Mark Danner is Chancellor’s Professor of English and Journalism at the University of California at ­Berkeley and James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and the Humanities at Bard. His forthcoming book is Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War. His writing and other work can be found at markdanner.com.

The CIA: The Devastating Indictment

Former CIA acting general counsel John Rizzo, one of the main architects of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program from 2001 to 2009
Mark Danner has been writing in these pages about the use of torture by the US government since the first years after September 11, 2001. Following the release in December 2014 of the Senate’s report on the CIA torture program, Hugh Eakin spoke to Danner for the New York Review …

Our New Politics of Torture

Satellite imagery of

One of the main findings of the Senate investigation of the CIA’s torture program was not simply the abuse, or the law-breaking, or the moral reprehensibleness of it. It was that there was a fundamental corruption of governance, in which the CIA persistently lied, not only to Congress but to the executive branch to which it ostensibly reported.

How Robert Gates Got Away With It

As I had told President Bush and Condi Rice early in 2007, the challenge of the early twenty-first century is that crises don’t come and go—they all seem to come and stay. —Robert M. Gates Early 2007: American troops are pinned down in the fourth year of a losing …

Cheney: ‘The More Ruthless the Better’

If you want to be loved, you know, go be a movie star. —Dick Cheney, in The World According to Dick Cheney I came upon the half-destroyed truck atop a highway overpass outside Fallujah, the cab all shot to hell, the trailer bloodstained and askew, propped at a crazy …

He Remade Our World

Vice President Dick Cheney and Press Secretary Scott McClellan in the Oval Office, 
March 2006
Almost exactly a decade ago, Vice President Dick Cheney greeted President George W. Bush one morning in the Oval Office with the news that his administration was about to implode. Or not quite: Cheney let the president know that something was deeply wrong, though it would take Bush two more days of increasingly surprising revelations, and the near mass resignation of his senior Justice Department and law enforcement officials, to figure out exactly what it was.

In the Darkness of Dick Cheney

Dick Cheney with George W. Bush in the Oval Office, June 2007
No turning back would be a good slogan for Dick Cheney. His memoirs are remarkable—and he shares this with Rumsfeld—for an almost perfect lack of second-guessing, regret, or even the mildest reconsideration. Decisions are now as they were then. If the Mission Accomplished moment in 2003 seemed at the time to be the height of American power and authority, then so it will remain—unquestioned, unaltered, uninflected by subsequent public events that show it quite clearly to have been nothing of the kind. “If I had to do it over again,” says Cheney, “I’d do it in a minute.”

Rumsfeld: Why We Live in His Ruins

An Allied soldier and Iraqi looters, Basra, Iraq, April 7, 2003
He’s a mystery to me, and in many ways, he remains a mystery to me—except for the possibility that there might not be a mystery. —Errol Morris on Donald Rumsfeld1 On a lovely morning in May 2004, as occupied Iraq slipped deeper into a chaos of suicide bombings, improvised …

Donald Rumsfeld Revealed

Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in the Oval Office, 2003
In my confirmation hearing…the best question I was asked was: What do you worry about when you go to bed at night? And my answer was, in effect, intelligence. The danger that we can be surprised because of a failure of imagining what might happen in the world. —Donald Rumsfeld …

Rumsfeld’s War and Its Consequences Now

Ronald Reagan and Donald Rumsfeld, then his Middle East envoy, Washington, D.C., November 3, 1983
A bare two weeks after the attacks of September 11, at the end of a long and emotional day at the White House, a sixty-nine-year-old politician and businessman—a midwesterner, born of modest means but grown wealthy and prominent and powerful—returned to his enormous suite of offices on the seventh floor of the flood-lit and wounded Pentagon and, as was his habit, scrawled out a memorandum on his calendar:
Interesting day—
NSC mtg. with President—
As [it] ended he asked to see me alone…

Syria: Is There a Solution?

A Syrian rebel throwing a homemade bomb toward the Palace of Justice, which is controlled by forces loyal to President Assad, Aleppo, October 4, 2013
Some may disagree, but I believe that America is exceptional—in part because we have shown a willingness through the sacrifice of blood and treasure to stand up not only for our own narrow self-interests, but for the interests of all. —President Barack Obama, United Nations, September 24, 2013 A decade …

How, and What, Obama Won

It is a peculiarity of this election that the Republicans embraced up until and indeed after the moment of voting a conviction that the entire public information and polling apparatus of the country, with a few exceptions, was lying. “All of it, the reporters, the commentators, all the damn so-called ‘news’—and the polls, especially the polls, you can’t trust any of it,” a retired businessman told me in early October at a Romney rally in Port St. Lucie, Florida. “I mean, who the hell are they talking to? Not any of us, certainly.”

