Thursday, April 30, 2015

Psychological Association Secretly Conspired With Bush Torture Regime

There has been ample evidence for years that the Bush administration sought the cover of health-care professionals to justify its use of Nazi-like torture techniques, but a new report that the American Psychological Association secretly collaborated with the administration still shocks.

Indeed, the report by a group of so-called dissident health-care professionals, as well as human rights activists, is sodden with unstated  comparisons -- analogies that call to mind the machinations of officials in the torture regime of Hitler's Third Reich to create a veneer of respectability for their vile deeds -- in documenting how the Bush administration, in response to shocking photos of the abuse of prisoners by American military personnel at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2004, sough to salvage a hitherto secret torture program initiated under the guise of fighting the so-called War on Terror.
This was done by arranging for the APA to secretly work -- or collaborate, a word with justifiably odious connotations -- with officials from the CIA, White House and the Department of Defense "to create an APA ethics policy on national security interrogations which comported with then-classified legal guidance authorizing the CIA torture program," the report states.
This secret deal in turn enabled the Justice Department to argue in secret legal opinions that the program -- since revealed to be ineffective, constitutionally dubious, in violation of the Geneva Conventions and deeply damaging to America's standing abroad -- was legal and did not constitute torture, since the interrogations were being monitored by health-care professionals to make sure they were safe.
A spokeswoman for the APA, the nation's largest professional organization for psychologists, denied that the group had coordinated its actions with the government, a not surprising response since the group's hierarchy -- if not necessarily its rank and file --has been in denial about its complicity for years.
There "has never been any coordination between APA and the Bush administration on how APA responded to the controversies about the role of psychologists in the interrogations program," Rhea Farberman said.
The report details how the Bush administration relied more heavily on psychologists than psychiatrists or other health-care professionals to monitor interrogations because the APA was supportive of the involvement of psychologists.
In early June 2004, the report said, a senior APA official issued an invitation to a carefully selected group of psychologists and behavioral scientists inside the government to a private meeting to discuss the Bush administration's public relations crisis and the role of psychologists in the torture program.  Following a meeting, the association issued guidelines that reaffirmed that it was acceptable for its members to be involved in the interrogation program.
That program, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee report released in December, included waterboarding, imprisoning detainees in small boxes, slapping and punching them, depriving them of sleep for as long as a week, and sometimes telling them that they would be killed, their children maimed and their mothers sexually assaulted.  Some detainees were subjected to medically unnecessary "rectal feeding" -- a technique that the C.I.A.'s chief of interrogations described as a way to exert "total control over the detainee."
The cynical involvement of the APA and its member psychologists in the program was a clear violation of the associations own ethical standards, and the APA report notes that APA psychologists may have gone so far as to help the government find more efficient ways to obtain information from detainees.
The APA report states that "the APA's complicity in the torture program, by allowing psychologists to calibrate and administer permitted harm, undermines the fundamental ethical standards of the profession.  If not carefully understood and rejected by the profession, this may portend a fundamental shift in the profession's relationship with the people it serves."
Other professional associations have spoken out against torture, including the American Medical Association.  Meanwhile, the CIA's own Office of Medical Services raised objections over the interrogation techniques, but those objections were covered up by the government.     
Why have I and everyone else who has closely followed the torture regime and its fallout correctly assumed that no one of consequence would be held accountable for this darkest of eras?   Will psychologists who aided and abetted torturers lose their licenses or otherwise be sanctioned?  No way.
Anyone who thought that Barack Obama, having said boo about torture while campaigning for president in 2008, would denounce it after taking office was engaging in fuzzy-wuzzy liberal thinking.  For one thing, the new president understood that denouncing, let alone going after Bush and his enablers for their crimes, would scuttle any chance he had of forging a bipartisan consensus for his ambitious first-term agenda.  But even this Obama supporter is deeply disappointed at how unwilling the president has been to lay bare the regime's excesses even if stopping short of even suggesting its architects should be prosecuted. 
America's moral standing in the world community was squandered during the Bush interregnum, while the CIA's gruesome tactics have provided a ready recruiting tool for terrorists and further exposed American soldiers, journalists and others to the enmity that our refusal to come to terms with these depravities will provoke.

