After three-and-a-half years, author Michael Otterman is closing shop over at his "American Torture" blog. The site was named after his book of the same title. Mike worked with contributors Andy Worthington, Raj Purohit, Tom Moran, and Fatima Kola to produce a first-rate site dedicated to the subject of exposing the U.S. torture program. At one point, Mike reached out to me, and I became one of the contributors as well (initially in my web persona as Valtin).
The book, American Torture: From the Cold War to Abu Ghraib and Beyond, is a fantastic piece of journalistic investigation, and an essential source-book on the evolution of the U.S. torture program. Much of what I have written about over the years first found its expression in Michael Otterman’s incredible history of U.S. torture experimentation and implementation. The book describes how the CIA and Department of Defense research into interrogations found its way to Vietnam, and how "advisers" working with the U.S. counterinsurgency assassination and torture program, Operation Phoenix, went on to use write manuals for use in Latin American torture training programs. He also gives a detailed description of the SERE program.
I first discovered the research on SERE trainees by Charles Morgan and associates in American Torture, and later discovered that Morgan himself was a CIA behavioral scientist, making a contemporary link between the CIA and the SERE program during the time SERE techniques were being "reverse-engineered" into the Bush/Cheney torture program.
While his website isn’t accepting or posting new submissions, Mike isn’t dropping off the radar. Along with Richard Hil and Paul Wilson, he just published another amazing work of political journalism. In his new book, Erasing Iraq: the Human Costs of Carnage, Otterman again traces the history of U.S. intervention in Iraq, from the early support for Saddam Hussein, through the Iran-Iraq War, the 1990 Gulf War, the Clinton-era period of murderous sanctions, and the recent devastation wreaked by the 2003 U.S. invasion and occupation. The destruction of Iraqi society, with its millions of displaced, its looting of historical treasures, its chaos and war upon a previously largely secular culture, is shown to be a kind of sociocide.
From Mike’s brand-new website:
For nearly two decades, the US and its allies have prosecuted war and aggression in Iraq. Erasing Iraq shows in unparalleled detail the devastating human cost.
Western governments and the mainstream media continue to ignore or play down the human costs of the war on Iraqi citizens This has allowed them to present their role as the benign guardians of Iraqi interests. The authors deconstruct this narrative by presenting a portrait of the total carnage in Iraq today as told by Iraqis and other witnesses who experienced it firsthand.
Featuring in-depth interviews with Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan and from Western countries, Erasing Iraq is a comprehensive and moving account of the Iraqi people’s tragedy.
Erasing Iraq will begin its formal launch in the United States next week, July 22, 7 pm at Revolution Books, 146 W. 26th Street, NYC.
As a last broadside over at American Torture, Mike shows his passion for the anti-torture cause, and notes that the torture he was fighting against still continues. I wish him luck with his important new book, and hope he continues to use his researching skills and his eloquent voice in the cause of fighting against the barbarism of torture that threatens to brutalize this society, and destroy what culture of democracy and equality that was once its inheritance.
George W. Bush did not invent torture.
After more than three years since the release of American Torture it’s the one phrase that has come to my mind, again and again.
Yes — the Bush Administration promoted torture. They expanded its use. Former officials — and Bush himself — still defend torture. But they did not invent it, or introduce it into US foreign policy.
The KUBARK manual and John Marks’s classic, The Search for the Manchurian Candidate, first punctured this myth for me. In American Torture, I used these sources — and many others — to plot US use of torture from SERE schools to secret CIA prisons. My message was simple: Torture is counterproductive. It is inhumane. And it is not new in the American experience.
The more people knew these things, I thought, the more torture would lose its appeal. But torture persists within the legal black hole at Bagram. Guantanamo remains open and indefinite detention—even for the guiltless—continues. Torture photos are blocked. Accountability thwarted. And torture is still codified. Obama has continued the policies of his predecessor. Change has not come….
The continuum of US cruelty is deep — stretching though Vietnam, Latin America and beyond. It should be followed to the root. Surviving torturers and members of previous Administrations responsible for torture should be sought along side Bush Administration officials in any Truth Commission or War Crimes Tribunal….
We owe victims of torture one thing above all else: justice. We should seek out all perpetrators of torture. We must expose them for who they are, and for what they’ve done. There is no statute of limitations on inhumanity.
Thanks, Mike, for all your hard work. I owe you a lot. We all owe you. Much success with your ongoing work to expose injustice and crime, and to bring recognition to the victims of war and imperial hubris.