The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse

Overview

Waterboarding. Sleep deprivation. Sensory manipulation. Stress positions. Over the last several years, these and other methods of torture have become garden variety words for practically anyone who reads about current events in a newspaper or blog. We know exactly what they are, how to administer them, and, disturbingly, that they were secretly authorized by the Bush Administration in its efforts to extract information from people detained in its war on terror. What we lack, however, is a larger lens through ...

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Overview

Waterboarding. Sleep deprivation. Sensory manipulation. Stress positions. Over the last several years, these and other methods of torture have become garden variety words for practically anyone who reads about current events in a newspaper or blog. We know exactly what they are, how to administer them, and, disturbingly, that they were secretly authorized by the Bush Administration in its efforts to extract information from people detained in its war on terror. What we lack, however, is a larger lens through which to view America's policy of torture — one that dissects America's long relationship with interrogation and torture, which roots back to the 1950s and has been applied, mostly in secret, to “enemies,” ever since. How did America come to embrace this practice so fully, and how was it justified from a moral, legal, and psychological perspective?

The United States and Torture opens with a compelling preface by Sister Dianna Ortiz, who describes the unimaginable treatment she endured in Guatemala in 1987 at the hands of the the Guatemalan government, which was supported by the United States. Then a psychologist, a historian, a political scientist, a philosopher, a sociologist, two journalists, and eight lawyers offer one of the most comprehensive examinations of torture to date, beginning with the CIA during the Cold War era and ending with today's debate over accountability for torture.

Ultimately, this gripping, interdisciplinary work details the complicity of the United States government in the torture and cruel treatment of prisoners both at home and abroad and discusses what can be done to hold those who set the torture policy accountable.

Contributors: Marjorie Cohn, Richard Falk, Marc D. Falkoff, Terry Lynn Karl, John W. Lango, Jane Mayer, Alfred W. McCoy, Jeanne Mirer, Sister Dianna Ortiz, Jordan J. Paust, Bill Quigley, Michael Ratner, Thomas Ehrlich Reifer, Philippe Sands, Stephen Soldz, and Lance Tapley.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This gripping collection of essays explores how the United States has used torture both domestically and abroad since the 1950s . . . Strongly recommended to any reader interested in developing a deeper understanding of the government's torture policies."

-Rachel Bridgewater,Library Journal

“Because whistleblowers leaked the Abu Ghraib photos and some of the torture memos, the torture and abuse committed by the United States entered the national discourse. This book is the result of those efforts and this critical work by leading scholars and journalists who courageously provide a roadmap for holding Bush officials accountable for their war crimes.”

-Daniel Ellsberg,author of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers

“This is an extraordinarily important book. Marjorie Cohn has gathered some of the most knowledgeable and thoughtful voices who understand and oppose the horrific decision by the Bush/Cheney administration to employ torture to fight terrorists. In these pages they explain not only what was done but why it was so terribly wrong.”

-John W. Dean,former Nixon White House counsel and author of Conservatives Without Conscience

“A magnificent, though deeply disturbing collection of essays on torture, considering its history, its use since September 11, and the obstacles to holding those responsible accountable. This is the best collection of essays on the topic and it leaves no doubt that the nation has not yet come to grips with the inhumanity perpetrated under the guise of national security.”

-Erwin Chemerinsky,Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Irvine, School of Law

"An excellent addition to the cannon of work relating to the post-9/11 embrace of torture by the Bush Administration as well as the subsequent erosion of constitutional and international legal principles."

-Adam L. Kress,Law and Politics Book Review

Library Journal
In light of recent headlines regarding the torture of detainees in U.S. custody, Cohn's (law, Thomas Jefferson Sch. of Law) important book is certainly relevant. This gripping collection of essays explores how the United States has used torture both domestically and abroad since the 1950s. A diverse roster of contributors examine torture from all angles—the historical to the philosophical, the legal to the sociological. Readers gain an understanding of how the United States came to embrace inhumane treatment of prisoners, how such policies have been justified legally and morally, and how we might hold the responsible parties accountable. VERDICT The pieces range from journalistic to scholarly, and all entries include excellent endnotes. Though some chapters might be challenging for the average reader, overall this is a terrifically readable—if upsetting—book. Students and scholars of history, law, political science, sociology, and even philosophy will find it useful. Strongly recommended to any reader interested in developing a deeper understanding of the government's torture policies.—Rachel Bridgewater, Reed Coll. Lib., Portland, OR
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814717325
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 1/12/2011
  • Pages: 356
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and past president of the National Lawyers Guild. Her books include Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law and Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent. The 2008 recipient of the Peace Scholar of the Year Award, she has testified before Congress about Bush Administration torture policy.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 26, 2011

    Thought Provoking

    Most of us, thankfully, don't and will not have exposure to torture, so we tend to think of it in abstract terms - clean-cut with no gray areas. There are bad people, so sometimes it's necessary to use unsavory means to obtain information for the greater good. Unfortunately, the reality and its application are quite messy with far-reaching consequences. The consequences of torture cannot be isolated to individuals and often bring negative repercussions to our country's reputation and security. Even at pragmatic level, torture doesn't seem to work, and the various essays in the book argue the point in clear, unbiased tone. I also recommend Sister Dianna Ortiz's 'The Blindfold's Eye', a personal account of the deep and lasting scar that torture can leave on its victim.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2011

    Terrible, not worth the paper to start a bonfire

    Terrible, not worth the paper to start a bonfire

    Talk about a propagande piece

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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