Monday, July 19, 2010

Timeliness is Everything--In Which I Contemplate a New Book About Abu Ghraib

I start out laughing as I write a rather serious blog piece. Going through our mail today, I received a publishers catalog for Websters Bookstore Cafe, a store that occupied our location between 1979 and 1990. I'm sure every year the press thinks about updating their catalog distribution list, but things get in the way and it doesn't happen. Twenty years later, it's a good laugh.

I know--boy, I know. This morning I slipcovered a ratty old couch that I'd been planning to update since the day we opened. It got worse of late--some nasty customer was pulling off the piping. How is this happening? The couch couldn't be more in plain view. How did I let this go for over a year?

So Imagine the timeliness of writing a book. There's no question that many subjects have their moment in the sun, and if the author takes too long to write and research the book, it falls in the netherland between public consciousness and historical document.

That's what I worried about when I decided to host the new book by Michael Clemens, The Secrets of Abu Ghraib: American Soldiers on Trial on Thursday, August 5th, at 7 PM. As we discussed the situation, Clemens noted that interviews have been going well, and he's been able to change a few people's minds about what exactly happened and why. I think it's important to note here that the book is published by Potomac Books, a noted publisher of military history and world affairs.

An important note here--my discussing the book is not necessarily advocating a particular position. Clemens noted that the politics of the two authors are not the same, though I'm not revealing here who is the more conservative and who is the more liberal. Graveline was the Army prosecutor involved in many of the prosecutions, while Clemens was a military policeman and investigator, who served as the Abu Ghraib prosecution team's special investigator.

The Journal Sentinel recently printed an interview with Clemens, where he discusses some of the findings, and some improvements made to the system in light of Abu Graib. You can read it here.

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