|The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals
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A dramatic and damning narrative account of how America has fought the
"War on Terror"
In the days immediately following September 11th, the most powerful people in the country were panic-stricken. The radical decisions about how to combat terrorists and strengthen national security were made in a state of utter chaos and fear, but the key players, Vice President Dick Cheney and his powerful, secretive adviser David Addington, used the crisis to further a long held agenda to enhance Presidential powers to a degree never known in U.S. history, and obliterate Constitutional protections that define the very essence of the American experiment.
THE DARK SIDE is a dramatic, riveting, and definitive narrative account of how the United States made terrible decisions in the pursuit of terrorists around the world-- decisions that not only violated the Constitution to which White House officials took an oath to uphold, but also hampered the pursuit of Al Qaeda. In gripping detail, acclaimed New Yorker writer and bestselling author, Jane Mayer, relates the impact of these decisions—U.S.-held prisoners, some of them completely innocent, were subjected to treatment more reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition than the twenty-first century.
THE DARK SIDE will chronicle real, specific cases, shown in real time against the larger tableau of what was happening in Washington, looking at the intelligence gained—or not—and the price paid. In some instances, torture worked. In many more, it led to false information, sometimes with devastating results. For instance, there is the stunning admission of one of the detainees, Sheikh Ibn al-Libi, that the confession he gave under duress—which provided a key piece of evidence buttressing congressional support of going to war against Iraq--was in fact fabricated, to make the torture stop.
In all cases, whatever the short term gains, there were incalculable losses in terms of moral standing, and our country's place in the world, and its sense of itself. THE DARK SIDE chronicles one of the most disturbing chapters in American history, one that will serve as the lasting legacy of the George W. Bush presidency.
From the Hardcover edition.
- Who stood up for constitutional protections?
Jane Mayer explains in clear language how the Bush/Cheney administration, un-nerved by the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, followed a course of action that led to invasion of Iraq and to torturing of suspects and prisoners. What I found encouraging in this analysis, was that there were some unsung heroes in the administration who tried, in vain, to stop this descent into thoroughly bad actions....more info
- Excellent and frightening
The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals
An eye-opening, well documented look into the Bush administration. The facts outlined will keep you awake at night, or at least it did me. ...more info
- Illuminates the darkness
A beautifully written, powerful, well-documented book written by an honest, courageous, patriotic American. I found her book impossible to put down.
Mayer's The Dark Side is a synthetic examination of the Bush presidency, and provides a most comprehensive overview of the history of the use of torture in support of the "war on terrorism." Mayer introduces us to the people who advocated for and developed the illegitimate legal arguments used to suspend basic human rights in opposition to the U.S. Constitution and a corpus of international law. She shows how an incompetent, mendacious, and cowardly triumvirate of Cheney/Addington/ Yoo developed, justified, and implemented policies that directly contradict the rights and freedoms that had previously defined America.
Mayer is a master at her craft, and deserves our thanks for producing a book that allows us to peer into a world that its creators tried so hard to conceal from us. The Dark Side is essential reading.
One question, not addressed by Ms. Mayer, remains unanswered: why were Bush and Cheney not impeached?...more info
- No wonder the Democrats swept into power
This book is absolutely scary. The audacity of this government to impose their neo-conservative value system on the reputation of our great country makes me shiver with the thoughts of a neo-nazi police state....more info
- The Grand Inquisitor
Jane Mayer, a writer for "The New Yorker" has, in "The Dark Side" cataloged the entire gamut of depravity, self-serving expediency, deranged paralogic, intransigence, overarching ideological preoccupations, benighted, delusional thinking and shoddy "scholarship" that has underpinned and guided the G.W. Bush Administration's efforts to wage a "war on terror". This is genuinely "must reading" for anyone claiming to be an informed citizen.
First, there are really no new revelations in "Dark Side": virtually all the material cataloged by Mayer has been previously published. However, I know of no other synthesis of the affair into a single book directed at the general reading public.
