5 Books Tell of US Torture in Post 9/11 World

June 23, 2011

Ok, I know it sounds depressing to pick a book about torture for your summer beach reading, but the following books that tell the tale of US torture since 9/11 are actually compelling reads that will inspire your human rights activism during Torture Awareness Month and beyond.

I know there are plenty of other indispensable books against torture–please share your suggestions in the comments section; one random commentor will receive an autographed copy of former US military interrogator Matthew Alexander’s “Kill or Capture” (number 3 below).

One other thing: if you buy books (or anything else) from Amazon.com via this referral link, Amnesty International will receive between 5 – 10% of the sale.

1) The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals

By: Jane Mayer

Summary: If you’re looking for a super-readable history of US torture and Guantanamo since 9/11, this is it. Titled after former Vice President Dick Cheney’s quote that America should use the “dark side” and “any means at our disposal” to destroy al-Qaeda, Mayer traces how our government destroyed the rule of law and our moral fabric instead. The book reads like a thriller but is so meticulous and well-researched that it could serve as a charge-sheet for prosecuting America’s torturers.

2) Hope and Despair: My Struggle to Free My Husband, Maher Arar

By: Monia Mazigh

Summary: Monia Mazigh tells the story of how her husband, Canadian citizen Maher Arar , was kidnapped at JFK airport in New York by US officials and sent to Syria to be tortured, as part of the US “extraordinary rendition” program. The good news is that with Mazigh’s unwavering persistence Arar was eventually released back to Canada, where the government apologized and paid him compensation. The bad news is that the US has refused to apologize or offer Arar any form or remedy, as required by law. Amnesty’s “I Apologize” action is intended to change that, and help make progress toward the day when there’s full accountability for US torture. Sign the petition for Arar at www.amnestyusa.org/apologize

3) Kill or Capture: How a Special Operations Task Force Took Down a Notorious al Qaeda Terrorist

By: Matthew Alexander

Summary: This is the book every pundit (including your cranky uncle) who ever invoked “24” and Jack Bauer to justify torture has got to read. Matthew Alexander is the real deal—a military interrogator who did serious time in Iraq and got crucial intelligence the only reliable way: by using his brain. Alexander gives you chase scenes, gun battles and the reason why America’s torture policy cost the lives of American soldiers. He’s a passionate anti-torture advocate and you simply can’t argue with his credentials (or propulsive writing style). My only question: When’s the TV show coming out?

4) The Eight O’Clock Ferry to the Windward Side: Seeking Justice in Guantanamo Bay

By: Clive Stafford Smith

Summary: This is as close as I ever want to get to Guantanamo. Lawyer Clive Stafford Smith gives us the inside scoop, literally (he goes there all time), on the notorious US detention facility in Cuba. From McDonalds to giant banana rats to orange jumpsuits to the mind-bogglingly ironic official GTMO slogan (“Honor bound to defend freedom”),  Stafford Smith details what life is like for the detainees, soldiers and lawyers caught up in the maelstrom of indefinite detention and unfair trails that is Guantanamo. The valiant efforts of defense lawyers—both military and civilian—taking a stand for justice in the face of enormous odds is a classic tale of heroism in the face of tyranny.

5) Torture and Democracy

By: Darius Rejali

Summary: This book is deep. And, at 880 pages, it will keep you thinking all summer long. I think Richard Jackson (Critical Studies on Terrorism) said it best: “Torture and Democracy 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.”

Don’t forget to enter our drawing for a free copy of Kill or Capture: recommend the anti-torture books that you’ve found compelling in the comment section.

This post is part of our 2011 Torture Awareness Month series