Not in MY name! A collection of quotes on the past, present, and future of the practice of torture / Selected and arranged by Ella Mazel


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

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7. What about terrorism?

Some observers say that September 11 may always be remembered as the date that the people of the United States finally came face to face with terrorism. "You've been relatively sheltered from terrorism," says an Israeli terrorism expert. "You hear about it happening here in the Middle East, in Northern Ireland, places far away from you. Now Americans have joined the real world where this ugliness is almost a daily occurrence."
Robert Taylor, The History of Terrorism, 2002

Terrorism's long history

Terrorism is . . . as old as the history of humankind. It is also surprisingly difficult to define. It involves violent acts as crude and unsophisticated as throwing stones . . . and as savage and ruthless as turning an airplane . . . into a flying bomb. . . . Although terrorism can be differentiated from war in the conventional sense, it is nevertheless a form of warfare.

Lila Perl, Terrorism, 2004

While states torture people for various reasons . . . many justify their actions by citing a threat from terrorists. . . . Terrorism is, by definition, a violation of human rights, but some of the worst violations around the world have been committed by states, in the name of counterterrorism.

Lisa Hajjar, 'Our Heart of Darkness,' amnesty now (Amnesty International), Summer 2004

How can we, how can human civilization, possibly have reached such a point [9/11]? . . . Epochal moments belong rightly to history, and it is history that holds the only hope of providing an understanding of the twisted road that has brought us to this frightening pass.

Caleb Carr, The Lessons of Terror, 2002

Terrorism has been a factor in disputes between human beings for thousands of years. The motives for terrorism have changed very little over the centuries; political, economic, religious, and ethnic differences that have proved immune to peaceful solution. What has changed dramatically is the destructive power of the weapons terrorists have at their disposal.

Robert Taylor, The History of Terrorism, 2002

What has to date been viewed and treated as a uniquely modern problem is in fact the current state in a violent evolution whose origins extend as far back as does human conflict itself: terrorism, in other words, is simply the contemporary name given to . . . warfare deliberately waged against civilians with the purpose of destroying their will to support either leaders or policies that the agents of such violence find objectionable.

Caleb Carr, The Lessons of Terror, 2002

However chilling the atrocities of terrorist groups, they pale beside the systematic terrorism inflicted by governments on their own people. . . . States throughout history have used terroristic acts of violence to systematically . . . frighten their whole people into doing whatever the government wants.

Milton Meltzer, The Day the Sky Fell: A History of Terrorism, 2002

Everyone agrees terrorism is evil -- at least when committed by the other side. . . . As a method of warfare it goes back to the dawn of civilization. It is new to Americans because nothing is truly real until it happens to us.

Ronald Steel, Review of Michael Ignatieff, The Lesser Evil, NY Times Book Review, 7/25/2004

Even the briefest review of the history of terrorism reveals how varied and complex a phenomenon it is, and . . . how futile it is to attribute simple, global, and general psychological characteristics to all terrorists and all terrorisms.

Walter Reich, Origins of Terrorism, 2000

As long as groups of people feel that they have no other avenue to attain their political goals . . . terrorism will remain a fact of life.

Robert Taylor, The History of Terrorism, 2002

The West Bank is not just a breeding ground for terrorists; it is the perpetual wound Arabs use to justify supporting and financing violent extremists.

Editorial, "Mr. Bush and the Truth About Terror," NY Times, 9/2/2004

Terrorism is the exploitation of a state of intense fear, caused by the systematic use of violent means by a party or group, to get into power or to maintain power. . . . It is a form of secret and undeclared warfare -- psychological warfare, really. . . . And the victims are unable to do anything to avoid their injury or destruction, because . . . the conventions of war -- the rights of neutrals, noncombatants, hostages, prisoners of war -- have no standing in the eyes of the terrorist. Anyone is fair game.

Milton Meltzer, The Day the Sky Fell: A History of Terrorism, 2002

"Terrorists" . . . or "freedom fighters"

If there are still those among us who believe we are without sin, they need only examine . . . the dismaying record of the real American tragedy: our conquest of the North American continent. . . . Neither side enjoyed a monopoly of good or evil. If the cruelty of the Indians is better known to us, it is only because white historians have glossed over the cruelty of their fellows. . . The Battle of the Little Big Horn has become famous in American history as the Custer massacre, but the slaughter by Forsyth's men is known officially as the Battle of Wounded Knee.

John Tebbel, The Compact History of the Indian Wars, 1966

Terrorism is not the monopoly of any one ideology or cause. Terror has become the weapon of many different ideologies (from extreme right to extreme left).

