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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 Four: To Tell or Not to Tell: American Atrocities in Vietnam


← 110 | 111 → Chapter FourTo Tell or Not to Tell: American Atrocities in Vietnam

They didn’t want to know. And that made me realize that no matter how painful it was for me, I had to tell them. I mean, they had to know. The fact that they didn’t want to know, told me they had to know.

- The Winter Soldier Investigation 164.88

The Vietnam War is ubiquitous in American public discourse and maintains an ongoing relevance for both scholars and the general public. The toll on both the American and the Vietnamese side was extremely high, the conflict was “the longest war” in American history up to that point, and US defeat resulted in the so-called Vietnam Syndrome which continues to affect US foreign policy until this day. At first glance, the Vietnam War bears little similarity to the Philippine-American War regarding American efforts to come to terms with its consequences. An ongoing public interest in Vietnam stands in stark contrast to a policy of forgetting that we encountered in the previous chapter on the vestiges of the Philippine-American War. The media’s wide-ranging coverage of the declassification of the so-called Pentagon Papers89 in June 2011 is just one recent example of the sustained engagement with Vietnam. Referred to as “the worst kept secret in American history,” the declassification of the papers hardly yielded any new information on the war. Still, national and international media reported—quite extensively—on the disclosure of the papers....

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