Second, this is muckraking in the classic tradition. The genuinely illegal actions (at least according to the U.S. Supreme Court and, possibly more importantly, the court of world opinion) of the Bush Administration demands redress. Unfortunately, aside from the token punishment of a few hapless underlings, this will never happen due to the furtive and scurrilous legal efforts of the Bush Administration Office of the Legal Council. The culpability of major US government officials, entrusted with the safeguarding of the US Constitution is brutally exposed. Bush is pictured as setting the stage for the enterprise; Cheney appears as the motive force behind the program; David Addington (Cheney's Chief of Staff) crafts the policies and serves as the enforcer; John Yoo (Office of the Legal Council) devised legally vacuous and convoluted opinions to allow, justify and provide legal cover for the use of "enhanced interrogation", a euphemism for torture; other highly placed lawyers (for example,Flanigan, Haynes, Gonzales and lesser-known but influential legal advisers such as Beaver) are exposed; the list is too extensive to summarize here, but guilt is widely shared in the upper echelons of the Administration. While concerted efforts were made by the OTC "War Council" to bypass the usual system of "checks and balances", prominent Administration figures were also involved to various degrees (CIA Director Hayden, Rumsfeld, Chertoff are but three examples). Additionally, there are principled opponents: Goldsmith, Mora, Bellinger, Dan Levin, Comey (and, surprisingly, Attorney General John Ashcroft along with FBI Director Mueller) and others. Some of these individuals were forced from public office by the blunt instrument of Cheney; David Addington. Important acquiescent participants included Secretary of State Rice and Colin Powell, who were aware of details, but refrained from forcefully intervening despite noting "reservations". The most surprising of the "sell-outs", however, was John McCain, who had undergone years of brutal torture while serving as a POW in Vietnam: he callously and cynically supported the subsequent Bush Administration subversion of the Supreme Court ruling on torture and Guantanamo by voting for the Military Commissions Act (Obama, whatever his other potential limitations, voted against it and eloquently defended his perspective in a Congressional speech).
Third, the lack of substantive benefit from the torture and renditions programs was highlighted. Other than the obviously self-interested perspectives of the CIA and various military torturers themselves, there was no "objective" data to confirm the utility of this approach and plenty of reason to find it counterproductive from a purely intelligence perspective.
Fourth, the program has had devastating effects on world opinion for the US. Our stature has sunk to a previously unparalleled nadir. The "black sites" (quartered in former Eastern European satellites of the USSR) undermined our credibility as critics of KGB and other secret police torture networks that previously operated in these countries.
Fifth and most disconcertingly, the assertion of unrestrained "executive prerogative" made by Addington, et al creates a genuine sense of fear amongst informed US citizens. In fact, even sober dissenting members of the Administration feared they might be made to "disappear". A Los Angeles "Times" editorial noted, "It's hard to see what is left of American freedom if the government has the authority to make anyone on its soil-citizen or non-citizen-disappear and then rule that no one can do anything about it." This statement is only partially accurate: the US Government asserts it can make citizens of foreign countries living overseas "disappear" too.
While it would be nice if there was a "happy ending" to the story, there is not. The program continues and will likely continue in the same way that the futile and destructive "war on drugs" limps on: politicians are afraid of appearing "soft", so they persist in supporting failed policies. Worse, these policies have undermined public respect for the law and damaged, possibly destroyed, the credibility of the US internationally, even allowing for the indulgences of "realpolitik" with their tendency towards the long-view.
In summary, an outstanding book: genuinely important and required reading for anyone wishing to understand the issues facing the Republic in the early 21st Century....more info
- The Dark Side isn't Just for Star Wars
Though the title summons up the popular and satirical comparison between Dick Cheney and Darth Vader, The Dark Side is anything but satire. Mayer has given us a sobering and raw look into the war on terror and how entities within the Bush Administration used it, along with legal technicalities, to collect power for the executive branch--and then use that power to instate borderline-constitutional policies. Detailing the struggle between those within the administration that opposed the Machiavellian dealings of Cheney, Addington, and the like, and those power-hungry entities themselves, The Dark Side offers a genuine look into what has really happened to our government, and by extension to us, over the past 8 years.
Mayer's work is reminiscent of watching yourself get conned. It's a record--it's the video camera that's outside of the 7-11 where you one time actually played Three-Card Monte. Of course you thought you were doing well, the con let you win the first few rounds so that you would get confident and put down a fat wad of cash, and once you did that, of course you lost, and the camera recording shows it all to you. The Dark Side shows us how we, as a whole, got duped, and does so in great detail. ...more info
- A part of history we cannot undo.
Military Prosecutor Darrel Vandeveld recognized the "stain of Guantanamo not simply on America's standing in the world, but as a part of history we cannot undo." (I'm not sure where I found this quote.)
