Mark Danner is a writer, journalist and professor
who has written for three decades on foreign affairs and
international conflict. He has covered Central America, Haiti, Balkans, Iraq and the greater Middle East, among many other stories, and has written extensively about the development of American foreign policy during the late Cold War and afterward, with a focus on human rights violations during that time. His books include Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War (2016), Torture and the Forever War (2014), Stripping Bare the Body: Politics Violence War (2009), The Secret Way to War: The Downing Street Memo and the Iraq War's Buried History (2006), Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror (2004), The Road to Illegitimacy: One Reporter's Travel's Through the 2000 Florida Vote Recount (2004) and The Massacre at El Mozote: A Parable of the Cold War (1994). Danner was a longtime staff writer for The New Yorker and is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books. Danner holds the Class of 1961 Distinguished Chair in Journalism and English at the University of California at Berkeley, and the James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College.
Mark David Danner was born at Utica, a small city in northern New York
State, on November 10, 1958, the son of Dr. Robert Danner, a dentist,
and Rosalyn Sitrin Danner, a high school Spanish teacher. Raised in
Utica and in the Adirondack mountains, Danner attended John F. Hughes
School and Utica Free Academy, where he served as co-editor of The
Corridors, which was named, his senior year, the best student newspaper
in New York State. He was graduated in June 1976.
Danner entered Harvard College in September 1976. After majoring,
successively, in philosophy, English literature and religion, he took his degree in Modern Literatures and Aesthetics, an interdisciplinary
honors concentration that combined comparative literature, philosophy
and art history. He found himself particularly marked by an individual
tutorial on the development of modern fiction with Frank Kermode, then
visiting Harvard as the Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry, by an intensive course on "Space, Time and Motion," developed by David Layzar, and by a class in international relations taught by Stanley Hoffmann and
Guido Goldman. After spending a year traveling in Europe, Danner was
graduated from Harvard College, magna cum laude, in June 1981.
In September 1981 Danner began work at the New York Review of Books as
an editorial assistant to editor Robert B. Silvers. In 1984 he became
senior editor at Harper's Magazine and, two years later, an editor at
The New York Times Magazine, where he specialized in foreign affairs
and politics and wrote pieces about the abolition of nuclear weapons and about the fall
of the Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti. Danner joined The New Yorker's
staff in April 1990, five months after the magazine published his
three-part series on Haiti, "A
Reporter At Large: Beyond the Mountains"
-- and a few days after the articles were granted the 1990 National
Magazine Award for Reporting.
At The New Yorker, Danner began contributing regular essays to
the "Comment" section of the magazine, notably on the Gulf War. On
December 6, 1993, for the second time in its history, The New Yorker devoted its entire issue to one article -- Danner's piece, "The Truth of El Mozote."
That article, an investigation into the notorious massacre in a remote
Salvadoran town, was granted an Overseas Press Club Award and a Latin
American Studies Association award. In April 1994, Vintage published
Danner's book, The Massacre at El Mozote: A Parable of the Cold War. The New York Times Book Review recognized The Massacre at El Mozote as one of its "Notable Books of the Year."
During the mid-1990's Danner began reporting on the wars in the Balkans, writing a series of eleven extended articles for The New York Review of Books, which began with Danner's cover piece, "The US and the Yugoslav Catastrophe" (New York Review, November 20, 1997) and concluded with " Kosovo: The Meaning of Victory," (New York Review,
July 15, 1999). The articles were recognized by the Overseas Press Club
as the "Best Reporting From Abroad of 1998." Danner also co-wrote and helped produce an hour-long television
documentary for ABC News's Peter Jennings Reporting series: "While
America Watched: The Bosnian Tragedy," which aired on March 30, 1994
(and was awarded an Emmy and a duPont Golden Baton). He later
co-wrote and helped produce a second documentary for the same series,
"House on Fire: America's Haitian Crisis," about the run-up to the
United States' occupation of Haiti, which aired on July 27, 1994.
