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Torture and Democracy First Edition Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691114224
ISBN-10: 0691114226
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Editorial Reviews


Winner of the 2009 Lemkin Award, Institute for the Study of Genocide

Winner of the 2008 Best Book, Human Rights Section of the American Political Science Association

"Rejali's approach is to track the different behaviors, trends and traditions in torture throughout history to see who influenced whom and what they did...Rejali, a leading expert on government interrogation techniques, reaches key conclusions. First, monitoring by human rights groups doesn't stop torture, it simply causes torturers to resort to techniques that don't scar...Second, most contemporary torture traditions were passed on like crafts from teacher to apprentice...Third, Rejali writes, a person being tortured is likely to say whatever he thinks his captors want to hear, making it one of the poorest methods of gathering reliable information."--Laurel Maury, Los Angeles Times

"Torture and Democracy immediately lays claim to be the most compendious and the most rigorous treatment of the subject yet written. Saul Bellow used to say that we are constantly looking for the book it is necessary to read next. On torture, this is it...Torture and Democracy is the anatomy of sneaky. Rejali regales us with tales of every technique of torture known to man...Rejali's analysis of efficacy is exemplary: at once prudent and trenchant, historically alert and morally sentient."--Alex Danchev, Times Higher Education

"[A] magisterial study of torture and how it has developed as a social and moral issue with a focus on developments through the last century."--Scott Horton, Harper's Magazine

"An exhaustive study of...'clean tortures,' or tortures that leave no permanent scars. Electrotorture, water tortures, stress and duress positions, beating, noise, drugs and forced exercises all make an appearance. The book is a towering achievement, a serious work of social science on an urgent topic that is too frequently surrounded by assumption and myth. It should be read and disseminated widely...The book is devoted to exploding one myth in particular: that clean tortures can casually and reliably be traced to the ancients, or, failing that, to the Nazis. Rejali's provocative thesis is that most clean tortures were actually born in democracies, especially imperial Britain and France."--Michael O'Donnell, San Francisco Chronicle

"Torture and Democracy is a much-needed attempt to put our discussions on a firmer historical and conceptual footing while showing us the realities of what torture is and what it does. Based on a decade of research and approximately 2,000 sources in 14 languages, Torture and Democracy is really several books in one. It is a methodical history of what Rejali calls 'clean' or 'stealth' torture (torture that leaves no marks) in the 20th century; a sociological examination of torture's relationship to democracies; a psychological exploration of torture's impact on societies and individuals; a practical consideration of torture's effectiveness; a philosophical musing on the ethics of torture and interrogation in general; an exhaustive cataloguing of tortures used throughout the ages; and what Rejali calls 'a reliable sourcebook' for those who speak out against torture anywhere."--Michael McGregor, The Oregonian

"[Creates] what essentially amounts to an epidemiology of torture. Just as scientists were able to show how HIV traveled around the world by mapping the locatino and date of each outbreak of AIDS, Rejali similarly documents the global transmission of major torture techniquest by drawing up a chronology of their occurrence . . . Rejali's accomplishment--and it's a considerable one--is to lay out this vast amount of information to demonstrate patterns few had noticed before."--Brian Zabcik, American Lawyer

"Documenting modern torture techniques, [Torture and Democracy] is both horrifying and compelling. The consequences of torture are always unpredictable and Rejali argues that torture fails when it's needed most--in last-minute, ticking bomb scenarios."--Karen J. Greenberg, Financial Times

"Dozens of books about torture have been published over the last five years. But none compare to Torture and Democracy for its richly detailed comparative analysis, and its synthesis of historical, psychological, medical, forensic, sociological, and political information to explain what torture is, what it does to victims and perpetrators, and why and how it spreads. . . . Rejali has earned the right to speak authoritatively about the most important question of all: Does torture work? His answer, like his book, is profound, complex, and supported by a wealth of empirical detail."--Lisa Hajjar, Arab Studies Journal

"Torture and Democracy, the fruit of a lifetime's study should dispel much ignorance and frequently facile assumptions about the subject."--David Bentley, World Today

"Darius Rejali's Torture and Democracy, a decade in the making, will be the canonical source text for information on, and the historical confirmation of, the democratic pedigree of tortures that leave no mark."--Aziz Z. Huq. World Policy Journal

"Sprawling, essential. . . . A massive dictionary of the unspeakable."--Gary Bass, Dissent

"Rejali's consolidation of the available data on torture is certainly an admirable and relevant task. What is especially provocative and essential about Rejali's scholarship is that he forces readers to retreat from the minutiae of political debates surrounding torture and asks us to examine the larger contextual picture."--Shana Tabak, Democracy & Society

"This book is quite simply the most authoritative study of torture ever written. Twenty-five years of painstaking research in the making, it will serve the human rights movement for decades to come."--George Hunsinger, Theology Today

"The book suits well as an introduction to the topic of torture (techniques) throughout the world from the 20th century until today. . . . [T]he first two parts of the opus offer a vast amount of information on the historical and technical development of torture across many different states."--Daniela Kaschel, Journal of International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict

"Torture and Democracy by Darius Rejali is arguably the most impressive and most important book to be published on torture in the past few years. A monumental achievement of meticulous documentation, theoretical testing, and reasoned argumentation, it is certain to become the yardstick against which future research on torture will be measured. . . . It should be required reading for any scholar or student of torture, and more importantly, for every policy-maker and counter-terrorism practitioner considering whether torture could or should be used to deal with the current terrorist threat."--Richard Jackson, Critical Studies on Terrorism

"A brave and disturbing book, this is the benchmark against which all future studies of modern torture will be measured."--World Book Industry

From the Back Cover

"Darius Rejali has written a superb genealogy of modern torture. Meticulously researched and filled with surprising insights, Rejali's indictment derives its power from thoughtful analysis and deep historical grounding. It is the best book on the subject that I have encountered. No one should debate the merits of torture without having read it."--Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch

