 2004. In them, he cites U.S. military personnel who estimate that 70 to 95 percent of the Iraqis they arrested were detained by mistake. Most were nabbed in night-time "cordon and capture" sweeps and had no intelligence value. Yet, military intelligence soldiers, under enormous pressure to combat a mounting Iraqi insurgency, worked with military police to squeeze "actionable intelligence" out of the detainees. The soldiers urinated on prisoners, threatened to rape them, sodomized them with sticks and chemical lights, deprived them of sleep, beat, kicked, and slapped them, and restricted their breathing with hoods. The rest of Danner's book consists of other essays he wrote about the war in Iraq, photos of the abuses and the texts of official reports and memos that, in grim detail, catalog both the torture and the U.S. policies that made it possible. Abu Ghraib, Danner writes, is just the tip of the iceberg. --Alex Roslin

From Publishers Weekly

This stout and valuable instant book presents a documentary history of the Abu Ghraib prisoner-torture scandal. The paper trail includes policy statements concerning prisoner treatment signed by Attorney General Ashcroft and President Bush, reports on prisoner mistreatment generated within the United States armed forces themselves and material (including photographs) from outside agencies. The sheer mass of data requires some background knowledge about the military and the situation, if only to free the reader from dependence on the author's commentary, although New Yorker staff writer Danner (The Massacre at El Mozote) was in Iraq during 2003, and his opinions, when they come to the fore, are backed up with observations. While the publisher admits to having rushed the book into print, it emerges as a book of permanent value for the study of the Iraq war and of how apparently reasonable policies can be swept away by intense pressure, political or military, to produce a particular result. Abu Ghraib raises issues that will form part of the debate on American military policy long after Iraq is out of the headlines; at the very least, this book provides the information necessary for the public's involvement in that discussion.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

For more information about Mark Danner, please visit his website at http://www.markdanner.com

Mark Danner is a writer, journalist and educator who has written for more than two decades on foreign affairs and international conflict. He has covered Central America, Haiti, Balkans and Iraq, among many other stories, and has written extensively about the development of American foreign policy during the late Cold War and afterward, and about violations of human rights during that time. His books include Stripping Bare the Body: Politics Violence War (2009), The Secret Way to War: The Downing Street Memo and the Iraq War's Buried History (2006), Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror (2004), The Road to Illegitimacy: One Reporter's Travel's Through the 2000 Florida Vote Recount (2004) and The Massacre at El Mozote: A Parable of the Cold War (1994). Danner was a longtime staff writer for The New Yorker and is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books. He is also Professor of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, and the James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs, Politics, and Humanities at Bard College.

Mark David Danner was born at Utica, a small city in northern New York State, on November 10, 1958, the son of Dr. Robert Danner, a dentist, and Rosalyn Sitrin Danner, a high school Spanish teacher. Raised in Utica and in the Adirondack mountains, Danner attended John F. Hughes School and Utica Free Academy, where he served as co-editor of The Corridors, which was named, his senior year, the best student newspaper in New York State. He was graduated in June 1976.

Danner entered Harvard College in September 1976. After majoring, successively, in philosophy, English literature and religion, he took his degree in Modern Literatures and Aesthetics, an interdisciplinary honors concentration that combined comparative literature, philosophy and art history. He found himself particularly marked by an individual tutorial on the development of modern fiction with Frank Kermode, then visiting Harvard as the Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry, and by a class in international relations taught by Stanley Hoffmann and Guido Goldman. After spending a year traveling in Europe, Danner was graduated from Harvard College, magna cum laude, in June 1981.
In September 1981 Danner began work at the New York Review of Books as an editorial assistant to editor Robert B. Silvers. In 1984 he became senior editor at Harper's Magazine and, two years later, an editor at The New York Times Magazine, where he specialized in foreign affairs and politics and wrote pieces about nuclear weapons and about the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti. Danner joined The New Yorker's staff in April 1990, five months after the magazine published his three-part series on Haiti, "A Reporter At Large: Beyond the Mountains" -- and a few days after the articles were granted the 1990 National Magazine Award for Reporting.

At The New Yorker, Danner began contributing regular essays to the "Comment" section of the magazine, notably on the Gulf War. On December 6, 1993, for the second time in its history, The New Yorker devoted its entire issue to one article -- Danner's piece, "The Truth of El Mozote." That article, an investigation into the notorious massacre in a remote Salvadoran town, was granted an Overseas Press Club Award and a Latin American Studies Association award. In April 1994, Vintage published Danner's book, The Massacre at El Mozote: A Parable of the Cold War. The New York Times Book Review recognized The Massacre at El Mozote as one of its "Notable Books of the Year."

