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Law's Wars
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Book description

The US 'war on terror', which Bush declared and Obama continued, repeatedly violated fundamental rule of law values. Law's Wars: The Fate of the Rule of Law in the US 'War on Terror' is the first comprehensive account of efforts to resist and correct those violations. It focuses on responses to abuses in Abu Ghraib, efforts by Guantánamo Bay detainees to improve conditions of confinement in and win release, exposés of and efforts to end torture and electronic surveillance, and civilian casualties on the battlefield, including targeted killings. Abel deploys a law and society perspective to construct and analyze detailed narratives of the roles of victims, whistle-blowers, the media, NGOs, lawyers, doctors, politicians, military personnel, foreign governments and international organizations in defending the rule of law. Only by understanding past errors can we hope to prevent their repetition in what promises to be an endless 'war on terror'.


‘Law's Wars offers an intensely detailed, richly sourced, immensely sobering account of five battles where the rule of law was at stake following 9/11. Abel's gripping legal and political narrative will stand as a monument of record to the failure of rule of law institutions, yet also to successful counter-attacks by branches of the state, civil society and market. The rule of law is not dead for Abel, nor for the US, however soiled its currency in the war on terror.'

Terence Halliday - Co-Director, Center on Law and Globalization, American Bar Foundation

‘Packed with primary sources and told in gripping narrative, Law's Wars recounts the stories of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, surveillance and torture, targeted killings and extraordinary renditions, secret prisons and drone strikes, war crimes and more. However, over the whole story hovers the rule of law - what it might be, how it was damaged and how it might return. At once patient and urgent, full of overwhelming evidence and yet never losing sight of the big picture, Law's Wars bears compelling witness to the precise ways that the US failed its own best ideals and how it could have - and should have - done better.'

Kim Lane Scheppele - Princeton University, New Jersey

‘Of all the books on the US war on terror and the law, this is the indispensable one. From detention and torture to surveillance and civilian casualties, Richard L. Abel puts all the pieces together. His research is encyclopedic, his story-telling taut, his analysis superb.'

David Luban - Georgetown University, Washington, DC, and author of Torture, Power, and Law

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