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The Elephant at Gitmo

“Doctor, my eyes tell me what Is wrong . . .
Was I unwise to leave them open for so long?”

Jackson Browne, “Doctor My Eyes”

“I am proud to be a member of the American Psychological Association, proud for what APA has stood for in these troubling times, and deeply grateful to the Association for supporting me and my colleagues in our quest to ensure that all in our custody are treated with human decency and respect.”

Larry C. James
Colonel, United States Army
June 23, 2007

“Having custody and control over an individual is an awesome responsibility.”

Larry James
Colonel and Psychologist
June 23, 2007

“This is my second tour at Gitmo, Cuba. I was also the first psychologist at Abu Ghraib. I’m going to repeat what I said earlier. If we remove psychologists from these facilities, people are going to die. If we remove psychologists from these facilities, people are going to get hurt.”

Larry James
APA National Convention
August 15, 2007

Sounds good Colonel James. Great sound bytes. Good enough to convince thousands of psychologists that you’re the real thing, as American as Stealth bombers and pre-emptive war. Who would possibly think that psychologists in the military would engage in torture after listening to you? Good enough that you became the poster child for the American Psychological Association as they pulled out all stops in their attempts to defeat those few psychologists opposed to torture, inhuman conditions and the disappearance of habeas corpus. They brought you all the way from Guantanamo for their song and dance show. Not even most psychologists, those who are supposed to understand human behavior, saw through your charade, as you convinced them that their professional association really IS on the side of truth and goodness.

The APA used you to introduce a different resolution against torture for the second year in a row, in an attempt to deflect the dissenters and detractors. APA’s use of resolutions as a means to stop torture have proven to be simply a sleight of hand to appease the multitudes and the media, but actually signifies nothing.

Perhaps you’ll repeat history, Colonel James. In 2006, Surgeon General Kevin Kiley was used by APA leaders to offer the 2006 “Resolution on Torture.” Remember him? He lost his job a few months after presenting THAT resolution, another military officer who was willing to overlook the inhumane treatment of people that were considered to have no value.

But you blew it this week, Colonel. One might say you fell out of role, and the truth became evident. Though you are in charge of the team of psychologists that assists interrogators at Guantanamo, when the Associated Press reported last week on the just-revealed Camp 7 at Guantanamo where detainees from CIA secret detention facilities are kept, including the detainees who HAVE been water-boarded, including Abu Zubaydah who endured water-boarding with two psychologists present, you stated you just don’t want to know about it.

“I learned a long, long time ago, if I’m going to be successful in the intel community, I’m meticulously — in a very, very dedicated way — going to stay in my lane,” he said. “So if I don’t have a specific need to know about something, I don’t want to know about it. I don’t ask about it.”

You, the military psychologist, who spoke so piously of how much you cared to protect detainees at Gitmo, who so scrupulously defended your character as patriotically humane – didn’t you just sell out the fate of those detainees for the advancement of your career?

You commanded the Guantanamo Behavioral Science Consultation Teams from January 2003 to mid-May 2003, during a time when the International Committee of the Red Cross stated that the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo amounted to torture.

Under your command and supervision, psychologists from the military’s Survival, Evasion Resistance, and Escape (SERE) program were instructed to apply their expertise in abusive interrogation techniques to the interrogations of detainees in Guantanamo, according to a report from the Office of the Inspector General.

According to the Standard Operating Procedure manual at the time that you were the Chief Psychologist at Guantanamo, all incoming detainees were to be held in isolation for the first 30 days “to enhance and exploit the disorientation and disorganization felt by a newly arrived detainee in the interrogation process” and were not entitled to the protections afforded by the Geneva Conventions.

So while you and the American Psychological Association continue to assert that military psychologists are necessary at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram and other detention sites – to build rapport, to “protect” the detainees, to stop other military personnel from harming and killing the detainees – you’re telling reporters that the secret to your success is to look the other way. What else could it mean when you say, “if I’m going to be successful in the intel community . . . I’m meticulously . . . going to stay in my lane . . . I don’t want to know?”

The fact is, for you and our professional organization, it’s all about keeping your job. You toe the military line for your paycheck. And the APA toes the military line to curry the favor of the Department of Defense and the current administration for contracts. All the rest is window dressing, such as the APA’s gratuitous letter to Attorney General Mukasey this week. The letter is a lobbyist’s masterpiece, suggesting that waterboarding is legal torture in one paragraph and then asking the AG to please hurry up and render a legal ruling in the next.

But as you seem not to be motivated by considerations of ethics, Colonel James, perhaps the potential for life in prison might have more impact. At the Nuremberg Trials, it was held that merely following orders will not absolve you from criminal liability. In that rare moment of truthiness, you told us that your guilty knowledge may pose inconveniences for you: “[I]f I don’t have a specific need to know about something, I don’t want to know about it. I don’t ask about it.”

Before denouncing the above, take time to visit this article.

Dr. TRUDY BOND has been a licensed psychologist for 27 years. She can be reached at ar_mordilo@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

 

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