We Know the Facts

Mark Danner, a longtime New Yorker staff writer and a contributor to the New York Review of Books (NYRB), has been documenting the plight of those caught up in war, and the lies told by those who wage war, for years. Commonweal readers may recognize his name from the reporting he did from Central America in the 1980s, especially his exposé of the murder of one thousand innocent peasants by American- trained members of the Salvadoran army (The Massacre at El Mozote). He has been similarly courageous in his reporting for the NYRB about the systematic torture of prisoners in Iraq and elsewhere by the U.S. armed forces (Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror). The June 23 issue of the NYRB features Danner’s commencement address to English Department students at the University of California at Berkeley, where he teaches. The speech is an eloquent, if disheartening, reminder of the fact that under the George W. Bush administration “our government decided to change this country from a nation that officially does not torture to one, officially, that does.”

Danner reminds us that, despite the administration’s denials, the fact that torture was condoned by officials at the highest levels of government is well documented in both official Army investigations and elsewhere. “The heart of the scandal, the wrongdoing, is right out in front of us. Virtually nothing of great importance remains to be...

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