Mayer's book is the result of extensive research into records and interviews with persons who were present at various proceedings related to the Bush-Cheney torture of prisoners of war. It documents that the Abu Ghraib torture was a direct result of White House orders and not the actions of a few bad people at the bottom. The White House, Cheney in particular, ignored and "got rid of" the many lawyers in high government positions who disagreed with them about the legality of torture of prisoners of war, who refused to break the law. Some of the descriptions of torture as told by persons-at-the-scene are so gruesome that they are hard to read. Both torture and detention at Guantanamo without due process of law were ruled by the US Supreme Court to be unlawful. Bush-Cheney ignored the court. Even Rice, feeble in most cases, asked them to respect the court decisions. They refused. I'm no legal expert, but I know a little something about morality and human decency, and I believe there is enough evidence in this book and other sources to indict Bush-Cheney for war crimes. I'm opposed to the death penalty, but if there ever was a case where it might be justified, this is it.
- Bush didn't get it - nor could he comprehend - the dumbing down that lead to war
Bush and Rice had the information they needed to "perhaps" prevent 9/11. However, they failed to listen. In addition, the CIA and FBI didn't share critical information. The government, the bureaucracy blundered. This book tells it all. It tells how people failed. How agencies failed. And, above all, how a dumbed-down president could not comprehend the dangers that were already in this country and could have been stopped before they killed some 3000 people and brought a great country to its knees. This is, as other reviewers said, a frightening book. It's a book you should read.
- Susanna K. Hutcheson ...more info
- An Important Read....
This book should be nothing less than a "Best Seller". It is one of the most important, inciteful books concerning the presidency of George W. Bush. Words fail me in trying to convince people to read it. I can just say, it is a "must read" for every concerned American....more info
- Interesting but not essential
The book is incredibly well researched and sheds light on many of the questionable actions of the Bush administration. It is especially informative concerning the activities of one of the most clandestine and powerful vice presidents this country has ever had. Ms. Mayer goes through the gradual process of circumventing the agreements of the Geneva Convention as well as how the Constitution was re-interpreted to the benefit of executive power. However, most of the important facts and names have circulated in the popular press as of lately and to a well informed reader the book may fill-in items of interest but may not be of absolute essence. Overall, anyone who follows politics and is fascinated by the addictiveness of power should take the time to read "The Dark Side"....more info
- Wake Up America
Someone wise once said: to those who understand no explanation is necessary; to those who do not, none is possible. Citing "human rights," Meyer and her minions agonize over such practices as waterboarding, sleep deprivation and such. This reveals that she knows nothing about torture as it has been practised our enemies over millenia. The irony of this is that the very people who denounce these interrogative techinques are the same ones who turn a blind eye to the inhuman, agonizingly painful destruction on helpless infants in the cause of "privacy" and "the right to choose." How can any sensible person take the likes of the irrational Bush haters such as Mayer seriously? The book reveals nothing that has not been in the news. Did Mayer complain about Clinton administration policy that Muslim attacks were to be treated as criminal matters and prosecuted accordingly? Do she 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? One is tempted to think that Jane Mayer either wants to make money or she wants our country to go down the drain. Tell me, Ms. Mayer, what liberties would the culture that produced the inhabitants of Gitmo accord to you?...more info
- Hated it!
Doesn't get that we are not fighting an army, but a ruthless islamic group that will not stop until we are all dead or converted. 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. These people cut off our heads. WAKE UP AMERICA! ...more info
- Smirky Journalism
Meyer's thesis is that Islamic terrorism is a joke. As a person who has never had the duty to act in situations involving important interests, she uses 20/20 hindsight to smirk at and criticize those who performed that duty in good faith for us. Her cheap shots cause an ecstatic response at The New Yorker, but do not explain the decisions of the Bush administration. Meyer is almost totally ignorant of the constitution, and how the system of checks and balances operates. She 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. If you are a Bush hater, you will love her book. If you are interested in unbiased history of terrorism, read Bernard Lewis' books instead....more info
- very important book
this is a very important book about what happens when the rule and role of law are ignored. when Shakespeare said "first, kill all the lawyers", he was not dissing lawyers, he was commenting on how power hungry rulers can wreak havoc when the lawyers and their lawyerly advice has been extinguished. exactly what happened here. yes, there were several lawyers, of hack quality, involved, but they were hand selected because they would say what cheney, et al. wanted to hear, and if anyone doubts the role that cheney plays in this administration and its disastrous policies, your doubts will be allayed by this book. should be number one on the best seller list, should win every non-fiction award out there, should be required reading for members of congress and should be read by everyone interested in politics and modern history....more info
- Should be required reading for all Americans
One of the most important books I have ever read. I lost count of the number of times I said "Dear God help us all" while reading about American's descent into Facism....more info
- all along
mayer's book is for anyone who hated the bush administration since dec. 2000 and knew all along that this republican administration was up to no good, as well as for bush supporters (those of us who voted for it not once but twice) who didn't want to believe they could do this.
