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[Prime] None of Us Were Like This Before Author Joshua E.S. Phillips –

This is easily the best book I ve read on the issue of US torture during the war on terror, and definitely one of the strongest narrative nonfiction books I ve picked up in quite some time The author makes it easy to read a book on such a difficult topic His writing style is elegant and robust I saw that another review said dispassionate, which is spot on, especially in the difficult passages The reporting and research is thoughtful, careful, and penetrating It s a terrific blend of investigative reporting and literary journalistic writing Most of all it s a book that s guided through curious desire to understand how US forces turned to abuse and torture, and some of the unrecognized costs of these policies and practices The ending is devastating, but powerful and important In the end, one walks away from the book with a strong, richer, illuminated understanding of the issue an a visceral reaction to torture on a level that one might not expect I cannot recommend this bookstrongly I hope someone makes it into a movie, too What can I say Powerful, shocking, memorable, anger inducing, disgust inducing, excellently done, 5 star, a must read Yes, a must read A must read for all Americans and anyone who wants to acknowledge that the truth about detainee abuse did not come out with Abu Ghraib That was only scraping the top of the shitheap. Let me start by pasting in my writeup on the author s book signing in Tacoma, WA 11 19 11 Journalist and author Joshua Phillips has written a book about torture entitled None of Us Were Like This Before Reflections on American Soldiers and Torture He delivered a lecture on 11 16 at the UW Tacoma campus, sponsored in part by VFP Lamenting the use of torture by American and allied forces in the War on Terror , Phillips wishes to promote deeper public discussion of the issue He began his talk by referring to a recent Presidential debate in which Republican hopefuls promised to reinstate an official policy of torture According to Phillips, public support for government sanctioned torture has risen lately in the polls Given this trend, he says, it is easy to see that a change in presidents or another 9 11 attack would likely result in a regression back to reinstatement.Phillips discussed rationalizations used by torture apologists, who claim that torture is effective, that it has prevented terrorist attacks, and that its use by the US is limited Phillips counters these claims on their own terms Far from being an effective tool, torture is actually an impediment to intelligence gathering It forces fake confessions, and destroys the trust between the intelligence community and the local populace And there is no evidence to support the notion that a terrorist attack has been prevented through the use of torture.The claim of limited US torture use , Phillips says, is a specious form of denial referring solely to the CIA waterboarding program, ignoring the widespread problem in the military forces Torture is employed by many governments, both despotic and democratic, but democracies, Phillips says, have learned to get away with torture by avoiding leaving marks and traces His book, however, is not hypothetical, but a rigorous journalistic investigation incorporating testimony of involved soldiers and victims Several hundred incidents of torture involving US soldiers in the recent wars have been recorded, but Phillips s research reveals a far bigger problem Some of this activity was ordered by superiors, some encouraged or tolerated, and some in violation of regulations The Bush administration s non compliance with Geneva accords and other pro torture memos, were a significant step toward loosening the taboo But because of a leadership failure, US forces were already practicing torture before any of these authorizations As anyone can well imagine, the reasons for the spread of torture can vary considerably In many cases, combat soldiers in the war zones were given responsibility of extracting actionable information from detainees, even though they had no training as interrogators Detainees, not charged, were held under suspicion, often misinformed Unrealistic deadlines were set for confessions, to extract information that didn t exist, such as where the WMD s were.A lack of moral leadership in the command structure was a significant factor Sometimes looking the other way was as harmful as giving explicit orders Soldiers didn t need manuals or memos to lead them to torture, says Philips US troops in Bagram tortured their prisoners in banal and crude ways, informed by myths and memory Motivation for torture can range from peer pressure to anger i.e revenge for 9 11 , and even boredom.Witnesses who report on unsanctioned use of torture can expect to pay for their whistle blowing As an example, Phillips cites the case of the soldier who revealed the Abu Graib scandal He was subject to subsequent death threats and had to be given a secret identity This sent a powerful message out to anyone else inclined to come forward.Soldiers involved in torture, Phillips says, typically are haunted by remorse and guilt which affects their mental health Afraid to talk about their involvement, they have nowhere to turn, and are at high risk for depression, drug addiction and suicide Often, being able to talk about their experiences is therapeutic, but sometimes even that is not enough, as in the example of one soldier interviewed by Phillips