Milton Meltzer, The Day the Sky Fell: A History of Terrorism, 2002

It wasn't until the beginning of the post-colonial period [mid-20th century] that all groups rejected the terrorist label in favor of names like freedom fighters or mujahadeen.

Geoffrey Nunberg, "How Much Wallop Can a Simple Word Pack?" NY Times, 7/11/2004

The code of the terrorist treats the individual as . . . raw material to be manipulated for society's good. They -- the terrorists and their revolutionary party -- decide what that good is and the path that must be taken to achieve it. The radical goal they have in mind is the end that justifies the use of any means. In reality, ends and means cannot be separated.

Milton Meltzer, The Day the Sky Fell: A History of Terrorism, 2002

It is dangerous for us to think that our enemies simply have a desire to die, instead of trying to understand their perceived motivations. Such understanding does not condone their actions, nor does it imply empathy toward their cause. . . . We as a country accept and justify the loss of American lives because we believe that we are defending our precious liberties. We must accept that our foes are motivated by beliefs they hold equally dear.

Zoey Chenitz, To the Editor, NY Times, 9/7/2004

The difference between a revolutionary and a terrorist lies in the reason for which each fights. For whoever stands by a just cause and fights for the freedom . . . of his land from invaders . . . cannot possibly be called a terrorist.

Yassir Arafat, quoted in Robert Taylor, The History of Terrorism, 2002

It is time to ask: Who is a terrorist? Exactly what is terrorism? Have we not ourselves sometimes breached our committment "never to negotiate with terrorists"? Have we Americans also engaged in terrorism? . . . Is terrorism, then, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder? . . . One man's terrorist is another man's fredom fighter. Or so it would seem.,

Patrick J. Buchanan, "Terrorists -- and freedom fighters?" WorldNetDaily 3/17/2004

Diplomats, political scientists, and news analysts have asked the public to think about a definition of terrorism. Some state that "acts of pure terrorism, involving attacks against innocent civilian populations -- which cannot be justified under any circumstances -- should be differentiated from the legitimate struggles of peoples under colonial or alien domination and foreign occupation for self-determination and national liberation."

Milton Meltzer, The Day the Sky Fell: A History of Terrorism, 2002

Our Army is scattered all over Algeria. We have the men, the money and the arms. The rebels have nothing but the confidence and support of a large part of the population. It is we, in spite of ouselves, who have imposed this type of war -- terrorism in the towns and ambushes in the country. . . . The "forces of order," hindered by their own might, have no defence against guerillas except punitive expeditions and reprisals, no defence against terrorism but terror.

Jean-Paul Sartre, Introduction to Henri Alleg, The Question, 1958

What I would suggest we begin to think of, in consultation with others, is a set of resolutions concerning states that harbor terrorist organizations. It may come to something as serious as saying that those states endanger their own sovereignty. This will be a hot debate, of course, since one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

Paul Kennedy, quoted in "Kill the Empire! (Or Not)," NY Times, 7/25/2004

Since terrorists and their supporters generally regard their terrorism as justified, no objective continuum of terrorism will ever receive universal acceptance. All terrorism must be condemned.

Alan M. Dershowitz, Why Terrorism Works, 2002

Ever since Russian forces routed Chechnya's elected leadership and extended control over the republic, using methods that international and Russian human rights organizations have criticized as abusive and excessive, the separatists have increasingly turned to terror as their principle form of attack.

C.J. Chivers and Steven Lee Myers, "Rebels in Russia Had Precise Plan," NY Times, 9/6/2004

Will violent and deadly premeditated attacks . . . for the purpose of instilling fear and disrupting normal life ever end? The answer is probably not. . . . New terrorist causes, seen as justified by their adherents, are almost certain to come to the fore as time goes on. Terrorism, therefore, is a problem that cannot be solved, but can only be managed.

Lila Perl, Terrorism, 2004

"War" on terrorism . . .

"The war on terror" . . . suggests a campaign aimed not at human adversaries but at a pervasive social plague. At its most abstract, terror comes to seem as persistent and inexplicable as evil itself. . . . Like wars on ignorance and crime, a "war on terror" suggests an enduring state of struggle. . . . It is as if the language is girding itself for the long haul.

Geoffrey Nunberg, "How Much Wallop Can a Simple Word Pack?" NY Times, 7/11/2004

Terror is not an enemy, but a method used in different ways by different movements. The war on terror is a useful label. . . . But what does it mean? Perhaps great struggles are always cast in . . . terms of good and evil, with uglier truths, and nuances, concealed within that readily intelligible and readily exploitable model. . . . It seems . . . sometimes a Machiavellian construct tending to facilitate a might-is-right approach to governance.

