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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.

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.

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.

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