Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: September 2009

Preface

Summary

A famous quote attributed to F. M. Dostoevsky notes that “while nothing is easier than to denounce the evil-doer, nothing is more difficult than to understand him.” Terrorism and torture are twin evils that have dominated news headlines in the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. As the former ambassador from Pakistan to the United Nations, Ahmad Kamal, observed, the lines between good and evil become blurred when “terrorists” are often defined on the basis of their success or failure; those who succeed become heroes and even heads of state, whereas those who fail are labeled as terrorists (Kamal, 2002). Likewise, while torture is universally denounced by civilized nations as the dark side of evil, working on that “dark side” was considered “vital” by US Vice President Dick Cheney in responding to terrorist threat (Cheney, 2001). Understanding the architects of terror and torture goes beyond the simple differentiation of “you are either with us or against us” (Bush, 2001), and beyond vilification of those (e.g., multiple Grammy award winners The Dixie Chicks) who dare to cast a self-critical eye on the tensions between our own moral principles and amoral actions. Understanding the evil-doer is difficult, not the least because it also involves looking in the mirror and asking who one is, what one does, and how one is perceived by others. Terrorist acts and torture are not simply “evil”; they have knowable causes. This volume aims to illuminate the terrorism–torture link from multiple, interdisciplinary perspectives.