the dark side would be the third book i have read in as many years that
tells me we were wrong on our votes. sure mayer is a liberal reporter who writes for a liberal newspaper, but they were right....more info
It's shocking to read this book -- The overreaction of power by the Executive Branch and the dirty sad things they did will leave a dark mark on the legacy of Cheney and Bush --- All the things that Bush and his cadre of lawyers kept hidden from you is now revealed -- The truth will make you sick. This book is very well written and I'm not much of a book reader myself....more info
- Blood, and Fire, and Pillars of Smoke
The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a
War on American Ideals
Reviewed by Harold Reynolds
Foreigners one day may visit this country to teach our children
how our democracy decayed, drop by drop. The text for the course will be Jane Mayer's The Dark Side. A classically great work of investigative journalism, it is an appalling, profoundly disturbing revelation of the Bush Administration's war on terrorism. It is a grim warning of the threat to us that exists in a President who sets himself against the Constitution in a parallel world that he secretly constructs in the name of security. When reading it, you may have the fleeting sense that you are in Berlin and the year is 1938.
The questions posed to our children will be whether President George W. Bush, Vice-President Richard Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, together with other high office holders and military commanders,should have been indicted for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the violation of federal criminal statutes described in The Dark Side, and whether, failing in that, we endangered ourselves to greater subversions of liberty.
In September, 2001, when the dust of the Twin Towers had not yet settled, Cheney, mentor to Bush and long fixated on his felt need to increase the power of a presidency weakened by Vietnam and Watergate, took charge of national security issues. President Bush authorized CIA Director Tenet to use secret paramilitary death squads anywhere on earth to detain and interrogate suspected terrorists. When Congress, however, would not give him unlimited war powers, he secretly obtained from a cadre of lawyers in the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel bizarre, some said insane, legal memoranda that in sum held that Congress could not limit Bush's conduct of warfare. This cadre informally called themselves the "War Council". They advised Bush that he could defend the nation as he saw fit and ride over laws specifically designed to curb him. They assured him that he could set aside statutes prohibiting torture and secret detentions. Terrorists, they said, were outside the body of law, beyond the protection of the Geneva Conventions. They could be tortured. They knew what Cheney, Bush and Rumsfeld wanted and accordingly advised Bush that he had inherent authority to use military commissions empowered to sentence illegal combatants to death, all without review by Congress or the courts. These legal memos, hidden from all but a select White House circle, were five-and-dime store stunts manufactured to create a paper world of authority where none existed and upon which the principal actors, such was their contempt for the public, were ready to rely in justification of their abhorrent conduct. Indeed, these masters of self-deceit honed a memo stating that proof of torture required not only proof of the specific intent to inflict suffering but proof that the suffering was of "significant" duration. In short, the world might condemn an act out of hand as painful torture, but the torturer could raise in defense the claim that he intended an objective that involved a result other than that pain.
And so it was that the natural passion to defend this country and punish those who had slaughtered our people was tragically placed in the hands of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld whose joint cunning and stupidity has caused one of the greatest horrors in our national history.
The nightmare CIA secret "extraordinary rendition" program sent detainees to Egypt, Morocco, Syria, Jordan, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan for torture. Bush and CIA Director Tenet knew that those renditions were forbidden by the Convention against Torture. Suspects in our custody were held in CIA top-secret "black site" prisons. Thus, Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, Mayer contends, are prosecutable for war crimes and crimes against humanity, to say nothing of their violations of our federal criminal law.
Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld approved of "enhanced" interrogation techniques in violation of the Convention Against Torture. After all, an Office of Legal Counsel memo declared that Convention unconstitutional because Bush, they said, had the power to order any interrogation technique. Indeed, the Office of Legal Counsel declared waterboarding lawful. Sexual humiliation, hoodings, shackled 8-hour standing with arms extended overhead, slamming prisoners headfirst against walls, sleep deprivation, bright light bombardment , 24-hour a day ear-drum shattering noise for weeks, caging squatting men in dog crates, was the order of the day. One of the Office of Legal Counsel scholars hypothetically suggested as lawful the gouging out of a prisoner's eyes, "slitting an ear, nose, or lip, or disabling a tongue or limb". Among the barbaric cruelties was "Palestinian hanging" in which a man's hands are secured behind his back and he is suspended from behind like a carcass in a slaughter house. Examining such a corpse, Dr. Michael Baden, the noted forensic pathologist for the New York State Police, found that "asphyxia is what he died from - as in a crucifixion". Surely, to see a crucifixion where beatings, broken bones, and murder were commonplace might give pause even to a predatory animal passing through at night.
