Wednesday, July 16, 2008

"The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals" by Jane Meyer

This new book -- The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals by Jane Meyer -- is getting a lot of press. This may be the book for which many of us (who fear what the Bush administration has done to our nation) have been waiting.

Here is the an excerpt from the Washington Post:

Collateral Damage

According to Jane Mayer, the United States has succeeded in creating an American gulag.

Reviewed by Andrew J. Bacevich
Sunday, July 13, 2008; Page BW03

With the appearance of this very fine book, Hillary Clinton can claim a belated vindication of sorts: A right-wing conspiracy does indeed exist, although she misapprehended its scope and nature. The conspiracy is not vast and does not consist of Clinton-haters. It is small, secretive and made up chiefly of lawyers contemptuous of the Constitution and the rule of law.

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. Her achievement lies less in bringing new revelations to light than in weaving into a comprehensive narrative a story revealed elsewhere in bits and pieces. Recast as a series of indictments, the story Mayer tells goes like this: Since embarking upon its global war on terror, the United States has blatantly disregarded the Geneva Conventions. It has imprisoned suspects, including U.S. citizens, without charge, holding them indefinitely and denying them due process. It has created an American gulag in which thousands of detainees, including many innocent of any wrongdoing, have been subjected to ritual abuse and humiliation. It has delivered suspected terrorists into the hands of foreign torturers.

Under the guise of "enhanced interrogation techniques," it has succeeded, in Mayer's words, in "making torture the official law of the land in all but name." Further, it has done all these things as a direct result of policy decisions made at the highest levels of government.

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.

Above all, the story Mayer tells is one of fear and its exploitation.

That fear should trump concern for due process and indeed justice qualifies as a recurring phenomenon in American history. In 1919, government-stoked paranoia about radicalism produced the Red Scare. After Pearl Harbor, hysteria mixed with racism led to the confinement of some 110,000 Japanese Americans in internment camps. The onset of the Cold War triggered another panic, anxieties about a new communist threat giving rise to McCarthyism. In this sense, the response evoked by 9/11 looks a bit like déjà vu all over again: Frightened Americans, more worried about their own safety than someone else's civil liberties, allowed senior government officials to exploit a climate of fear.

Read the whole review.

Here's more from The American Prospect:

Mayer has been admittedly obsessed with the administration's detainee policy for years and knows how to piece together her own string and the hidden scraps that others have reported into a complete fabric.

The combination has led to perhaps the deepest and broadest chronology yet of the path from September 11 to the authorization of torture in the abstract -- including, she reports, gouging out eyeballs and "slitting an ear, nose, or lip, or in disabling a tongue or limb" -- to its implementation at black sites, Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and in Afghanistan.

Mayer marshals much of her evidence against "Cheney's Cheney," David Addington, the vice president's counsel who replaced I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby as his chief of staff when he resigned amid his indictment. Addington is a sharp-elbowed right-wing ideologue vested in increasing the power of the executive over that of Congress and the courts. He was often the last person to see documents or executive orders before they went to the president and helped shape the crucial Office of Legal Counsel memos that justified torture and other executive encroachments. A longtime Cheney ally, he drafted a congressional report in the 1980s arguing that President Reagan was justified in funding the Nicaraguan Contras even though Congress had outlawed it.

Addington and Cheney's involvement in war crimes is teased throughout the book, as is, once a while, Bush's. A group of senior White House officials in 2005 put together a proposal they called the Big Bang. It would have shuttered Guantanamo and brought the United States back into conformity with international law. It died, but as Mayer writes, it "reached Bush, two sources said, proving that as of the summer of 2005, he knew there were senior officials inside his administration, including the deputy defense secretary, who thought the war on terror was being undermined by his detention policies, and that Guantanamo needed to be closed."

Mayer relates how Cheney and Addington were ultimately able to put down the rebellion within the White House, and today much remains as it was. In fending off the reformers, though, they have exposed themselves that much more to the judgment of history. The Impeach-Bush-Now crowd will not be disappointed by Mayer's research. And the administration may have exposed itself to more than just a historical verdict.

Read the whole article.

Read more reviews in The New York Observer, Pro Publica (read the first chapter), Slate, The LA Times, Salon, and Harpers.

This is an interview with Mayer at YouTube:
Dan Abrams talks to Jane Mayer author of the book The Dark Side which includes details such as some the torture techniques used at Guantanamo Bay, that the approval of those techniques went far up the chain of command in the Bush administration, and that James Comey and Jack Goldsmith were afraid they were in physical danger and being spied on.

I looked through more than 100 links on Google (and another 50 or so blog links) searching for a conservative take on this book, but they seem to be avoiding it like the plague.

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