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As Stephen Soldz, one of the supporters of an anti-torture referendum resolution now being mailed out to members of the American Psychological Association, reports:

The APA has launched a strong effort at spin and disinformation regarding the referendum. Unfortunately, some of our colleagues who should support this efforts have also parsed the text in such a way as to perceive a potential threat.

The referendum seems tame enough, stating:

Be it resolved that psychologists may not work in settings where persons are held outside of, or in violation 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.

The Incredible Lightness of Div. 48

A blow to the proponents of the referendum came from Executive Committee of APA's Division 48, the  (ironically-named) Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence. The statement by Division 48 is being passed around on the various APA listservs, as this is a battle largely being fought via e-mail, out of sight of the general public, and even much of APA membership, who may not pay attention to or even be members of the various listservs (which are generally populated by APA bureaucrats, bureaucrat wanna-bes, and members of the politicized opposition).

The EC at Division 48 states the referendum, whose "spirit" it "very much supports", "lacks clarity," is "unrealistic", and "more aspirational than practical." The meat of their opposition is expressed in a very particular fear:

As written, the petition/referendum also extends beyond psychologists involvement at detention sites for individuals held as "enemy combatants" to all contexts and could result in a prohibition against psychologists work in other environments within the United States (e.g., prisons, hospitals). Could psychologists work at supermax prisons, for example?....

... perhaps more importantly, we have concerns about the treatment of prisoners in U.S. correctional facilities and thus, do not want to take U.S. sites off the table for discussion related to human rights.

The opponents of the referendum have seized upon the apostasy of the Peace division, with APA President-elect James Bray circulating copies of the Division 48 Executive Committee position to other APA divisional listservs. The President of Division 48 has publicly stated that "the referendum in its current form would undermine the vital humanitarian work of many psychologists."

But the defense of supermax prison jobs, and the concern about U.S. prison conditions rings hollow, being a disingenuous attempt to back institutional concerns in alliance with the Department of Defense and the CIA. In political terms, the coalition between so-called peace psychologists and pro-military types within APA represents a classic rotten bloc.

In one example of the right-wing acrimony whipped up by the threats against psychologist jobs -- even jobs attending prisoners held in inhumane long-term isolation and/or indefinite detention -- I came across this case of preposterous mock-heroic posturing, posted to a listserv from the division for media and psychology:

The referenced sponsoring coalition would have us turn the USA into a toothless lion in our defense against the deranged terrorists, which have set a fatwa limit of 10-Million innocent casualties per incident.

Defending the Resolution

Meanwhile, the backers of the referendum have released a statement clarifying the intent of the resolution:

Dear APA members:

   As sponsors and supporters of the referendum, we are aware that this is a period given to commentary from those who have introduced the referendum, and that–consistent with APA policy–such commentary will be considered in future policy decisions as valid interpretation of the resolution’s intent. We are also aware that there has been some concern voiced on several listservs that the resolution may have ‘unintended consequences’; namely that it may impact the work of psychologists working in existing U.S. jails, prisons, psychiatric facilities, and hospitals.

   While we believe a reading of the full referendum in its context resolves these concerns, we would like to be sure that there are no misunderstandings on this point. We are therefore using this commentary period to reiterate the application of the petition, its meaning, and intent:

   This referendum is focused on settings such as Guantánamo Bay and the CIA ‘black sites’ set up by the U.S. as part of its ‘global war on terror’; settings where the persons being detained are denied the protections of either constitutional or international law, settings which have been denounced by the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

   We are well aware of the harms and legal struggles facing certain prisons and jails inside the domestic U.S. criminal justice system. However, the referendum takes no position on such settings where prisoners have full access to independent counsel and constitutional protections; nor does the referendum take a position on settings that now exist within the domestic mental health system where clients and patients also possess these basic rights.

   For Psychologists for an Ethical APA
   Dan Aalbers

   Ruth Fallenbaum

   Brad Olson

As Soldz's piece points out, The Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International has issued a statement in support of the referendum, as has former APA-PENS member Jean Marie Arrigo. Former head of APA's Practice Directorate, Bryant Welch, has released a statement in support, as well:

This is the third consecutive annual convention in which APA has presented new reasons for refusing to explicitly state that psychologists are not to participate in detention centers where torture is being used. In 2006 we were told, among many things, that torture was not occurring, and that it was sufficient for APA to reiterate its 1986 resolution "opposing torture." Last year we were told that psychologists’ presence at the detention centers was actually necessary to prevent the torture whose very existence these same APA officials denied the previous year. Bizarrely, APA outlawed nineteen specific forms of torture, as if in some way the large number of proscribed techniques would cripple torture efforts.

