U.S. torture didn't start with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and it didn't end when they left office.
terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 reopened what many people in
America had long assumed was a settled ethical question: Is torture ever
morally permissible? Within days, people in government, academia, and
the mainstream press began to suggest that, in these new circumstances,
the new answer was "Yes."
In Mainstreaming Torture from Oxford University Press, Rebecca
Gordon argues that September 11 did not, as some have said, "change
everything," and that institutionalized state torture remains as wrong
today as it was on the day before those terrible attacks. Furthermore,
U.S. practices during the "war on terror" are rooted in a history that
began long before September 11, a history that includes both support for
torture regimes abroad and the use of torture in jails and prisons here
Torture is not a set of isolated acts that arise in moments of crisis. It is an ongoing, socially-embedded practice,
one that shapes not only its practitioners but the society where it
finds a home. When torture goes mainstream, it affects all of us. To the
extent that we accept torture as the price of an illusory safety, we
risk becoming a nation of cowards.
We can stop torture. But first we have to understand
what it is, and what happens to a country when torture leaves the
shadows and enters the mainstream.
Advance praise for Mainstreaming Torture:
"This remarkable morally and politically challenging and courageous work
confronts unblinkingly the profoundly disturbing truth that both
popular and scholarly discourses in America consistently distort and
sanitize the essential nature of the torture that has become a socially
embedded practice in our country. If you care about our national
character, consider these insightful and telling analyses and demand an
appropriate accounting from our political leaders."---Henry Shue, Senior
Research Fellow, Centre for International Studies, University of Oxford
"We would rather avoid facing the reality of torture. In this book,
Gordon shows us that our primary ways of thinking about torture are in
fact ways of avoiding the full reality of it. Arguments for and against
torture treat it as isolated acts by individuals, but Gordon shows that
torture is embedded in a system of social practices with a set of moral
habits which are in many ways fostered by society as a whole. This is a
well-researched, well-argued, and disturbing book." --William T.
Cavanaugh, Professor of Theology, DePaul University
by our U.S. military and spies is not new. Nor is it the result of a
few bad apples. Gordon documents the systematic teaching and use of
torture by the U.S. since Vietnam. This excellent book challenges us to
end torture. Not only by prosecuting the front line people who get
caught, but also going after the high-ranking public officials who are
torture's intellectual authors." --Bill Quigley, Professor of Law,
Loyola University New Orleans
If you would like Rebecca to speak at your school, university, place of worship, or organization, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My musings on current events, current projects, current anxieties and current delights.
I started this under the Bush regime when any grain of sand thrown into the gears of the over-reaching imperial state seemed worthwhile.
I have worked to elect more and better Democrats -- and to hammer the shit out of them once we get them in office so they do the things their constituents want and need. It's a big job.
It's mighty uncomfortable, getting by in a declining empire where elites maintain their power by massaging our mean streaks and mobilizing our resentments. This country and this "civilization" may be on their way out, but there's nothing else to do except try to make them as humane as possible along the way. That and to celebrate the extraordinary love that sometimes accompanies our species' bumbling way.
And the end hasn't come til it comes, ever.
Visitors will find a lot of commentary on books I'm reading here. I am very intentionally reading more offline these days because when it feels hard to find direction, it's time to learn something new.
I'm a progressive political activist who runs trails and climbs mountains whenever any are available. I've had the privilege to work for justice in Central America (Nicaragua and El Salvador), in South Africa, in the fields of California with the United Farmworkers Union, and in the cities and schools of my own country. I'm a Christian of the Episcopalian flavor; we think and argue a lot. For work, I've done a bit of it all: run an old fashioned switch-board; remodeled buildings and poured concrete; edited and published periodicals, reports and books; and organized for electoral campaigns. I am currently an independent consultant to organizations seeking "help when you have to make a fight."