Friday, November 19, 2010

US torture memos reveal chilling human suffering

Minnesota Public Radio News has become a morning obsession. The hosts are brilliant, respectful, and well-sourced. Since MPR News streams for BlackBerry, it often displaces my traditional drive-time radio.

This Friday, Midmorning host, Kerri Miller, conducts multiple interviews with writers and journalists whose visions of western democracy have been profoundly shaken by their research findings. These interviews are terror-invoking, indeed:

Darius Rejali, professor of political science at Reed College, is a nationally recognized expert on government torture and interrogation. Iranian-born, Rejali has spent his scholarly career reflecting on violence, and, specifically, reflecting on the causes, consequences, and meaning of modern torture in our world. His work spans concerns in political science, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, history, and critical social theory.
Torture and Democracy (Princeton, 2007) is Rejali’s most recent book. It is an unrelenting examination of the use of torture by democracies in the 20th century. As democracy, human rights, and the free press blossomed after World War II, so did the market for “clean” torture techniques that leave no evidentiary scars, such as the use of drugs, stress positions, and waterboarding. Rejali reveals the most controversial Western intelligence-gathering techniques, explains their origins, and questions if their use actually hinders the torturer’s ability to gather credible intelligence.
Waterboarding is torture when they do it to us; but, it is an enhanced interrogation technique when we do it to them.

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