The American Psychological Association, the world's largest professional organization of psychologists, is poised to issue a formal condemnation of a raft of notorious interrogation tactics employed by U.S. authorities against detainees during the so-called war on terror, from simulated drowning to sensory deprivation. The move is expected during the APA's annual convention in San Francisco this weekend.
The APA's anti-torture resolution follows a string of revelations in recent months of the key role played by psychologists in the development of brutal interrogation regimes for the CIA and the military. And it comes just weeks after news that the White House may be calling on psychologists once again: On July 20, President Bush signed an executive order restarting a coercive CIA interrogation program at the agency's "black sites." Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell has indicated that psychological techniques will be part of the revamped program, but that the interrogations would be subject to careful medical oversight. That oversight is likely to be performed by psychologists.
It IS about time the APA condemned torture participation... but shouldn't they have done that back when the American Medical Association did? The reputation of the APA has suffered greatly.
But does any of this really matter? Will the condemnation and ban of the torture tactics employed by Psychologists make a difference? Absolutely not. Even if the APA knew which psychologists were participating with the CIA and friends and they kicked them out, it wouldn't make one bit of a difference. If someone is willing to participate in torture they are not likely to be concerned with what some professional organization believes anyway. I'm think that they can't even take away your right to practice psychology (can a clinician please let us know?).
But wait... it's even worse. The APA hasn't even proposed a full ban on psychologists participating in torture:
Psychologists interviewed by Salon noted a series of potential loopholes embedded in the resolution condemning CIA tactics. A simple example is the ban on isolation and sleep deprivation, favorite tactics of the CIA. But the resolution from Brehm and the APA leadership only forbids the methods when "used in a manner that adversely affects an individual's physical or mental health." There will be efforts in San Francisco to plug those loopholes, and to force a vote on a moratorium.
A number of psychologists, including Neil Altman, have proposed a ban on all participation in torture but it is extremely unlikely the APA will even allow a vote on the issue.
That leadership is seen by some psychologists as too chummy with government interests and with the military in particular. Backers of the moratorium are set to meet with APA leadership before next weekend just to negotiate for the opportunity to bring their resolution up for a vote before the council.
One other last thought... Do you think the CIA gives a shit what the APA says or does?
Yeah, I doubt it either.
I want to say to APA that you cannot eat your cake and have it.
Scienceblogs.com says and I agree in toto:
"It IS about time the APA condemned torture participation... but shouldn't they have done that back when the American Medical Association did? The reputation of the APA has suffered greatly."
But the resolution from Brehm and the APA leadership only forbids the methods when "used in a manner that adversely affects an individual's physical or mental health."
So they can use torture that makes you healthier ... like forcing them to eat health food, or brisk walks in the fresh air, that style of thing?
Any "professional" participating in this should be censured and have their license lifted.
I wonder what their opinion of the war was at the beginning. Because ultimately, torture is a crucial part of counterinsurgency warfare. There is a real lack of people clear-headed (or honest) enough to accept this.
I suppose if the APA was against the war before it started, and then held out on the torture issue--if this was the case, I would call them on it now. But if they didn't say anything about the war, if they implicitly agreed with it, then it is sort of silly to start chiming in now: any criticisms that only arise this late in the game are simply tactical, and not moral, considerations. And again: CI warfare = torture.
If you were silent about the war, then go in for the torture!
In any case, I'd rather be water-boarded then have my family carpet-bombed or get strafed by an A-10. All things considered (in war), it ain't that bad.
"I wonder what their opinion of the war was at the beginning. Because ultimately, torture is a crucial part of counterinsurgency warfare. There is a real lack of people clear-headed (or honest) enough to accept this."
Yeah, 'cos everyone can see how those torture states like Iran, Syria, North Korea et al are thriving, whereas Norway, Sweden, Canada etc. are hellholes, trying to beat back insurgencies from every side.
Metro: if you'd care to present an argument I'd be happy to discuss this topic with you.
Here's some intro pointers for you:
I was discussing torture in war, not domestic policy
I was not discussing the role of torture in socioeconomic or political development
I did not state that torture will lead to less insurgency over time, on a long-term, societal scale: merely that, in the midst of a CI conflict, it will help advance one's side
I'm sorry for misunderstanding your comment, Brad. Let's revisit:
Places known to practice torture during wartime include Nazi Germany, Japan and Viet Nam. All known for torturing people, including particularly resistance forces, all not regarded as big winners, generally. Who else ... Saddam Hussein?
If "torture advances one's side" then surely US forces should be winning in Iraq?
You can't separate the embrace of torture from a nation's socio-economic and political development. America's president has sold her birthright--including a bill of rights that included freedom from torture--for his personal vendetta. The effects are profound.
Consider the case we have here: That you, an otherwise-reasonable person, it seems likely, are here arguing in favour of policies that land the US squarely alongside Pol Pot, Hitler, and the like. And yet you truly seem to feel it's effective.
I'd argue that a torture victim will tell the man with the gonad electrocution kit anything he wants to hear, whether it's truth or fairy dust. There are people with field interrogation experience all over the place saying that a policy of torture doesn't do anything to advance one's side.
What wars have been precented by information wrested from the mouth of a terrorist along with his teeth? How many GI lives have been saved by waterboarding someone? I say none.
But we don't know ... and why not? Because the people who commit torture are so ashamed at what they do that they can't even admit to what they've accomplished. Governments that torture always do it in the dark. Yet if their work is so effectively saving lives, surely they should take the credit?
Did Khalid Sheik Mohammed actually kill Daniel Pearl? No-one will ever know for sure. Because he'd have confessed to the assasination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand if he'd been asked to.
Torture demeans not only its victims, but its perpetrators. Even if it were as much as ten percent effective, the price is too high for a free and just nation. The APA's declaration, flawed and weak as it is, is at least an attempt at recognizing that.
Ah, sorry, forgot the link
Worse, you'll have the other side effects of torture. It "endangers our soldiers on the battlefield by encouraging reciprocity." It does "damage to our country's image" and undermines our credibility in Iraq. That, in the long run, outweighs any theoretical benefit. Herrington's confidential Pentagon report, which he won't discuss but which was leaked to The Post a month ago, goes farther. In that document, he warned that members of an elite military and CIA task force were abusing detainees in Iraq, that their activities could be "making gratuitous enemies" and that prisoner abuse "is counterproductive to the Coalition's efforts to win the cooperation of the Iraqi citizenry." Far from rescuing Americans, in other words, the use of "special methods" might help explain why the war is going so badly.