Monday, September 3, 2007

APA Insider Reveals Corrupt Torture Resolution Process

Linda Woolf, Professor of Psychology and International Human Rights at Webster University, and a leader of APA's Peace Division, has gone public with a devastating review of the process that led to the deeply flawed "anti-torture" resolution of the American Psychological Association, passed during the APA convention last month.

Titled "A Sad Day for Psychologists, A Sadder Day for Human Rights" (and published at Counterpunch), Woolf's article is must reading for anyone interested in the politics behind the struggle against U.S. torture. Woolf was a co-drafter of the 2006 APA Resolution Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and involved for a time with those seeking modifications to the controversial 2007 Resolution.

Please go read the entire piece. But for those short on time, here's a few crucial selections from the essay (emphases in bold are mine). Note how APA used pressure to push through Pentagon-laced language and undo the work of anti-torture activists:

Col. Larry James, a psychologist at Guantanamo Bay speaking before the APA Council of Representatives, stated not once but twice, "If we remove psychologists from these facilities, people are going to die." This statement is frightening in its implication. It essentially argues that psychologists are the primary protectors of prisoners ?they stand between life and death, between these sites being defined as prison camps or even concentration camps as opposed to death camps. I find this chilling....

I also recognize that the United States interrogation and incarceration sites maintained as part of the "global war on terror" are uniformly condemned by a range of human rights NGOs, the International Red Cross, and the United Nations Human (UN) Rights Council (2006). In 2006, the United Nations Human Rights Council called for the immediate closure of the U.S. detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay and called for an immediate cessation of "all special interrogation techniques authorized by the Department of Defense" (p. 25). Yet, despite APA's status as a UN NGO, we, as an organization, have turned our back on the fundamental principles of human rights as outlined by numerous UN declarations, conventions, and related documents....

I withdrew my participation from the working group drafting the amendments to the Substitute Motion on Thursday of the Convention due to issues of conscience....

In the weeks prior to the Convention, the Board of Director's sent to Council a Substitute Motion ["substitute", that is, to an earlier motion that called for a full moratorium of psychologist participation at sites like Guantanamo] that represented, as written, a roll-back of some of the principles outlined in the 2006 Resolution. I do not think this was the intention of those drafting the Substitute Motion but rather the outcome of a hastily drafted document, ?a proposed alternate motion to a Moratorium Resolution already before Council. Many individuals responded to the Substitute Motion with statements of concern and suggestions for amendments. Moreover, individuals expressed the belief that for the Substitute Motion to genuinely be proffered as an alternative motion, these amendments needed to include a call for a limitation on psychologist involvement in interrogations.

Work on the amendments began online and then several constituencies came together for intensive meetings during the Convention to work further on the wording of the amendments to the Substitute Motion. Immediately, I became concerned regarding what I perceived to be a pattern of groupthink. There was intense pressure to reach agreement and come out of the meetings with a Resolution that could be taken to Council representing a unified or "collaborative" effort.... it quickly became clear that the goal of a unified draft seemed to take precedence over other concerns and the time crunch precluded extensive, careful consideration of wording, issues of international law, and broader human rights concerns. Moreover, it was clear that any statement involving limitations to psychologist involvement at Guantanamo Bay and similar detention sites for "enemy combatants" was being actively discouraged and marginalized. Indeed, the way in which the potential clause concerning limitations was presented to Council encouraged its marginalization and it was subsequently voted down after a short period of discussion. The time issues both during and prior to the Council meeting and the manner in which Substitute Motion was presented to Council facilitated maintenance of the status quo in relation to psychologist involvement in interrogations at sites such as Guantanamo Bay and the CIA sites.

I decided after my first two meetings with those working on the amendments to withdraw my participation. I began to perceive my participation as not "collaborative" in the sense of working together towards a positive goal but rather "collaboration" in the sense of unwitting assistance in destructive endeavors.

The entire essay is a heartfelt outpouring from an insider who got burned by the process of validating Bush's "war on terror" in U.S. institutions at home, institutions like the APA.

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