Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Coming To A Couch Near You

At least one of the "healing" professions is failing miserably in its mandate to "Do no harm." Psychologists have been assisting in the "coercive" techniques used by the CIA and the military in the interrogations of detainees, and at least one psychologist is sickened by it. Stephen Soldz showed his disgust in an opinion piece published this past weekend in the Boston Globe.

Psychologists have been identified as key figures in the design and conduct of abuses against detainees in US custody at Guantanamo Bay, the CIA's secret "black sites," and in Iraq and Afghanistan. Psychologists should not be taking part in such practices.

Yet a steady stream of revelations from government documents, journalistic reports, and congressional hearings has revealed that psychologists designed the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" techniques, which included locking prisoners in tiny cages in the fetal position, throwing them against the wall head first, prolonged nakedness, sexual humiliation, and waterboarding.

Jane Mayer, in her new book, "The Dark Side," reports that the central idea was the psychological concept of "learned helplessness." Individuals are denied all control over their world, lose their will, and become totally dependent upon their captors.
[Emphasis added]

Even to a layperson "learned helplessness" is clearly the antithesis of psychotherapy, a perversion of the very goal of psychological treatment. Yet American psychologists working with the military were refining the demonic techniques to break down the already powerless victims.

When those psychologists who were repulsed by these actions went to their national organization, the American Psychological Association, they learned a hard lesson: the military is very thorough.

When the leadership appointed a task force on the ethics of psychologist involvement in interrogations, the report was strangely unsigned, and the members' names were kept secret from APA members and the media. Finally, it was revealed that a majority of members were from the military-intelligence establishment, with four having served in chains of commands implicated in detainee abuses. Three of the four nonmilitary members have since denounced the task force process and two have called for the report to be rescinded.

The APA is soon to hold its annual meeting, and the "dissident" psychologists hope to unseat the current APA leadership in favor of those who want to wrest their organization and their profession from those who find "do no harm" a quaint, pre-9/11 ideal.

I certainly hope they succeed. Otherwise, a future generation may very well look back at this period in American history and see how an administration and its military succeeded in enslaving an entire citizenry through some very questionable techniques leading to mass "learned helplessness." It started with a lab at Guantanamo Bay.

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8 Comments:

Blogger Ruth said...

indeed, our comments are working, and welcome to all. And hi, Willendorf Venus, who I was saying Hi to when the hollowscum comments went kablooey.

4:54 AM  
Blogger cavjam said...

Psychologists are not M.D.s; I'm not so sure they take a Hippocratic oath. But, forget psychologists, human beings "should not be taking part in such practices."

I'm thinking of writing a play called "Waiting for Haloscan." The dialogue will be spelled; each scene opens with the stage crammed and each time a letter is spoken a character disappears. It may or may not open in a theatre near you.

5:26 AM  
Blogger Ruth said...

I'll get the popcorn.

5:27 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

That pretty well describes the American experience recently. Take off your shoes to board a plane. Pay whatever the pump says for gas. Watch the Congress send stern letters and judges rule on illegalities while the Administration uses "signing statements" or just ignores them. Stop for road checks and show your ID. Go to a foreign country and get stuck for years and years fighting a nebulous concept instead of armies. Die from food poisoning or lead paint or bad bridge maintenance. I'll stop 'cuz I'm depressing myself...

5:42 AM  
Blogger Ruth said...

As Avedon said yesterday, paraphrased, the right wing likes to think of it as lowering taxes and giving industry freedom to grow, but it's Murder when it kills people who are supposed to be paying taxes to get the protections a govt is there for.

5:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I am a psychologist who works with animals, and if I did to animals what these other psychologist do with humans, I would have my lab shut down and probably lose my job.

6:14 AM  
Blogger Ruth said...

True, liebniz, and it amazes me that our psychopath element insists that torture can protect us from 'bad men' - which only a portion at Gitmo are. Of course, trials would allow that fact to come out, so must be avoided.

6:18 AM  
Blogger Iwonder said...

How is our government not like the Nazi regime again? Gawd, we will pay for these things, I am so ashamed.

7:28 AM  

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