Extracts from None of us were like this before by Joshua E. S. Phillips. The book explores the legacy of torture in the “War on Terror,” told through the story of one tank battalion.
A common explanation for the spread of detainee abuse during the US war on terror runs as follows: White House and Pentagon officials drafted memos sanctioning coercive techniques for interrogation in Guantanamo; many of these methods were used, turned abusive, and sometimes led to torture. Officials from Guantanamo, most notably Major General Geoffrey D. Miller, were transferred to Iraq and “Git- moized” the military facilities there, namely Abu Ghraib.
This combination of events allowed the horrors of Abu Ghraib to take hold and spill out elsewhere in Iraq. But this fails to explain how and why troops turned to torture in Afghanistan and elsewhere prior to this string of events.
As this book will make clear, some US forces tortured and abused detainees even before government officials drafted and disseminated memos permitting coercive interrogation and certain “harsh” techniques. (There were, however, early cases of US abuse and torture after the Bush administration lessened certain provisions of the Geneva Conventions by refusing to classify detainees as prisoners of war.)
This poses a predicament for those whose theories of US torture stem from the so-called “torture memos,” along with the personnel who drafted and dispatched them. Solely ascribing the rise of torture to the Bush administration memos that sanctioned harsh techniques is inadequate. In the course of my reporting, I tried to find a straightforward interpretation for the development of US torture during the war on terror.
But I failed to find a one-size-fits-all explanation for the myriad cases in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo. As one human rights lawyer told me, “There isn’t a grand theory of US torture that encapsulates and explains all the different abuses that have taken place in the war on terror.”
The more I learned about cases of detainee abuse, the more I have found myself agreeing with that sentiment. There are several explanatory narratives for US prisoner abuse. Yet they share many common threads‚Äîsome are woven together, some hang as loose strands. Collectively, these threads offer an account of US torture and abuse, and it is possible to discern in them patterns that have been replicated throughout the war on terror.
American soldiers, interrogators, generals, psychologists, senior Bush administration officials, and lawmakers shared many of the very same compulsions and beliefs that led US forces to assume that torture was effective, permissible, and necessary. There has likewise been a pattern in the costs incurred through the abuse of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo.
The toxic dividends of torture are shared by victims and victimizers, and have shaped the legacy of US torture during the war on terror.
From pp.xi-xii Introduction