who later took his own life In the lecture, Phillips preferred to confront the torture problem without widening the discussion to the overall evils of war Some people in the audience seemed to disagree with this position However, since many people who believe some wars, such as WWII, are justified, it is probably wise strategy to limit the focus to the issue of torture itself.During the question and answer period, when Phillips stated that under the right circumstances, anyone could become a perpetrator, some in the audience took offence But history has shown, from Nazi Germany through Vietnam and beyond, that ordinary people, in a paradigm of war or violence, can become involved in evil This is the meaning of the soldier s words that provided the title of the book. I can t joke about this one There were ideas playing out in my head as I read this, but when it comes to putting it down, just about any play seemed too uncaring So here it is Phillips puts together a collection of stories and essays, some journalistic, some observational, about U.S soldiers involved in torture during the war in Afghanistan and Iraq His whole research is kicked off by a story he covered about an Afghan war vet who committed suicide after returning home, unable to deal with the torture in his past Phillips digs through the lives of people to try to get at the questions of how it happened, why we allowed it, and why we accept the explanations that are given about a few bad apples in the incidents like at Abu Ghraib and elsewhereimportantly, he touches on what torture does to us as humans, and as a country.It s likely most of us know someone who is involved with or lost someone because of the war, but wounds built on torture run deeper in here, and take longer to heal I have to admit, I picked this book up mostly out of curiosity, and to that end, Phillips gave me some of what I needed I feel like this is a conflict that is very muchover there than others, but this really made me realize some of what might go on when people just aren t watching.I m grateful for his journalist s viewpoint through a lot of the book Though it s fairly obvious where he s coming from and at times he lays it on thick in a they said this, but I ll just leave these contrary facts opinions without comment here in this next paragraph way , he does try to keep some balance He doesn t demonize people outright, but lets them speak for themselves Actually, he pulls off the toughest part of this act humanizing soldiers who tortured detainees out of frustration, misplaced patriotism, and sometimes boredom He clearly did hours upon hours of interviews with a lot of his sources, and poured over other academic and news sources I have two major problems with the book The first one in some ways can t be helped Regardless of how much he asks how and why, Phillips gives some possible ideas as to how things happened, and who is responsible for the atrocities, but comes short of actually calling fault to anyone It s a classic news strategy, but so frustrating and at times outright upsetting in comparison to the things that happened without being able to see how we ended up here In part, there is just no real solid answer In another part, Phillips is obviously not going to get anyone with authority to take blame or do muchthan point out scapegoats to talk Pretty much the most jarring segment of the book compares the interviews of a few low level soldiers who came forward to the responses from the upper echelons, each almost completely incongruous with the other Phillips was not going to get an answer from the start, and he likely set out knowing that without a conclusion, he has to rely on stories from his interviews for resolution that will not make the situation any better.The second major problem is the layout of the book I admit I m not the most assiduous reader, but whole segments of this book were just obtuse, which is hard to do with non fiction Phillips writes at times like a blogger casually, using first and third person to include his observations , at times a journalist last names only, with other signifiers listed only once at first mention quick sentences without modifiers , and at times an academic essayist thesis, fact fact fact It s difficult to parse sometimes, and once or twice I was sent back a couple pages to try to figure out which sources he was referencing where, and how this was being interpreted through him before it got to me The book is divided into chapters, but it s clear he hadinformation about some events than othersthan one chapter has padding between an opening anecdote and its conclusion I m not certain why he didn t break the book into larger,general sections He has pages of footnotes, but they accumulate in the back of the book for a topic so heavily reliant on reports and sources, I don t understand why those footnotes aren t immediately available at the bottom of the page If I have to reference the back of the book three times on the same page, I feel I m doing too much work to read it.I know I m making it sound like a disappointing read, but Phillips does have a strong work here, at times moving and upsetting Ultimately, maybe the disappointment isthat a book like this had to be written at all. Well written investigation of why US soldiers abused and tortured detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo, and the lasting effects on the tortured and the torturers. A truly thoughtful book, gracefully written, guided by a inquisitiveness to understand how American forces became involved