Meanwhile, identifying the APA report's authors as "dissidents," as The New York Times and other outlets are doing, is a bitter reminder of how divided Americans remain -- and how conflicted the mainstream media has been -- over the Bush Torture Regime.  Does opposing torture make one a dissident?  Have we so little shame over this darkest era in our history?  What a sick commentary on the times in which we live.
* * * * *
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés and I discussed the issue of members of the "healing profession," as she calls it, collaborating in unethical and unlawful government conduct in 2008.  Dr. E is a psychoanalyst who has been in clinical practice for over 40 years and specializes in post-trauma recovery, often including veterans, as well as being a poet and bestselling author whose books have been published in 32 languages
A reprint of our dialogue is here.


Gregg Townsley said...

Much appreciated, Shaun. From the referenced interview, "In post trauma and critical incident after care, I’d verify after these many years, that we see people who, for example, have beaten or battered children while witnesses are present. But they deny that they ever touched the child in anger. No amount of badgering or threatening the person who attered a child will bring the truth forward."

And per your earlier Dobson post, of course there's been issues regarding Dobson's professional qualifications / licensing for years, not to negate his university appointment.

Anonymous said...

I believe the professional mantra is: " 'First, do no harm'.... er, ' illegal harm....,' er, ' illegal harm that it might be suggested we collaborated on....' Oh, the hell with it. Go ahead & HARM THE NASTY AND DESERVING BASTARDS!! Cage 'em, drown 'em, feed 'em to the dogs!"

And we might add, as Jackson Browne did:

"Doctor, my eyes have seen the years
And the slow parade of fears without crying
Now I want to understand

I have done all that I could
To see the evil and the good without hiding
You must help me if you can

Doctor, my eyes
Tell me what is wrong
Was I unwise to leave them open for so long?...."

archangel said...

When Shaun sent me the NYT link, what I read there and here and thank Shaun for both and being stalwart on this -- I cannot think of a word deep enough to describe this.

It's not just a failure to be human and humane; it appears to be bloodlust and the coveting of power to demean by unjustly asserting power over another's life, mind, body, soul and spirit, in ways that any and every just scripture forbids, let alone medical ethics, the ethics of any helping professional who claims to be a healer.

I find it the work of the Predator. It is not the work of the Helper nor the work of the Healer. The predatory is both lustful and sexual-- the rush in the paraphilias, including abject torturing of others to make them beg for mercy, to hear their screams or even imagine them . . . is arousal in ways that are seldom spoken about in polite society.

Sadistic murderers and maimers who are incarcerated will tell the story of the arousal a few demented persons feel when causing another person to fear for their lives and to be threatened with or assaulted by overwhelming pain to their bodies, minds, hearts, spirits and one's very soul.

I think too, one can see the quickness by many good souls to witness wrong, their/our striving to speak against those wrongs, and again, as we have seen in every war launched without the people's vote supporting claims at the top for such war, any egregious interloper, any evil unleashed on the vulnerable, that the very few at the top of the pile, whether that be the Vatican, The American Psychological Association, or any government . . . refuses to listen in order to continue to have its orgiastic involvements; its “highs” on destruction of “the other.”

I ask, why would not the massively mentally unstable, but functional, be drawn to power positions in psychological associations driven by powerlust, bloodlust and the pathological paraphilias, the same way persons who are pedophiles are drawn to the priesthood. That is where their engagements can take place and often, no where else where there are persons watching carefully from the top . . . watching for the predatory that is slight or beyond human cohesiveness toward decency.

Abject mental distortion often attempts to involve itself in its own brand of “religion,” pontificating with spew and spittle about how right they are, how their very "god" is behind their ideas of “truth, justice, and the ‘way.” Cheney and Rumm-dumb and others had their Mammon god, and literally empowered others, by proxy, to go do their torturing of others. It reminds me of the Cardinals of medieval times who would tour the dungeons in their robes and scepters to witness the screams and those dying from being beaten, burnt, bludgeoned -- by others. No, never those in the robes. Only their chosen ones who do their dirty work for them and with gusto. If one reads of the time of Torquemada, or of the Spanish prelates unleashing the Mexican Inquisition in the New World, or the logs of the slave traders; one sees what used to be human, devolved into Walking Filth -- as noted in many a scripture in Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Judaism and more -- filth of mind, of heart, of soul, of spirit, of body-- toward other human beings who cannot defend nor retaliate.

Again, the high many a hunter feels when tracking and killing an animal is understood as primal, and the animal is used as food to survive. But that similar kind of exuberance, feeling “so alive,” that kind of absolute body chemistry drug high is not supposed to be summoned to those lusting for it, by them harming human beings who are incarcerated, in chains, unable to move or flee. Not ever.