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Also posted at Invictus and NION

Alfred McCoy, a professor of history at University of Wisconsin, Madison, and author of A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror, spoke on the history of torture at The Wright Institute in Berkeley, CA on March 10, 2007. The event was co-sponsored by Survivors International, a torture treatment center in San Francisco.

Also invited to the event, and formally participating in the discussion in the second half, was Stephen Behnke, Director of the Ethics Office for the American Psychological Association (APA). Behnke has garnered a reputation as an apologist-defender of the official APA position on psychologist participation in national security interrogations. As I've written elsewhere, the APA defends using psychologists in "war on terror" torture interrogations (of course, they deny the "torture" part), which include the use of sensory deprivation, isolation, induction of fear, humiliation, sleep deprivation, and manipulation of temperature, time, light, etc., among other abusive practices.

In his presentation, Professor Mc Coy concentrated on research he has conducted that implicates major figures in the history of medicine and psychology in the research program undertaken by British, Canadian, and U.S. militaries and secret services on mind control and torture interrogation. He also discussed the development of so-called ethics policies as they intersect this history. His entire lecture, as well as much of the discussion, has been posted via YouTube on a webpage at Survivors Internation. It is comprehensive in scope and riveting to watch. I highly recommend viewing the entire thing.

According to Stephen Soldz, an APA opponent of torture collaboration who is helping lead the fight against the APA leadership on this question, Dr. Behnke has refused to allow any video of his participation to be posted. This is in line with the secrecy with which the APA has generally opposed openness on questions of APA decision-making, choosing to make certain things public, and hide others as it sees fit.

Along these lines, during the discussion period, I asked Dr. Behnke if he would support a call for the U.S. to declassify all materials related to research on interrogations and torture that was conducted during the 1950s and 1960s. I emphasized that psychological knowledge itself is eviscerated by withholding the results of research into coercive interrogations, making it difficult to ascertain just what effects various forms of interrogation have on individuals. It also hides the history of a major project in American medicine, psychiatry and psychology from the American people, not to mention non-military researchers. -- Dr. Behnke never addressed my question.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of Professor McCoy's presentation. This is the history that we must know, that we need to know. The leadership of American medicine and psychology, and a good portion of academia, was purchased, and mostly willingly collaborated, for a period of 20 years or more in a scientific program aimed at destroying human minds and controlling human behavior -- even to the point of inducing individuals to betray their beliefs, their friends, their countries, even to commit murder. We don't know how many thousands of people were destroyed by this inhuman, Nazi-like program. We do know that the technques developed are being used today in the U.S.-run prisons holding "enemy combatants" in Iraq, at the Guantanamo Naval Base, in "black prisons" in secret locations, and even in the U.S. -- most recently at the the Naval Consoldidated Brig in Charleston, South Carolina, where Jose Padilla was tortured.

The fight against torture is a litmus test for progressive forces that would fight the reactionary slide into barbarism and aggressive war, as prosecuted by the Bush Administration, and only mildly opposed by their Democratic opponents. We are failing to meet this litmus test, as the issue is blanketed by others that do not challenge the central entitlements granted to itself by the military-industrial state, that do not challenge its power to destroy any individual it wants. Even the tools whereby they do this are to be kept secret.

After you've watched McCoy's presentation, you might want to donate some money to those who work with the tortured, like Survivors International, those who fight U.S. torture policies, like Physicians for Human Rights, and those who bring the issues around torture to the Internet on a daily basis, like

For those who would rather read, don't miss McCoy's excellent 2004 essay, The Long Shadow of CIA Torture Research.

Originally posted to Valtin on Wed Apr 25, 2007 at 10:59 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Excellent Diary (7+ / 0-)
    And you need a tipjarl.
  •  Here's my tip jar (14+ / 0-)

    I was a little late, but here it is. Better than any tip would be the knowledge that someone went and actually listened to Prof. McCoy's lecture, then came back with something of substance to say here, or started their own diary on the topic, or made a contribution, as indicated above.

    Invictus -- "The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth."

    by Valtin on Wed Apr 25, 2007 at 11:02:30 AM PDT

  •  Great diary, valtin. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peace voter, Valtin, kraant, kurt, willb48

    One must admire McCoy for both his courage and for his dedication to the truth.  We need many more just like him.  The more truth is found the better our chance of changing this terrible downward spiral.

