Nancy Pitkin reviews “Dark Side” by Jane Mayer

Nancy Pitkin is a longtime member of the Pollard Memorial Libary’s nonfiction book club.  The next selection for the club is Jane Mayer’s “Dark Side: The Inside Story of How America’s War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals.”  The club will meet to discuss the book on Thursday, October 2, 2014 at 6:30 pm in the PMLs newly recarpeted community room.  Nancy just finished reading the book and shares here reaction to it below:

The “Dark Side, by Jane Mayer, is the latest book the Pollard Memorial Library’s nonfiction book selected for discussion on October 2, 2014 in the Community Room. It is the “inside story of how the war on terror turned into a war on American ideals”.  I did vote to choose this title for our monthly discussion because I like books on politics, political affairs, policy making and government. I have not finished the book yet, and it is because I can only read it during the day – otherwise I will have nightmares.

The story begins with September 11, 2001, and like everyone else, I know exactly where I was that morning and how awful the day was. We were glued to the television and the air space over Lowell was eerily quiet.

In Washington, Vice President Dick Cheney went into overdrive. He had been secretly preparing and practicing for doomsday for decades. On September 14, 2001, Alberto Gonslaves, chief White House Counsel, demanded that Congress expand the President’s war authority.  Bush wanted authorization to wage war against suspected terrorists not only outside the US but inside the US as well.

To quote from the book: “The White House wanted to target not just those terrorists who could be linked to the 9/11 attacks, but anyone whom the President deemed a terrorist. Pretty broad powers!

The book goes on to describe the legal re-interpretations by smart manipulative minds accomplished on our laws. Also how they justified the total disregard of our laws and the Geneva Conventions. The men in charge used studies published by psychologists about the harmful, damaging, destructive effects of torture to develop the mental and psychological torture performed by the CIA, the military, contractors etc. Guantanamo and secret detention sites are places that no human being should ever be imprisoned. Over and over, different high level Washington government officials tried to effect changes in the treatment of the enemy combatants, but were ignored, demoted, and shunted aside from authority. Some officials asked, what happens to these people who we have held for years afterwards.

In “The Bully Pulpit” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, one of the main protagonists is Ida Tarbell, who took on Standard Oil, and the country took notice of the injustices that the oil trust was inflicting on people, and the country took action. In this book, Jane Mayer talks about injustice and the country has taken no notice.

I admit I can be squeamish. I could not watch Hotel Rwanda, and after I read” The Handmaid’s Tale” I couldn’t sleep. This book is affecting me the same way – which is why I cannot read it before going to bed.

One Response to Nancy Pitkin reviews “Dark Side” by Jane Mayer

  1. Sean Thibodeau says:

    Thank you Nancy for your thoughts on The Dark Side. I’m glad to have them in advance of the meeting especially since you said you may not be able to attend. I don’t have anything especially concrete to add since I too have not yet finished the book (as you know, I wait until the week before to read the bulk of any monograph so the information is fresh in my mind for the meetings).

    I will say The Dark Side sounds especially scary especially in regard to the powers granted to the executive branch which we are seeing are not so easily given up. See Obama’s invocation of the AUMF to fight ISIS after claiming just last year to want to repeal the misguided and shortsighted legislation which was passed in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

    Though the real nightmarish stuff in the book seems to be the authorization of and reliance upon torture to gain what proved to be faulty intelligence about the WMDs in Iraq (and, of course the whole suspension of habeus corpus at Guantanamo thing). Yikes. Lots of scary stuff to keep you up at night.

    But we’re learning from the new Ken Burns documentary on the Roosevelts that the Constitution can be the bane of many a great president. Of course, I’m just being facetious.

    Thank you too, Dick for plugging our little book group. We’ve had a nice long run with a goodly bunch of folks but we’re always open to new members and I know you’ve come by a time or two. You had some great things to contribute in the discussion on the Eric Foner book on Lincoln. So, thank you, in any and all cases.