None of Us Were Like This Before: American Soldiers and Torture
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None of Us Were Like This Before: American Soldiers and Torture

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  76 ratings  ·  17 reviews
Sergeant Adam Gray made it home from Iraq only to die in his barracks. For more 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 tur...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 14th 2010 by Verso
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This is a tremendous book. I wasn't sure if it would work when I first picked it up. Reading torture isn't really something that I'm eager to do. I also thought I had a solid understanding of the issue. I was skeptical when I started reading the book, and was frankly unsure that it would hold my interest. The structure isn't a standard formula for non-fiction narratives. I have to say, I was blown away by it.

I learned that I hadn't really understood how torture & abuse emerged in the America...more
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 inve...more
Jan 10, 2012 John rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
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 t...more
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.
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.
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.
Dec 01, 2012 Ronando rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: war
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 ab...more
Joanna Jiang
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 R...more
I thought this would be about the troops and how they would become/became different than they were "before". While the book began with a narrative putting a human face on the implied content, this seemed to be dropped. What followed were 50+ pages of accounts of torture and the winks and nods from the higher ups. If you've been following the news and reading blogs the names and places are different, but you've read this story before.

I'm glad I stayed with it, because some very good material foll...more
I'm completely fed up with stories in the liberal press and books about torture supposedly conducted by American troops. We are up against a fanatical enemy sworn to destroy us and people like this writer want us to handle them with kid gloves, when they routinely torture and behead our people? To hell with this! We are in a war for our very survival. War is ugly. Nasty. Brutal. If you want a kid glove war, then don't fight the damned thing in the first place. Our military is at war. America is...more
Half of this book traces the stories of the soldiers that made up Battalion 1-68 in Iraq and the detainees who were abused by the soldiers, and the other half was investigative reporting on how torture came to be so widely used in Afghanistan and Iraq. Phillips weaves together multiple narratives into one damning book to show how torture proliferated and the impact that it had years after the troop left Iraq on both American soldiers and Iraqi detainees and their families. The role that popular...more
Sally Ooms
A reporter’s account of torture inflicted on Iraqi prisoners by members of the American military who were inconceivably transformed from regular soldiers to “detention specialists.” The scars were not reserved for the detainees but permanently devastated the perpetrators. Post-Iraqi War soldiers are on a rocky road, often making it impossible to feel the same way they did about their lives in America when they shipped away. As in Finding Home, the soldier’s act of coming home equals severely alt...more
Justin Norman
I've read a lot of books about US torture and there is a lot of overlap between them, but each one has their own unique information, and this one had an interesting focus on the effects of torture on the soldiers who committed the acts. Clearly a thoroughly researched book, and well worth the read if you can stomach the material.
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...more
Rock Angel
Cullen Murphy's head trip on how things stacked up against the inquisition:

Could a 2006 documentary "The Human Behavior Experiments" shed some light on it (not in my library, ugh):

this bk gets totally 1-sided online reviews, maybe it's the title?
Torture results when young men are sent to a country where they are given too much power, guns and nothing to do for weeks on end. Modern "wars" are not about soldiers on a battlefield; rather they are about soldiers occupying a country the powers-that-be have deemed "of strategic interest", and picking up random civilians and torturing them. Harrowing, disturbing, but that's the reality and someone needed to reveal it.
definitely an important, and very current, topic. unfortunately, i think phillips said everything he had to say in the first half of the book, but i guess didn't feel it was long enough, so he just kept on writing.
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