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Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib


The basic text of the book will be comprised of the author's articles that have appeared in the New Yorker magazine over the past three years, offering an unflinching look behind the public story of the Bush Administration's "war on terror," its intelligence failures, and the lies and obsessions that led America into Iraq. With an introduction by David Remnick, the book will also include a number of previously unpublished stories, as well as an account of Hersh's pursuit of the Abu Ghraib piece and of where, he believes, responsibility for the scandal ultimately lies. Hide synopsis

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Reviews of Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib

Overall customer rating: 4.000

collection of essays charts tortures at Abu Ghraib

by JAC1 on Apr 8, 2007

This collection of Hersh's writings documents the process by which the practice of torture by the US military became public knowledge. It is a key historical document for those who wish to skip the partisan wrangling over the use of torture and understand how such events could happen. Unfortunately, the book as a whole does not cohere very well and it is easy to lose interest when moving from one essay to the next. Torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay that became public in the spring of 2004 following the publication of Hersh?s article in The New Yorker. Hersh argues that the use of torture stemmed from the catastrophic inability of US intelligence to acquire quality information about the activities of al-Qaeda and, later, the Iraqi insurgency. The Pentagon and the White House took several steps to enhance their intelligence gathering effectiveness that culminated in systematic torture of detainees while, at the same time, failing to produce significant intelligence. Hersh writes, ?Getting the interrogation processes to work was essential. The war on terrorism would not be decided by manpower and weaponry, as in the Second World War, but by locating terrorists and learning when and where future attacks might come? (p. 2). One strategy to accomplish this was the ?gitmoization? of Iraq. That is, making the Army jail system in Iraq geared to extract information from prisoners. This included using military police, who guard the prisoners and who are limited by Army regulation to passive information collectors, active participants in the interrogation process ? an activity for which they received no training or guidelines. Another step was the formation of a highly classified, special operations group (called a ?SAP? or Special-Access Program for the way in which it is budgeted) within the Pentagon that would be permitted to operate clandestinely in foreign territory and that would be able to apprehend suspects and carry-out other acts of war out of sight of the public and of international law. The SAP eventually came to Abu Ghraib to interrogate prisoners. Finally, another key aspect was the systematic re-definition of the terms of obligation of the Untied States to international law, and in particular, to the Geneva Convention. Together, the unrestrained quest for better information, more rapid and efficient ? though unregulated either by international law or standard military rules of engagement -- responses to terrorist targets combined with greater latitude permitted by novel White House re-interpretation of the legal constraints placed on the treatment of enemy fighters culminated in the torture abuses at Abu Ghraib. What operational parameters remained quickly spun out of control as the job of obtaining information was delegated to military police running Abu Ghraib. Hersh concludes: ?The roots of the Abu Ghraib scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists, but in the reliance of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld on secret operations and the use of coercion ? and eye-for-an-eye retribution ? in fighting terrorism.? (46)

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