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December 26, 2005 | The Nation

In the Magazine

December 26, 2005

Cover: Cover by Steven Brower and Janna Brower after Ben Shahn, icons by Steven and Janna Brower

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2004

Lisa Hajjar examines how military lawyers and human
rights activists are joining forces to challenge the Administration's
policies, Tara McKelvey examines how the military investigates
itself and Stuart Klawans reviews The Chronicles of
Narnia, The Ice Harvest and Memoirs of a Geisha.

Letters

HEALTH CARE AT SPRING HILL

San Antonio, TX

MIRACLE ON 32ND STREET

Queens, NY

Editorials

The Democratic Leadership Council purports to speak for Democrats, yet
still employs former Christian Coalition official Marshall Wittmann to
parrot dishonest right-wing talking points about the war. Meanwhile,
Nancy Pelosi joins Representative Jack Murtha to demand withdrawal from
Iraq.

Labor issues involve not only economic rights, but also human rights,
in the US, but especially in nations around the world where the right
of free speech and assembly is not a given.

In a misguided GOP reform effort, Congress is ready to pass measures
that would militarize border controls, violate workers' rights and give
corporations a new bracero program. Immigrant rights groups,
unions, civil rights organizations and working families push for
something better.

No nation is immune from the insidious downward spiral signified by
torture. In this special issue, The Nation confronts the
sweeping moral seriousness what the torture conspiracy will do to
America and its democratic institutions. The facts are known: Now it's
time to hold the conspirators accountable.

Columns

TruthDig

The outsourcing of torture to other countries is a devilishly clever
legalistic fiction that allows the Bush Administration to
systematically violate basic human rights of terror suspects while
claiming it does not condone or practice torture.

Does it lessen the horror to admit that this is not the first time the
US government has used torture to wipe out political opponents? The
exclusion of the impact of the School of the Americas on war crimes in El
Salvador, Argentina and Panama from our current debate on torture is
evidence of our collective amnesia.

Bush brings a robust simplicity to the business of news
management: Where possible, buy journalists to turn out favorable
stories. And if you think you can get away with it, shoot them or blow
them up.

9/11 Commission calling, with questions on accountability. But from the
White House side of the line come on answers, only talking points.

Articles

The refusal of the California governor, who built his fame feeding adolescent fantasies of killing, to grant clemency to a former gang leader who tried to dissuade kids from violence only adds to the widening discomfort over the death penalty in America.

The lives and deaths of two prisoners intersected this week--Stanley
Tookie Williams and Richard Williams, flawed men whose political
perspectives and pursuit of personal redemption were inspired by
a radical social consciousness.

Advocates of Samuel A. Alito's nomination to the US Supreme Court
praise him for "judicial restraint" and "not legislating from the
bench." But the buzzwords conceal a political agenda that would scuttle
precedent, strike down hard-won legislation and render other laws
toothless.

The Vatican is about to close limbo, the theological netherworld where
unbaptized babies, prophets and philosophers were believed to reside in
lieu of heaven. This is causing a whole new set of problems.

Eugene McCarthy's political life was full of contradictions: A conventional
cold war liberal and fierce anti-Communist, in the Vietnam era, he was
transformed into the standard-bearer of the liberal antiwar movement, a
true hero.

The remaining members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams in Baghdad say their work will go on regardless of what happens to their four colleagues still held hostage. CPT workers were among the first to expose abuses at Abu Ghraib prison and continue to document the excesses of the US occupation.

Jonathan Kozol, honored with the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship, has spent his professional life actively listening to children and passionately advocating for the education they deserve.

Twenty-five members of the Catholic Worker movement are walking across Cuba to the US Naval prison at Guantánamo Bay in hopes of meeting with more than 500 detainees, the first time peace activists have brought their protests to the tropical gulag. If they are turned away, the pilgrims plan on conducting a vigil outside.

