5 Books Tell of US Torture in Post 9/11 World

Ok, I know it sounds depressing to pick a book about torture for your summer beach reading, but the following books that tell the tale of US torture since 9/11 are actually compelling reads that will inspire your human rights activism during Torture Awareness Month and beyond.

I know there are plenty of other indispensable books against torture–please share your suggestions in the comments section; one random commentor will receive an autographed copy of former US military interrogator Matthew Alexander’s “Kill or Capture” (number 3 below).

One other thing: if you buy books (or anything else) from Amazon.com via this referral link, Amnesty International will receive between 5 – 10% of the sale.


The Dirty Secret About ‘Clean’ Torture

By Darius Rejali, professor and Chair of political science at Reed College

Maher Arar

Imagine if you were arrested in a foreign country and for nine days the police beat you with a shredded electric cable. Now imagine, three days after the beatings stop, the police take you to meet your country’s embassy counsel. The police threaten you with more torture if you speak of the beatings.

Fearful of their threats, you hope the scars of torture will reveal the injustice. But your counsel sees no marks and you are led back to your cell where the torture continues.

This is what happened to Canadian Maher Arar.  His story should be a warning to anyone who thinks that the evidence of torture is always obvious. As watchdog groups discover the signs of torture, the torturers evolve their techniques. As we go into the twenty first century, torture is changing and concerned citizens need to keep pace.


New Survey Finds Tolerance Of Torture In The US

Simulated waterboarding torture © Amnesty International

Last week to mark the 150 anniversary of the American Civil War the American Red Cross released a survey of US attitudes to international humanitarian law which revealed a shocking tolerance of torture across American society.

The Red Cross survey found that 59% of the 502 teenagers and 51% of the 1,019 adults polled believed that it was sometimes acceptable to torture enemy fighters to obtain important military information.

41% of teenagers and 30% of adults also accepted the logical corollary that it might therefore sometimes be acceptable for enemy forces to torture captured American POWs. The survey powerfully suggests just how far the norm against torture in American public life has been eroded.

Giants of American public life like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln have spoken out against torture but the evidence seems to suggest that, for now at least, the ants have carried the day.

An American public weaned on a diet of hard-charging maverick cop shows like 24, video games like Modern Warfare, and the obfuscating legal maneuvers of Bush’s torture team has drunk the kool aid and, despite all evidence to the contrary, concluded torture works.