None of Us Were Like This Before
None of Us Were Like This Before
American Soldiers and Torture
Verso, Hardcover, 9781844675999, 237pp.
Publication Date: June 14, 2010
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 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.
“Basing his work on extensive interviews, [Phillips] details how ordinary American troops participated in the torture of enemy soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“A masterwork of narrative nonfiction.”—Chris Lombardi, Guernica
“Phillips shows that the recourse to blaming a ‘few bad apples’ should be recognised as a disgraceful, face-saving fiction.”—David Simpson, London Review of Books
“A tour de force of investigative journalism.”—Eamonn McCann, Belfast Telegraph
“This shattering book is a journey into the heart of American darkness. What Joshua Phillips makes shockingly clear is that the misbehavior of some of our best soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan came about because of a failure of military leadership and because political leaders lacked the courage to admit the word ‘torture.’”—Richard Rodriguez, author of Brown: The Last Discovery of America
“Those who authorized torture and defend it don’t want to talk about this. They took honorable, patriotic young soldiers and convinced them to sacrifice the very principles that they had signed up to defend. That paradox is what Phillips investigates and brings to light. And he does it with the utmost respect for the soldiers.”—Huffington Post
“Phillips’ book remains the first and best heartbreaking tale not only of the abuses taking place within our military prisons, but also the negative, long term and in many cases fatal psychological affects it is having on both interrogating soldiers and interrogated enemy prisoners of war ... [An] outstanding book [and] a necessary read for all.”—Kristina Brown and Paul Sullivan, Veterans for Common Sense
“None of Us Were Like This Before is a model of conscientious reporting on a volatile subject—the torture of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers. His ethical and compassionate approach is an act of citizenship.”—Barry Lopez, author of Arctic Dreams and Crossing Open Ground
“There are many things in this book that are fascinating and generally unknown. One is that these soldiers were afraid to report what they had seen and done ... but without reporting it they couldn’t receive any medical help for their trauma.”—Darius Rejali, author of Torture and Democracy
“None of Us Were Like This Before is a serious, comprehensive effort to examine how torture and abuse, once embarked upon, damage the torturer and abuser as well as the tortured and abused.”—Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell
“This is an important book showing the damage abuse does to the torturers as well as to their victims.”—Oliver Bullough, Independent
“The causes and consequences of systematic abuse and torture are all explored by Joshua Phillips through a careful but searing narrative.”—Dominic Alexander, Counterfire
“A fascinating yet distressing account of how the use of torture and abusive techniques on prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan affected the lives of American soldiers who found themselves caught up in it. Far from neglecting the suffering of the victims, Phillips, through meticulous research, also brings home the full horror of the war crimes inflicted upon the citizens of the occupied nations.”—Craig Hawes, Gulf News
“Joshua Phillips’ book shows that America’s leaders were wrong.”—National