The Tipton Three embody a nightmare scenario of the "war on
terror": Young British men visiting Pakistan for a wedding wound up
accused of terrorism in Afghanistan, imprisoned and tortured at
Guantánamo Bay, then released with no charges. Now they're
telling their story in the docu-drama, The Road to Guantánamo.

The pursuit of truth in drama is elusive, but in life it is mandatory, wrote Harold Pinter, who died Wednesday at 78. When he won the 2005 Nobel Prize for literature, he condemned the United States for its actions in Iraq and and called on its citizens to reject the manipulation of political language.

As The Nation's editors have written in the href="http://www.thenation.com/doc/20051226/editors">lead editorial
of this special edition on torture, there is no longer any point in

The current debate in the United States over the use of torture in the
interrogation of terror suspects has prompted Patricia Isasa, a teenage
torture victim in Argentina's "dirty war," to speak out against the
School of the Americas, a longtime training ground for torture
techniques.

Human rights organizations have coordinated an investigation into torture and an extensive defense of detainees, organizing lawyers who represent clients from nonprofits to oil and gas companies. But the issue of torture needs to transcend the legal world.

By the time the first prisoners were taken in Iraq, a green light to
abuse had been issued in writing. Now torture is cloaked in a veil of
secrecy, with obscured statistics, dismissal of human rights reports
and outright denial. Torture has proved to be a window into the Bush
Administration's pursuit of the war on terror.

Pop culture does more than validate the claim that torture could help foil bombs seconds before detonation. In shows like 24, where scenes of sensory deprivation are mixed with family melodrama, torture is so routine that it seems one more plot device to create intimacy in characters. The reality is that torture isolates its victims from any sense of intimacy.

Defenders of torture dwell not only in the White House and Pentagon,
but in the halls of academia. When prominent law professors and
academics cite the fantastic "ticking-bomb theory," they not only
spread misinformation and foster a perpetual state of fear, but they
use their credentials to legitimize a culture of torture.

Military detainees have been subjected to starvation, sleep deprivation and now Metallica and Britney Spears. Blasted at high volume, torture music has become a weapon of war, used to destroy the minds of Muslim detainees. It's time for musicians to speak up.

The overlooked players in the torture scandal are the medical personnel
who supervise--and often participate in--acts of torture. Military
medical professionals have reportedly tailored torture sessions to the
personalities of detainees, at a time when their professional
conscience should have told them to take an ethical stand. Though
they're not the usual suspects, they should be investigated as
well.

Americans wondered how Army Specialist Charles Graner could torture
detainees in the gruesome Abu Ghraib scandal. In war, people do things
that would otherwise be unthinkable. But this former corrections
officer with a record of spousal abuse has always been at war.

"Do what has to be done" is the motto of the investigative arm of the
US military. But when the understaffed institution regularly loses
evidence and delays autopsies, it does too little. When it attempts to
protect evidence by detaining witnesses, it does too much. A look at
the inherently flawed investigations of detainees.

Despite what we know of history, it comes as a shock to discover that American leaders would open the way for torture of prisoners, that the President would fight legislation prohibiting inhumane treatment, and that Congress would barely react. A moment of historical reckoning has come: It is time to establish an independent commission with a special prosecutor and bring executors of abuse to justice.

Books & the Arts

Film

The Chronicles of Narnia is the perfect combination
of Christian allegory and The Lord of the Rings, a well-crafted
commodity and nothing more. The Ice Harvest, an anti-Christmas
film noir, has an unexpected depth of feeling. Memoirs of a
Geisha
is all prestige and promotions.

Book

Photographs are supposed to be unbiased recognitions of
reality, but they're really self-portraits of the photographer. The
Ongoing Movement
, a blend of biography and analysis, examines what
happens when photographers create deliberately untruthful pictures.

Book

Four editors of October magazine trace the history of
contemporary art. Though Art Since
1900
seeks to be comprehensive, its writers leave out entire movements and impose moralistic
judgments on the artists and art they profile.