During the mid-1990's Danner began reporting on the wars in the Balkans, writing a series of eleven extended articles for The New York Review of Books, which began with Danner's cover piece, "The US and the Yugoslav Catastrophe" and concluded with " Kosovo: The Meaning of Victory," (New York Review, July 15, 1999). The articles were recognized by the Overseas Press Club as the "Best Reporting From Abroad of 1998." Metropolitan Books will publish an adaptation of these pieces in a volume entitled, The Saddest Story: America, the Balkans and the Post-Cold War World. Danner also co-wrote and helped produce an hour-long television documentary for ABC News's Peter Jennings Reporting series: "While America Watched: The Bosnian Tragedy," which aired on March 30, 1994 (and which was awarded an Emmy and a duPont Golden Baton). He later co-wrote and helped produce a second documentary for the same series, "House on Fire: America's Haitian Crisis," about the run-up to the United States' occupation of Haiti, which aired on July 27, 1994.

Danner's writing has appeared in Aperture, Harper's Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, The Times Book Review, and on The Times Op-Ed page. His 16,000-word essay, "Marooned in the Cold War: America, the Alliance and the Quest for a Vanished World," which appeared in World Policy Journal (Fall 1997) provoked a prolonged exchange of letters and responses from Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, Congressman Lee Hamilton, and Ambassador George F. Kennan. Danner has appeared widely on television and radio discussing international affairs, including on Charlie Rose and The MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour on PBS, CNN's PrimeNews , ABC's World News Now and C-Span's Morning Show, among many other programs.

In 1998, Danner began teaching at the University of California at Berkeley as a visiting professor at the Graduate School of Journalism and Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Human Rights. In 2000, Danner was named Professor on the faculty of the Graduate School of Journalism at Berkeley. He currently spends half his year at Berkeley, where he teaches courses on political violence, crisis management in international affairs and writing about wars and politics. In fall 2002, he became founding director of Berkeley's Goldman Forum on the Press and Foreign Affairs, leading a series of debates and discussions on foreign affairs, journalism and politics. In 2002, Danner was named Henry R. Luce Professor of Human Rights and Journalism at Bard College in the Hudson Valley of New York State and in 2007 the James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs, Politics and the Humanities. At Bard he teaches courses on literature, intellectual history, foreign affairs and politics.

Danner began writing about the war on terror soon after September 11, 2001 and later began speaking out extensively about the Iraq War, notably in a series of debates with Christopher Hitchens, Leon Wieseltier, Michael Ignatieff, David Frum, William Kristol and others. He reported on Iraq for The New York Review of Books and wrote a series of essays for The Review on the emerging torture scandal that came to be known as Abu Ghraib. In October 2004, he collected these essays and gathered them, together with a series of government documents and reports, into his book, Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror. Torture and Truth was awarded the 2004 Madeline Dane Ross Prize from the Overseas Press Club for best book on current affairs. In May 2005 Danner wrote an essay for The New York Review accompanying the first American publication of the so-called "Downing Street Memo," the leaked minutes of a July 2002 meeting of high-level British officials discussing the coming Iraq War. The essay provoked a number of responses and led to two subsequent essays, all of which were collected, along with relevant documents and a preface by New York Times columnist Frank Rich, 2006 in The Secret Way to War: the Downing Street Memo and the Iraq War's Buried History.

In March 2009, Danner published an essay in The New York Review, "US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites", which revealed the contents of a secret International Committee of the Red Cross report based on testimony from "high-value detainees" in the "War on Terror," who had been captured, held, and interrogated at secret US prisons--the so-called "black sites". Shortly thereafter, he published a second essay, "The Red Cross Report: What it Means" and released the full text of the report on the The New York Review website. Weeks later, in a move senior Administration officials claimed was prompted by the disclosure of the Red Cross material, President Obama ordered released four Justice Department memos in which the Bush administration purported "to legalize torture."

