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Abstract

In his paper "The Logic and Language of Torture," Jonathan H. Marks explores the tragic temptation of torture in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks. Emotive responses to terrorism fueled by ticking bomb scenarios and other narrative constructs caused the U.S. to reconsider torture and the boundaries of permissible interrogation tactics in the aftermath of 9/11. While many in the media and the academy debated the necessity of "interrogational torture," the government decided that something more than moral reconstruction was required. For that reason, it embarked on a campaign of legal exceptionalism. While affirming its commitment to the torture ban, the administration engaged lawyers to define torture as narrowly as possible and to disapply prohibitions on cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. These measures led inevitably to the abuse of detainees (many of whom had no intelligence value whatsoever) and -- in some cases -- to their deaths. Recognizing the role that emotion and narrative constructs have played in both moral reconstruction and legal exceptionalism is vital if we are to avoid a repetition of these mistakes in the event of another attack.

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