Torture, Shrinks and a Groundhog’s Day Moment


Did you hear about the torture
In the newspapers that you read?
Did you pretend it didn’t matter?
Did you blame a few bad men?
Did you think that your leaders
Wouldn’t just do it all again?

How far is it from here to Nuremberg?

–David Rovics

Dr. James Bray, current president of the American Psychological Association (yes, those guys again), recently responded to a group of psychologists with the admonition, “I have a request for each of you. As you know, our association has a long history of adamantly opposing torture and the abusive interrogation of detainees. I hope you will accurately reflect this in your communications.” (Sarcasm in italics added.)

If only . . . IF ONLY APA would abide by its own counsel. In his most recent press release, Dr. Bray asserted, “APA has declared that psychologists have an obligation to intervene to stop torture or abuse, and a further obligation to report any instance of torture or abuse.” Really Dr. Bray?? Then perhaps you could explain to us why, out of the many military psychologists that have been deployed to Guantanamo, we’ve only heard a brief complaint from psychologist Mike Gelles. APA has repeatedly used him as an example of psychologists “doing the right thing.” What about the many other psychologists at Guantanamo the last seven years . . . why haven’t we heard from them when detainees were brutalized outside of the interrogation room, with the military forcing their heads into toilets, breaking bones, gouging their eyes, squeezing their testicles, urinating on a prisoner’s head, banging their heads on concrete floors, hog-tying them, sometimes leaving prisoners tied in excruciating positions for hours on end, days and days and weeks and weeks in isolation or subject to sleep deprivation.

We know some of their names, these military psychologists at Guantanamo, but none of them have come forward to “intervene to stop the torture and abuse” that continues at Guantanamo, as Dr. Bray demands in his best, politically-correct, hollow announcement.

Dr. Bray continues: “Furthermore, APA stands ready to adjudicate reports that any APA member has engaged in prohibited techniques.” And this becomes my personal Groundhog Day.

You see, Dr. Bray, I’ve been here before. Ironically, one year ago this month, I appealed to your organization for truth and action, after the three previous presidents of APA made the same meaningless statements:

Gerald Koocher, APA President 2006: “I should also note that A.P.A. has taken a very strong stance against the use of torture, inhumane, and degrading treatment, and if anyone is able to identify A.P.A. members who have been involved in such activities, we will take disciplinary action.”

Sharon Brehm, APA President 2007: “Any allegations that a member has violated APA’s strict prohibition against engaging in torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment will be investigated and, if the evidence warrants, adjudicated.”

Alan E. Kazdin, APA President 2008: “Any APA member found to have violated this prohibition would be subject to sanction under our Code of Ethics.”

And now you, Dr. Bray, offering the same empty promise. There is no truth in your statement, or the statements of the preceding three presidents of APA. Your organization has refused for two years to rule on a complaint I have filed against a member of APA who has clearly violated your Code of Ethics.

Follow your own sanctimonious advice to others and “accurately reflect” the intentions of the American Psychological Association. Stop intoning the glittering generalities of your predecessors. You insult those who of us who still believe in our ethics and you demean the victims of those psychologists who have perpetrated criminal acts.

Dr. TRUDY BOND is a licensed psychologist in Ohio. She can be reached at ar_mordilo@yahoo.com.

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