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Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraibby Seymour M. Hersh
"Hersh and those like him are...a safeguard against the natural temptation of any institution to minimize the gravity of exceptionally shameful crimes. That the ensuing global scandal with its relentless evocation of My Lai then, or Abu Ghraib now, is bound to obscure parallel realities...is just inevitable, because mass media live by telling stories, not necessarily in their wider context.... Seymour Hersh has many faults, but we still need him, obsessions and all, because we must know, more than anything, what we least enjoy seeing in print." Edward N. Luttwak, The Times Literary Supplement (read the entire Times Literary Supplement review)
Synopses & Reviews
Since September 11, 2001, Seymour M. Hersh has riveted readers — and outraged the Bush Administration — with his stories in The New Yorker, including his breakthrough pieces on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. Now, in Chain of Command, he brings together this reporting, along with new revelations, to answer the critical question of the last three years: how did America get from the clear morning when hijackers crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to a divisive and dirty war in Iraq?
Hersh established himself at the forefront of investigative journalism thirty-five years ago when he broke the news of the massacre at My Lai, Vietnam, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize. Ever since, he's challenged America's power elite by publishing the stories that others can't, or won't, tell. In exposés on subjects ranging from Saudi corruption to nuclear black marketeers and — months ahead of other journalists — the White House's false claims about weapons of mass destruction, Hersh has cemented his reputation as the indispensable reporter of our time.
In Chain of Command, Hersh takes an unflinching look behind the public story of President Bush's "war on terror" and into the lies and obsessions that led America into Iraq. He reveals the connections between early missteps in the hunt for Al Qaeda and disasters on the ground in Iraq. The book includes a new account of Hersh's pursuit of the Abu Ghraib story and of where, he believes, responsibility for the scandal ultimately lies. Hersh draws on sources at the highest levels of the American government and intelligence community, in foreign capitals, and on the battlefield for an unparalleled view of a crucialchapter in America's recent history. With an introduction by The New Yorker's editor, David Remnick, Chain of Command is a devastating portrait of an Administration blinded by ideology and of a President whose decisions have made the world a more dangerous place for America.
"Based on previously published articles and supplemented by fresh revelations, this book by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Hersh, who writes for The New Yorker and has authored several books (The Dark Side of Camelot, etc.), charges the Bush administration with being propelled by ideology and hamstrung by incompetence in Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas. One former intelligence official observes that the Bush administration staffers behaved 'as if they were on a mission from God,' while another laments, 'The guys at the top are as ignorant as they could be.' It's no surprise, then, that the dissenters want to talk or that the Hersh, who has a reputation for integrity and enviable inside access, ferrets them out, assembling critiques from diverse, mostly unidentified sources at home and abroad. According to Hersh, the dire conditions that 'enemy combatants' suffered at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, presaged detainee abuses at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison. Hersh reveals the depravities purportedly occurring at Guantánamo and argues that Donald Rumsfeld wasn't the only one responsible for what happened at Abu Ghraib: 'the President and Vice President had been in it, and with him, all the way.' The book also covers some familiar ground, exploring pre-9/11 intelligence oversights and the administration's misconception that Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Israel, Turkey and the Kurds would jump on the democracy bandwagon after the invasion of Iraq. But Hersh reserves his sharpest words for President Bush, suggesting the 'terrifying possibility' that 'words have no meaning for this President beyond the immediate moment, and so he believes that his mere utterance of the phrases makes them real.' Hersh's critics may dismiss these explosive, less than objective conclusions. For others, however, this sobering book is the closest anyone without a security clearance will get to operatives in the inner sanctums of America's intelligence, military, political and diplomatic worlds." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Whether consumed in this volume or in the pages of The New Yorker, Mr. Hersh's work is necessary reading for anyone remotely interested in what went wrong and continues to go wrong in Iraq, and how the Bush administration came to take America to war there in the first place." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"This book reminds us why tough, skeptical journalism matters so much: it helps to keep us free." Michael Ignatieff, The New York Times Book Review
Book News Annotation:
Veteran investigative journalist Hersh has frequently described his recent writings for the New Yorker as an "alternative history of the Iraq war." In his attempts to piece together actual lines of ideological and bureaucratic responsibility for the conduct of the Bush administration's "War on Terror," he certainly does provide an alternative to the shallow coverage of much of the American fourth estate. This text gathers most of the New Yorker investigations through 2004 and adds a significant amount of supplementary material, providing, among other things, reconstruction of how the interrogation techniques approved for Guantanamo Bay "enemy combatants" spread and morphed into the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, a description of military failures to capture Al Qaeda forces in Kunduz in northern Afghanistan in November 2001, and a profile of the neoconservative "cult" who managed to manufacture a case for war through the use of "faulty intelligence."
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the brilliant investigative reporter who exposed the Abu Ghraib prison scandal comes a revealing and unflinching look behind the public story of the Bush administration's war on terror, its intelligence failures, and the alleged lies that led America into Iraq.
About the Author
Seymour M. Hersh has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize, four George Polk Awards, and more than a dozen other prizes, many of them for his work at the New York Times. In 2004, he won a National Magazine Award for public interest for his pieces on intelligence and the Iraq war. He lives in Washington, D.C. Chain of Command is his eighth book.
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