As a result, for the first time in APA history, APA rank and file members have secured the necessary signatures to petition the APA and force APA to submit the torture issue to a referendum by the membership.

Persisting in its support for psychologists’ participation in Bush detention centers and appearing insensitive to the moral concerns of its members, APA leaders are now advising APA members to oppose the referendum because the language of the referendum might be interpreted to preclude psychologists working in certain institutional settings. This argument is based on scenarios that are extremely far fetched and could readily be addressed even were they to occur. To the public, of course, the message would be that psychologists are not willing to stop torture now if there is even a remote risk of losing jobs in the future.

Since the Bush Administration will be out of office by the next time APA meets, this will be the last opportunity psychologists will have to remove this terrible stain from our reputation and our history.

Torture is not a nuanced issue. Vote No to torture. Vote YES on the referendum.

The voting will continue for the next month or so. If you know a psychologist, forward this story to them. Have them visit Tell them about the presidential campaign of Steven Reisner, who aims to implement the policies the referendum represents.

APA and the National Security State

I, of course, am under no illusions that the APA will be reformed any time soon. It will be an immense victory to pass the resolution or elect Dr. Reisner. But the APA policy and organizational apparatus is fully intertwined in the governmental spiderweb of military, intelligence, and private consultation and "scientific" organizations, and academia, under the umbrella of serving the national security state. This wide-ranging set of special interests forms an extremely formidable opposition to those who would fundamentally change the policies and personnel responsible for the institution of a world-wide network of secret prisons and institutionalized torture.

But, as the cliche states, every journey must begin with the first steps. And a necessary first step is supporting the referendum being voted on this month at APA, and helping circulate the defense of that referendum as far and widely as you can.

Also posted at Invictus

Originally posted to Valtin on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 08:21 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (22+ / 0-)

    The American Psychological Association chooses to put itself in the spotlight every year that it refuses to call for a withdrawal of psychologists from sites, like Guantanamo and CIA secret "black site" prisons, where detainees are held without rights, subjected to ongoing isolation and sensory deprivation, along with other torturers.

    The reasons for this are explained in this and other diaries of mine.

    Let you know you support the psychologists working for an ethical APA, via email or donation!

    Spread the word. It represents a vital action against Bush's insane and illegal "war on terror" torture campaign.

    War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight, The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade Invictus

    by Valtin on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 08:25:08 PM PDT

    •  ciaTweets is aTwitter over APA stance on torture (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Valtin, Deep Harm, Otteray Scribe

      Stephen Soldz's op-ed slamming the APA's stance on torture in today's Boston Globe is a featured topic on ciaTweets.

      •  Link to Soldz's op-ed (4+ / 0-)

        Ending the Psychological Mind Games on Detainees

        It's very much worth reading, and bravo to the Globe for printing the piece.

        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....

        The APA has since passed several antitorture resolutions - all of them full of loopholes - but has failed to take ethics enforcement action against a single psychologist for participating in abuses, despite publication two years ago of a detailed interrogation log showing the participation of a military psychologist in the abuse amounting to torture of a Guantanamo detainee.

        Not surprisingly, unrest among APA members is growing. Many members, including the founder of the APA's Practice Directorate and the former head of its Ethics Committee, have resigned in protest.

        Go read the whole thing!

        War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight, The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade Invictus

        by Valtin on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 08:47:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Good job to have push them this far :) (5+ / 0-)


  •  Look forward to protesting at the APA convention (10+ / 0-)

    Can't believe they chose Boston to host their convention.

    Welcome to Boston, APA.

    •  When are they going to be in Boston ? (7+ / 0-)

      I may feel the need to ummm make a trip to see my soul sister who lives in Glouchester :)

         Who me? protest ? NEVER! Well, hardly ever :)
         It would just be making them feel welcome :)

         For Dan,

      •  The convention will be August 14-17 (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jhutson, Valtin, blueoasis, Got a Grip

        Here is a link to the Convention part of the APA web site.