Roger Cohen, "A Global War: Many Fronts, Little Unity," NY Times, 9/5/2004

Acts of terrorism against us must be dealt with and, if possible, prevented. But first we have to agree on what it is and what inspires it. That means recognizing that terrorism is not an enemy in itself . . . Rather, it is a method for achieving a goal. That goal is usually some kind of political change that is thwarted by other means. Terrorism is what the weak use to increase their bargaining power against the strong.

Ronald Steel, Review of Michael Ignatieff, The Lesser Evil, NY Times Book Review, 7/25/2004

The biggest mistake made prior to September 11, 2001, was to have underestimated the threat posed to America and the world's democracies by an Islamist totalitarian movement and its terrorists. . . . This mistake must not be repeated.The danger posed . . . by this movement and regimes that aid it is grave and imminent. The struggle to defeat the threat is this generation's war.

R. James Wooley, Chairman, Committee on the Present Danger, July 2004

In this era of threat and change, we must all renew our pledge to protect [the] Constitution against the foreign enemies that would inflict terrorism against our nation and its people. . . . We must also defend the Constitution against those who would use the terrorist threat to assault the liberties the Constitution enshrines. . . . If there is another major, successful terrorist attack in this country there will be further assaults on our rights and civil liberties. Thus, it is essential that we prevent further attacks and that we protect the Constitution . . . against all enemies.

Richard A. Clarke, Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, 2004

The "emergency" steps that we take today to combat terrorism -- the "temporary" compromises we strike with our liberties -- are likely to become part of the permanent fabric of our legal and political culture. Sunset provisions written into laws restricting our freedoms will be less effective in the context of terrorism than in other contexts, because the sun will never set on terrorism and the fears it provokes.

Alan M. Dershowitz, Why Terrorism Works, 2002

In a world of six billion souls, all it takes is one person a day willing to commit suicide to cause harm and sustain the sense of civilization in jeopardy. Governments will keep trying to improve public safety, but no matter how much is spent there may be a limit to buying security against that one person.

Gregg Easterbrook, "In an Age of Terror, Safety Is Relative," NY Times, 6/27/2004

The [Republican] idealistic calling grabs me when it comes to America's historic mission of extending freedom in the world. This brand of thinking is often called neoconservative. In defense against terror, I'm pre-emptive and unilateral rather than belated and musclebound, and would rather be ad hoc in forming alliances than permanently in hock to global bureaucrats.

William Safire, "Inside a Republican Brain," NY Times Op Ed, 7/21/2004

The magnitude of the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., induced a great clarity in the collective mind of America. . . . In less than an hour, a peace-loving nation was moved to moral readiness for a years-long armed conflict . . . No conflict quite like this one has been waged before, and no foe quite like global Islamist terrorists, with their shadowy, multi-regional networks of fanatics, has been engaged before. . . . The American people . . . and all others who love freedom around the world will defeat this creed of oppression and death, just as they have defeated others before it.

Committee on the Present Danger, "The Nature of the Global Threat," July 2004

The U.S. government should . . . expect less from trying to dry up terrorist money and more from following the money for intelligence, as a tool to hunt terrorists, understand their networks, and disrupt their operations.

Report by the 9/11 National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, July 2004

Among the principal differences between the current war against terrorism and more conventional wars is that this war may never end. . . . We will declare that certain terrorist bases or cells have been destroyed, but international terrorism -- as a dangerous and frightening technique of seeking change -- will continue.

Alan M. Dershowitz, Why Terrorism Works, 2002

It has become a cliché . . . that at a certain point, if the United States betrays its fundamental principles in the cause of fighting terror, then "the terrorists will have won." The image of the Hooded Man, now known the world over, raises a stark question: Is it possible that that moment of defeat could come and go, and we will never know it?

Mark Danner, "Abu Ghraib: The Hidden Story," The New York Review of Books, 10/7/2004

. . . and/or "battle" of ideas

One of the essential tools for confronting terrorism on an individual and collective level is understanding: when and why terrorism arises, how it functions, what its weaknesses are. . . . The history of terrorism contains a great deal of tragedy; it may also contain the key to moving beyond this fear-based form of mass manipulation.

