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

4.4 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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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.
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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: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #516,642 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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The horror of torture,committed for those, who said they were liberator. The dark side of our history shown through documents and testimonies, which explain the terrible,wrong and diabolically calculated "war on terror"
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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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