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The Politics of Prisoner Abuse
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Book description

When states are threatened by war and terrorism, can we really expect them to abide by human rights and humanitarian law? David P. Forsythe's bold analysis of US policies towards terror suspects after 9/11 addresses this issue directly. Covering moral, political, and legal aspects, he examines the abuse of enemy detainees at the hands of the United States. At the center of the debate is the Bush Administration, which Forsythe argues displayed disdain for international law, in contrast to the general public's support for humanitarian affairs. Forsythe explores the similarities and differences between Presidents Obama and Bush on the question of prisoner treatment in an age of terrorism and asks how the Administration should proceed. The book traces the Pentagon's and CIA's records in mistreating prisoners, providing an account which will be of interest to all those who value human rights and humanitarian law.


‘This important book details the massive abuse of human rights of US prisoners since 9/11. It is up to date as of July 2010, thus covering the problematic actions of the Obama Administration as well as that of George W. Bush. In a form accessible to scholars, students, and the general public, Dr Forsythe's careful research and analysis underscore how fragile human rights become when national security seems to be at stake.’

Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann - Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights, Wilfrid Laurier University

‘Forsythe's encyclopedic chronicle of America's descent to the dark side capably tackles the tough question: What are the wages of American exceptionalism?’

Gabor Rona - International Legal Director, Human Rights First, New York

‘This is a well-written, accessible and authoritative political history of the United States' misguided post-9/11 dalliance with the 'dark side', by resort to torturous interrogation techniques, 'extraordinary renditions', abductions, secret detention and administrative internment.’

Sir Nigel Rodley KBE - Chair, Human Rights Centre, University of Essex

'Prolific human rights author Forsythe … has produced a study of the post-9/11 dramatic turn in US policy away from recognized human rights standards regarding treatment of prisoners … Though the information in the book is widely available, Forsythe compiles a coherent and compelling narrative of the resulting policies. He does so while naming names of the officials pushing these policies and the legal maneuverings that led to Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and black sites. Addressing these serious violations carried out during the Bush administration remains a task the Obama administration has largely sidestepped. The appendixes include a summary of numerous official reports with web citations and selected excerpts of basic human rights treaties with commentary. Abundant footnotes provide additional context for future students and scholars of this dark period in US foreign policy … Highly recommended.'

N. N. Haanstad Source: Choice Reviews Online (

'The Politics of Prisoner Abuse is an extremely well-articulated narrative of the different aspects of the torture debate that will undoubtedly be of use to scholars and teachers of American politics, international relations, and the ethics of violence.'

Source: Perspectives on Politics

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