Americans debate torture

Some of us on the eastern side of the great ditch have been bemused by what appears to be a certain ambiguity in American attitudes to torture.  Waterboarding and other ‘harsh’ interrogation techniques had their defenders during the GW Bush administration and it was some time into that dismal period before the use of torture in the context of the so-called ‘war on terror’
became a live issue, or so it seemed from here.

Mark Danner

Mark Danner

So many of us will be fascinated to read a long and authoritative article on the subject in the New York Review of Books by Professor Mark Danner.

The article’s special interest lies in the fact that Professor Danner has somehow managed to get hold of a copy of a secret report on torture by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which almost always insists on the strict confidentiality of its reports — for the obvious reason that governments are unlikely to agree to allow Red Cross access to prisons and detention centres if there’s any danger that their resulting reports are going to be made public.  In an equally fascinating interview and Q&A session on C-Span (also available on the Web) Mark Danner understandably declines to say how he obtained this Red Cross document, on which much of his NYR article is based.

The New York Review of Books biography of Mark Danner says that he is a —

longtime staff writer at The New Yorker and contributor to The New York Review of Books, [and] the author of three books: The Massacre at El Mozote: A Parable of the Cold War; The Road to Illegitimacy: One Reporter’s Travels Through the 2000 Florida Recount; and Torture and Truth. Danner’s work has been honored with many awards, including a National Magazine Award, three Overseas Press Awards, and an Emmy. In June 1999, he was named a MacArthur Fellow. He is Professor of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley and Henry R. Luce Professor of Human Rights and Journalism at Bard College. He divides his time between Berkeley and New York. His work is archived at

He deserves a medal.


2 Responses

  1. Andrew Milner says:

    Not “War on Terror”, but rather “war of terror”, with the United States the biggest terrorist on the planet. Christians do not torture, nor do they condone or approve of torture. So America pals, ask yourselves: “Am I one of the good guys, or should I start wearing a black hat and growing a moustache?” And you know what happens to the bad guys in the third reel. Many countries aspire to the high moral standards the United States sets for itself. The problem is the United States fails to live up to its own standards. No surprise when Clinton withdrew the US from the World Court. You really have strayed from the true path. And as for Britain: “The war criminal George W. Bush and his supine lackey Tony Blair.” If you Brits resident in UK still have a shred of moral integrity or humanity, you’ll emigrate in protest at the wrongheaded foreign policy decisions taken by HMG.

  2. Peter Harvey says:

    Christians do not torture, nor do they condone or approve of torture.

    The Azores three of Bush, Blair and Aznar were the three most Christian leaders that their respective countries had had for some time — although each of them acted against the advice of his religious chief.