    Never In Our Names "all you have to do to qualify for human rights is to be human."

    by possum on Wed Apr 25, 2007 at 11:08:25 AM PDT

    •  Thanks possum (6+ / 0-)

      You are a great supporter for one who labors in the work we do (and which I know you do, too). Hopefully, Prof. McCoy will see these comments too and be heartened, as I've sent a link of this to him.

      Invictus -- "The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth."

      by Valtin on Wed Apr 25, 2007 at 11:10:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I can't decide whether to be saddened (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Valtin, kraant, kurt, willb48

        or delighted by the fact you sent a link to the professor.  He deserves to know there are those of who really care about his work, but there are so few that I am disappointed as you must be.  What ever are people thinking?  Don't they remember the MCA?  Any one of could be disappeared and mistreated any given day.  How can we not take all actions to prevent that happening?    How can we not pay attention and lend support to all those acting to stop the torture administered in our names?  I just don't understand.

        Never In Our Names "all you have to do to qualify for human rights is to be human."

        by possum on Wed Apr 25, 2007 at 11:19:24 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  My guess is (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          peace voter, possum

          that Dr. McCoy will not be surprised by what he sees politically anymore. The milieu here is very moderate, really, politically, very much oriented to electoral politics and "breaking" scandal news, which is fun and even important sometimes, but which retards discussion on more substantive issues.

          I think too that by now the fact that torture has been perpetuated by both Democratic and Republican administrations alienates a large proportion of the Daily Kos crowd, who have greater allegiance to the Democratic Party, it seems, than to democracy itself. The latter is anathema to torture, and has been since the early days of the Enlightenment.

          Truly, we live in reactionary times.

          McCoy writes with outrage, focusing it upon documenting historical truths. But I am sure he has an eye on changing the world for the better, and is pleased to have anyone who will come along for the ride.

          Invictus -- "The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth."

          by Valtin on Wed Apr 25, 2007 at 11:31:08 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The truth is a powerful speaker. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            peace voter, Valtin

            That is what makes McCoy's message all the more important.  And for those folk who hide their heads in the sand because Dems have been complicit, I feel nothing but sympathy.  What will they say when one of their friends is taken or tortured?  Is that what will be needed for them to take action?

            For far too long I among too many have been quietly sitting by waiting for someone else to act.  Not any more.  People like you and McCoy give me strength to carry on the fight day by day.  Your shining examples put the folk around the world who fail to act right to shame.

            Let us hope folk like McCoy and others are never silenced as so many have been in past times.  So long as they are willing and able to speak I hope to stand in their unwavering support.  I consider that both an honor and an obligation.

            Never In Our Names "all you have to do to qualify for human rights is to be human."

            by possum on Wed Apr 25, 2007 at 11:50:00 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  I'm worried that stopping torture (6+ / 0-)

    has been put on the backburner by the Dem leadership.  I hope presentations like this will cause this issue to get back to the spotlight.

    "There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible. But in the end they always fall. Think of it. Always." -- Mahatma Gandhi

    by duha on Wed Apr 25, 2007 at 12:16:10 PM PDT

    •  agreed (6+ / 0-)

      the new majority should have put a stop to torture, abuse, and degradation of prisoners immediately. Instead, they're dithering on the issue.

      There's no issue to debate here.

      •  I agree (4+ / 0-)

        But I know that others on this site disagree. I have been accused of pushing single-issue politics.

        There was this exchange on a diary by kid oakland a little while ago:

        ...getting pissed off because the candidate doesn't your current obsession is so 2000.

        I don't want to make light of the torture issue; that's not my point here.  It's the "take it or leave" sort of attitude that your post suggests, even if that isn't your intent.

        Party building is what this diary is about.  Many of us chucked single issue, interest group politics over the last 4 or 5 years.  And there's a reason: your question is premature. If Democrats don't win in large numbers, they certainly will not stop torture.  Or cut off funding to Bush's war. Or legalize medical marijuana.  Or Free Whoever.  Or Whatever.

        It's time to stop sniping from the sides and start subverting from within :-)

        This was my response:

        ...your misunderstanding of that is part of the problem. Perhaps it is my fault, and others, for posing the question in such stark terms as my initial posting.

