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The Dark Side the Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals by Jane Mayer - A Warning Ignored at Our Own Perilpdf

The Dark Side the Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals by Jane Mayer - A Warning Ignored at Our Own Perilpdf

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Published by: gerryn774 on Oct 11, 2011
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The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals

by Jane Mayer

Essential Reading

One of The New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year

National Bestseller With a New Afterword

National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist

A Best Book of the Year: Salon, Slate, The Economist, The Washington Post, Cleveland Plain-Dealer

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, but also hampered the pursuit of Al Qaeda. In spellbinding detail, Jane Mayer relates the impact of these decisions by which key players, namely Vice President Dick Cheney and his powerful, secretive adviser David Addington, exploited September 11 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. Features: While Mayer has a definite and critical opinion of the Bush Administration's treatment of terrorist suspects, she does an excellent and judicious job of weighing the evidence to support her opinion. She is convincing in showing that there is very little empirical support for the claim that extreme measures produced any new reliable information that would not have been better produced by conventional methods. Indeed, the historical purpose of these methods is to produce false confessions at show trials. The high profile cases that have been routinely cited by Bush supporters to justify the methods all tend to support the opposite conclusion: that the reliable information was obtained by the FBI or others using conventional methods before the CIA "hard ball" interrogators showed up. Mayer is also excellent in analyzing the legal arguments provi ded by Bush's lawyers to support the new methods. In truth and fact, ever since Washington, the American way of war has been to treat prisoners humanely, not out of lack of any lack of zeal but in recognition of the enlightened self interst served by demonstrating the benefits of the American way. The Bush lawyers rendered extraordinary secret opinions that granted amnesty to interrogators in advance of any misconduct. The opinions are unsupported by any fair reading of the limits of Presidential powers and make no sense from the perspective of the Geneva Convention. The essential premise is that the terrorist detainees were nonpersons wholly uncovered by either the Geneva Convention or domestic law. This is nonsense. Even spies and saboteurs are cover ed by international law. As Mayer points out, lawyers need to be able to tell clients what they don't want to hear. In this sense, Bush was ill-served by the likes of Addington and Yoo and Gonzalez. Indeed, Mayer demonstrates that the lawyers simply came up with, and then implemented, the most aggressive interpretation possible for the expanse of Presidential power. There was no serious policy discussion of whether the President -- as a matter of good policy -- should exercise all of that power. Mayer does concede that the Administration may have been understandably concerned with an imminent second wave of attacks and was acting from the exigencies of the moment. But Mayer proves that for that last few years of the life of the Administration, this extreme circumstance was removed, and the Administration was doing little more than engaging in a great cover up. Ultimately, Cheney's power is what explains the misguided course taken after 9/11. In ordinary times, nerds like Yoo and Addington would ha ve been short circuited by review and input from senior lawyers at State, Defense, and Justice. But Cheney was pushing for these extraordinary powers and the nerds were able to cite his directives to prevent any

questioning from elsewhere in the Administration. Bush's failings as a leader can be seen in his inability to appreciate the radical break from precedent and his inability to foresee that in the long run, beating false confessions out of detainees was not going to sell well. What is insufficiently explored by Mayer is the mechanisms at work that allowed Bush to get away with it for his entire Presidency and that now impede Obama from resolving the detainee problem. For me, the true dark side is that of the American people. While we have on the whole promoted humane treatment of citizens and foreign nationals, we have also always struggled to control our violent nature and weakness for racism. We don't want to admit that we torture, but we sure wanted to get tough in the rageful ti mes after 2001. The way to have your cake and eat it too is simply to deny that we are "torturing" and then allow "torture" to be defined not by the effect on the detainee but on the interrogators' motives. There is no question that a CIA interrogator has far better motives and justification for "harsh" methods than did Joseph Mengele at Auschwitz. And of course, with a few very disturbing exceptions, we did not beat detainees to death. But just because we are not as bad as the Nazis doesn't mean what we did was right. It just means it was less wrong than what the Nazis did. Thus, if we deny we are torturing, if the detainees are all part of an unpopular racial/ethnic group, if we use euphemisms, and if we repeat with false certainty that we actually got useful information out of the new methods, Americans are more than willing to accept it. We want to be deluded, at least in the short run. Ultimately, Bush's greatest mistake was to fail to moderate the rage and panic that came after 9/11 and to appeal to what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. It's unfortunate that the CIA destroyed all of the interrogation videotapes. A few minutes of watching waterboarding, sexual humiliation, hanging by the arms, and heads being knocked into walls would be enough to shock all of us out of our complacency.

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