The United States government has explicitly endorsed techniques long recognized internationally to be forms of torture. Marjorie Cohn’s remarkable multidisciplinary anthology, The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse, is an eye-opening examination of U.S.-sponsored torture from the Cold War era to the Obama administration.


When I was a child in Reagan’s America, a common theme in Cold War rhetoric was that the Soviets tortured people and detained them without cause, extracted phony confessions through cruel violence, and did the unspeakable to detainees who were helpless against the full, heartless weight of the Communist state. As much as any other evil, torture differentiated the bad guys, the Commies, from the good guys, the American people and their government. However imperfect the U.S. system might be, it had civilized standards that the enemy rejected.