Payback: The Case for Revenge by Thane Rosenbaum - review by Marcel Berlins

Marcel Berlins

Aye for an Eye for an Eye

Payback: The Case for Revenge

By

University of Chicago Press 314pp £18 order from our bookshop
 

President Bush, about to launch his country’s retaliation a few weeks after 9/11, was adamant that ‘ours is a nation that does not seek revenge, but we do seek justice’. Was that really true of the American people? Did they make that distinction? Of course not. They wanted to kill the bastards responsible for planning the massacre or in any way associated with it. They wanted revenge. If Bush had been honest, he would not have hidden behind the vague, multipurpose weasel word ‘justice’.

The glib ‘justice, not revenge’ mantra is not confined to leaders of nations. It has spread to the tragically bereaved and to victims of dreadful crimes. To ensure that their motives are seen to be of the highest ethical order, fathers of murdered daughters and women who have undergone vicious rape frequently feel the need to make it publicly clear that their main interest is in seeking good old justice and not nasty unacceptable revenge.

Revenge has become a dirty, politically incorrect emotion. Those who openly admit to a strong desire for it, let alone those who act on it, are treated

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