Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Soldz: "American and California Psychological Associations move to gut bill on interrogations"

The title really says it all. I've written about California State Senator Ridley-Thomas's attempt to pass a resolution in the California legislature threatening loss of licensure for psychologists involved Bush's torture-ridden national security interrogations. A hearing took place last Monday and the resolution was moved out of commmittee. Stephen Behnke was there to testify on behalf of both the American and California Psychological Associations. It seems on behalf of APA and CPA, he tried to slip a fast one on the committee, but was rebuffed. Here's a link to Stephen Soldz's story on the whole affair, a peek at the commentary:

In particular, by inserting three words [bolded below], the APA/CPA entirely change the meaning of the critical Resolved clause. Rather than follow the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association and state that involvement in interrogations is in conflict with the ethics of a health profession, they would turn this into another vacuous statement against torture, as if everyone, even those who order it, doesn’t claim to be against torture:

Resolved, That the Legislature hereby requests the United States Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency to remove all California-licensed health professionals, including, but not limited to, physicians and psychologists, from participating in any way in prisoner and detainee interrogations that involve torture, in view of their respective ethical obligations, the record of abusive interrogation practices, and the Legislature’s interest in protecting California health professionals from the risk of criminal liability; and be it further...

The APA-CPA revision would make this Resolution even weaker than APA resolutions, which condemn not only torture, but the similar but legally distinct “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Notice also that, in order to make this change palatable, they totally distort the fundamental guidelines of the World Medical Association, as you can see from the language they want remove, here indicated by strikeout:

WHEREAS, The World Medical Association (WMA) issued guidelines stating that physicians shall not use nor allow to be used their medical knowledge or skills, or health information specific to individuals, to facilitate or otherwise aid any interrogation, legal or illegal; and

WHEREAS, The guidelines issued by the WMA also state that physicians shall not participate in or facilitate torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading procedures of prisoners or detainees in any situations;

In the category of the humorous, if it wasn’t an indicator of how closely allied with the military the APA is, is that they remove the word “military” from a phrase pointing to the clear record that psychologists participated in abuse.

WHEREAS, Evidence in the public record indicates that certain military psychologists, working on behalf of the United States government, participated in the design and implementation of psychologically abusive interrogation methods used at Guantanamo Bay, in Iraq, and elsewhere....

If this attempt to gut this important legislative initiative is to be stopped, California psychologists, other health providers, and all citizens concerned about human rights will have to organize a massive lobbying campaign. Letters, phone calls, and personal meetings with State Senators and Assembly members are critical. Remember to be polite and to focus upon why this matters to the citizens and government of California. The legislature is not interested in internal conflicts within the health professions. Many are not concerned about foreign affairs. But they are very interested in kinds of activities the health providers licensed by the state are engaged in. Remember also that they may know little or nothing about these issues. Explain succinctly and to the point.

Let us not mistake the attitude of the APA/CPA as a fault of their leadership. The truth is that APA, at least, has over a period of four or five decades become intricately entwined in the workings of U.S. national security, and there's nothing this leadership is doing that is any worse than what came before them. A historical reckoning looms for APA, especially when it comes to the history of mainstream behavioral science and torture/mind control programs, going back to the early days of MKULTRA. Someday there will be a commission formed to tell the truth about what doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists have wrought, and how some of them were used, in the name of furthering a sinister agenda of total control by their federal masters. This immoral program was forged in the crucible of the Cold War, and has reappeared as part of the hubris and fury of Bush's deadly "war on terror." Hopefully, justice will someday be meted out by the powers that be, and young psychologists, and other medical practitioners and researchers will come to know their full history.

In the meantime, I hope my readers will take Dr. Soldz's suggestions seriously and lobby their legislators and pressure the press to report this story.


Anonymous said...

Laws and resolutions will not stop doctors from participating in torture. Laws have no meaning to the Unitary Executive who can break, bypass, or eliminate U.S. laws at will without notification to anyone. Torture will continue and even grow under a Democratic president. And psychologists will participate. After all, it's 'NATIONAL SECURITY'!!!

Valtin said...

I don't disagree with you. The point of supporting Ridley-Thomas's bill, from my point of view, is to educate the larger population, and to mobilize people politically against the Unitary Executive. Torture will not end until the reins of power are taken away from the brutes who use it to terrify their enemies and scare their own domestic population into dulled acquiescence.

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