The International Committee for the Red Cross described the treatment of Abu Zubayda, an Al Qaeda logistics chief, as torture that constituted war crimes. The Los Angeles Times demanded a criminal investigation of Bush Administration for war crimes. So dismissive was
Bush of lawful restraints that he himself ordered the waterboarding of Zubayda. So in-your-face arrogant was the CIA that hundreds of hours of video tapes of the interrogation of Zubayda , including his extensive waterboarding, were withheld from the 9/11 Commission and, in defiance of a federal court, were actually destroyed by the CIA.
In 2002, one-third of Guantanamo's 600 prisoners had no connection with terrorism, thus implicating Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld in committing war crimes. Bush had thoughtfully determined that they were all "enemy combatants". Rumsfeld was directly involved in the straight out of hell, unutterably inhumane savaging of Mohammed al-Qahtani, the suspected "20th hijacker" who had set out but failed to join the 9/11 hijackers. His torture produced nothing of substance except the Pentagon's dismissal of the charges against him because his torture tainted his confession. Military interrogators opened themselves to prosecution for the brutal abuse of detainees. Frightened by the criminality of military torturers, the FBI denounced them for fear of being implicated. Alberto Mora, General Counsel of the Navy, warned that criminal charges from assault to war crimes were chargeable against Bush Administration officials. Incredibly, a March 2003 memo declared that federal laws prohibiting assault, maiming, and other crimes did not apply to military interrogators in Guantanamo.
The scenario left by the Bush Administration is beyond ordinary imagining. When the next president is elected, a "transition team" will be designated by him to assist him in taking power. That team will be confronted with determining the location, inhabitants, and history of that parallel world of perhaps thousands of uncharged men and women cut off from access to their families, tortured, humiliated, beaten, kept off stage to this day by those fearful of prosecution.
- Without Liberty and Justice for All
History is supposed to teach us lessons from the past. From the Alien and Sedition Act, the "Red Scare" of 1919, the detention of thousands of Americans during World War II because of their Japanese ancestry, we were supposed to learn that even through the most dire threat to our safety, the rule of law ennobles us and protects us from tyranny. In "The Dark Side," Jane Mayer explains how easy it is for history to repeat itself in the name of security.
By September 11, 2001, the President of the United States had already spent fifty days of his first eight months in office on vacation. Despite several warnings of an impending attack from foreign intelligence sources as well as our own, the administration never quite understands the threat.
The attack on a clear summer morning changes that, and it changes things for worse. The subsequent invasion of Afghanistan allows the military and the C.I.A. to round up hundreds of Taliban prisoners. An offer of a $5,000 bounty for the capture of al-Qaeda and Taliban nets them hundreds more. The administration screams for actionable intelligence from these detainees, but sorting them out and interrogating them is another matter. The assumption is that "enhanced interrogation techniques" will bring more accurate results in a shorter period of time. It also has to be justified.
That comes from John Yoo, the legal counsel for the Justice Department who provides just the argument Dick Cheney and his attorney, Dick Addington are looking for. It says the president can do essentially anything he wants, and ignore Congress, if it is for the security of the country. Yoo also states that such interrogation methods are not torture unless it results in organ failure or death. Alberto Gonzalez joins in describing Afghanistan as a failed state, and their detainees as unlawful combatants. The state department is not consulted.
America's shame is just beginning.
With John Yoo's memo providing the green light, American military and C.I.A. begin to torture detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Saddam Hussein's Abu-Ghraib prison, and one in Afghanistan. The techniques they employ are standing for prolonged periods, the absence of light and irregular meal periods to enhance disorientation, water boarding, extreme cold and heat, constant loud music, humiliation, no toilet breaks, confined spaces, prolonged restraints, especially Palestinian hangings, irregular and insufficient periods of sleep, and threats. Other detainees are sent to countries for rendition, countries known for human rights abuses. Prisoners will die of exposure, heart attack, asyphixiation, or from simply being beaten to death.
