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Chain of Command: the Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib (2004)

by Seymour M. Hersh

Other authors: Paul J. Pugliese (Maps)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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874920,812 (3.86)9
Since September 11, 2001, Seymour M. Hersh has riveted readers -- and outraged the Bush Administration -- with his explosive stories in The New Yorker, including his headline-making pieces on the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Now, Hersh brings together what he has learned, along with new reporting, to answer the critical question of the last four years: How did America get from the clear morning when two planes crashed into the World Trade Center to a divisive and dirty war in Iraq? In Chain of Command, Hersh takes an unflinching look behind the public story of the war on terror and into the lies and obsessions that led America into Iraq. 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 critical chapter in America's recent history. In a new afterword, he critiques the government's failure to adequately investigate prisoner abuse -- at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere -- and punish those responsible. 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.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Written in 2004, shortly after the wars in Afghanistan and then Iraq, Hersch takes a critical look at the wars, and especially the civilian leaders in the Pentagon. Hersch spent a lifetime writing about the U.S. Military, and has established numerous contacts of people in the know. As a trusted writer, he has access to a significant number of high level officials, and his story seems to have stood the test of time. It provides a very different perspective than some of the books released after Bush left office, especially Donald Rumsfeld's memoir, and is probably a more accurate summary of those war years and decisions. ( )
  rsutto22 | Jul 15, 2021 |
Hersh started on the road to journalism fame with his Mai Lai relevations. How sad for the United States that this book on Abu Ghraib reads like a progression in a serial story. Based on New Yorker articles Hersh continues the Vietnam theme with the way lower ranked military was charged, higher authority, including the White House was not affected. Good book. ( )
  carterchristian1 | Nov 1, 2010 |
Having already read most of Hersh's articles in the New Yorker, I come late to Chain of Command which bundles the banality of evil and incompetence that was the Bush administration. It makes me sad to note that most of the perpetrators fell upwards. All honorable men, indeed. Only the powerless received punishment.

The book is a kaleidoscope of the early Bush years, a fractured impression of many scandals in eight parts. The book opens with the Abu Ghraib scandal and its iconic ugly America. Nearly five years later, no general officer has spent time in jail. Donald Rumsfeld simply sat out the scandal and remained in office long after. The second part moves back in time to the intelligence failures of 9/11. The third part discusses the Afghanistan invasion. The fourth, fifth and sixth part deal with the snake oil salesmen of the Iraq War as well as the invasion itself. The seventh part sheds light on Pakistan and its peculiar friend of George W. Bush, Musharraf. The eighth and final is a tour de horizon of the US policy in the Middle East.

The book offers three major lessons. The first lesson is that even egregious failure does not lead to punishment or disgrace for members of the elite. Being a good German pays off with tenure, places on the bench, stars and other sinecures. The power of media disclosure (as far as the US corporate media allows) has lost much of its strength. If perpetrators manage to survive a media cycle, interest will wane.

The second lesson is that the failures of the Bush administration can look back on a long tradition of US foreign policy failure. The US has a penchant for allying with dictators and other nasty folks for short-term gain, selling their principles of liberty and democracy for small concessions - with a huge price tag in the future as the mistaken trade-offs hit home. A better US foreign policy would stick to promoting its core values and not try to accommodate bad guys just to do some business.

The third lesson is the on-going incompetence of the CIA, the state and defense departments in dealing with foreigners. How long does it take them to learn that speaking a foreigner's language is a sine qua non in playing the intelligence game? Having a huge inward-looking bureaucracy in Langley is of little value.

Overall, the articles have aged well. Rereading them leaves me sad and angry. The US used to be a beacon of hope. ( )
1 vote jcbrunner | May 16, 2009 |
Seymour Hersh is an investigative reporter who made a name for himself by breaking the story of the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War. The 21st century found him breaking another similar story: the Abu Ghraib scandal. "Chain Of Command" is a collection of his magazine and newspaper pieces spanning 9/11 to the Iraq War, mid-2005. Unfortunately, Hersh's work reads better in its original format; the stories lack important contextual moorings which would have been immediately obvious to anyone reading them contemporaneously, but which are no longer so due to the passage of time. Furthermore, Hersh only bothered to do the minimum amount of editing when compiling his disparate articles into full length book format, and the narrative is subsequently choppy and oftentimes topical as a result. Hersh's work is nevertheless important reading for anyone hoping to get some sense of what was going on during this time period, but I'd recommend reading it in the magazines and newspapers in which it was originally published if you don't already have a good working knowledge of these events.
1 vote Trismegistus | Dec 23, 2007 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Seymour M. Hershprimary authorall editionscalculated
Pugliese, Paul J.Mapssecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Friedman, PeterNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In the late summer of 2002, a Central Intelligence Agency analyst made a quiet visit to the detention center at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where an estimated six hundred prisoners were being held, many, at first, in steel-mesh cages that provided little protection from the brutally hot sun.
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Since September 11, 2001, Seymour M. Hersh has riveted readers -- and outraged the Bush Administration -- with his explosive stories in The New Yorker, including his headline-making pieces on the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Now, Hersh brings together what he has learned, along with new reporting, to answer the critical question of the last four years: How did America get from the clear morning when two planes crashed into the World Trade Center to a divisive and dirty war in Iraq? In Chain of Command, Hersh takes an unflinching look behind the public story of the war on terror and into the lies and obsessions that led America into Iraq. 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 critical chapter in America's recent history. In a new afterword, he critiques the government's failure to adequately investigate prisoner abuse -- at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere -- and punish those responsible. 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.

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