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The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals Hardcover – July 15, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 225 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This hard-hitting expose examines both the controversial excesses of the war on terror and the home-front struggle to circumvent legal obstacles to its prosecution. New Yorker correspondent Mayer (Strange Justice) details the battle within the Bush Administration over a new anti-terrorism policy of harsh interrogations, indefinite detentions without due process, extraordinary renditions, secret CIA prisons and warrantless wiretappings. Fighting with memos and legal briefs, Mayer reports, hard-liners led by Dick Cheney, his aide David Addingtion and then-Justice Department lawyer John Yoo rejected any constraints on the treatment of prisoners or limitations on presidential power in fighting terrorism, while less militant administration lawyers invoked the Constitution and international law to oppose their initiatives. As a counterpoint to the wrangling over the definition of torture and the Geneva Conventions, the author looks at the use of techniques like waterboarding, stress positions, sleep deprivation and sexual humiliation against prisoners by the American military and CIA; her chilling account compellingly argues that this "enhanced interrogation" regimen constitutes torture. The result is a must-read: a meticulous behind-the-scenes reconstruction of policymaking that demonstrates how legal abstractions became an ugly reality.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“A powerful, brilliantly researched and deeply unsettling book….extraordinary and invaluable” —Alan Brinkley, New York Times Book Review


"If you intend to vote in November and read only one book between now and then, this should be it.” —Los Angeles Times

“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, New York Times

"The Dark Side
is a gripping, meticuously 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.' Mayer notes that the Bush Administration was repeatedly warned by experts in military and the FBI as well as by loyal Republican lawyers inside the Administration that 'the short-term benefits of its extralegal apporach to fighting terrorism would have tragically destructive long-term consequences for both the rule of law and America's interests in the world.' Instead of heeding thi well-intentioned advvice, the Administration 'invoked the fear flowing from the [9/11] attacks' and 'sanctioned coerced confessions, extrajuidicial detention, and other violations of individuals' liberties that had been prohibited since the country's founding.' Provoking governments to overreact is a common objective of terrorist organizations. If that was what al Qaeda sought to do on 9/11, it hit the jackpot."--Parameters Magazine, the United States Army's Senior Professional Journal

“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.”
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

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (July 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385526393
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385526395
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (225 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #278,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Yesh Prabhu, author of The Beech Tree VINE VOICE on July 15, 2008
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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25 Comments 112 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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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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