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Interrogation and Torture: Drawing Lessons from the Past

A gruesome episode of military interrogation and torture from ancient Persia will be the starting point for a discussion about interrogation and torture from ancient times to Iraq today when religion scholar Bruce Lincoln speaks at Northwestern University Wednesday, Feb. 28.

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February 26, 2007 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- A gruesome episode of military interrogation and torture from ancient Persia will be the starting point for a discussion about interrogation and torture from ancient times to Iraq today when religion scholar Bruce Lincoln speaks at Northwestern University Wednesday, Feb. 28.

Lincoln, the Caroline E. Haskell Professor of the History of Religions in the University of Chicago Divinity School, will speak at 4 p.m. in Room 217 of Fisk Hall, 1845 Sheridan Road on Northwestern's Evanston campus. His lecture - which will make use of photographs from the current war in Iraq -- is free and open to the public.

The episode from ancient Persia occurred when King Artaxerxes II publicly humiliated and tortured to death one of his own soldiers. Lincoln's lecture is titled “From Artaxerxes to Abu Ghraib: Interrogation and Torture, Ancient and Modern.” 

According to Lincoln, this ancient act of torture from a critical perspective may be understood as the actions of an unstable empire working to convince itself of its righteousness while blundering further into failure and corruption.

Once he has established this idea, Lincoln will illustrate his lecture with widely disseminated photographs from the early phases of the war in Iraq, including the notorious images from Abu Ghraib.

Lincoln is the author of “Holy Terrors: Thinking about Religion after September 11 and Theorizing Myth.” His talk is sponsored by Northwestern's history and religion departments. For information, call (847) 491-5488.