While the administration claims that the techniques work, there are too many instances where the tormented harden their resolve during harsh treatment, and cooperate when treated well. Many who are tortured provide false information that sends our intelligence assets on fools' errands. The most damaging disinformation comes from Sheikh Ibn als-Libi who gives evidence against Saddam Hussein while he is being tortured. This is the justification for going to war with Iraq. He only wanted his torturers to stop.
In 2003-4, the policy begins to unravel. Charges are reduced, dropped, or changed against John Walker Lindh, Yasser Hamdi, and Jose Padilla. Since they were tortured, their charges won't stand up in court. Justice Department lawyers begin to question John Yoo's legal precedents. The CIA Inspector General begins to investigate abuses. JAG officers refuse to prosecute or serve on military tribunals. In 2005, the Abu-Ghraib scandal will break. It is later estimated that most of the detainees at "Gitmo" are people who were rounded up when they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or were turned in for the generous bounty offered. They include an eighty-year old deaf man, and a wealthy Kuwaiti businessman who will indignantly refuse to buy another Cadillac after his mistreatment. A German and a Canadian citizen will be kidnapped and tortured before they are set free. Three hundred forty of 749 detainees held in Gitmo will remain there with only a handful being charged.
In spite of a growing rebellion inside the Departments of Defense and Justice, the President refuses to remove people he promised he would hold accountable for abuses. Human Rights Watch estimates that more than 600 U.S. military and civilian personnel were involved in torture.
The true leader of this policy holds a tight rein and his resistance to change is fierce. It is Dick Cheney and his loyal lawyer, Dave Addington. Even the new attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez refuses to go toe to toe with Dave, a tall, snarling bully. Cheney takes the unprecedented step of summoning the C.I.A.'s Inspector General to his office while he is conducting his investigation. The military holds a number of investigations that limit them to looking at the lower ranks. It is also clear by 2005, that Bush is fully aware that some of his senior officials believe that Gitmo should be closed and his detention policy changed. The dissenters and naysayers are excluded from any more discussion. To this day, Bush refuses to budge.
This is a powerful story. She tells us that we must look at ourselves if we ever hope to recapture our moral greatness. Even this she concedes will take years. Her book is a good place for our national introspection to begin. It is organized and well-written. Her appeal is persuasive. It is a classic page-turner, and held my interest throughout. There were no "dry spots." Equally important are her sources and references, which are impeccable.
She concludes this powerful report with the following: "Seven years after Al Qaeda's attacks on America, as the Bush Administration slips into history, it is clear that what began on September 11, 2001, as a battle for America's security became, and continues to be a battle for the country's soul."
"This country does not believe in torture." George W. Bush, March 16, 2005....more info
- Addington-Cheney-Bush Abuses of Presidential Power
The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals
Jane Mayer's well-written and infuriating narrative of the current administration's abuses of the U. S. Constitution, laws and treaties is required reading for anyone who believes that one of the most monumental tasks of the Obama administration will be to restore the Constitution and the rule of law to the American people. Among the book's many attributes, Mayer puts the question to rest whether waterboarding constitutes torture. She also argues convincingly in several places that torture as practiced by the Bush administration involved the application of multiple forms of abuse on one person's body, either simultaneously or sequentially. Combined techniques could produce any kind of confession the CIA wanted, truthful or not. America will not be a civilized nation until these practices are abolished. Incidentally, I came away from Mayer's book with a better understanding of the military's strenuous objections to the tactics pushed relentlessly by the vice-president's office, and of the FBI's doubts about the administration's practices. ...more info
- Absolutely compelling
This review covers the audio version of The Dark Side. I had no intention of listening to all 13 CDs, but the story was so compelling, so clearly and carefully told, that I was riveted until the end. I have loaned my set out, so I can't complement the reader (whose name is on the boxed set), who is wonderful. In terms of the book's content, I have nothing to add to prior reviews. My point is that for those of you who, like me, like "to read" while driving, this one is a winner. ...more info
- So that's what we were doing...
This book is both fascinating and sad. It provides a gripping account of the Bush administrations blatant and tragic suspension of the constitution and Geneva conventions to turn us from a nation of mostly-law to a nation of lawlessness, from protecting civil rights to becoming a major violator and torturer. All done in the same incompetent and arrogant fashion that is so typical of the CIA. (This comment is based on information from The Sword and Shield, Truth of the 9/11 Commission, The Looming Tower). We want to create a gulag, but reinvent it. We want to find terrorists, but endlessly reward bad ideas and incompetence, destroying thousands of lives and our country's reputation in the process.
