APA Complicity in Abuse and Torture

A message from the Psychologists For Social Responsibility discussion group brings good news, and bad. A majority of the APA membership have made a significant step toward redeeming the organization, at least on the issue of participating in — and thus, tacitly condoning — inhumane treatment of detainees.

Many such organizations of legal and helping professionals — including the American Bar Association, the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association — wasted little time in condemning the Bush Regime’s unlawful and inhumane treatment of detainees, and in barring their membership from any participation in such abuses. The APA leadership, however, were apparently unwilling to give up what promised to be a highly lucrative association with entrenched political interests. Shocker.

But this week’s news brings some real hope for change. Stephen Soldz, APA activist and founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, has posted a press release on the Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice blog:

American Psychological Association Members Pass Historic Ban on Psychologist Participation in U.S. Detention Facilities

“Today, the membership of the American Psychological Association (APA) passed a referendum banning participation of APA member psychologists in U.S. detention facilities, such as Guantanamo or the CIA’s secret “black sites” operating outside of or in violation of international law or the Constitution…”

This is certainly an important victory in the fight to get the APA out of the ethically repugnant “national security” industries of abuse and torture. But the industry has its tentacles burrowed deep into the APA’s leadership and minions, so this struggle is far from over. As “Valtin” notes:

“In their press release, APA’s leadership, who had largely opposed the resolution, noted the results and then reminded everyone they would move forward on this member-initiated policy change with all deliberate slowness…

“The APA leadership should consider this: their membership has decisively voted to end the policy of bogus “concern” and implement a policy of withdrawal and prohibition. Not to act on such a clear statement by the membership — especially on a matter concerning basic human rights and the suffering of individuals — places the leadership in a moral and possibly legal morass from which the membership may yet choose to extract them, and sooner rather than later…

“Upon initial examination, it seems the APA is spinning the the referendum as somehow a logical extension of previous APA policy (when in fact it opposed it), while attempting to shelve the new policy as long as it can…

“As it is, their current position now gives APA and military/CIA lawyers another 11 months to try and figure out how to minimize or distort this new APA policy the best they can. APA members should not allow this to happen…

“It is now incumbent upon APA as an organization to implement the policy voted upon by a notable majority of their membership via free election. The APA must notify all relevant parties — the Pentagon, the President, the CIA — that it is now the position of the APA that psychologists not be utilized at settings where detainees are not allowed rights such as habeas corpus, and where abusive conditions of detention and coercive interrogation are well documented.

“More, the APA should communicate the new policy statement broadly to media, legislators and the public. This APA has previously promised to do. They must not be allowed to bury the will of the APA membership. Members who have been withholding their dues in protest of APA policy should wait to see if APA has any real intention of implementing this new policy.”

A long list of background links on the issue can be found here:
Psychologists and interrogations – Key articles

A wholesale changing-of-the-guard at the APA’s top levels is most certainly in order, and may yet happen. If so, the organization may well become significantly more amenable to actions against ongoing patterns of abuse and torture not connected with “national security,” such as the atrocities perpetrated by the Judge Rotenberg Center and its widespread ideological ilk.

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