"Darius Rejali has given the world an extraordinary work of scholarship and personal passion that no one wants to hear about but that everyone must learn about. Torture and Democracy exposes the core issues facing every nation whose deepest values of human dignity are defiled by its state-sanctioned 'violence workers.' Beyond platitudes, this pioneering expert descends into the torture dungeons around the world to reveal the strategies and tactics secretly used to break human will to resist. A vital book for anyone wanting to understand the whys and hows of torture being practiced today by our own government."--Philip Zimbardo, author of The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil

"Monumental. Definitive. Devastating."--Sidney Blumenthal

"Torture and Democracy brings the fact of torture straight home to democratic societies--societies that are the most reluctant to acknowledge the presence of torture in their midst. Darius Rejali's theme is the appeal of stealth forms of torture in democracies, but he also illuminates the culture of disinformation, self-deluding euphemisms, and outright mythology that accompanies these kinds of torture. Rejali's research has been truly formidable. He has read more widely in more disciplines than any analyst of torture that I know of."--Edward Peters, author of Torture

"This is a timely and extraordinarily important book, an unprecedented study of torture and its technologies, and of the relationship between torture and types of political systems. The research that went into this book is beyond impressive; it is thorough beyond belief. Torture and Democracy will become a reference for anyone who wants to understand torture. Darius Rejali is to be congratulated."--Martha Huggins, Tulane University

"Torture and Democracy is a provocative, state-of-the-art consideration of what Rejali calls 'stealth' or 'clean' torture. He makes a powerful case that democracies tend to be laboratories for these forms of torture and that one of the unintended consequences of democratization is that torture, rather than being eliminated, becomes harder to identify and document."--Austin Sarat, Amherst College


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 880 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; First Edition edition (December 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691114226
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691114224
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.6 x 2.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,601,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Wayne Klein HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
To paraphrase a famous quotation, when it comes to victims of torture often are victims in countries of liberty and face death from "clean torture" such as waterboarding often in the most democractic countries. Author Darius Rejali has produced a scholarly examination of the use of torture, it's cost to society and which societies it occurs in with TORTURE AND DEMOCRACY a compelling, powerful book that isn't for the squeamish.

As Rejali points out while barbaric customs such as the severing of limbs that are caturerized with blow torches doesn't occur here,the use of waterboarding and other "enhanced" techniques (to use an almost Orwellian obfuscation of the truth)that aren't torture because we use a euphanism that robs the phrase of its true meaning and, as a result, responsibility for something inhumane, does occur here along with other inhumane practices. Ironically, using waterboarding which seems an "acceptable" form of torture today to gather information (that can often be inaccurate--there's no way to tell as no one has truly done an unbiased study looking at information gathered by non-torture and torture techniques comparing their accuracy)resulted in a Japanese officer named Yukio Asano tried for war crimes during WWII, doesn't even cause the blink of an eye in the intellgience community in the 21st century.

These "clean" forms of torture allow there to be no physical scars (although there are psychic ones that may never heal)and makes it more difficult to prove that they occurred. This creates the perfect atmosphere for denial in an open society such as a democractic one or even in a dictatorship making it more difficult for the eyes of the world to see all the victims these forms of torture claim.
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Why are so many people, including high ranking people who should know better, so convinced that torture "works," and that it provides reliable intelligence? Do they have supporting data to back up this assertion, or is it just a gut feeling? Well, now we are just a little closer to tossing this bizarre view point to the trash heap of history. Darius Rejali, in his painstakingly researched book "Torture and Democracy," has investigated the records of numerous countries that conducted torture throughout the 20th century, including France during the Algerian uprising and the Germans during WWII. He has convincingly shown, with actual data and analysis, that torture is ineffective for intelligence gathering simply because it produces an avalanche of disinformation, making it almost impossible to separate any real intelligence from false leads.

It is clear to me that Rejali did not begin his project fifteen years ago (prior to 9/11, BTW) with any preconceived notions that he then set out to prove. As he explains, he was actually trying to find out why so many countries, including democracies (though generally in secret), resort to the tactic. His initial thought was that maybe there is something to it, since so many countries repeatedly make use of the approach as an intelligence gathering tool. It was only after conducting years of exhaustive research, thoroughly catalogued in the book, that he realized that the countries who resort to the tactic do so out of ignorance and because they fail to think through what they are doing. And it turns out that many countries, even the Nazis in Germany, eventually figure out that the approach is counter-productive, and eventually revert back to more "traditional" police methods to gather intelligence.
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I bought this book in order to be able to shoot down any argument about why torture should be used, I wasn't disappointed. Though, it is not an easy read, so make sure to give the book the attention and breaks it deserves in order to digest all the information presented. It is dense but well worth the read.
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This book has made for one of the longest and most difficult reads I've ever gone through, but Darius Rejali has really pulled off an incredible feat here. The sheer amount of research on display is very impressive. Throughout the course of the book, he details the origins of specific torture methods, why they exist, and what types of governments use them today (if at all). It helps put modern-day events like the Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo scandals in proper historical context and explains why it is that democracies like America now use torture methods that leave no physical marks. (In short, in democracies, human rights organizations and laws against torture have driven interrogators to use methods less prone to leaving evidence behind while totalitarian governments use physical scarring to terrify their targets.)

The book also delves into the question of whether or not torture, examining several military conflicts from which reports emerged stating that torturing had produced useful intelligence. What is revealed, however, when the numbers are broken down, is that the number of innocent people tortured in order to find the one person on whom torture did work, is ridiculously high in every instance.

For anyone interested in studying this awful subject and attempting to make sense of how we got where we are today in regards to it, this book is an essential read.
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