Wednesday, August 13

Twisted Empire Psychology: The APA's Torture War

But you and I, we've been through that
And this is not our fate.
So let us not talk falsely now,
The hour's getting late....

Outside in the cold distance

A wild cat did growl.
Two riders were approaching
And the wind began to howl

....All Along the Watch Tower.

--Lyrics by Bob Dylan (1968), performed live by The Jim Hendrix Experience (1970)

Recently, Stephen Soldz, Ph.D., a registered psychologist and director of Boston College's Center for Research, Evaluation and Program Development, updated in the blog news on the revolt percolating within the American Psychological Association since the the post-9/11 "war on terror."
The American Psychological Association has been racked with controversy over the role of psychologists in Bush regime detainee interrogations. Unlike other health professions, which have determined that participation in the interrogations is unethical, the APA leadership has defended psychologists’ involvement in interrogations at Guantanamo and the CIA "black sites." Psychologist opponents of the APA position have, for the first time in APA history, organized a referendum to change APA policy. They are asking the APA membership to reject psychologists’ participation when such sites are in violation of international law or the Constitution. The ballots are currently arriving in members mailboxes.

After reviewing the disturbing background of psychologists crucial role in U.S. torture and detainee abuse, the referendum’s crucial clause states:

Be it resolved that psychologists may not work in settings where persons are held outside of, or in isolation of, either International law (e.g., the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the US Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights.

Jean Maria Arrigo, the psychologist who served on the APA’s PENS [Psychological Ethics and National Security] task force in 2005 and exposed the PENS report as a rubber stamp for an already determined government policy [emphasis added], has succinctly explained the importance of a "Yes" vote on the referendum: (read more-->)
As individuals, the APA, collectively indifferent to social history and trends, could benefit therapeutically from services of an unbiased historian versed in more than its own white, elite "founding fathers."

In a 2002 book (Secrets of The Tomb: Skull and Bones, The Ivy League and The Hidden Paths of Power), Yale graduate Alexandra Robbins* suggests how it is possible for the APA, ostensibly an organization fostering emotional and psychological health in the vulnerable, can claim it furthers these humanitarian ideals through members' direct involvement in US-sponsored torture.

In addition to organizing two professional organizations--the American Historical and American Economic Associations--Robbins learned that Yalie "Skull and Bones members founded the... American Psychological Association."

To the historically literate, the secret of Yale "Bonesmen" and their dominance of --along with Harvard and Princeton grads--of US intelligence agencies, such as the Office of Strategic Services and Central Intelligence Agency, have been meticulously documented.

As a group "Bonesmen" are men (and, after 1996, women) from among the most privileged families who, on graduation, assume the most prominent position in U.S. corporations, investment houses and foreign policy.

Author Kevin Phillips, a former all-star senior strategist in President Nixon's White House, in his 2004 book American Dynasty (subtitled Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush) tried to alert voters to the Bush family's "deep spook legacy" before the presidential election. Generally, Phillips likened membership in Skull and Bones "to canonization... [in which the successful pledge] started life a leg up..."[p.26], assured "they could walk through the upper echelons of American life [p.27]".

Though Phillips sets the table, he stops short of asserting that Bonesmen bankers, businessmen and politicians collectively promulgated conditions leading to the First and Second World Wars (see chapter 6: Armaments and Men: The Bush Dynasty and the National Security State).

After finishing American Dynasty, readers have a much shorter intellectual jump in concluding that these elite spooks would have an easy time colluding against a historically naive group of psychologists and convincing them of the professional virtue in aiding and abetting torture.

Best wishes to those APA dissidents as they scramble to salvage a modicum of dignity as human beings, along with extracting their work from the grip of Ivy League spooks.


*In her 22 January 2004 Democracy Now! interview, Robbins informs listeners of the implications for national security in having two Yale Bonesmen--"Republican" George W. Bush and "Democrat" John Forbes Kerry--"competing" for the White House.

David McGowan's book Understanding the F-Word (pictured above) also allegedly addressed the APA sell-out to Ivy League spookdom, but I couldn't verify that was so. But see this 2000 piece of analysis by McCowan on media fascism to understand why Newsweek was prompted in 2004 to dub CNN's Fox-esque rightward drift to christen that news organization as the "Cowardly News Network."

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