In October 2009, Danner published Stripping Bare the Body: Politics Violence War, a large book whose title was inspired by the observation of a former Haitian president (overthrown in a military coup) that "political violence strips bare the social body, the better to place the stethoscope and track the life beneath the skin." The book contains political reporting on wars, revolutions and other forms of violence from around the world, including the aborted election in Haiti, the genocidal civil war in the Balkans, and the invasion, occupation and counterinsurgency in Iraq, along with much writing about the war on terror and the torture of detainees.
Danner's work has been honored with a National Magazine Award, three Overseas Press Awards, and an Emmy. In June 1999, Danner was named a MacArthur Fellow. In 2006 he was awarded the Carey McWilliams Award from the American Political Science Association to honor that year's "major journalistic contribution to our understanding of politics." In 2008 he was named the Marian and Andrew Heiskell Visiting Critic at the American Academy in Rome.
Danner speaks French and some Spanish. He serves on the board of the World Affairs Council of Northern California and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Pacific Council on International Policy, and the Century Association, and is a fellow of the Institute of the Humanities at New York University. Danner divides his time between San Francisco and New York.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 65 people found the following review helpful By G. Reid on January 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
The author strongly makes the case that the Abu Ghraib torture scandal was not caused by a few rotten apples on the night shift, but was systematic torture as policy. The Red Cross report and other valid reports are in the book so that the reader can see for himself that the torture at Abu Ghraib was certainly far more than a few rotten apples that were military police serving in the reserves that were sent to Abu Ghraib.

There was sadism at Abu Ghraib. There was a breakdown in law and order at Abu Ghraib. There was a breakdown in discipline at Abu Ghraib. This, of course, puts our entire Country and our entire military at risk.

Not only is the torture wrong, but, beyond that, torture is ineffective and many of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib had no intelligence value in the first place. Torture is very harmful to our Country politically speaking. It is certainly the case that any information that was obtained by torture would be overshadowed by the political damage caused by the activities.
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful By C. Catherwood on March 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is by far the best journalistic account of the torture of suspects at Abu Ghraib. This is also the best book to read after reading the books of documents, which give you the vital context for understanding Danner's book. Read them first and then this one - you will then be able to understand what really happened and why. British and US troops really did commit terribe acts against their prisoners, with tragic consequences for the reputation of both nations in the Middle East. Read Danner and the documents books to discove why. Christopher Catherwood (author of CHURCHILL'S FOLLY: HOW WINSTON CHURCHILL CREATED MODERN IRAQ: Carroll and Graf, hardcover 2004, paperback 2005)
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Cheri Montagu on August 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
I bought Mark Danner's TORTURE AND TRUTH several months ago from Amazon, and find it ever more relevant to current events. For the numbers of people detained and tortured in the War on Terror-- many of them believed by reputable individuals and organizations to be innocent-- continues to rise, and extends far beyond Abu Ghraib. The very fact that the majority of these people have never been formally charged with involvement in terrorist activity nor tried seems to prove their innocence, for it would be very easy to keep someone in jail these days if one could present solid evidence of their involvment in terrorism. Those who object that the tortures inflicted on these detaninees is not as bad as that which some totalitarian governments inflict upon their victims ignore the fact that the "soft torture" techniques in development since the end of World War II have been found to be more effective in "breaking" victims than simple brutality (see Alfred McCoy, A QUESTION OF TORTURE: CIA INTERROGATION FROM THE COLD WAR TO THE WAR ON TERROR). The suffering of these wretched detainees keeps me awake at night, yet to this day most people seem unconcerned about their plight. Danner's comment from the Introduction to his book still holds true: "Like other scandals that have erupted during the Iraq War and the war on terror, it is not about revelation or disclosure but about the failure, once wrongdoing is disclosed, of politicians, officials, the press, and, ultimately, citizens to act."
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Edwin C. Pauzer VINE VOICE on February 28, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Movies have separate ratings for violence, sexual content or language, so should books. Mark Danner's "Torture and Truth" deserves separate consideration. The book is a singular reference for the academic or historian who will try to make sense of an age when Americans acted out of fear instead of strength and confidence, and became the world's bully instead of its protector. As such, this is not for the reader who wants to be entertained. The detailed memoranda that describe intradepartmental and interdepartmental conflict will prevent that, so will the myriad of abbreviations and acronyms that will make the reader turn to the appendix again and again. A few readers will be lucky enough to know what sigint, UCMJ or CSM mean without seeking clarification, but the constant turn to the appendix will cause frustration and disrupt the continuity of reading.

What becomes apparent is that torture was considered even before we started taking prisoners or that there was "actionable intelligence" to be gained from them. Colin Powel's State Department sends a flurry of memoranda attempting to convince the Bush administration to act within the rules of the Geneva Convention. The Departments of Justice and Defense, the Office of Legal Counsel, and Bush's own lawyer write the opposite. The forces against Powell are strong. Afghanistan is declared a failed state, the Geneva Convention will be observed but not practiced, and torture is given such a narrow definition as to allow almost any practice short of permanent injury or death.

What doesn't need to be looked at in detail are the pictures of Americans acting as barbarians.
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