Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Psychologist Statement to Yoo Protesters

John Yoo has returned to Boalt Law School, UC Berkeley, where he is a tenured professor, and was met by protesters calling for his dismissal. They also demanded he be disbarred and prosecuted. Ultimately, campus cops arrested four of the protesters, who were later released. The protest was organized by Code Pink and World Can't Wait.

Yoo infamously is one the primary authors of a series of memos put out by the Office of Legal Counsel during the Bush administration that justified the use of torture. I suppose that in his civil law class at Boalt, students won't be subjected to Yoo legal opinions such as the President's right to order the torture of a child, even unto crushing its testicles.

Psychologist and anti-activist Ruth Fallenbaum sent the following statement which was read at the 17 August demonstration:
Psychologists for an Ethical APA, which I represent, feel a special bond with you here who are enraged by the knowledge that John Yoo is still employed by the University of California, Berkeley, to teach law to future attorneys. We share the sense that there is something particularly ugly about people taking the skills and expertise of their profession and contorting them in such a way as to hurt people as well as to violate the core values of their respective professions. American psychologists have their own John Yoos, and what’s worse is that our professional association, the American Psychological Association, has quietly but firmly protected and encouraged them since the onset of the so-called war on terror.

If you are interested in the story of psychologists’ complicity in programs of torture at Guantanamo and elsewhere, I encourage you to go to our website at www.ethicalapa.com for links to articles etc. But the quick version is that psychologists have been at the center of designing methods of psychological torture that probably remain in use as we speak – sleep deprivation, humiliation, etc. Their presence at detention settings like Guantanamo has been used to suggest that the presence of mental health professionals at these settings proves that the treatment of the detainees is proper, yet the reports by detainees and their lawyers, as well as the incidence of suicide, clearly suggest the contrary. When knowledge of the presence of psychologists in these settings became known to the public 3-4 years ago, some psychologists began to challenge APA to do something, to speak out, to discipline participating psychologists and tell them that participating in programs where torture is taking place is unethical. To our dismay, APA took the opposite stance, asserting that psychologists belonged at Guantanamo and were aiding the fight against terrorism. Furthermore, we discovered, in 2002, APA’s ethics committee changed the ethics code to allow psychologists, when confronted with a conflict between their ethics and orders from a legal authority, to go ahead and follow the orders. I kid you not. The same defense used by Nazis and nullified during the Nuremberg trials was actually written into the APA ethics code.

A number of psychologists leaped into action, and we have been busy ever since. A movement to withhold dues led to two years of rallies and leafleting at APA’s annual conventions, first in San Francisco, then in Boston. When names emerged of offending psychologists, individual members filed ethics complaints – all of which have languished in the bowels of APA. Last year we used a little-known and never before used provision in APA bylaws to initiate a referendum calling for the barring of all psychologists from working in settings that violate the Geneva Conventions unless they are working directly for the detainees or for human rights organizations. We managed to gather enough signatures to call the vote, and one year ago, a ballot went out to every one of APA’s approximately 90,000 members in which we were able to state our pro position and rebut APA’s con position. By mid September the vote was final, and we had won. The ban on psychologists working at Guantanamo and any site where people are detained outside of or in violation of Geneva was now official APA policy. Nice, but in the intervening year very little has actually happened. True, letters were sent from APA’s presidents, first to Bush and his administration, then to Obama and his crew, informing them of the new policy. But the many further steps needed to make it actually happen have not been taken. Within APA, bureaucratic and procedural stalling has been the order of the day.

We are trying to deal with that reality, protesting to this person, lobbying that one, attacking the Nuremberg section of the ethics code and trying to get that changed, pushing to get information of the new policy distributed to the folks who need the information. And so on.

Back to John Yoo and to U.C. Berkeley. Our experience should not be lost on American attorneys. It is particularly important that Yoo’s fellow attorneys – whether colleagues in teaching, the Bar Association, and or students of law – make their anger known. His actions are a stain on your profession, and you will feel a lot better about your own work if you take action to discipline him and his fellow abusers.

And finally, as a member of the UC Berkeley class of ’71, I will certainly not give a dime to my alma mater until the university takes responsibility for providing a safe haven for John Yoo and conducts a thorough and immediate investigation of his actions as grounds for dismissal.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Children, US children, have been tortured in the name of a Cold War that may have had no validity. Our own children have been bought and tortured to create dissociative states which were USED by these maniacs.

Dissociative states are the response of the human brain to torture - unspeakable acts against life - torture as taught to us by Project Paperclip.

Let's deal with it.


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