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The Dark Side Unknown Binding – July 15, 2008
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Top customer reviews
To the extent we can take Mayer at her word, this is a disturbing and compelling read. The metaphor of the "dark side" is a rich one. While Dick Cheney intended the expression, during his famous interview, to signify America taking off the gloves to combat terrorists, it was an unintended (or perhaps subconscious) premonition of the ugly part of ourselves that can emerge when we are threatened. If you believe America is worth fighting for (and even after reading this I still think it is), reading this book will remind you of the why and the how of going about that fight. We must fight to preserver our values, not flout them in the name of a false sense of "security".
Mayer portrays a gaggle of scofflaws, such as Dick Cheney's legal council David Addington and DOJ Office of Legal Counsel attorney John Yoo, essentially conducting national foreign, military, and legal policy like a group of unruly boys who have discovered their fathers' caches of guns and beer. Along with the rest of the "War Council", they routinely contrived Constitution- and treaty-skirting legalese to justify intensified aggression in the war on terror, circumvention of normal chains of communication and command, routine violation of accepted standards of military and legal conduct, and "enhanced interrogation" techniques including the well-discussed water boarding but numerous other barbarities as well. What you sense from reading the book is that these people genuinely thought they were cutting through the red tape of legal procedure to act in American interests, although Mayer `s language does not directly grant them the benefit of the doubt for this reasonable motive.
What Mayer does hammer home is her view that these activities were not just illegal and immoral (many examples of innocents needlessly suffering at American hands turn the stomach), but were ultimately ineffective relative to traditional investigation and counterterrorism technique. It would be a more compelling dilemma if water boarding KSM actually accomplished anything, but it turns out it did *not* accomplish anything that was not already being achieved through routine investigation. Furthermore, false intel from terror suspects simply attempting to end their torment by telling interrogators what they wanted to hear led to numerous goose chases, including the war in Iraq. Its one thing to break the law to win; it's quite another when you break your own laws and hurt your own cause in the process.
While some view the book as an anti-Bush/Cheney screed, many ideological conservatives--the type of people Mayer would otherwise be at odds with--come off as heroes for their willingness to oppose the Bush Administration's renegade approach and eventually restore order to American criminal procedure.
In the end Mayer praises those who were willing to resist hysteria in the name of the rule of law, and reminds us of why America is supposed to be worth fighting for in the first place.
Response to other reviewers:
Whenever I like a book I always read the other side, so I went and checked all the one-star reviews. The best criticism was from someone who noted the reliance on some anonymous sources forces some skepticism. This is certainly true, but it's ironic when you consider that similar anonymity of sources prevailed during some of the very criminal/intelligence operations the book portrays. Another critic said that Mayer's portrayal of John Lind's extradition was flawed, but never specified how. In any event Mayer's key point about the Lind case was that Lind had a reasonable defense against charges of consciously acting against the United States. The critic did not challenge this central point and it makes me wonder if it's because he knows no such challenge is possible.
Here was one odd criticism:
"She [Mayer] attributes legislative power to Bush when almost every elementary student knows that Congress, not the president, makes the laws, and the president's duty is to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed, If Bush's acts were as unconstitutional as she claims, Congress could have, but did not, refuse to pay for them."
This is an argument?
Mayer's entire point is that the Bush administration did *not* faithfully execute American law *or* abide by constitutional and international norms. Mayer clearly explains that Congressional resistance--whatever form it might have taken--was stifled precisely because no one wanted to look "soft on terror" in the post-911 context. If that is to Congress's shame so be it. But this does not in any way diminish the accuracy of Mayer's work.
Here were some juicy ones:
"Thank God for George Bush and Dick Cheney that protected us from these civilian killers. If it takes pouring water over their face to simulate drowning to save mine, or your family.........sign me up. Humiliation is not torture."
"Do[sic] [Mayer] understand that under the Rules of Criminal Procedure, matters of national security would have to be disclosed to defendants during a criminal prosecution? Is that really wise and would it keep us safe?"
"Ms. Mayer clearly represents that large group of liberals who prefer to be dead rather than even twist the pinky toe of a terrorist. Bush-haters will love this book . . . "
And most poignantly:
"In this book she takes a moral position that murderous people with evil intentions have more rights than the people they kill and that the men and women trying to defeat them are essentially evil. That sadly is just not true."
All of these comments illustrate the very xenophobia and paranoia that got us into the moral and legal wreck that Mayer describes in her book.
The first critic claimed to have "hated" the book when it is clear he did not read it. One of Mayer's key points is that water boarding and other violations of international law and military codes of conduct *hurt* our prospects in the war on terror by alienating allies and steeling the resolve of our enemies. Furthermore, the issue of "matters of national security" became a blanket protection against disclosure of misconduct. The Bush administration disrupted a generally noble (if of course imperfect) American tradition of humane treatment of enemy combatants that had served us well until the War Council decided they knew better and threw out two centuries of American tradition.
What these critics also don't realize is that under the Bush administration, virtually *no one* was ever prosecuted for crimes--*precisely* because their interrogations would never withstand scrutiny in any reasonable court.
And I *dare* the last negative reviewer to produce any quote that substantiates this slur that Mayer believes murderers have "more rights" than their victims. If this fat-mouthed critic had actually read the book, he would have known that what we learned to our horror was that numerous *innocent* people were caught up in this crazed witch hunt.
Simply put, these abuses hurt innocent people, wasted our material and personnel resources, and made us no safer--and possibly less so.
Most recent customer reviews
Not an easy subject to research and piece together so well.