Reaping What You Sow
A Comparative Examination of Torture Reform in the United States, France, Argentina, and Israel
by Henry F. Carey
December 2011, 339pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-36615-4
$75, £58, 66€, A103
eBook Available: 978-0-313-36616-1
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

While the use of torture is variously presented either as an aberrant American weapon unleashed in the aftermath of the terror attacks of September 11 or as a necessary tool in the War on Terror, torture has a long history across cultures. Yet, the debate over the morality—and the legality—of the brutal practice flourishes.

This book evaluates the experience of official torture of France in Algeria, as well as recently, the United States since 9/11, Israel against Palestinians, and Argentina during its “Dirty War” from 1972 to 1983. While evaluating what information was gained from torture, the book also shows the costs of undertaking this approach to interrogating suspected terrorists.

Reaping What You Sow: A Comparative Examination of Torture in France, Argentina, Israel, and the United States presents a new angle in the study of this controversial practice by studying how these countries attempt to account for these secret practices and reform future interrogations against this universal crime. It also analyzes the costs of torture, whether in terms of intelligence gaffes or alienating potential supporters and enemies alike, creating strategic dilemmas in the war on terrorism.

Adopting a comparative approach, the book studies questions like: What is the harm (or benefit) to the state once the torture becomes known? What are the political and strategic ramifications? Does torture help win wars? Can the use of torture bring about any lasting or beneficial reforms? These are daring questions seldom pondered. In asking them, this book will help to foster a discussion that is long overdue.

The author concludes that ex-authoritarian regimes like Argentina’s junta and France’s colony in Algeria have reduced torture more than democracies. These authoritarian regimes collapsed, and new democratic regimes ultimately discredited their predecessors’ torture. Despite many zigzags in amnesty, Argentina was more scandalized by torture of its citizens and improved more than France because the latter’s subsequent, Fifth Republic regime was more similar to the Fourth, protecting many torturers with a permanent amnesty.

Continuous democracies like the United States and Israel have only reduced their worst torture, while “torture lite” continues without accountability. The same elected officials and security agency personnel and prerogatives have largely remained without any legal discipline for their past, secret, criminal practices. The United States and Israel continue to innovate, hide, and resume torture with discretion because the various new, legislative, judicial, and executive checks and balances amount to wishful legal statements. Democracies need permanent accountability mechanisms to assure that security services abolish torture in practice. Otherwise, torture will continue to generate more terrorists without generating information that is consistently reliable.

Henry F. Carey is associate professor of political science, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, where he specializes in international criminal justice. He is author of Privatizing the Democratic Peace: Policy Dilemmas of NGO Peacebuilding; editor of Human Rights, Civil Society and European Institutions: Thematic Debates and Supranational Challenges of the European Union and Council of Europe: Case Studies; and coeditor of Trials and Tribulations: International Criminal Tribunals and the Development of International Criminal Law and International Criminal Justice: A Moot Court Approach.
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.
Accept All Cookies | Decline.