How the Gloves Came Off: Lawyers, Policy Makers, and Norms in the Debate on Torture

Hardcover | March 7, 2017

byElizabeth Grimm Arsenault

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The treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison, Guantánamo Bay, and far-flung CIA "black sites" after the attacks of 9/11 included cruelty that defied legal and normative prohibitions in U.S. and international law. The antitorture stance of the United States was brushed aside in a manner contrary to the U.S. historical experience. Since then, the debate over the guarantee of American civil liberties and due process for POWs and detainees has grown muddled, threatening the norms that bolster modern democracies. How the Gloves Came Off considers the legal and political arguments that led to this standoff between civility and chaos, with significant consequences for America's strategic and security interests abroad.

Unpacking the rhetoric surrounding the push for unitary executive action in wartime, How the Gloves Came Off traces the unmaking of the consensus against torture held by the American military, executive-branch lawyers, and the public. It implicates U.S. military commanders, high-level government administrators, lawyers, and policy makers from both parties, exposing the ease with which powerful actors manipulated ambiguities in the norms and laws to strip detainees of their humanity. By targeting the language and logic that made torture thinkable, this book shows how future decision makers can craft an effective counternarrative and set a new course for U.S. policy toward POWs and detainees. Whether leaders use their influence to reinforce a prohibition of cruelty to prisoners or continue to undermine longstanding international law will determine whether the United States retains a core component of its founding identity.

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From the Publisher

The treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison, Guantánamo Bay, and far-flung CIA "black sites" after the attacks of 9/11 included cruelty that defied legal and normative prohibitions in U.S. and international law. The antitorture stance of the United States was brushed aside in a manner contrary to the U.S. historical experience. Si...

Elizabeth Grimm Arsenault is a visiting assistant professor in the Security Studies Program at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She has worked in the defense and security sectors of the U.S. government and is the recipient of Georgetown's Dorothy Brown Award for excellence in teaching and the Sch...
Format:HardcoverDimensions:280 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.98 inPublished:March 7, 2017Publisher:Columbia University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0231180780

ISBN - 13:9780231180788

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsPart I. Background1. Introduction2. History of POW Treatment in the United States: From the Revolutionary War to the Korean War3. Modern POW Treatment in the United States: The Vietnam War, the Geneva Conventions, and the Pre-9/11 EraPart II. Evolution of Norms Around POW Treatment4. POW Treatment and Lawyers5. POW Treatment and Policy Makers6. POW Treatment and InterrogatorsPart III. Conclusion7. Implications and RecommendationsAppendix A: Who's WhoAppendix B: Timeline of Major EventsAppendix C: AcronymsNotesBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

This is a thoughtful and provoking account of how the US abandoned its own-and the world's- legal and normative prohibitions against the use of torture. At is core is a compelling story about how once-cherished legal norms can unravel, and the poignant observation that there is no single culprit but rather a system of actors-including top policy makers, their lawyers and interrogators-aided by shifting public attitudes and cultural norms.