Torture as Public Policy: Restoring U.S. Credibility on the World Stage

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After September 11, 2001 the Bush Administration decided that the most important intelligence about terrorism would come from the interrogation of captives suspected of terrorism. As a result, many detainees were subject to harsh interrogation techniques that at times amounted to torture. Here, James P. Pfiffner authoritatively examines the policy directives, operational decisions, and leadership actions of the Bush Administration that reversed centuries of U.S. policy on the treatment of enemy prisoners. He shows how the serious reservations of career military lawyers about these policies were overcome by the political appointees of the Bush Administration. Pfiffner then analyzes the philosophical and legal underpinnings of the policies and practices that have led to the denunciation of the United States’ policies by its allies and adversaries throughout the world. Looking ahead, Pfiffner anticipates Obama administration policy changes to restore U.S. credibility and accountability. In all, Torture as Public Policy is a model of detailed policy analysis that demonstrates how greatly public policy matters beyond the back corridors of bureaucracy.

Torture as Public Policy is a model of detailed policy analysis that demonstrates how greatly public policy matters beyond the back corridors of bureaucracy. This book:

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Pfiffner (Sch. of Public Policy, George Mason Univ.) is a decorated Vietnam veteran whose clear and detailed writing offers an excellent case against the use of torture in prisoner interrogation in the "war on terror." He establishes several core propositions: that "alternative" means of interrogation carried out under the Bush administration amount to fundamental violations of the 1955 Geneva Accords and of U.S. law; that neither President Bush nor Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld had the legal mandate to authorize such procedures; and that "unlawful combatants," whether at Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, or Baghram, are subject to legal protection. In view of accumulated evidence, congressional testimony, and the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, these findings may seem unsurprising, yet they provide an excellent basis for Pfiffner's wider discussion about more controversial positions. Among other findings, the author explains the administrative difficulty of controlling the use of torture, the fallacy of arguments supporting torture in interrogation, and the extent of opposition to torture within the Bush administration, including the FBI and the armed forces. Pfiffner does not recommend the prosecution of American officials for torture but firmly supports "putting this unfortunate episode…on public record in an authoritative way." VERDICT Highly recommended for all readers interested in current global affairs, history, or the military.—Zachary T. Irwin, Pennsylvania State Univ., Erie
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594515095
  • Publisher: Paradigm Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/30/2010
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

James P. Pfiffner is University Professor in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University. His major areas of expertise are the Presidency, American National Government, and public management. He has written or edited twelve books on the presidency, including Power Play: The Bush Administration and the Constitution (2008), and he has published more than 100 articles and chapters in books, professional journals, reference works, and the popular press. While serving with the 25th Infantry Division (1/8 Artillery) in 1970 he received the Army Commendation Medal for Valor in Vietnam and Cambodia.

His professional experience includes service in the Director’s Office of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (1980-81), and he has been a member of the faculty at the University of California-Riverside and California State University-Fullerton. In 2007 he was S.T. Lee Professorial fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of London.

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Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Introduction: U.S. Detainee Policy

Chapter 2: Policymaking on Torture

Chapter 3: Operations: The Implementation of Policy

Chapter 4: The Logic of Torture: Moral and Behavioral Issues

Chapter 5: Torture and teh Law

Chapter 6: Command Responsibility

About the Author

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