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The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals Paperback – May 5, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 227 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Following the paper trail left by the blank check the government and the citizenry gave the Bush administration after 9/11, Mayer tracks the nuanced and specific actions that have resulted in a devaluation of American ideals both domestically and abroad. Her talent lies in identifying the key moments, cases, actions and decisions that proved pivotal in empowering a monarchical executive power to avoid checks and balances. Mayer's comprehensive and detailed approach certainly ranks her work higher among the scores of books on the Bush administration. Richard McGonagle has a powerfully resonant and gruff voice that is at times deliberate and works effectively with the tone of this book. Occasionally, however, he seems distant, not monotonic, but projecting the sense he is just going through the motions. A Doubleday hardcover (reviewed online).(Aug.)
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.

Review

“Deeply troubling, but splendidly executed.... Mayer does invaluable work locking these reports into a coherent narrative framework and sketching in vital connective details and insights.... Superb.”—Los Angeles Times“A gripping, meticulously researched, and deeply disturbing book that vindicates the observation of the great Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis that 'the greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.'” —Parameters (U.S. Army War College Quarterly)“Essential reading.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette “Gripping.... Chilling.... [A] vivid and comprehensive account.” —The New York Times “One of those rare books that should be read by every concerned American.” —Austin American-Statesman“Stunning.” —Slate “Powerful, brilliantly researched, and deeply unsettling.... Extraordinary and invaluable.” —The New York Times Book Review“Some of The Dark Side seems right out of “The Final Days,” minus Nixon's operatic boozing and weeping.... Nixon parallels take us only so far, however. The Dark Side is scarier than “The Final Days” because these final days aren't over yet and because the stakes are much higher.”—Frank Rich, The New York Times“In The Dark Side, Jane Mayer, a staff writer for the New Yorker, documents some of the ugliest allegations of wrongdoing charged against the Bush administration. To dismiss these as wild, anti-American ravings will not do. They are facts, which Mayer substantiates in persuasive detail, citing the testimony not of noted liberals like Noam Chomsky or Keith Olbermann but of military officers, intelligence professionals, "hard-line law-and-order stalwarts in the criminal justice system" and impeccably conservative Bush appointees who resisted the conspiracy from within the administration.” —The Washington Post Book World“Whatever it takes to get those bastards. The true nature of our Faustian bargain would not become clear until later, and maybe it needed a journalist as steely and tenacious as Jane Mayer to give us the full picture. The Dark Side is about how the war on terror became "a war on American ideals," and Mayer gives this story all the weight and sorrow it deserves. Many books get tagged with the word "essential"; hers actually is.” —Salon.com “In Jane Mayer's angry and important book The Dark Side, the tenacious New Yorker reporter takes us, step by step, through the process by which practices and methods we associate with tyrannies became official U.S. policy.”—Bloomberg“[In] The Dark Side, Jane Mayer's riveting and shocking new book, and not the least of the themes to emerge from it is that we've witnessed something new in American history: the imperial vice presidency.”—New York Observer“Essential reading for those who think they can stand the truth.”—Bob Herbert, New York Times“Like a good suspense novel…. Potent and disturbing stuff.”—San Diego Tribune
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (May 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307456293
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307456298
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (227 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Of the nearly two dozen books published so far that describe and document the nefarious deeds of George Bush's administration, Jane Mayer's book, "The Dark Side" , is perhaps the most thoroughly researched, meticulous, impressive, and deeply disturbing. It is also gripping and highly readable.

I am convinced that what Woodward and Bernstein's book "All the President's Men" did to the Nixon administration, Jane Mayer's book "The Dark Side" will do to George Bush's administration: blow away, like a piece of straw, the last sliver of credibility that the few remaining supporters of George Bush desperately cling to. "We don't torture", said the President, and Jane Mayer has responded with this book, as if to say: "That is a lie".

Although many of the incidents and details narrated in this book have been well known for quite some time, what is remarkable is the thorough and painstaking manner in which the author has arranged them together, as if she were connecting the haphazard dots and linking them together, to create a clear, convincing, and devastating picture. She has included a significant amount of new information also. Reading this book will make the hair on your nape stand up, as if electrified, and shock you to the very core, and leave you speechless.

The book is full of passages based on well-documented facts that will stun the readers and shake their conscience. For example, she has written that: "For the first time in its history, the United States sanctioned government officials to physically and psychologically torment U.S.-held captives, making torture the official law of the land in all but name.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
History is supposed to teach us lessons from the past. From the Alien and Sedition Act, the "Red Scare" of 1919, the detention of thousands of Americans during World War II because of their Japanese ancestry, we were supposed to learn that even through the most dire threat to our safety, the rule of law ennobles us and protects us from tyranny. In "The Dark Side," Jane Mayer explains how easy it is for history to repeat itself in the name of security.

By September 11, 2001, the President of the United States had already spent fifty days of his first eight months in office on vacation. Despite several warnings of an impending attack from foreign intelligence sources as well as our own, the administration never quite understands the threat.

The attack on a clear summer morning changes that, and it changes things for worse. The subsequent invasion of Afghanistan allows the military and the C.I.A. to round up hundreds of Taliban prisoners. An offer of a $5,000 bounty for the capture of al-Qaeda and Taliban nets them hundreds more. The administration screams for actionable intelligence from these detainees, but sorting them out and interrogating them is another matter. The assumption is that "enhanced interrogation techniques" will bring more accurate results in a shorter period of time. It also has to be justified.

That comes from John Yoo, the legal counsel for the Justice Department who provides just the argument Dick Cheney and his attorney, Dick Addington are looking for. It says the president can do essentially anything he wants, and ignore Congress, if it is for the security of the country. Yoo also states that such interrogation methods are not torture unless it results in organ failure or death.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a singularly depressing work, and the worst of the worst is when a study concluded that only 8% of the Guantanamo detainees were alleged to have any association with Al Qaeda. Only 5% were captured by US forces (the other 95% by Pakistanis and bounty hunters, etc, mostly for hefty fees). 55% were not implicated in any hostile act against the US, and for many of the rest, "hostile acts" included fleeing US bombs. The book describes how Bellinger took the study to the White House--and was confronted by Addington and Gonzales. Addington told Bellinger that there would be no discussion of the matter: President Bush had decided that every single one of the detainees was an enemy combatant and that was the final word.

The Magna Carta bound kings to follow certain legal procedures and is the basis for governance in English and American jurisprudence: habeas corpus and other legal matters were codified. It's the forerunner of the US Constitution. It has remained in force in England from 1215 to the present day and was the basis for the US (Louisiana state law is founded on the Napoleonic Code) until 2001. Much of our legal system is intact, but in 2001 the Bush Administration decided that the law was whatever the President and his advisors said it was. Habeas corpus delenda est. The Dark Side shows that the law, when inconvenient, was routinely broken. Normal chains of authority were destroyed, legal decisions were made by people who were not lawyers--such as Cheney--and people who wanted the President to have--literally--life and death firmly in his hands, unrestrained. The Geneva Convention's restrictions on torture was, in Gonzales' words, "quaint".
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