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The Shadow of Torture: Debating US Transgressions in Military Interventions, 1899–2008


Katrin Dauenhauer

The photographs from Abu Ghraib triggered a debate on torture in the United States that has been led with a significant amount of visibility. What has been noticeably absent, however, is a thorough historical contextualization of US torture following September 11, 2001. The Shadow of Torture analyzes the debates on torture during the Vietnam War and the Philippine-American War and shows that the current controversy did not arise out of a political vacuum but reflects and draws upon pre-existing discursive contexts and practices.
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Chapter Two: “Curing” the Natives: Debating US Torture During the Philippine-American War, 1899–1902


← 34 | 35 → Chapter Two“Curing” the Natives: Debating US Torture During the Philippine-American War, 1899–1902

I was reluctant to believe, until recently, but that these things were sporadic, accidental, fortuitous, the manifestation of individual perversity and brutality: but as the facts have developed and the evidence has been disclosed step by step we have been forced to the inevitable conclusion that the general plan of campaign in the Philippine Islands was to become as drastic and severe as it could possibly be made. […] Mr. President, this torture to gain information has been widespread and is imputed to have been practiced for two years everywhere by every commander […].

- Senator Joseph Lafayette Rawlins (D-UT), 6 May 1902.30

In the early months of 1900—after the US had been engaged in fighting in the Philippines31 for almost a year—rumors began to circulate about atrocities committed by American soldiers in the archipelago. Two years earlier, the US had gone to war with Spain over Cuba,32 in the course of which it acquired the Philippines rather by coincidence and a stroke of luck than as a declared aim of the fighting. US forces won the battle against the Spanish flotilla in Manila Bay, allowing President McKinley to realize his imperial ambitions through the official purchase of the islands from Spain for some 20 million US dollars as established in the Treaty of Paris. Filipinos, however, who in their struggle for independence from Spanish colonial rule...

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