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Harbury, Jennifer K. Truth, Torture and the American Way: The History and Consequences of U.S. Involvement in Torture.

Harbury, Jennifer K. Truth, Torture and the American Way: The History and Consequences of U.S. Involvement in Torture. Boston. Beacon Press. 2005. Paper $14.00.

Harbury provides historical evidence of CIA's involvement in torture tactics since the 1970s. "Truth Torture and the American Way" successfully documents the connection between the torture in Vietnam and Latin America, and now moving to not just Abu Ghraib, but to Guantanamo. By tracing back the grave violations of both international and American laws exemplified by the notorious torture in Abu Ghraib to earlier American adventures in Vietnam and later in Latin America, it brilliantly deconstructs the "a few bad apples" argument.

Harbury documents the similarity in the extraordinary torture techniques, like stress and duress, the water pit, the water boarding, the practice of rendition, that is, the abduction of "suspects" by the American Administration and turning them over to countries where torture is officially tolerated. Not only that a number of the torture techniques were developed in Vietnam, then brought to Central and Latin America and eventually to Iraq by U.S. intelligence forces (the iconic photograph of the hooded Iraqi prisoner, with wires standing on the box at Abu Ghraib is known in intelligence circles as the Vietnam position), but also, as Harbury indicates, a torture tradition evolved and has been institutionalized (the infamous School of the Americas) and reinforced unlawfully by a parallel system of authorization (Attorney General Gonzales declaring obsolete the Geneva Agreement regarding prisoners of war) that bypasses the law and tolerates torture.

Harbury's account on torture in Abu Ghraib stops short of uncovering its systemic origin. Nonetheless, Truth, Torture and the American Way is well documented with twenty cases and a variety of torture techniques, highly informative in its historical approach, and has the virtue of deconstructing an otherwise accepted myth that survives on criminalizing few scapegoats.
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Publication:Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)
Date:Jun 22, 2006
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