None of Us Were Like This Before

“An important and revealing book. While U.S. officials closed cases on torture and abuse by American soldiers when the investigation reached a dead end, Joshua E.S. Philips didn’t quit. His personal journey and journalistic investigation is a shocking read about a hidden chapter of the U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
—Deborah Amos, Correspondent for National Public Radio and author of Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East 

“Joshua Phillips brings much needed close reporting to the question of American torture. He reveals much about the interaction of ‘lower down’ and ‘higher up’ behavior, always including permission or encouragement from above. The book also suggests the psychological toll on those who torture, and is an important contribution to American reckoning with a dark moment in our history.”
—Robert Jay Lifton, author most recently of Witness to an Extreme Century: A Memoir

“Phillips’ 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

“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


Buy the book at Verso BooksIndieBound or Powell’s.

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 use and nature of detainee abuse in the US armed forces that was once widespread.

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.

Joshua Phillips is available for interviews and speaking engagements. For interviews, public speaking, and review copies please email:

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