Danner's writing has appeared in Aperture, Harper's Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, The Times Book Review, and on The Times Op-Ed page, among many other publications. His 16,000-word essay, "Marooned in the Cold War: America, the Alliance and the Quest for a Vanished World," which appeared in World Policy Journal (Fall 1997) provoked a prolonged exchange of letters and responses
from Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, Deputy Secretary
of State Strobe Talbott, Congressman Lee Hamilton, and Ambassador
George F. Kennan. Danner has appeared widely on television and radio
discussing international affairs, including on Charlie Rose, Bill Moyers, and The MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour on PBS, CNN's PrimeNews, Anderson Cooper's 360 on CNN, MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, ABC's World News Now and C-Span's Morning Show, among many other programs.
In 1998, Danner began teaching at the University of California at Berkeley as a visiting professor at the Graduate School of Journalism
and Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Human Rights. In 2000,
Danner was named Professor on the faculty of the Graduate School of
Journalism at Berkeley, and in 2011 he became Chancellor's Professor of Journalism and English. He currently spends half his year at Berkeley,
where he teaches courses on political violence, crisis management in
international affairs, writing about wars and politics and on literature and politics. In fall
2002, he became founding director of Berkeley's Goldman Forum on the
Press and Foreign Affairs, leading a series of debates and discussions
on foreign affairs, journalism and politics. In 2002, Danner was named
Henry R. Luce Professor of Human Rights and Journalism at Bard College in the Hudson Valley of New York State and in 2007 the James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and the Humanities. At Bard he teaches courses on literature, intellectual history, foreign affairs and politics.
Danner began writing about the war on terror soon after September 11,
2001 and later began speaking out extensively about the Iraq War,
notably in a series of debates
with Christopher Hitchens, Leon Wieseltier, Michael Ignatieff, David
Frum, William Kristol and others. He reported on Iraq for The New York Review of Books and wrote a series of essays for The Review
on the emerging torture scandal that began with the revelation of the Abu Ghraib photographs. In
October 2004, he collected these essays and gathered them, together
with a series of government documents and reports, into his book, Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror. Torture and Truth was awarded the 2004 Madeline Dane Ross Prize from the Overseas Press Club for best book on current affairs. In May 2005 Danner wrote an essay for The New York Review accompanying the first American publication of the so-called "Downing Street Memo," the leaked minutes of a July 2002 meeting of high-level British officials discussing the coming Iraq War. The essay provoked a number of responses and led to two subsequent essays, all of which were collected, along with relevant documents and a preface by New York Times columnist Frank Rich, 2006 in The Secret Way to War: the Downing Street Memo and the Iraq War's Buried History.
In March 2009, Danner published an essay in The New York Review, "US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites", which revealed the contents of a secret International Committee of the Red Cross report based on testimony from "high-value detainees" in the "War on Terror," who had been captured, held, and interrogated at secret US prisons, the so-called "black sites." Shortly thereafter, he published a second essay, "The Red Cross Report: What it Means" and released the full text of the Red Cross report on the The New York Review website. Weeks later, in a move senior Administration officials claimed was prompted by the disclosure of the Red Cross material, President Obama ordered released four Justice Department memos in which the Bush administration purported "to legalize torture."
In October 2009, Danner published Stripping Bare the Body: Politics Violence War,
a large book whose title was inspired by the observation of a former
Haitian president (overthrown in a military coup) that "political
violence strips bare the social body, the better to place the
stethoscope and track the life beneath the skin." The book contains
political reporting on wars, revolutions and other forms of violence
from around the world, including the aborted election in Haiti, the
genocidal civil war in the Balkans, and the invasion, occupation and
counterinsurgency in Iraq, along with much writing about the war on
terror and the torture of detainees. Recently, Danner has covered American politics and the presidential election of Donald Trump.
Danner's work has been honored with
a National Magazine Award, three Overseas Press Awards, and
an Emmy. In June 1999, Danner was named a MacArthur Fellow. In 2006 he was awarded the Carey McWilliams Award from the American
Political Science Association to honor that year's "major journalistic
contribution to our understanding of politics." In 2008 he was named
the Marian and Andrew Heiskell Visiting Critic at the American Academy
in Rome, a post he took up again in 2010. Danner has had a longtime association with the Telluride Film Festival, where he introduces films and conducts interviews; in 2013, he became a resident curator at Telluride.
Danner speaks French and some Spanish. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the World Affairs Council of Northern California, the Pacific Council on International Policy, and the Century
Association, and is a fellow of the Institute of the Humanities at New York University. Danner divides his time between San
Francisco and New York.
-- October 2009