Will Byrnes's Reviews > The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals

The Dark Side by Jane Mayer
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Sep 30, 2015

really liked it
bookshelves: terrorism, the-bush-administration, military-and-intelligence-non-fic, non-fiction
Read in December, 2008

The title comes from Dick Cheney’s vow to go to the “Dark Side” in the battle against terrorism. There is a wealth here of drill-down detail about the mechanisms by which America abandoned the constitution in favor of a unitary, imperial president (and really vice president) who believes that l’estat est moi.

I have read a fair number of books that delve into the Bush administration and nowhere have I seen the comprehensive depth Mayer has given to her examination of how America has traded its soul for a false sense of security.

Although she does not make any comparisons of this sort (I mean any time the word Nazi is mentioned, the notion that follows is automatically dismissed) one notion that popped into my head was that so many of the dark players here seemed to get off on the idea of torture, regardless of the extant analysis, even from their own people, that it is counterproductive. I was reminded of the embrace of cruelty that became the norm in that prototypical horror-state.

David Addington emerges as one of the real scary guys, Cheney’s attack dog. These people would have been right at home with the dark forces of yesteryear.

Great detail is offered re the impact of the Office of Legal Counsel and how the people there were at the center of the attack on long-standing American principles.

Mayer notes the place of the USA in the history of international rules concerning treatment of captured enemies, beginning with Washington’s humane treatment of Brit prisoners at a time when the Brits treated captured Yanks like animals. She points out the beneficent impact of such rules on our own people, noting how the Nazis treated captured Americans. And she cites the impact (positive) of the USA on the 1949 Geneva accords.

She offers portraits of those who tried to fight against the darkness within the government, and how they were ignored, attacked, crushed, driven out. This is a powerful, detailed depiction of the rotten core of a bad apple, and should be a must-read for every American.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Lilo (last edited Sep 25, 2015 12:35AM) (new) - added it

Lilo You have convinced me, Will. This book seems to be a must-read.

Looking at the present GOP candidates for the American presidency, I don't see any light on the horizon. I not only see dark, "I see black". (= Common German expression for being very pessimistic.)


message 2: by Lilo (new) - added it

Lilo P.S. I just bought the book from Amazon Marketplace.


message 3: by Jessica (new)

Jessica this book would only make me more angry than I already am. good review Will.


message 4: by Jay (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jay Excellent review, Will. This is an important piece of journalism and historical witness to a troubling and shameful chapter. I hope your review will prompt your legions of fans (I mean that sincerely) to read this book.


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