Reconciling torture with democracy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The debate in this country since september 11 about the use of torture or other forms of coercive interrogation has proceeded along two, oddly irreconcilable tracks. On the one hand is the national reaction following the publication of actual photos of torture and humiliation committed by U.S. troops at Abu Ghraib – a reaction that was swift, uniform, and bipartisan in its revulsion. The Secretary of Defense called the conduct “unacceptable” and “un-American.” John McCain, Republican Senator and former prisoner of war, emphasized that “history shows – and I know a little bit about this – that mistreatment of prisoners and torture is not productive. … You don't get information that's usable from people under torture, because they just tell you what you want to hear.” And John Warner, Republican Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the abuses, if true, were “an appalling and totally unacceptable breach of military conduct that could undermine much of the courageous work and sacrifice by our forces in the war on terror.” There remains, on the other hand, a vigorous abstract debate in academic and policy circles about the need to abandon some existing laws governing detention and interrogation, and to adopt new rules permitting the use of physical or mental coercion to extract intelligence information, our best weapon, it is argued, against a new and potentially devastating terrorist threat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Torture Debate in America
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9780511511110
ISBN (Print)0521857929, 9780521857925
StatePublished - Jan 1 2005
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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