The author provides some view into the mindset of what drove our country in this direction, and provides many details of what we did, showing the bureaucratic misdecisions and indecisions and corrupt decisions that led to our most senior government officials deciding that they were above the law.
It is very interesting from a historical and legal perspective, and unless you have preconceived notions that the Bush administration did no wrong and could do no wrong, you will find this a fascinating book.
My only complaint was that the author's portrayal of Zelikow is quite different than that I've read in other books, and that might lead to a more positive view of his role and Rice's role in the mess.
A very good, interesting, detailed read that is important to read...more info
- An important book for all Americans
Jane Mayer has done a masterful job in chronicling a dark chapter in American history - one in which we lost the moral high ground, saw our ideals badly compromised and, indeed, violations of the important right of habeas corpus. Abu Ghaib and Guantanamo will be remembered, unfortunately, long after the American prisons are gone and it will take considerable effort to repair our reputation. Jane Mayer quotes from the final report of the 1976 Church Committee which studied intelligence operations: "The United States must not adopt the tactics of the enemy. Means are as important as ends." Would that those words had been heeded. This is an important book for all Americans. The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals...more info
- Heroes and villains
A very well-written book, based on research and interviews that backup Mayer's stories. I found the lack of a chronological continuum a bit confusing at first, but as the book progressed, that was less disconcerting.
The book presents a picture of the Bush administration in a time of crisis and how it reacted to that crisis. While history will probably praise some elements of the Bush team's reaction to 9/11, I fear it will be less laudatory of the ensuing torture debacle. This book presents a picture of Pres. Bush being out of the loop, WH Counsel (later AG)Gonzalez being out of his league, and VP Cheney (and his team) being out of control - a sad state of affairs that seems to have led to abuses that should never have happened. Whether you agree with Mayer's research or not, it does paint a less-than-rosey picture of the Bush Administration's use of executive power.
But the real story the book tells is of the heroic efforts of other members of the administration who took exception to the practices and argued against them, oftentimes at great risk to their careers and even their persons. These stalwart believers in the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions fought until the Courts, Congress, the press, and the American public finally saw the true events and through the light of public scrutiny held them up as practices that tarnished the image of America at home and abroad.
Whether a Bush-hugger or a Bush-basher, the reader must see the fight to stop the illegal treatment of detainees as evidence that there are still true heroes in the federal government....more info
- Compelling Read
One of the best books on the thinking of the Bush Administration, and their misguided journey into torture and imprisonment. Ms. Mayer does a wonderful job of documenting the twists and turns of the decision making process, and capturing the damage done not only to the victims and the aggressors, but to the country as a whole. The New York Times Review of Books has rated The Dark Side one of the 10 best books of 2008, and rightly so. ...more info
The Bush-Cheney regime created a torture state worthy of the Nazi's right here in our midst. This book is a work of genius and should be read by anyone before they even think about going along with any torture program. Forget about waterboarding, many of these people were killed or simply disappeared. If the perpetrators of these horrors are not brought to justice, we in America have gone beyond all hope....more info
- Shame On US
This book is one of the the most chilling I have read in some time. It makes the Watergate era look like child's play. Where was Congress? Where were men of stout heart and sober minds to combat the sick minds of Cheney,Addington,Yew, and others?
Most importantly, the echoes of torture approved by these men of no conscience, men that believed that cruelty was both necessary and justified, will reverberate throughout the years to come. The story is yet to end....more info
- Important Read
In 1788 Warren Hastings, former viceroy of India, was impeached for corruption and abuse of power by the British authorities. By all accounts Hastings was not a terrible viceroy, and a lot of his actions could be justified by the culture he found himself in. But the Whig politician and prosecutor Edmund Burke argued that it was more than just Warren Hastings who was on trial: it was Britain's liberty and republican virtues that were really on trial. If corruption and abuse of power were not checked in India then East India Company employees would become fabulously wealthy there and return to corrupt the British political establishment. Hastings was acquitted, and the British republic soon afterwards became the British empire.
In her book "The Dark Side" the veteran New Yorker journalist Jane Mayer puts on trial the chief architect of America's war on terror Dick Cheney, and charges him with incompetence and stupidity. Not only has the Vice-President failed to make America safer but by condoning and promoting torture and extraordinary rendition has tarnished America's reputation abroad. And by suspending habeas corpus and flagrantly expanding the power of the executive branch Dick Cheney has also imperiled America's liberty.
