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August 30 , 2008

Torture and Impunity: The U.S. Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation


Many Americans have condemned the “enhanced interrogation” techniquesused in the War on Terror as a transgression of human rights. But theUnited States has done almost nothing to prosecute past abuses orprevent future violations. Tracing this knotty contradiction from the1950s to the present, historian Alfred W. McCoy probes the political andcultural dynamics that have made impunity for torture a bipartisanpolicy of the U.S. government.
    During the Cold War, McCoy argues,the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency covertly funded psychologicalexperiments designed to weaken a subject’s resistance to interrogation.After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the CIA revived these harsh methods,while U.S. media was flooded with seductive images that normalizedtorture for many Americans. Ten years later, the U.S. had failed topunish the perpetrators or the powerful who commanded them, andcontinued to exploit intelligence extracted under torture by surrogatesfrom Somalia to Afghanistan. Although Washington has publicly distanceditself from torture, disturbing images from the prisons at Abu Ghraiband Guantanamo are seared into human memory, doing lasting damage toAmerica’s moral authority as a world leader.
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