        But the torture issue speaks to the heart of how American power is projected in the world, and how executive power is being centralized and consolidated to usurp the other branches of government.

        If the Democratic candidates cannot answer the torture "question", then they demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of what they need to do when they achieve power.

        This is not "what is my favorite issue" snarkiness. This is serious. It's about state power. It's about the place of the United States in the world. It's about who runs this country. It's about the militarization of medical personnel and the distortion of medical and psychological knowledge. It's about the moral relevance of our entire culture. It's about regaining any modicum of support in the Middle East.

        If you don't get it, then I can't help you.

        I'm not sniping from the sides. I'm going right to the bulls-eye of what this is all about.

        Invictus -- "The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth."

        by Valtin on Wed Apr 25, 2007 at 01:43:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  human rights isn't an "issue" (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          peace voter, Valtin, OneCrankyDom

          It's everything, and if Dems won't stand up for human rights then they don't stand for anything in the end. Democracy is about human rights, it exists because other forms of government can't or won't guarantee human rights.

          So I say to hell with anybody who argues that we have to give the politicians time to get this "issue" right.

          •  good points but (0+ / 0-)

            the last part about giving them time.Patience isn't one of my strong traits eithers but we have been in the majority less than 6 months and considering the amount of time it takes to do any freaking thing between both houses we will to be a little more practical in allowing things time to get done. There are efforts to change the Patriot Act and other things that passed under the Dems. The really hard part will be passing any Bill that Bush will sign. It may take until we have a Dem Pres. before we can be successful. Hang in there, we WILL get it done.

            -8.63 -7.28 Molly Ivin : "..We want to find solutions other than killing people. Not in our name, not with our money, not with our children's blood."

            by OneCrankyDom on Wed Apr 25, 2007 at 02:19:26 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  asdf (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              peace voter, Valtin

              I'm not so much impatient with the slowness of Congress, which rarely can do things overnight.

              I'm impatient with politicians who want to stake a "cautious" position, to wait and see whether the other side will try to paint them as terrorist-lovers. And unfortunately, some of the most timid triangulators in the Dem pack are running for President. So if anything is to get through Congress, it has to be vetted by one or all of them.

              I say that if they can't stand in front of this nation and explain why a ban on degrading and abusive treatment is fundamental to American values, then they are not a viable candidate.

              •  One of the reasons I won't vote for HRC (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                smintheus, peace voter, Valtin

                is I don't trust her to reverse some of these new powers Bush has claimed. Never forget that Bill Clinton made use of renditions more than a time or 2.

                -8.63 -7.28 Molly Ivin : "..We want to find solutions other than killing people. Not in our name, not with our money, not with our children's blood."

                by OneCrankyDom on Wed Apr 25, 2007 at 02:42:09 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  read the names of those that commented (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peace voter, Valtin, willb48

    we do have a core group here that won't let this issue die. I may fade iin and out due to heakth reasons but, I won't quit and you guys won't either.

    -8.63 -7.28 Molly Ivin : "..We want to find solutions other than killing people. Not in our name, not with our money, not with our children's blood."

    by OneCrankyDom on Wed Apr 25, 2007 at 01:31:24 PM PDT

  •  Taxi to the Darkside (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peace voter, Valtin

    a new documentary due to be shown this weekend of the same name as the title has some clips we should never forget. Here is the trailer, it loads very slow so be patient.

    -8.63 -7.28 Molly Ivin : "..We want to find solutions other than killing people. Not in our name, not with our money, not with our children's blood."

    by OneCrankyDom on Wed Apr 25, 2007 at 01:34:26 PM PDT

    •  This film looks powerful (3+ / 0-)

      I'm intrigued that it will be premiering at Robert De Niro's Tribeca Film Festival. Taxi to the Dark Side shows in New York beginning April 28. I hope it comes to SF soon.

      This documentary murder mystery examines the death of an Afghan taxi driver at Bagram Air Base from injuries inflicted by U.S. soldiers. In an unflinching look at the Bush administration's policy on torture, the filmmaker behind Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room takes us from a village in Afghanistan to Guantanamo and straight to the White House. In English and Pashtu.

      Thanks for the link and the info.

      Invictus -- "The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth."

      by Valtin on Wed Apr 25, 2007 at 01:54:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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