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Torture and the War on Terror

Overview

Though the recent election of American President Barack Obama and his signing of the executive order to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay signals a considerable shift away from the policies of the Bush era, the lessons to be learned from the war on terror will remain relevant and necessary for many years to come. In the aftermath of 9/11, the United States government approved interrogation tactics for enemy combatant detainees that could be defined as torture, which was outlawed in Europe in the eighteenth ...

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Overview

Though the recent election of American President Barack Obama and his signing of the executive order to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay signals a considerable shift away from the policies of the Bush era, the lessons to be learned from the war on terror will remain relevant and necessary for many years to come. In the aftermath of 9/11, the United States government approved interrogation tactics for enemy combatant detainees that could be defined as torture, which was outlawed in Europe in the eighteenth century as well as prohibited by the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Convention Against Torture. In conjunction with these policies, the Bush administration vocally defended torture as a necessary tool in its war on terror.

 

In Torture and the War on Terror, Tzvetan Todorov argues that the use of the terms “war” and “terror” dehumanize the enemy and permit treatment that would otherwise be impermissible. He examines the implications and corrupting impact of the attempt to impose “good” through violence and the attempt to spread democratic values by unethical means. Todorov asks: Can violence overcome violence? Does the need to protect one’s own country justify violating human rights? Invalidating one by one the political and ethical arguments in favor of torture, Todorov likens institutional torture to a cancer that is eroding our society and undermining the very fundamental democratic ideas of justice and right.

 

Torture and the War on Terror is a significant work in ethics, human rights, and political and social history by one of the world’s leading intellectuals, and its arguments will be influential in shaping our policies to come.

          

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Editorial Reviews

Jewish Exponent

"We should keep . . . in mind . . . all that Todorov has so artfully laid out for us as our elected officials and President Obama debate what should be done next in Afghanistan."--Jewish Exponent

New Republic
The centerpiece of Todorov’s brief Torture and the War on Terror is a scathing indictment of the Bush administration’s rhetorical chicanery in declaring that so-called enhanced interrogation techniques—waterboarding, prolonged exposure to cold, mock executions—are not torture. . . . As Todorov shows, torture is inadmissible insofar as it constitutes an attack on the ‘very idea of humanity. It is the surest indication of the barbaric, of the extreme of human behavior that makes us reject the humanity of the other.’ If the legacy of humanism has anything to teach us, it is surely this. . . . There is no doubt that he has added depth and clarity to some of the most perplexing moral and political questions of our day.
The Age
 "In this honed, finely calibrated essay, Todorov refutes the notion that good can be imposed by force. More efficient is to embody one’s values and demonstrate their worth. . . . This is a concise and eloquent defence of what makes us truly human.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781906497361
  • Publisher: Seagull Books
  • Publication date: 8/15/2009
  • Series: SB-The French List Series
  • Pages: 64
  • Sales rank: 1,003,644
  • Product dimensions: 4.40 (w) x 6.50 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Tzvetan Todorov is a philosopher and literary theorist. He was born in Bulgaria and has lived in France since 1963. He has published more than twenty books and has been a visiting professor at universities including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and the University of California, Berkeley.

Gila Walker is the translator of more than a hundred works in French, including texts by Jacques Derrida, François Jullien, and Tzvetan Todorov. She divides her time between her homes in New York and the southwest of France.

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Table of Contents

Torture and the War on Terror

 

Afterword

 

About the Photographs

   Ryan Lobo

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