America’s Identity Crisis Over Torture

Oct 23, 2018

In his new book, Fitzhugh Brundage explores the ways Americans have debated the use of torture.
Credit Flickr/Creative Commons

Liberal democracies like the United States agree that the use of torture is abborhent, distasteful and wrong. Our very identity rests on the understanding that we uphold human rights and do not engage in the cruel savagery of older or other governments. And yet the use of torture in this country, and the ways in which those in power have justified it, goes back as far as our founding. 

In his new book “Civilizing Torture: An American Tradition,” (Belknap Press/2018) University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill history professor Fitzhugh Brundage argues Americans allow or overlook practices otherwise deemed barbaric when our existence or security seems threatened. Host Frank Stasio talks with Brundage about his book and how Americans have justified the use of torture in the name of American institutions and democracy.