- 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: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #989,719 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror Paperback – October 31, 2004
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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.
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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. It is obvious from the photographs that they were not seeking intelligence information by sitting on top of nude prisoners, torturing them in hallways, putting them on a leash, making one prisoner fellate another, stacking them nude, in human pyramids, or tying them to beds or cell doors while they were also nude. Smiling faces of American women over an Iraqi corpse may sicken the viewer almost as much as seeing the hooded man, standing on a box, believing that electrodes are clipped to his fingers. These are photos of Americans as einsatzgrûppe.
The sworn statements from prisoners and the February 2004 Report of the International Red Cross show a pattern of brutality in too many facilities to be considered isolated incidents committed by "bad apples." "Certain Coalition Forces military intelligence officers told the ICRC that in their estimate between 70% and 90%of the persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake."
The Taguba, Fay, and Schlessinger Investigations point to a lack of leadership, command and control, logistics, training, and continuity to explain the mayhem that resulted, but no investigation is aimed at the decision-makers in Washington. Prisoners are not taken to the rear as doctrine called for because the rising insurgency means there is no rear and no central point to process detainees who exchange number and identification with each other. Soldiers operating under the dilemma of using harsh techniques to provide intelligence and act humanely were given no moral compass by leadership or command and control. In other words, who was in charge? Those who were well-led, knew SOP and policy acted professionally. Some officers, NCO's and enlisted men made it their mission to act professionally, but only some.
The U. S. does not plan for combat operations in Iraq to end as quickly as it does. It expects to turn over Iraq to a sycophant who turns out to be a double agent. The U. S. doesn't, and stays. Neither event is planned for. The administration is unprepared for an occupation, an occupation that has no front line, plenty of time for things to turn for the worse, and not enough troops to handle it when it does.
It is also apparent that America had come full circle since 1945. It had become the invader instead of the liberator. It had become the brute and the bully instead of the protector. It now leads other nations through domination and coercion, instead of by example and cooperation.
This book was written in 2004. To date, no national policymaker has been held accountable for what happened.