Isaac Cronin, Ed., Confronting Fear: A History of Terrorism, 2002

The terrorist threat is really a multiplicity of real and imagined threats, each emanating from a different source and each presenting a separate set of political and tactical problems. . . . When you cannot find these invisible . . .terrorists, whom do you punish? Why, their suppliers, protectors, sympathizers and kinsfolk! . . . But attacking third parties is . . . not only barbaric, invoking the tribal bloodlust that lies just beneath the surface of modern nationalism, it also plays into the hands of those who want to intensify and broaden the conflict.

Richard E. Rubinstein, Alchemists of Revolution: Terrorism in the Modern World, 1987

America is still failing to deal with the threat posed by terrorists distorting Islam. That threat is not something that we can defeat with arrests and detentions alone. We must work with our Islamic friends to create an active alternative to the popular terrorist perversion of Islam. It is not something that we can do in a year or even a decade.

Richard A. Clarke, Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, 2004

The war on terrorism is a war of ideas. The greatest restraint on human behavior is not a police officer or a fence -- it's a community and a culture. Palestinian suicide bombing has stopped . . . because the Palestinians had an election, and a majority voted to get behind a diplomatic approach. They told the violent minority that suicide bombing -- for now -- is shameful. What Arabs and Muslims say about their terrorists is the only thing that will protect us in the long run.

Thomas L. Friedman, "Calling All Democrats," NY Times, Op Ed, 2/10/2005

If we are to win the war against terrorism -- or, more realistically, not to lose it -- we will have to be smart, cautious, and open to new ways of thinking. There will be no panaceas, quick fixes, or simple solutions. . . . Victories will be incremental, temporary, uncertain, and largely invisible.

Alan M. Dershowitz, Why Terrorism Works, 2002

Our strategy must match our means to two ends: dismantling the Al Qaeda network and, in the long term, prevailing over the ideology that contributes to Islamist terrorism. . . . Long-term success demands the use of all elements of national power: diplomacy, intelligence, covert action, law enforcement, economic policy, foreign aid, public diplomacy, and homeland defense. If we favor one tool while neglecting others, we leave ourselves vulnerable and weaken our national effort.

Report by the 9/11 National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, July 2004

In the war against transnational terrorism, we are losing ground on a crucial front: the battle of ideas. Words, not just weapons, fuel revolutions; and the language of political liberty and economic opportunity can inspire the victory of life over death, faith over fatalism, and progress over stagnation throughout the Muslim world. The next generation of terrorists can be stopped with books rather than bombs, if we help empower and mobilize the moderate majority with the vocabulary of hope.

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT), Chairman, Hearing on 9/11 Commission Recommendations on Public Diplomacy, 8/23/2004

Our policy must be to uproot the causes of terrorism by putting an end to American-sponsored oppression of classes, nations, and ethnic communities. . . . Reassessing the costs and benefits of empire will require a political debate that goes far beyond the conventional terms of conservative-liberal discourse. In the current political atmosphere, it may seem utopian even to call for such a discussion. Nevertheless, if we are ever to feel at home on this planet, we have no alternative but to begin.

Richard E. Rubinstein, Alchemists of Revolution: Terrorism in the Modern World, 1987

The current mantra of those opposed to a military response to terrorism is a plea to try to understand . . . the root causes . . . . But the reality is that the "root causes" of terrorism are as varied as human nature. Every single "root cause" associated with terrorism has existed for centuries, and the vast majority . . . with equivalent . . . causes . . . have never resorted to terrorism.

Alan M. Dershowitz, Why Terrorism Works, 2002

A sound foreign policy for a nation as powerful as the United States is an imperative. Such an outlook would call for attention to growing problems in the world's trouble spots and intervention for peace through global coalitions and alliances among the community of nations.

Lila Perl, Terrorism, 2004

Terrorism can only be minimized and controlled, and that can be done only with a worldwide strategy, joined by all of the world's sensible and peaceful nations.

Editorial, "Mr. Bush and the Truth About Terror," NY Times, 9/2/2004

In trying to bring peace and progress to a world torn by gross violations of human rights, the use of evil means can only pollute the outcome. To act without any conscience against an opponent -- no matter how wrong or brutal he may be -- poisons both youself and your cause.

Milton Meltzer, The Day the Sky Fell: A History of Terrorism, 2002

Most Americans and most in the American government still think that the great superpower cannot be defeated by a gang of religious zealots who want a global theocracy . . . . Never understimate the enemy. Our current enemy is in it for the long haul. They are smart and they are patient. Defeating them will take creativity and imagination, as well as energy. It will be the struggle of the friends of freedom and civil liberties around the world.