        Here is a link the the APA page on detainee welfare.

        It bothers me that many of the ethical principles are now focused more on being "aspirational" than something that can be enforced.  I like to see "bright line" standards when it comes to ethics codes.

        I can aspire to a lot of things, but if someone screws up, there needs to be a way to enforce standards for misconduct.

        It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment. - Ansel Adams

        by Otteray Scribe on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 08:47:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  APA activists (5+ / 0-)

          tried to get this issue put into the 2007 resolution, passed at APA Council at the convention last year. But it was knocked down, with many of the same arguments opponents are registering against the referendum this year. So much for trying to move beyond the "aspriational".

          Behind the scenes, referendum leaders admit that this is a minimal statement of what policy should be, and know it will be a continuing fight to make APA live up to any aspriational goal.

          The truth is, no enforceable resolution was being proposed by anyone this year, period. So when APA "peace" members protest this referendum is only aspriational, I ask, what the heck have you been doing for the past year?

          War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight, The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade Invictus

          by Valtin on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 08:52:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  If you try to talk to some of the APA brass (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            jhutson, Valtin

            you will get some of the most circular arguments and reasoning imaginable. I have had several E-mail exchanges with people I like and have respected, but the reasoning and excuses used are rather odd to say the least.

            It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment. - Ansel Adams

            by Otteray Scribe on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 08:56:54 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I've seen a few myself (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Xapulin, Rabbithead, Otteray Scribe

              I came to believe this kind of behavior can only be understood as a mostly unconscious effort at self-justification, secondary to commitments made regarding career and profession (to the government) that can't be undone now, without seriously jeopardizing those same careers, academic departments, grants, etc., i.e., the whole kit and caboodle of status and lifestyle upon which many psychologists have constructed their lives.

              This is what makes, in the end, political fights like this so intense, sometimes so dirty, and often fought out bitterly.

              Of course, APA tops can't or won't explain themselves in this way, and what we get is something akin to the non-language language of government bureaucrats, whose main purpose is to disguise the truth.

              And so goes language, goes consciousness...

              War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight, The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade Invictus

              by Valtin on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 09:08:08 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  APA convention in Boston August 14-17 (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Valtin, Got a Grip, Otteray Scribe

        The convention homepage is here. Feel free to email me re details on a planned protest.

      •  I'm sure (4+ / 0-)

        they'd love to have you at the protest.

        Meanwhile, activists at the convention may have to take care, as food service handlers at the convention center are reported to be working for some time without a contract, and there could be picket signs.

        I believe APA and also dissident APA are in contact with the union. I won't be there, but I'll be interested to see if the situation plays any role.

        I'd love to see the union leaders invited to speak at the rally!

        War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight, The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade Invictus

        by Valtin on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 08:49:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  With it being this coming weekend, I just can't (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Valtin, Otteray Scribe

          SADLY :(

          I'm sorry I missed finding out where it was going to be earlier :(

          I know you will do Dan proud and stand up and be counted :) I know you will marshal your most persuasive arguments and change hearts and votes :)


          •  Ahhh (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Otteray Scribe

            I won't be there myself. I'll have to satisfy commenting from afar.

            But many I've written about will be there: Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Bryant Welch, and many, many more. Go and give them support, those of you who can make it to Boston.

            War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight, The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade Invictus

            by Valtin on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 09:17:25 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  APA fails whistleblowers, too (8+ / 0-)

    in failing to stop government agencies from conducting abusive psychiatric exams in retaliation for whistleblowing.  Ironically, those trying to protect Americans from terrorists and accused terrorists both suffer at the hands of government paid psychologists.

    Thanks for this report on the status of the referendum, and cheers for Stephen Soldz and his fellow reformers.

  •  Tipped and Rec'd but (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    this is an issue that is obscure, even for professionals in the mental health field.  The language of resolutions is turgid and legalistic.  You have to be used to reading legal language to figure out what is being said.  And more important, what is not being said.

    For the general non-scientist/lawyer public, this issue is an instant snooze, unfortunately.

