Not in MY name!

A collection of quotes
on the past, present, and
future of the practice of torture



Detailed Table of Contents


1. What is torture?

2. The more things change ...

3. The purpose of torture

4. The "rules" of torture

5. The techniques of interrogation

6. Can torture ever be justified?

7. What about terrorism?

8. Secrecy and public relations

9. Does torture get results?

10. The torturers

11. The victims

12. Human rights

Index of sources

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.


Forty-five years ago, in the course of browsing through antiquarian bookstores, I became fascinated by a number of volumes that depicted torture in various eras and in far-flung places. Horrified by the similarities to descriptions of Nazi atrocities, I outlined a book that was to be called A Pictorial History of Torture in the "Civilized" World, in which I would match current quotations with the centuries-old engravings. For various reasons, the project stalled and I went on to other things. But the books and accumulated clippings remained among my possessions.

In mid-2004, when torture burst into the headlines, I pulled out my old material to see if it was still relevant. This is one of the first quotes I found, in a book that had been hibernating on my shelf since 1959 -- George Ryley Scott's The History of Torture Throughout The Ages:

"War and torture are bedmates. . . . When once a war breaks out, torture may be recognized as an inevitable concomitant. Even if the governments concerned ostensibly denounce and prohibit torture, it occurs nevertheless. There is no way in which bodies of men or individuals can be prevented from surreptitiously practising torture upon such of their enemies as fall into their power where licence to kill and maim has been freely given."

The sense of déjà vu was so powerful that I felt it almost my duty to take on the "new paradigm" of official torture that had made its appearance in the course of the misguided "wars" on terror.

Who is this "masked" octogenarian, anyway?

I was born in 1918, seventeen days after the Armistice that followed the "war to end all wars," which all too soon became known as World War I. I was married during World War II, six months after Pearl Harbor. I had nightmares during the Holocaust. I anguished over the Vietnam War even though my draft-age sons had "safe" numbers in the lottery.

At the age of 86, I'm still anguishing over war -- and lynchings, and genocide, and slavery, and capital punishment, and all the "-isms" and "-phobias" that have plagued humans since time immemorial. For the individuals experiencing them, I see all of these as forms of mental or physical torture.

People who know me can't fathom how this mother of four and grandmother of five can even look at such horrors. But facing, and doing something about, these ugly realities while living a "normal" personal life, is probably my way of preserving my sanity.

What qualifies me to do this job?

My entire working life has been involved with books -- as proofreader, editor, designer, collector, and author. Of particular relevance, in 1995 I compiled, arranged, annotated, designed, produced, and self-published Ahead of Her Time: A Sampler of the Life and Thought of Mary Wollstonecraft, excerpts from the letters and writings of the great pioneer of the feminist movement.

In 1998, I was "provoked" into creating another quote book, "And don't call me a racist!" A treasury of quotes on the past, present, and future of the color line in America, which I have been distributing free to non-profits for over six years. You're invited to check it out.

As for Not in MY name! -- it's time to turn the page of this Web-only compilation. While I don't expect you to "enjoy" it, I hope you will find its contents food for thought, discussion, and maybe even argument. I welcome your e-mail comments, addressed to, with Not in MY name in the subject of the e-mail. If you would like me to respond, please include your phone number. Thank you.

Ella Mazel, February 2005

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