Triple threat of writing Mark Danner will examine torture, human rights and the war on terror tonight as part of a free public lecture held in Campbell Hall at 8.
Danner is a longtime New Yorker staff writer, acclaimed author and journalism professor at UC Berkeley and Bard College. He has written books about the 2000 Presidential Election Florida vote recount, U.S. involvement in the Iraq War and the torture incident at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison. In his most recent book, Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror, Danner contends that the Abu Ghraib scandal was made worse because no action was taken to rectify the situation.
Danner said the public has the responsibility of holding elected officials accountable – scandals such as Abu Ghraib serve as reminders of this duty.
“[Abu Ghraib] is not about revelation or disclosure, but about the failure – once wrongdoing is disclosed – of politicians, officials, the press and ultimately, citizens to act,” he said.
Danner asserts that the current administration has used a loophole to engage in questionable methods of interrogation.
“The U.S. has committed not to torture by international treaty and by domestic law,” he said. “But the Bush administration lawyers reinterpreted the treaty, redefining what torture means.”
The Bush administration’s definition of torture, as written in a 2002 memorandum from the Office of Legal Counsel, includes a section saying that the pain inflicted must be “equivalent to the pain that would be associated with serious physical injury so severe that death, organ failure or permanent damage resulting in a loss of significant body function will likely result.”
According to Danner, the administration has defined torture to be an activity so brutal that it allows the authorization of such techniques as water boarding – which simulates drowning – sensory deprivation, stress positioning and other acts that average people would perceive as torture.
Danner’s lecture kicks off the Arts & Lectures Critical Issues in America Series “Torture and the Future.” Starting tonight and ending in May, humanities scholars from around the country will speak about the use of torture by the United States government.
Elisabeth Weber, chair of the Dept. of Germanic, Slavic and Semitic Studies, said American citizens should be aware of such activity.
“As citizens of the United States, we need to know what is being done in our name,” Weber, who is an organizer of the series, said. “Torture should never be acceptable.”
Danner said he believes college students should make their views known, most importantly by exercising their right to vote.
“The risk is that people become discouraged and then detached from these issues, and now is the worst time to let that happen,” Danner said. “It’s essential that Americans, especially young Americans, maintain a strong interest and involvement in politics and public life, however dispiriting the politics of the moment may seem.”