Talking About Torture

How Political Discourse Shapes the Debate

Jared Del Rosso

Columbia University Press

Talking About Torture

Pub Date: June 2015

ISBN: 9780231170925

296 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $55.00£46.00

Pub Date: June 2015

ISBN: 9780231539494

296 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $54.99£46.00

Talking About Torture

How Political Discourse Shapes the Debate

Jared Del Rosso

Columbia University Press

When the photographs depicting torture at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison were released in 2004, U.S. politicians attributed the incident to a few bad apples in the American military, exonerated high-ranking members of the George W. Bush administration, promoted Guantánamo as a model prison, and dismissed the illegality of the CIA's use of "enhanced interrogation." By the end of the Bush administration, members of both major congressional parties had come to denounce enhanced interrogation as torture and argue for the closing of Guantánamo.

What initiated this shift? In Talking About Torture, Jared Del Rosso reviews transcripts from congressional hearings and scholarship on denial, torture, and state violence to document this wholesale change in rhetoric and attitude toward the use of torture by the CIA and the U.S. military during the War on Terror. He plots the evolution of the "torture issue" in U.S. politics and its manipulation by politicians to serve various ends. Most important, Talking About Torture integrates into the debate about torture the testimony of those who suffered under American interrogation practices and demonstrates how the conversation continues to influence current counterterrorism policies, such as the reliance on drones.
Jared Del Rosso takes a discourse-analytic, social-constructionist approach to understanding the meaning of 'torture,' developing well-known and powerful analytic traditions to shed light on an important and controversial issue that is still topical today. His book is interesting and enlightening. James Holstein, Marquette University
By tracing the evolution of Congress's conversations on topics ranging from Abu Ghraib to waterboarding, Jared Del Rosso shows how facts, policies, and principles can be created, challenged, and changed. His painstaking analysis offers both a careful history of recent claims about torture and a model for those who want to penetrate officials' language about other issues. Joel Best, University of Delaware
Jared Del Rosso delivers a compelling and timely analysis of governmental discourse on torture in the United States. He skillfully delves into the politically embedded debate and contentious processes through which an electoral democracy grapples with human rights violations authorized or perpetrated by its own state officials. Talking About Torture reveals the multiple forms of denial, justification, partial acknowledgment, and denunciation advanced by members of the government confronted with evidence of abuse and torture in U.S.-run detention sites after 9/11. In doing so, Del Rosso exposes how accountability is eschewed, how political opponents draw on shared cultural frames regarding torture, and how the legacies of the 'torture debate' continue to shape current policy and political discourse. This book offers a powerful examination of the U.S. government rhetoric on torture and the high stakes involved in such political talk. Barbara Sutton, SUNY-Albany
Highly recommended. Choice
The book is provocative, meticulous in its research and fascinating, underlining how Americans—or at least the political class—came to justify the use of torture. Human Rights Law Review
[Del Rosso] presents an engaging, focused, and well-analyzed study of human rights discourse in official speech. Carla Winston, Human Rights Review
Preface
A Note on the Senate Intelligence Committee's Report on the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program
Introduction
1. The Torture Word
2. The Heartbreak of Acknowledgment: From Metropolitan Detention Center to Abu Ghraib
3. Isolating Incidents
4. Sadism on the Night Shift: Accounting for Abu Ghraib
5. "Honor Bound": The Political Legacy of Guantánamo
6. The Toxicity of Torture: Waterboarding and the Debate About "Enhanced Interrogation"
7. From "Enhanced Interrogation" to Drones: U.S. Counterterrorism and the Legacy of Torture
Appendix: Constructionism and the Reality of Torture
Notes
Bibliography
Index

About the Author

Jared Del Rosso is assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminology at the University of Denver.