Psychology and Torture

PSYCHOLOGY AND TORTURE….Here in America, doctors are officially opposed to torture. So are psychiatrists. But psychologists? Not so much. Arthur Levine reports in the current issue of the Monthly:

At around six-foot-eight and clad in combat fatigues, Kevin Kiley, the army surgeon general, cut an imposing figure. It was August 2006, and Kiley was in New Orleans to address the governing council of the American Psychological Association (APA) on the subject of psychology in the war on terror. It was Kiley’s job to convince them not to bail out on interrogations.

….Ultimately, APA’s governing council passed a blandly worded resolution that, most critically, left the definition of the phrase “cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment” up to current government interpretations.

This wasn’t the first time the APA had declined to take a firm position against the administration’s interrogation policies. After reports first surfaced in 2004 of psychologists participating in interrogation procedures, many of the APA’s more progressive members demanded that the organization take a stand. In response, APA convened a task force to draw up guidelines for members but rejected efforts to ensure that they were specific and enforceable.

Why, then, was the leadership of the APA, an organization representing one of the most liberal professions imaginable, so willing to essentially acquiesce with a conservative administration’s efforts to torture prisoners? The answer is that it fell into a classic Washington trade-group dilemma: It became so enmeshed in the gears of the federal machine that it could be influenced by a determined administration and ended up supporting policies that many of its own members opposed.

More at the link.