From ‘American Torture’ to ‘Erasing Iraq’


I’d like to devote my 750 words this week to shamelessly promoting two books by a former colleague and good friend, Michael Otterman. They are “American Torture” (Melbourne University Publishing, 2007) and “Erasing Iraq: The Human Cost of Carnage,” to be published in 2010.

First, a word or five on Michael. Midway through his undergraduate work at Boston University, where he studied journalism, Michael came to me looking for an internship. It must have been 2000, if I recall correctly. Michael was quiet, with an unassuming manner. I liked that quality in him. He reminded me of me. He was also clearly intelligent, sensitive and hardworking. As is the case with many Herald interns, he and I kept in touch while he was in college.

In the fall of 2003, shortly after he finished at B.U., Michael, who grew up in Merrick, needed a reporting job while waiting to ship off to the University of Sydney in Australia. I needed a reporter. It was a perfect match.

Michael, reporter Hector Flores and I were soon hit with a national scandal to report on: the hazing and sexual torture of three Mepham High School freshmen football players by three of their older teammates at a camp in Pennsylvania.

Michael, Hector and I dived into the story and became fast friends along the way. We spent a year reporting on the case. Our coverage garnered national and state honors. I knew at the time that Michael was destined for great things. He has never let me down.
In Australia, while earning a master’s degree in peace studies, Michael wrote his thesis on the history of torture by the CIA and other American intelligence agencies. His professors liked it so much that soon it became a book, “American Torture,” and Michael was off on a worldwide tour to promote his 214-page text, sponsored, in part, by Amnesty International. The BBC interviewed him, and the four-minute session can be found on YouTube. I feel a little like a proud father every time I watch the interview. I know Michael’s own father, Bernard, a Holocaust survivor who witnessed mass murder at age 7, couldn’t have been prouder.

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