Until recently, the possibility that the United States was responsible for war crimes seemed unthinkable to most Americans. But as previously suppressed information has started to emerge—photographs from Abu Ghraib; accounts of U.S. attacks on Iraqi hospitals, mosques, and residential neighborhoods; secret government reports defending unilateral aggression—Americans have begun an agonizing reappraisal of the Iraq war and the way in which their government has conducted it.
Drawing on a wide range of documents—from the protocols of the Geneva Convention to FBI e-mails about prisoners held in Guantánamo Bay to executive-branch papers justifying the circumvention of international law—In the Name of Democracy examines the legality of the Iraq war and the occupation that followed. Included in this powerful investigation are eyewitness accounts, victim testimonials, statements by soldiers turned resisters and whistle-blowers, interviews with intelligence insiders, and contributions by Mark Danner and Seymour Hersh.
The result is a controversial, chilling anthology that explores the culpability of officials as well as the responsibilities of ordinary citizens, and for the first time squarely confronts the matter of American impunity.
In this revelatory account of the CIA's secret, fifty-year effort to develop new forms of torture, historian Alfred W. McCoy uncovers the deep, disturbing roots of recent scandals at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo. Far from aberrations, as the White House has claimed, A Question of Torture shows that these abuses are the product of a long-standing covert program of interrogation.
Developed at the cost of billions of dollars, the CIA's method combined "sensory deprivation" and "self-inflicted pain" to create a revolutionary psychological approach—the first innovation in torture in centuries. The simple techniques—involving isolation, hooding, hours of standing, extremes of hot and cold, and manipulation of time—constitute an all-out assault on the victim's senses, destroying the basis of personal identity. McCoy follows the years of research—which, he reveals, compromised universities and the U.S. Army—and the method's dissemination, from Vietnam through Iran to Central America. He traces how after 9/11 torture became Washington's weapon of choice in both the CIA's global prisons and in "torture-friendly" countries to which detainees are dispatched. Finally McCoy argues that information extracted by coercion is worthless, making a case for the legal approach favored by the FBI.
Scrupulously documented and grippingly told, A Question of Torture is a devastating indictment of inhumane practices that have spread throughout the intelligence system, damaging American's laws, military, and international standing.
Using this debate as its jumping off point, When Governments Break the Law takes an interdisciplinary approach to the legal challenges posed by the criminal wrongdoing of governments. But this book is not an indictment of the Bush Administration; rather, the contributors take distinct positions for and against the proposition, offering revealing reasons and illuminating alternatives. The contributors do not ask the substantive question of whether any Bush Administration officials, in fact, violated the law, but rather the procedural, legal, political, and cultural questions of what it would mean either to pursue criminal prosecutions or to refuse to do so. By presuming that officials could be prosecuted, these essays address whether they should.
When Governments Break the Law provides a valuable and timely commentary on what is likely to be an ongoing process of understanding the relationship between politics and the rule of law in times of crisis.
Contributors: Claire Finkelstein, Lisa Hajjar, Daniel Herwitz, Stephen Holmes, Paul Horwitz, Nasser Hussain, Austin Sarat, and Stephen I. Vladeck.
Cosponsored with the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Kennedy School, Harvard University.
No pattern of actual attacks on U.S. territory has yet emerged that provides a clear basis for predicting how serious any given form of attack might be in the future, what means of attack might be used, or how lethal new forms of attack might be. As a result, there is a major ongoing debate over the seriousness of the threat and how the U.S. government should react. This work is an invaluable contribution to that debate.