Torture and Impunity: The U.S. Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation (Critical Human Rights)

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9780299288549: Torture and Impunity: The U.S. Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation (Critical Human Rights)
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Campaigning for the presidency in 2008, Barack Obama offered an impassioned denunciation of the 'enhanced' interrogation techniques used by the Bush administration in its War on Terror - methods that included sensory deprivation, self-inflicted pain, and waterboarding. But four years later America has yet to prosecute or punish these abuses. Tracing the origins of this knotty contradiction from the 1950s to the present, Alfred W. McCoy probes the political and cultural dynamics that have made impunity for torture a bipartisan policy of the U. S. government under presidents Bush and Obama. During the early years of the Cold War, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency covertly funded psychological experiments designed to weaken a subject's resistance to interrogation. For many of those subjected to these experiments, the result was an experience akin to psychosis. Leaving its most lasting scars on the psyche rather than the body, such torture lent itself to propagation, and for three decades the U.S. shared these methods with its anti-Communist allies around the globe. After the terrorist attacks in the U.S. on September 11th, 2001, the CIA opened its own prisons, and American agents began, for the first time, to dirty their hands with waterboarding and wall slamming. Simultaneously, mass media offered enticing, often eroticized simulations of torture in film, television, and computer games that normalized this illegal practice for millions of Americans. In the absence of legal sanction for the perpetrators or the powerful who commanded them, media exposés and congressional hearings have proved insufficient deterrents. The American public, preoccupied with the nation's failing economy, has seemingly moved on. But the images of abuse from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are seared into human memory, doing lasting damage to America's moral authority as a world leader.

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Many Americans have condemned the "enhanced interrogation" techniques used in the War on Terror as a transgression of human rights. But the United States has done almost nothing to prosecute past abuses or prevent future violations. Tracing this knotty contradiction from the 1950s to the present, historian Alfred W. McCoy probes the political and cultural dynamics that have made impunity for torture a bipartisan policy of the U.S. government. During the Cold War, McCoy argues, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency covertly funded psychological experiments designed to weaken a subject's resistance to interrogation. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the CIA revived these harsh methods, while U.S. media was flooded with seductive images that normalized torture for many Americans. Ten years later, the U.S. had failed to punish the perpetrators or the powerful who commanded them, and continued to exploit intelligence extracted under torture by surrogates from Somalia to Afghanistan. Although Washington has publicly distanced itself from torture, disturbing images from the prisons at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are seared into human memory, doing lasting damage to America's moral authority as a world leader.

Review:

"A fascinating and disturbing book, providing the most authoritative account of torture yet available and conforming to the best traditions of scholarship."--Richard Falk, Princeton University

"This book gives the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, about the use of torture by the United States intelligence service."--Jennifer Harbury, author of "Truth, Torture, and the American Way"
"A masterful account of an appalling national drift toward accepting torture as part of our culture and polity."--Alex Gibney, director, Oscar-winning documentary "Taxi to the Dark Side"

"McCoy, our finest thinker on the issue of torture, describes its legalization under Bush and the damage caused to morality, law, and our future by Obama's granting of impunity to the torturers. Readers will come away with the understanding that the United States' commitment to human rights was tested by 9/11--and it failed."--Michael Ratner, president emeritus, Center for Constitutional Rights
"With this book, the leading historian of U.S. torture practices has done a great service for academics and the general public by deepening his genealogical account of psychological torture from the Cold War to the present. This is familiar ground for McCoy's readers, but "Torture and Impunity "adds significantly to our understanding."--"Journal of American History"
"A fascinating and disturbing book, providing the most authoritative account of torture yet available and conforming to the best traditions of scholarship." Richard Falk, Princeton University
"

A masterful account of an appalling national drift toward accepting torture as part of our culture and polity. Alex Gibney, director, Oscar-winning documentary Taxi to the Dark Side"

This book gives the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, about the use of torture by the United States intelligence service. Jennifer Harbury, author of Truth, Torture, and the American Way
"

McCoy, our finest thinker on the issue of torture, describes its legalization under Bush and the damage caused to morality, law, and our future by Obama's granting of impunity to the torturers. Readers will come away with the understanding that the United States' commitment to human rights was tested by 9/11 and it failed. Michael Ratner, president emeritus, Center for Constitutional Rights
"

With this book, the leading historian of U.S. torture practices has done a great service for academics and the general public by deepening his genealogical account of psychological torture from the Cold War to the present. This is familiar ground for McCoy s readers, but Torture and Impunity adds significantly to our understanding. Journal of American History
"

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