Arnon Grunberg



On psychology and torture – James Risen in the NYT:

‘The American Psychological Association secretly collaborated with the administration of President George W. Bush to bolster a legal and ethical justification for the torture of prisoners swept up in the post-Sept. 11 war on terror, according to a new report by a group of dissident health professionals and human rights activists.
The report is the first to examine the association’s role in the interrogation program. It contends, using newly disclosed emails, that the group’s actions to keep psychologists involved in the interrogation program coincided closely with efforts by senior Bush administration officials to salvage the program after the public disclosure in 2004 of graphic photos of prisoner abuse by American military personnel at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.’


‘The American Psychological Association “clearly supports the role of psychologists in a way our behavioral science consultants operate,” said Dr. William Winkenwerder, then the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, describing to reporters why the Pentagon relied more on psychologists than psychiatrists at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. “The American Psychiatric Association, on the other hand, I think had a great deal of debate about that, and there were some who were less comfortable with that.” By June 2004, the Bush administration’s torture program was in trouble. The public disclosure of the images of prisoners being abused at the Abu Ghraib prison earlier that year prompted an intense debate about the way the United States was treating detainees in the global war on terror, leading to new scrutiny of the C.I.A.’s so-called enhanced interrogation program. Congress and the news media were starting to ask questions, and there were new doubts about whether the program was legal.’

Read the article here.

It’s interesting to find out what, if any, conclusions can be drawn from the fact that American psychiatrists appear to be more hesitant than psychologists to get involved with torture, or shall we call it “enhanced interrogation”.

For one, we can say that that the belief that education will lead to a higher moral sense, to citizens with a better sense of what’s moral and what’s amoral, is probably unjustified.
A university degree doesn’t make us immune to the seductions of collaboration, power, money and violence. Quite the opposite, university teaches us how to manage these seductions skillfully, in such a way that the outcome is profitable for us.
But of course, there are exceptions.

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