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


       Jennifer Harbury’s investigation into torture began when her husband disappeared in Guatemala in 1992; she told the story of his torture and murder in Searching for Everardo. For over a decade since, Harbury has used her formidable legal, research, and organizing skills to press for the U.S. government’s disclosure of America’s involvement in harrowing abuses in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. A draft of this book had just been completed when the first photos from Abu Ghraib were published; tragically, many of Harbury’s deepest fears about America’s own abuses were graphically confirmed by those horrific images.

This urgently needed book offers both well-documented evidence of the CIA’s continuous involvement in torture tactics since the 1970s and moving personal testimony from many of the victims. Most important, Harbury provides solid, convincing arguments against the use of torture in any circumstances: not only because it is completely inconsistent with all the basic values Americans hold dear, but also because it has repeatedly proved to be ineffective: Again and again, ‘information’ obtained through these gruesome tactics proves unreliable or false. Worse, the use of torture by U.S. client states, allies, and even by our own operatives, endangers our citizens and especially our troops deployed internationally.

Foreword by Amy Goodman:

When torture photos from Abu Ghraib became public in spring 2004, Americans reacted with revulsion: how could our military commit such horrible acts? In fact, Harbury’s well-documented volume reveals, American representatives abroad have been involved in torture for decades, much of it in Central America, where U.S. agents apparently encouraged the kidnapping, maltreatment and murder of left-wing fighters and their suspected sympathizers. Harbury’s own husband became one of the Guatemalan victims-she described his fate in Searching for Everardo-and this new volume alludes to his story repeatedly. Its central chapter compiles testimony from Latin American torture survivors, making a case for U.S. involvement in “”torture by proxy.”” Harbury accompanies her evidence with passionate if unsurprising denunciations, calling torture not just inhumane and illegal but ineffective: since tortured suspects confess to anything, she says, their statements may be worth nothing. Making use of her Harvard Law training, Harbury suggests legal avenues through which even federally sanctioned torturers may be held responsible. If her book holds few surprises for those who have followed these stories closely, its cases will certainly stoke the fires of outrage. Radio host Amy Goodman, of Pacifica’s Democracy Now program, contributes a foreword (not seen by PW).

Jennifer Harbury, Author, Jennfier Harbury, Author, Amy Goodman, Foreword by Beacon Press $16 (264p) ISBN 978-0-8070-0307-7

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