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Tortured: When Good Soldiers Do Bad Things 1st Edition

4.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0470454039
ISBN-10: 0470454032
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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

In Tortured, journalist Justine Sharrock brings us an eyewitness account of what it feels like to torture, revealing a huge chasm between what the headlines say about America's torture program and what really happened. Sharrock traveled around the country, talking to the young, low-ranking soldiers who worked at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, documenting the consequences of torture. These soldiers, thinking they would be heroes, followed orders from the top with the assurance that those orders were both legal and noble. Later, they realized that they had committed war crimes. Their experiences left them feeling disillusioned and profoundly betrayed by the very government they had set out to defend. For too long, these soldiers hid their reactions and revelations, silenced by family and friends who were determined to see them as war heroes and by the many Americans who think we should have done even more.

In this shocking and heartbreaking exposé, you'll meet gung-ho Texan Brandon Neely, the first soldier to beat up a detainee at Guantanamo Prison when it opened in 2002, who is only now realizing that what he did was wrong. You'll follow medic Andrew Duffy on his rounds at Abu Ghraib, where he was ordered to "rough up" detainees, was ridiculed for trying to save a prisoner's life, and ended up taking out his anger on the prisoners. Through the eyes of nineteen-year-old private Chris Arendt, you'll come to understand how a Guantanamo soldier can himself feel imprisoned by his inability to say no.

All three of these men now live in the grip of post-traumatic stress disorder. The fourth, Abu Ghraib whistleblower Joe Darby, lives in hiding. After turning over the notorious photos to Army criminal investigators, he received numerous threats from his former friends and neighbors in Cumberland, Maryland, who consider him a traitor to his National Guard unit, the town itself, and the nation at large. Sharrock's interviews with many of Cumberland's angry and desperate residents create a tragic and memorable portrait of crumbling small-town America clinging to the myth of the nation's grandeur. Through these highly personal stories, Sharrock illustrates the larger crisis that the country faces in reconciling its torture policy with its national identity.

The soldiers you'll meet in this regrettably true story never waterboarded anyone. They were not involved with interrogating prisoners. Thoughts of ticking time bombs didn't cross their minds. Their job was to maintain a constant routine of brutality and abuse and to keep detainees in a weakened and, yes, terrorized state. These patriotic young Americans joined the service when their country needed them most, then found themselves to be both the villains and the victims in their own worst nightmares. Should they be tried for war crimes? Or should prosecutors start at the top, with George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld? Read Tortured, then decide.

From the Back Cover

"Powerful and important. Justine Sharrock talks to soldiers whose patriotic duty was warped by the Bush administration, making torturers out of ordinary men and women. A must-read for all Americans concerned by the corrosive impact of the Bush administration's 'War on Terror' policies on the U.S. military." —Andy Worthington, journalist and author of The Guantanamo Files

"An extraordinary book that explores the ugliest underbelly of war. Sharrock takes the discussion of torture and prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo into new territory, delving into the lives of the soldiers on the ground assigned these brutal tasks. Throughout the book, Sharrock maintains a balance between empathy and tough reporting as she examines the anguish and denial of men who participated in what can only be described as acts of evil but who do not believe themselves to be evil." —Thomas B. Edsall, political editor, The Huffington Post


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (June 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470454032
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470454039
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,881,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
There have been a number of books about this subject, but Sharrock is the first to get such honest, vulnerable accounts from the soldiers who actually did the torturing. What is most amazing is the psychological fallout each soldier goes through. Great read. Should be required reading for anyone considering prison or military work.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you were an adult prior to September 11, 2001, ask yourself: did you ever think we'd be having a "torture debate" in this country? Did you ever think there was anything debatable about torture? I believe most Americans, prior to September 11, would have said no, it's not debatable - we don't torture. Period.

But September 11 traumatized us collectively as a nation in ways that are only now beginning to be realized. One of the biggest impacts has been that in our fear and anger, we have all but jettisoned many of the principles which we formerly revered. Whether it's the need to find and defuse the mythical "ticking time bomb" or simply a desire to get "revenge", many Americans believe that "enhanced interrogation techniques", detainee abuse and even torture are acceptable - even desirable - options, at least under some circumstances.

Justine Sharrock has added an invaluable perspective to this "debate". Along with other recent books, Sharrock has shown that the price of torture is as high or even higher for the soldiers who do it than for the detainees on the receiving end. She has also shown that distinctions between "enhanced interrogation techniques" vs. abuse vs. torture are largely meaningless. Sleep deprivation, isolation, temperature extremes and other "psychological" techniques are just as devastating - if not more so - than physical measures, to both detainees and soldiers.

Sharrock presents her arguments through the stories of soldiers, their families, friends and communities. She focuses on four soldiers in particular, although she has interviewed many more. Brandon Neely was the epitome of the "good soldier" - ready and eager to do battle, defend his country and kick some "hajji" butt.
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Format: Hardcover
Justine Sharrock offers a compelling, insightful, and well-written account of a topic many of us would like to pretend does not exist. She makes a compelling argument that our nation's attempts to discuss torture, such as they are, have been misplaced. Questions of whether specific tactics constitute torture or whether a "ticking-time bomb" scenario would justify torture hide the fact that the vast majority of torture is carried out by common soldiers as part of routine, systematic and prescribed "softening up" of prisoners through prolonged abuse. It is an abuse that is harmful not only to the victims, but to the perpetrators, and ultimately to our country as a whole.

Sharrock makes this case by letting the soldiers talk for themselves. She presents the information gathered through numerous interviews with men and women who served in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay, and with their friends and family. Sharrock places this narrative in a broader context, looking to secondary literature and reports that have become public. For the most part, however, she is content to step aside and let the soldiers speak for themselves, eloquently re-telling the stories that were told to her. These narratives make this a compelling, important book that places a human face on an issue that too often seems abstract and disconnected. It is sometimes difficult to read, but even harder to put down. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
Sharrock tells a brief, poignant set of tales about the lives of soldiers who may have been asked to cross the line in fulfilling their duties. It tells what I think is a respectful and evenhanded account of how those events shape the soldiers, most of whom believed strongly in their service to their country. Now they've got ghosts of those experiences, some really haunting, and those ghosts are the toughest, most rewarding part of the read for me. Another plus is you can tell this book was written by a journo as there are few wasted words.
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