Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of Torture

My latest feature in MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History on the rise, fall, and rebirth of torture by military forces just posted online. You'll find it on the news stands next week as well.

It tells the unlikely history of torture, which was all but abandoned by the west as a state-sponsored act in the mid-to-late 19th century, but came back with a vengeance in the 20th and early 21st. Military forces -- Japanese, German, Soviet, French, American -- adopted torture as a matter of operational policy. Part of the reason: the changing face of war itself, as counterinsurgencies, revolutions, and civil wars blurred the definitions of legitimate fighters and often boosted the value of coerced information.

A history of torture, as it were, from ancient times to the present. As the television anchors forewarn: this dispatch contains some disturbing images.

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