in torture, and the myriad unsuspecting costs of doing so Not easy to read at times, not because of the violence but from the tragedy of the tale Should be considered for National Book Award, or on Oprah s shelf. Gosh, I have so much work to do but I ve got to write this review also Photoshop refuses to function and man, my head hurts too much to do math Anyway, this book is incredibly important It took me a while to finish it because it was hard to read, hard to grasp that this is real.I can t stop thinking about how the army is essentially the hands of the country and the government is the brain That soldiers should be doing so many good things that they ll go back to their country with pride When I say good things, I mean that type of actions that it s hard to argue against their morality of course, like, you could but why And man, I can t believe that I ve never heard about these issues like this I mean, yeah, I knew about Guantanamo Bay but all the torture in between is new to me I think you should read this book because we need to know that it happened, that so many died and got hurt, that this was this huge circle of pain because of policies spoken and unspoken ones within the army and those in charge of security Okay, my work is calling me All in all, definitely recommend, we ve got to face these things What I m Taking with Me War is bad Obviously I hate the idea of armies so much This was so well researched, they did a good job. Sergeant Adam Gray Made It Home From Iraq Only To Die In His Barracks For Than Three Years, Reporter Joshua E S Phillips With The Support Of Adam S Mother And Several Of His Army Buddies Investigated Adam S Death What Phillips Uncovered Was A Story Of American Veterans Psychologically Scarred By The Abuse They Had Meted Out To Iraqi Prisoners How Did US Forces Turn To Torture Phillips S Narrative Recounts The Journey Of A Tank Battalion Trained For Conventional Combat As Its Focus Switches To Guerrilla War And Prisoner Detention It Tells Of How A Group Of Ordinary Soldiers, Ill Trained For The Responsibilities Foisted Upon Them, Descended Into The Degradation Of Abuse The Location Is Far From CIA Prisons And Guantanamo, But The Story Captures The Widespread Use And Nature Of Torture In The US Armed Forces Based On Firsthand Reporting From The Middle East, As Well As Interviews With Soldiers, Their Families And Friends, Military Officials, And The Victims Of Torture, None Of Us Were Like This Before Reveals How Soldiers, Senior Officials, And The US Public Came To Believe That Torture Was Both Effective And Necessary The Book Illustrates That The Damaging Legacy Of Torture Is Not Only Borne By The Detainees, But Also By American Soldiers And The Country To Which They Ve Returned This is an incredible documentation of American Torture in the Middle East and Vietnam The truth of the matter is suppressed we associate it with prisons such as Guantanamo Bay and turn a blind eye to the torture carried out by military forces No one signs up for this. These are young men and women I presume, though I can t recall if Phillips interviewed any female interrogators who are psychologically coerced into carrying out inhumane procedures which come in direct conflict with Human Rights and the basis of their own country It s amazing how war continues to toss all the charters, bills, and rule books out the window.Phillips writes with a very frank tone he doesn t embellish, because really, None of Us Were Like This Before is a expos Still, the text itself is easy to read, however discomforting the content is Some sick part of me powered through this one I wanted to know why even though I was already aware of the manifest parallels with other cases in history involving corruption, miscommunication, and blind obedience I wanted to know that Phillips s book is changing the situation, that after its release, the military was forced to begin removing torture from their interrogation culture can I call it that I wouldn t have any problems I wouldn t be on fucking medication I wouldn t be sitting here doing an interview because I wouldn t know anything, and I would be fucking living life out there, Daniel Keller of Battalion 1 68 tells Phillips I thought being a soldier was this honorable and noble thing You re doing a job that not many other people can do so that other people don t have to. Phillips opens a window for us to see into the hearts and minds of some many of our own soldiers as thy digress into torture which the tacit, if not blatant support from their superiors, all the way up to Donald Rumsfeld As an ex infantry soldier, trained to kill behind enemy lines, though not having seen combat , I am appalled at the depths our own have fallen This is a black mark on our troops, our government, our nation and us as a people who are either silent, ignorant or in support about such abuse that should not be happening We are better than this We should strive to be better than this How did US forces turn to torture Phillips s narrative recount the journey of a tank battalion trained for conventional combat as its focus switches to guerrilla war and prisoner detention The book tells of how a group of ordinary soldiers, ill trained for the responsibilities foisted upon them, descended into the degradation of abuse.the story captures the widespread use and nature of torture in the US armed forces The book illustrates that the damaging legacy of torture is not only borne by the detainees, but also by American soldiers and the country to which they ve returned.