    It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment. - Ansel Adams

    by Otteray Scribe on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 08:51:30 PM PDT

    •  Agreed. That's why Soldz's op-ed is so important. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Valtin, Got a Grip, Otteray Scribe

      Soldz is a psychologist and blogger who writes compelling, concise prose that is more accessible than the petition language which, as you say, can be turgid.

    •  Well, I guess it caught your eye (4+ / 0-)

      I'm not trying to make the recommended list here. I've been writing on these issues for two years here at Daily Kos, and regularly get dozens of recommendations and comments for these diaries.

      Daily Kos is full of sub-readerships who have various issues they follow. I agree that many will pass this by, or find the issues hard to follow. I try to explain them the best I can. But I'd be lying if I said the diary is meant for a wide readership. I only hope for the largest readership I can get... as my bit for the cause, you know.

      War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight, The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade Invictus

      by Valtin on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 08:55:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I understand. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jhutson, Valtin

        I just wish we could get more general public interest in the issue; like for instance the feeding frenzy about where John Edwards has been laying his coiffed head.

        This is one of those nuanced problems that does not fit neatly on a bumper sticker or a seven-second sound bite.

        It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment. - Ansel Adams

        by Otteray Scribe on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 09:00:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Agreed (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Otteray Scribe

          Now, if Koocher would only admit a torrid affair with a stripper in Ohio...

          /inside joke (snark)

          War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight, The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade Invictus

          by Valtin on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 09:09:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Heh! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I understand the joke, unfortunately.  All I want is for them to "aspire" to be more honest with the membership, the public and themselves.

            I cannot help but believe this is a pocketbook issue for some people.  And have a sneaky suspicion that some fear reprisals--possibly under an Obama administration.  Think The Hague.  Great vacation spot, but most do not want to live there.

            You know how it goes.  If you cannot win on the facts, dazzle 'em with bullshit.

            It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment. - Ansel Adams

            by Otteray Scribe on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 09:13:59 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Oh you must mean something like when... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Valtin, blueoasis, Otteray Scribe

          the stenographers (pretend White House reporters) write that Bush said (over and over) "We do not torture."

          The number of times that statement was not challenged would make Stalin/Mao proud.

          The Inside the Beltway press corps has the freedom not to question presidential lies. And the reward for not questioning is staying on as a favored member of the in-crowd, just like in junior high.

          Wynton Marsalis:"Blues never lets tragedy have the last word."

          by skywriter on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 09:14:42 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Rabbithead, Otteray Scribe

            Who would have thought that "freedom of the press" would come to stand for the freedom to be a rotten press?

            (For all those who wish to remind me of the important reporters we still do have -- the Jane Mayers, Sy Hershs, Lew Kochs, Katherine Ebans, Mark Benjamins, James Risens, Michael Ottermans, etc. -- don't bother. I know and praise these and others. But the vast majority of that guild have let us down more times than not.)

            War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight, The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade Invictus

            by Valtin on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 09:21:31 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  I have been looking at the times you post diaries (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Valtin, blueoasis

    Just a quick check of your home page shows daytime postings at midday and mid-afternoon. This and at least one more recent diary were posted near midnight.

    Maybe if you checked peak visit hours at this site it might help some strategic placement of your diaries.  I have an idea that early in the morning would be good.  Some check the site right along with the coffee and breakfast roll.  Others late in the day when they just get home from work.  I am not sure if there is tracking data somewhere so you can check the best times to be seen by the most pairs of eyes.

    This is too important an issue to not be seen.  Good luck.  

    It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment. - Ansel Adams

    by Otteray Scribe on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 09:22:40 PM PDT

    •  I appreciate the advice (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blueoasis, Otteray Scribe

      Unfortunately, my regular work and family duties do not always allow for me to schedule my postings at the best times. Also, those "peak" times are also periods where even the best diaries scroll off the page, flooded with competition, in a matter of minutes, unheralded and unseen. I also believe that if I post a diary, I have to assure that I can stick around for a dialogue with my commenters. I don't like to post and run.

      When I can, I try to time posts, but for now, I'll have to follow my current patterns. But I will keep your advice in mind, and thank you for it.

      War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight, The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade Invictus

      by Valtin on Sun Aug 10, 2008 at 09:42:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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