Executive Times






2008 Book Reviews


The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism by Ron Suskind








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Ron Suskind’s new book, The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism, is something of a manifesto calling readers to recover our nation’s moral authority one step at a time. In case a reader doesn’t see where that moral authority has been lost, Suskind chronicles how actions over the past decade have compromised our national values. Here’s an excerpt, pp. 282-285:


"He’s gonna die," Candace Gorman says. "He's just so sick."

The two aides to Illinois congresswoman Jan Schakowsky gaze on, solemnly.

They listen intently for the next fifty minutes as Candace tells the story of Ghizzawi, the baker from Afghanistan, with a practiced rhythm, running through his medical condition, the CSRT reversals, and his prospects of surviving another year.

Peter Karafotas, thirty-one, deputy chief of staff for Schakowsky­-a liberal Democrat from the Chicago suburbs and mentor to Obama--finally asks, "What can we do?" It's not dismissive or resigned. He really wants to know.

Candace says that Schakowsky, who is both her congresswoman and a member of the House Intelligence committee, should look into Ghizzawi's case in her official capacity. Her status on the committee allows her to see classified materials.

She starts loading down Karafotas and his even younger legisla­tive aide with documents: the famous Abraham Declaration; another declaration, out last month, from an anonymous tribunal judge who sat on nearly fifty panels and arrived at similar conclusions; and her filings to the Supreme Court, which detail her client's medical woes and claim violations of basic protections.

"How, again, do you know the congresswoman?" Karafotas asks, and Candace tells a funny story of how Schakowsky helped sponsor a show that she organized with some other detainee lawyers in April 2006. The cast of a British production, Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom, was flown to the United States to perform their edgy play of lawyers and detainees in the Foyer of the Rayburn House Office Building. "At the start, I asked Jan, can we really do theater in Congress, and she said, 'Absolutely, sometimes it seems like all we do here.' All I can say is, we had a great turnout for the show."

The aides say they'll pass everything along to their boss, and she'll bring up Ghizzawi's case on the Intel committee. But Candace isn't hoping for much.

While everyone waits for the seminal habeas corpus case to be argued before the Supreme Court in December—with a ruling prob­ably not coming until June of 2008—there are no fundamental rights for Schakowsky, or any lawmaker, to grab hold of. It's all just political theater.

Then Candace is out the door, her smile gone. She has other offices to call on in the House and Senate. "I feel like I'm going door to door, doing a one-woman show," she says archly. In her briefcase, giving it weight and giving her a sense of righteousness, are letters Ghizzawi gave her during her last visit, on September 25. He had, essentially, written up his will and put it in an envelope.

He looked worse than ever then, and he told her he didn't expect to live much longer. One note elucidated all that had been done to him—the deprivations and torture—and requested compensation for his family. The other was a note about the disposition of his personal effects and his hopes for his daughter and wife.

He showed Candace two pictures of his daughter—one at two months old, when he was still with his family, the other when she was just a little older, in a snowsuit. He said he'd received other photos—pictures taken during the years he's been gone—where she's older, mugging for the camera, or jaunty, hands on hips. They were of a girl he'd never seen, and whom, he was now convinced, he'd never meet. "It was too painful for me to look at," he said, "I had to tear them up."

Candace said if he died, she'd do her best to help his family. He thanked her, and she pulled some documents from her briefcase. They were copies of various Supreme Court filings related to the habeas case soon to be argued.

"The injustices done to you, in a way, made this all happen," she said. "You may end up helping a lot people and helping this country get back on course."

He smiled wanly. "That's very nice," he said, with mild interest,
flipping through the documents.'


"That's not right. That's not my name."

Candace froze. Not his name? She'd filed dozens of legal docu­ments to U.S. courts, all the way to the Supreme Court, with the , wrong name?

"Um, well that is a problem," she said, wondering if she should give him a primer on basic legal standards, dating back to ancient common law: that those who appear before a judge must use their proper name.

"What, may I ask, is your name?" she said, feeling the chill wind of suspicion she thought had long passed and would never return. Is it possible, after all they'd been through, that she didn't know who he was? Was he really even a baker, or a man who dreamed of his daughter?

"Okay, let me show you," Ghizzawi said, spinning the document around—her document—so he could explain. "There, you see, my name is Abdul Hamid al-Ghizzawi. Those other two words—Abdul Salamare stuck in the middle." Ghizzawi looked up. "That's the name of the man in the cell next to me in the beginning, when I first came here. He's gone. He may have died. I don't know. But they made us one person."

She was speechless.

That's why Candace Gorman—mom, lawyer, soft-edged middle-aged American—is walking these halls, barging into congressional offices to perform her one-woman show.

She has no choice. Because in September of 2007, she saw it, the kind of invisible bond, really, that suffering or injustice or power, in its dark, punitive form, can create.

What happened is that she, the pencil-thin baker from Afghani­stan, and the vanished man in the next cell all became one person.

Each individual in The Way of the World seeks a human solution. As Suskind says, (p. 397), “When the world works, and it often has over the recent centuries, it’s because everyone moves forward, in a kind of modest unison…. It is … about defining human progress together, and making sure everyone advances, even if it’s just one step.” Read The Way of the World to find out what he means.


Steve Hopkins, October 20, 2008



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the November 2008 issue of Executive Times


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