Sunday, July 27, 2008

Be careful what you ask for.

By Carol Gee

When using the internet to discover things about which you are curious, it is prudent to exercise caution. Curiosity seekers can be easily offended, appalled or disgusted by what they see. Personally, I have no "peeping Tom" tendencies, so I have a strong antipornography filter installed on my computer. That is not what this post is about. I write today about something equally shameful -- the Bush administration's practice of torture as aided and abetted by the A.P.A.

First a little background. A curiosity about the PTSD thread at FORUM: Lucidity started my thought, "Should I start another thread at the FORUM?" My idea began as I started to think about how ashamed I am as a mental health professional, of psychologists' collaboration in the U.S. government's torture program. So I did a simple little Google search on "psychologist Guantanamo torture," producing about 39,500 entries. Yikes! But I plunged into reading the citations anyway. After all, I had asked for it.
I turned up a slew of stuff I would have just as soon not learned. What I discovered during this little web surfing episode has given me "the shivers." Here are a few of the most interesting nuggets I found about what others are doing to fight back against this very unfortunate turn in American policy.

  • "Torture After Dark" (7/22/08) at Counter Punch by Soldz*, Olson, Reisner, Aarigo and Welch. It begins:

    Torture and the Strategic Helplessness of the American Psychological Association --

    Jane Mayer's new book, The Dark Side, has refocused attention on psychologists’ participation in Bush administration torture and detainee abuse. In one chapter Mayer provides previously undisclosed details about psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen’s role in the CIA's brutal, “enhanced interrogation” techniques. . .

    What we do now know, from a report issued by the Defense Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and from documents released during recent hearings by the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), is that [these] SERE techniques, designed to ameliorate the effects of torture, were "reverse engineered," transformed from ensuring the safety of our own soldiers, to orchestrating the abuse of detainees in Guantánamo, Afghanistan and Iraq.

  • "Guantánamo: Torture victim Binyam Mohamed sues British government for evidence" (5/10/08) at American Torture (Australian website) by Andy Worthington. To quote:

    On Tuesday, Binyam Mohamed, a 29-year old British resident in Guantánamo, sued the British government for refusing to produce evidence which, his lawyers contend, would demonstrate that he was tortured for 27 months by or on behalf of US forces in Morocco and Afghanistan, that any “evidence” against him was only obtained through torture, and that the British government and intelligence services knew about his torture and provided personal information about him -- unrelated to terrorism -- that was used by the Americans’ proxy torturers in Morocco. . .

    A refugee from Ethiopia, who arrived in the UK in 1994 and was later granted indefinite leave to remain, Binyam Mohamed was working as a cleaner in an Islamic Centre in west London in 2001, and attempting to recover from a drug problem, when he decided to travel to Afghanistan to see what the Taliban regime was like, and, he hoped, to steer clear of drugs because of the Taliban’s reputation as fierce opponents of drug use. . .

    Although he later reported to his lawyer -- Clive Stafford Smith of the legal action charity Reprieve, which represents 35 prisoners in Guantánamo -- that the British checked out his story, and confirmed that he was a “nobody,” the Americans were not convinced, and decided to send him to Morocco, where he could be interrogated by professional torturers who were not bothered about international treaties preventing the use of torture, and who were equally unconcerned about whether evidence of their activities would ever surface.

  • From Antifascist Calling (5/3/08): "Documents Confirm Psychologists Collaborated With "War On Terror" Torture Program. This blogger's intro reads, "Exploring the shadowlands of the corporate police state." To quote from the post:

    Newly declassified documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) from the Department of Defense (DoD) expose the role played by psychologists in the illegal interrogation of prisoners at CIA and Pentagon detention facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. . .

    But as we now know, under the torture regime given legal sanction by the Bush administration, as ABC News reported in April, medicalized torture by military psychologists operating in U.S. dungeons was both a ubiquitous and banal aspect of the "war on terror."

This is not a new story. It has been around for years. The American Psychological Association members have been in turmoil about it for a long time. Many have left in disgust. But so far the association has failed on all counts to disavow its unhealthy collaboration with the U.S. military and the Bush administration. In contrast, members of other "helping professions" have actively opposed torture to the point of getting arrested. I am proud to be a social worker, though I confess that the extent of my activism consists of mere writing. Therefore I am much more proud of a retired 69 year-old social worker, Sherrill Hogen, who was among 34 activists arrested on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. Right Web has the story (6/3/08), from which I quote the opening:

“My name is Ahmed Mohammed,” she told police after her arrest outside the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington in January. Last Thursday, in a courtroom in Washington, DC, she has—at her own insistence—been charged under that name, although her real one is Sherril Hogen.

"Torture is a product of a sick society, of leaders bloated with power and fear, and is the antithesis of human goodness, compassion and love,” Hogen told the DC Superior Court, “I don't think I have a choice about where to put my energies."

Hogen, a 69-year-old retired social worker, was arrested in front of the Supreme Court building while protesting against the indefinite detention of the alleged terror suspects at the U.S. military base in the Cuban territory of Guantanamo Bay. Like 34 other activists who took part in the protest on the doorstep of the Supreme Court building on January 11, Hogen is now facing trial on minor criminal charges ranging from "unlawful free speech" to disorderly conduct.

"We came to the Supreme Court building because it has jurisdiction over the [primary] issue about which we knew there were violations of justice," she said to the judge last Thursday. "[That is] the denial of habeas corpus to the prisoners held by the U.S. at Guantanamo."

Additional References:

  1. *Another article (6/24/08) by Stephen Solz at Counter Punch: "The Torture Trainers and the American Psychological Association"

  2. "Why Torture Made Me Leave the APA," by Jeffrey S. Kaye, PhD. at AlterNet (March 6, 2008)

  3. Psychologists for Social Responsibility -- "Statement from the End Torture Action Committee"

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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