Richard A. Clarke, Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, 2004

In the rhetorical arms race for the hearts and minds of the Muslim world, some ask how the most technologically advanced nation on earth is being outgunned by a movement largely based in caves.

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT), Chairman, Hearing on 9/11 Commission Recommendations on Public Diplomacy, 8/23/2004

Confronting terrorism requires, first of all, asking the right questions. This process can only be successful if those posing the questions are honest about their own contributions to the current social dynamic. . . . What kinds of people join terrorist groups, and why do they join them? . . . What message are terrorists communicating, explicitly and implicitly? What conditions have made some receptive to that message? In what circumstances does terrorism decline?

Isaac Cronin, Ed., Confronting Fear: A History of Terrorism, 2002

In a democracy, it is always preferable to decide controversial issues in advance, rather than in the heat of battle. . . . Even if government officials decline to discuss such issues, academics have a duty to raise them and submit them to the marketplace of ideas. There may be danger in open discussion, but there is far greater danger in actions based on secret discussion, or no discussion at all.

Alan M. Dershowitz, Why Terrorism Works, 2002

Even more important than any bureaucratic suggestions is the [9/11 Commission] report's cogent discussion of who the enemy is and what strategies we need in the fight. The commission properly identified the threat not as terrorism (which is a tactic, not an enemy), but an Islamic jihadism, which must be defeated in a battle of ideas as well as in armed conflict.

Richard A. Clarke, "Honorable Commission, Toothless Report," NY Times Op Ed, 7/25/2004

The U.S. government should: Define the message and stand as an example of moral leadership in the world. . . . Where Muslim governments, even those who are friends, do not offer opportunity, respect the rule of law, or tolerate differences, then the United States needs to stand for a better future.

Report by the 9/11 National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, 7/22/2004

Terrorism has never been a fair fight. Its targets are limitless, America's defenses limited. It may pit the weak against the strong, the few against the many, but it also pits surprise against habit, indiscriminate attack against rules, the instruments of war against unarmed civilians. It may be asymmetric warfare, in the jargon of the Pentagon, but it is a battle in which the terrorists in many ways have the upper hand. . . . [G]iven the infinite possibilities for a future attack, there is not enough money in the world to protect against possible strikes. . . . How best to win the war on terrorism? A starting point, the [9/11] commission said, is to remember that wars are not best fought by direct means alone, but require diplomacy and other means to address the threat.

Douglas Jehl, "The New Magic Bullet: Bureaucratic Imagination," NY Times, 7/25/2004

We must be able to defend ourselves -- with force of arms, but even more with force of argument. For arms without argument are used in vain. Since I believe in the arguments, since I believe that human beings are unique in their capacity to be persuaded, changed, even redeemed by good ones, I do not doubt that we will prevail.

Michael Ignatieff, The Lesser Evil: Politial Ethics in an Age of Terror, 2004

The growing deadliness of arms available today and the fervor of the extremist fundamentalist groups makes it certain that terrorists will continue to seek to change the policies of the United States and other industrialized nations by violent means. This state of affairs makes it imperative that terrorism and the social realities that create and support it be examined with unswerving determination.

Isaac Cronin, Ed., Confronting Fear: A History of Terrorism, 2002

A single act of terrorism can now claim thousands of lives, making a dispassionate understanding of why some people resort to its methods more important than ever.

Robert Taylor, The History of Terrorism, 2002

Those fighting to eliminate terrorism need help not only from friends and near-friends but from political rivals and economic competitors. The largest possible coalition is needed. . . . Whatever actions are taken can't be allowed to compromise the freedoms of the American citizens and others who live within the nation's borders. Nor can the war against terrorism cause the scrapping of the other necessary wars -- against poverty, against hatred, against exploitation.

Milton Meltzer, The Day the Sky Fell: A History of Terrorism, 2002

Unless we drain the swamp of injustice in which the mosquitoes of terrorism breed, we'll never defeat the threat of terrorism.

Jim Wallis, Sojourners, quoted in Ron Suskind, "Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush," NY Times, 10/17/04

The fight against terrorism . . . is going to be a generation-long struggle. As Americans, it is up to all of us to be well informed and thoughtful, to help our country make the right decisions in this time of testing.

Richard A. Clarke, Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, 2004

We are in a mortal struggle, one that will be fought primarily not on conventional battlefields but rather in dark alleys, shadowy streets, crowded airports, high-rise buildings, and secret weapons laboratories. It will also be fought in courtrooms, legislative chambers, and executive mansions. Finally, it will be fought in the hearts and minds of people throughout the world.

Alan M. Dershowitz, Why Terrorism Works, 2002

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