BOOK REVIEW: The United States and Torture

The United States and Torture : Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse - Marjorie CohnReviewed: The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration and Abuse, Edited by Marjorie Cohn, New York University Press, 2011.

The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration and Abuse (New York University Press, 2011) is a treatise which, through detailed essays, recollections, evidence and testimonies, explores the subject of torture through three main sections – the history of US torture, the torture of prisoners in custody, and accountability for torture.

Washington’s role in torture has long been established through its support of military and right wing dictatorships in Latin America. As narrated in the preface by Sister Dianna Ortiz, abducted and tortured in Guatemala in 1984 for aiding the poor, the perpetrators of torture were sanctioned and sheltered by the US government. Years after her release, Ortiz’s efforts to pursue justice were met with denial from the government due to its mission to protect torturers from prosecution. Ortiz had been warned not to divulge any names; government officials from Guatemala and the US had denounced the torture as a fabrication aimed at preventing the US from giving Guatemala military aid.

The pattern of torture, denial and injustice in Latin America was applied to similar scenarios in other countries, such as the US’s support of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi in Iran, whose secret police, the Savak, trained by the CIA, were responsible for thousands of dissidents’ deaths.

The discourse on torture was propelled to prominence in the aftermath of 9/11. President George W. Bush’s aim to split recollection of torture into pre- and post 9/11 attempted to justify contemporary torture while detaching the US’s historical involvement in torture. With Bush’s War on Terror targeting Afghanistan and Iraq, torture became a flaunted conspiracy, with rhetoric from government officials standing in stark contrast to the evidence produced from inspections in the countries. Read More.

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