Thursday, July 24, 2008

More to Chew On

Until I return from vacation break in a few days, here's a few important tidbits picked up from some of my favorite commentators.

There's an article up at Counterpunch, Torture and the Strategic Helplessness of the American Psychological Association, which critiques the non-response of the American Psychological Association to revelations over the past few years of psychologist participation in the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld torture program. Here's one part of the article, written by Stephen Soldz, Brad Olson, Steve Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, and Bryant Welch, all members of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology:
In May 2007, the Defense Department declassified the Office of Inspector General report, documenting the role of SERE psychologists in training military and CIA personnel in techniques of abuse that "violated the Geneva Conventions." The APA responded with silence. When we inquired about the APA’s reaction, we were told that the organization needed time to "carefully study" the report. It has been 14 months, and to date no APA leader has commented upon the Report.

The APA leadership has failed psychologists and failed the profession of psychology. It has also failed the country. When ethical guidance was required, the APA put its ethical authority in the hands of those involved in the questionable practices that needed investigation. When the evidence became overwhelming that psychologists helped design, implement, and standardize a U.S. torture regime, the APA remained silent. When it was reported that the use of psychological paradigms such as ‘learned helplessness’ have guided psychologists’ manipulation of detainee conditions, the APA continues to ignore or discount these reports. They instead assert that psychologists presence’ at CIA black sites and detention camps “assures safety.” When it became clear that the APA should offer a strong voice and a clear policy prohibiting psychologists’ participation in operations that systematically violate the Geneva conventions and international law, the APA leadership raised concern that a “restraint of trade” lawsuit might be brought against them. These arguments, of course, do not pass the red face test in any discerning forum of world opinion.

These are not our values. The APA leadership has shamed us and our profession with its strategic helplessness. It is time for the APA to clarify that psychologists may not ethically support in any way abusive or coercive interrogation tactics in any settings. It is also time to identify and hold publicly responsible the individual psychologists who have created the institution that the APA has now become. It is time to hold these psychologists accountable for developing the widespread and systematic moral failures in the organization’s current infrastructure. Indeed, if we do not do this, then we, too, are complicit with torture.
In reply to one of the authors of the piece, I wrote:
The question becomes how to hold the individuals involved accountable. We do not even know who all the individuals are.

We could start by asking as a matter of total transparency that all relevant documents held by APA or key members be released (that aren't classified anyway). Examples would be the text or outline of Dr. Seligman's address at SERE, or the agenda and attendee list and other relevant materials from the APA/CIA/RAND 2003 workshop referenced in the article (the one that looked at ways to break down individuals by sensory overload and/or drugs).
UK House of Commons Decries U.S. Lies

Glenn Greenwald has a piece, taking off from a report in the UK Guardian. The story arises from the release of the Human Rights Annual Report of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons. The report is apparently a withering criticism and condemnation of the Bush Administration and its complacent Pentagon toadies, who have ridden the pale horse of torture into a major historical quagmire (emphasis in original, probably added by Greenwald):
In a damning criticism of US integrity, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said ministers should no longer take at face value statements from senior politicians, including George Bush, that America does not resort to torture in the light of the CIA admitting it used "waterboarding". The interrogation technique was unreservedly condemned by Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who said it amounted to torture....

"The UK can no longer rely on US assurances that it does not use torture, and we recommend that the government does not rely on such assurances in the future," said the committee. "We also recommend that the government should immediately carry out an exhaustive analysis of current US interrogation techniques on the basis of such information as is publicly available or which can be supplied by the US."
They got away with major, massive war crimes in the prosecution of the Vietnam War, but this time I believe it's going to be different, and stories such as the one Greenwald reports coming out of Britain portend the first major war crimes trials of U.S. leaders in history.

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