The Politics of Fear

Mitt Romney arriving to deliver his foreign policy address at Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, October 8, 2012
One might have thought a great democracy in choosing its leader could have found time at least to consider its ongoing and seemingly endless war: to debate, for example, whether drone strikes might be creating as many terrorists as they are killing; or to ask whether Americans truly believe that their president should have “the unreviewable power to kill anyone, anywhere, at any time” with no judicial oversight whatever; or even to inquire of their leaders, actual or prospective, how many thousands will need to be killed in this manner before the war on terror could finally be declared at an end—if in fact it ever can be.

After September 11: Our State of Exception

Vice President Dick Cheney cutting a cake, with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Undersecretary of the Army Les Brown, in honor of the Army’s 228th anniversary, Washington, D.C., June 13, 2003
Call it the state of exception: these years during which, in the name of security, some of our accustomed rights and freedoms are circumscribed or set aside, the years during which we live in a different time. This different time of ours has now extended ten years—the longest by far in American history—with little sense of an ending.

The Red Cross Torture Report: What It Means

President George W. Bush making a statement on the ‘War on Terror,’ accompanied by Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Washington, D.C., September 28, 2005
By all accounts, it is likely that the intelligence harvest that can be attributed directly to the “alternative set of procedures” is meager. But whatever information might have been gained, it must be assessed and then judged against the great costs, legal, moral, political, incurred in producing it. Torture’s harvest, whatever it may truly be, is very unlikely to have outweighed those costs.

US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites

President George W. Bush in the East Room of the White House, after delivering a speech on the ‘War on Terror,’ September 6, 2006. In the speech he said that ‘the United States does not torture’; in the same speech, he acknowledged the existence of secret CIA prisons and an ‘alternative set of procedures’ used to interrogate prisoners.
The secret system included prisons on military bases around the world, from Thailand and Afghanistan to Morocco, Poland, and Romania—”at various times,” reportedly, “sites in eight countries”—into which, at one time or another, more than one hundred prisoners…disappeared. The secret internment network of “black sites” had its own air force and its own distinctive “transfer procedures,” which were, according to the writers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report, “fairly standardised in most cases.”

Frozen Scandal

I thought, “My God, she’s not going to get away with this.” But you have got away with it…. —Gethsemane[^1] Scandal is our growth industry. Revelation of wrongdoing leads not to definitive investigation, punishment, and expiation but to more scandal. Permanent scandal. Frozen scandal. The weapons of mass destruction …

Obama & Sweet Potato Pie

You would think first of all of a village fair: the entire community of Germantown, Northwest Philly, taking itself up on the brightest of bright sunny fall days and moving en masse, clumps of people—groups of young men in the obligatory hoodies and low-riding jeans, moms pushing strollers, dads lugging …

‘The Moment Has Come to Get Rid of Saddam’

The only thing that worries me about you is your optimism. —Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar to President Bush, from the Crawford Transcript of February 22, 2003 Surely one of the agonizing attributes of our post–September 11 age is the unending need to reaffirm realities that have been …

Iraq: The War of the Imagination

Today, if we went into Iraq, like the president would like us to do, you know where you begin. You never know where you are going to end. —George F. Kennan,September 26, 2002[^1] I ask you, sir, what is the American army doing inside Iraq?… Saddam’s story has been …

What Are You Going to Do with That?

The following is based on the commencement address given to the graduating students of the Department of English of the University of California at Berkeley in the Hearst Greek Theatre, May 15, 2005. When I was invited to give this speech, I was asked for a title. I dillied and …

The Secret Way to War

It was October 16, 2002, and the United States Congress had just voted to authorize the President to go to war against Iraq. When George W. Bush came before members of his Cabinet and Congress gathered in the East Room of the White House and addressed the American people, he …

Iraq: The Real Election

“The essence of any insurgency, and its most decisive battle space, is the psychological. [It’s] armed theater: you have protagonists on the stage but they’re sending messages to wider audiences. Insurgency is about perceptions, beliefs, expectations, legitimacy, and will. Insurgency is not won by killing insurgents, not won by seizing …

How Bush Really Won

I have won what I call political capital and now I intend to spend it. —George W. Bush, November 3, 2004 Driving north from Tampa on Florida’s Route 75 on November 1, as the battle over who would hold political power in America was reaching a climax but the struggle …

The Election and America’s Future

For what has been called “the most consequential election in decades,” we have asked some of our contributors for their views.—The Editors   K. ANTHONY APPIAH Princeton, New Jersey If there’s one thing that supporters of the current administration insist upon, it’s that George W. Bush “is a …

Abu Ghraib: The Hidden Story

If the Hooded Man and the Leashed Man and the naked human pyramids and the rest shocked Americans because of their perverse undermining of the normal, they shocked Iraqis and other Arabs because the images seemed to confirm so vividly and precisely a reality that many had suspected and feared but had tried not to believe.