The United States and Torture

Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse

356 pages

January, 2011

ISBN: 9780814717325

$79

Cloth

Also available in

Author

Marjorie Cohn is Professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Her books include The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse; Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law; and Cameras in the Courtroom: Television and the Pursuit of Justice.

All books by Marjorie Cohn

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.

Reviews

  • “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

  • “This book is incredible. The truth is right there on the pages, assembled for everyone to see and read and understand. Finally. Accountability is the first step in healing as a nation. The last line of the final chapter says it all: ‘Let us begin.’ Indeed, we must.”

    —Janis L. Karpinski, author of One Woman's Army: The Commanding General

  • "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

  • “A critical collection of essays on the United States’ descent into torture. The contributors, who include some of the nation’s most important human rights advocates and scholars, tell the untold story of how the country that was instrumental in drafting the Convention Against Torture has itself violated that document’s fundamental obligations, and what we should do about it.”

    —David Cole, author of The Torture Memos: Rationalizing the Unthinkable

  • "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

  • "The United States of Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse is an interdisciplinary work detailing U.S. participation in 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." 

    Z Magazine

  • "If this collection of authoritative and proficient essays does not convince every reader that key Bush officials and their lawyers should be prosecuted, it leaves no doubt that probable cause exists to justify the Justice Department opening a series of comprehensive investigations with ample resources and subpoena power to determine whether such crimes were committed and whether indictments should be issued...Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and anyone who cares about restoring respect for the Rule of Law in America should first read The United States and Torture, and then do the right thing."

    The Los Angeles Daily Journal

  • "Marjorie Cohn, law professor and president of the National Lawyers Guild, has collected 14 incisive and comprehensive essays which, taken together, serve as a detailed indictment of the Bush administration for its acts of commission and the Obama administration for its acts of omission."

    San Francisco Daily Journal