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500 Days, Kurt Eichenwald’s eye-opening expose on the secrets and lies of the “war on terror”
Americans were consumed with emotions in the wake of the horrible murder of nearly 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001 that it is not surprising that many lies and exaggerations that played to the public’s screams for revenge went unchallenged for years after.
But now, more than a decade since the horrific terrorist attacks that toppled the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in New York City, damaged the Pentagon and threatened destruction of the White House or the Congress, Americans might be ready for some truth when it comes to what we did and what we didn’t do in response tot he terrorism.
Certainly Osama Bin Laden deserved his fate, killed in a late night assault by Navy Seal Team 6 on his home in a suburb of Pakistan earlier in May 2012. So many terrorists have been arrested and follow-up terrorist attacks have been thwarted since.
The extremes that Americans were taken by their drive for revenge, and the compromises of our principles and morals that were thrust upon the willing public by leaders driven by anger and vengeance, surely went far beyond what was justified.
No other author has had the courage to confront the lies in more documented detail than writer Kurt Eichenwald in his detailed look back on the events of the first 500 days after Sept. 11, 2001, “500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror War.”
The book is a painful examination of the shortcuts on the fundamental principles that define America as the “leader of the free world.” The most distressing stories involve the individuals who were arrested in Afghanistan or who were “identified” by other prisoners as being al-Qaeda terrorists when in fact they were innocent of any involvement in the terror crimes.
Dozens of innocent people — maybe even hundreds of thousands — were arrested and not only put in prison where their rights to defend themselves were denied under the pretext of fighting a war on terrorism, but they were tortured by American soldiers at Guantanamo and sent to be tortured by terrorist regimes that the United States has denounced, like Syria.
So troubling are some of the stories that Eichenwald details. Suspects were literally grabbed from the street after the United States offered to pay fortunes to anyone who would turn in an al-Qaeda operative. People were turning in their neighbors and rivals and without even double checking the facts, those turned in were grabbed and imprisoned and taken from their families without any information or ability for the civilians to defend themselves. Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered the prisoners to be arrested while the Justice Department labored to find ways to undermine the fundamental core values of our American judicial system to justify their criminal acts.
People were tortured to the point where they were forced to lie, lies that were then used as the basis of deciding how American military personal would engage the conflict, putting our soldiers’ lives in jeopardy. In many cases, torture failed to produce any reliable results. Eichenwald details how the FBI managed to extract much useful information from real al-Qaeda prisoners through normal interrogation techniques only to have the results thrown out and the techniques replaced with physical torture by the CIA. The CIA and Cheney and Rumsfeld would then use the information obtained by the FBI to claim that they had extracted the information through the use of torture.
Americans were lied to and American soldiers were pushed to act like animals in their misconduct and war crimes against innocent civilians who were not involved in terrorism, but were suspected of terrorism because of their names, their religion and the physical appearances as people from the Middle East.
That no one in the United States even cared about all this is even more distressing, especially since the same torture techniques that were used by Americans will probably one day be used on American prisoners of war by our enemies.
The book is lengthy and detailed, but it is a compelling story that will captivate anyone who still believes that somewhere in today’s America lie the ruins of a powerful Constitution and the principles of freedoms and civil rights.
This has been one of my favorite audio books so far.
— Ray Hanania
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and author. He covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and for TheArabDailyNews.com, and TheDailyHookah.com.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com
Visit this link to read Ray's column archive at the ArabNews,com ArabNews.com/taxonomy/term/10906
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