Oddly enough Jane Mayer rarely mentions Dick Cheney, and instead focuses her attention on Dick Cheney's surrogates the brilliant workaholic lawyers David Addington and John Yoo. Together the two have overrided much of the government's oversight capabilities and shamelessly and blatantly politicized the Justice Department. Those who objected were treated harshly and banished from government.
Dick Cheney's office and its supporters created a culture that produced the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal. And the grotesqueness of the evil of this culture is only matched by its gross incompetence. One top CIA officer decided on a whim to rendition a German tourist, and had him tortured for months without any solid evidence because she couldn't admit she had made a mistake.
Barack Obama may have taken office but "The Dark Side" hints that this culture may be too difficult to abolish: the whisteblowers have left office, and the maliciously incompetent have been promoted too high.
There is no doubt in Jane Mayer's mind: Dick Cheney and his top lieutenants are guilty of degrading America's ability to defend itself, its reputation abroad, and its liberties at home.
The question only remains is if Dick Cheney is guilty of being stupid or being evil, and for Jane Mayer the answer is obvious. Dick Cheney has said publicly that he's making America safe, and clearly he's failed. But are Dick Cheney, David Addington, and John Yoo really that stupid and incompetent? How did they obtain so much power if they're so stupid and incompetent?
We know that Dick Cheney and his people are sharp and competent, and so how could they fail so miserably? Well, who said they failed at all?
At Guantanamo Bay, using modern science and psychology, they managed to perfect the most painful form of torture known to man. Hooded and naked in a cold dark room the detainees are deprived of identity and sense of place and time, driving some of them insane. Extraordinary rendition is also terrifying in its randomness: anyone can be at any time be made to disappear.
If your goal is to extract actionable intelligence and hunt down terrorists torture and extraordinary rendition make no sense. But if your goal is to terrorize an entire generation of Muslim men so they wouldn't dare to join a terrorist group then Dick Cheney's policie make sense -- if only in a twisted and perverted Dick Cheney sort of way.
So is Dick Cheney right? Well, he can't be proved wrong. And if there is a terrorist attack during Obama's regime then isn't he proved right? "The Dark Side" is really a lot darker than Jane Mayer or any one of us can truly imagine. ...more info
- An Airtight Case for War Crimes Prosecution
I did not expect this book to impact me the way it did. I came away infuriated at the Bush administration and the voters and blind partisans who allowed this to happen. Now there is no longer any doubt; Bush and his appointees knowingly and willfully subverted the U.S. Constitution and violated national and international laws, some of which have been on the books for more than 100 years. In response, I notified two law school faculty members at Stanford, who have expertise in both Constitutional and International Law. One week later, I received an email informing me of the following. "There is enough evidence presented for Impeachment of President Bush, as well as enough evidence for the World Court to prosecute the following members of the Bush administration: John Yoo, Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet, Dick Cheney, Lewis Libby, Albert Gonzales, Douglas Feith, John Ashcroft, Richard Armitage, David Addington and others. Even more disturbing, the World Court could also prosecute scores of others within the CIA, Pentagon (Armed Services), and private contractors such as Blackwater. Accordingly, we have sent a copy of the book to the World Court." The message is twofold: first, if you have not read the book buy it today; second, guilty members of the Bush administration and federal agencies should hire attornies immediately. Justice is on the way, and not the type dispensed by the U.S. Justice Department during this administration. America may turn a blind eye (and dwell on issues such as abortion, patriotism and homosexuality), but the world will not allow anyone to break international laws with impunity. There are more important matters at stake other than regulating sex and birth....more info
- important, well-written book about erosion of our values
The Dark Side, by Jane Mayer, grew out of a well-researched series of articles in the New Yorker Magazine. Since September 11, 2001, Ms. Mayer has carefully documented the erosion of civil liberties and the encouragement of torture that has characterized the 2nd Bush presidency.
Using sources from deep within the government and the military, Ms. Mayer explains how a swaggering president with little attention to detail can allow Vice-President Cheney to push through his policies of aggressive augmentation of power of the executive branch.
In this atmosphere of executive privilege, policies such as use of torture and holding prisoners without charges or access to legal help can become rampant. Ms. Mayer lets the facts speak for themselves as she documents the evolution of these decisions and shows how opposition to these policies has cost many brave public servants their jobs.
It was especially interesting to read about the shoddy legal reasoning that underpins many of the Bush-Cheney policies. The Bush administration has tried to use secrecy to hide these decisions, but good research and responsible government workers have brought some light onto many of these sad assaults to our democracy.
In summary, this is an important book for American to read and understand. ...more info