Thursday, May 29, 2008

'Autocracy ... is making a comeback'

The point the great Greek historian Taki is trying to make is that empires fall into place not by design, but by accident. The Athenian empire began with alliances against Persia--the Confederacy of Delos--which eventually Athens transformed into an empire. At first Spartan admirals were in command, but the Ionians disliked Dorian discipline and decided on the Athenian Kimon, the rich son of Miltiades, the victor of Marathon. So what about democracy, then? The Spartans took care of that little bother. There are those who believe the ruinous Peloponnesian War took place in order to brake the power and influence of the Alcibiades class, i.e., rich aristocrats. The latter refused to enter chariot teams at Olympia and thought the rest of the Greeks rather unsophisticated. Once Athens went down Swanee, aristocrats refused to splash out on civic expenditures, and in came the professional classes. Does this remind any of you of home, home being the British Empire and modern Britain? Once the
Greeks went pro, it was curtains, until Alexander saved it for us Hellenes, but no one did it for you Brits.

But back to democracy in modern times. Elections in Gaza have led to the creation of a terrorist mini-state ruled by Hamas, according to Bush and his gang, but to some of us all it means is be careful what you wish for. Answered prayers, and all that. If I were a Palestinian I'd be voting for Hamas in Gaza and for Hezbollah in Lebanon. The gang that can't shoot straight in D.C. doesn't seem to get the message. Palestinians are not Virginians living in an utopian rural environment, but fourth generation refugees from their lands and homes, and being treated almost as subhumans by the Israelis. Punto basta. What else can one say?

[ ... ]

Autocracy, a word invented by you know who, is making a comeback. Russia and China are not obsessed with democracy, nor constitutional government, certainly not with ochlocracy. Sovereign democracy is the operative word out there, a governing system that has little tolerance for dissent. And it's working. Given the choice between freedom and democracy on one hand, and power, order and stability on the other, it takes a very rich, spoilt fool to prefer the former. In China, a higher standard of living is what 1.2 billion people think about, and to hell with what a man who has suffered from arrested development these last 60 years has to say back in Crawford, Texas.

Take it from Taki. Autocrats will always protect their fellow autocrats. Moscow and Beijing will never side with term limit American officials against Tehran, Khartoum and Pyongyang. Why should they? 

Tell me of an American ally who ended up sitting pretty? The South Vietnamese? The Greek colonels? The Lebanese Christians? The Shah?  Don't make me laugh.

~ Source: Democracies, Ancient and Modern by Taki Theodoracopulos ~


The return of history and the end of dreams - by Robert Kagan

How times have changed. Less than a decade ago, Robert Kagan and William Kristol described the outlines of what they labelled a "neo-Reaganite" American foreign policy. In their book Present Dangers (2000), they explained how American military power should be used to reorder the world: "To many the idea of America using its power to promote changes of regime in nations ruled by dictators rings of utopianism. But, in fact, it is eminently utopian is it to imagine a change of regime in a place like Iraq? How utopian is it to work for the fall of the Communist party oligarchy in China after a far more powerful and, arguably, more stable such oligarchy fell in the Soviet Union? With democratic change sweeping the world at an unprecedented rate over these past 30 years, is it 'realist' to insist that no further victories can be won?"

This "neo-Reaganite" vision is evidently one of those dreams that a sadder but wiser Kagan understands has ended. Hence his new book The Return of History and the End of Dreams. The post-somnambulist Kagan now points out that after the cold war, America pursued "an expansive, even aggressive global policy," and that "in shaping a world to suit their values, they have compelled others to bend to their will" in ways that make Americans intensely uncomfortable. Iraq is still a mess; China has not collapsed in the face of American hegemony, and indeed is rising at breakneck speed to achieve superpower status, while Russia has recovered and is reclaiming the foreign policy space of the former USSR. The era of American predominance is giving way to one in which the United States has to share power with the likes of China, Russia, India, and the rest. This is the "return of history" to which the book's title refers.

This observation is hardly an original one, though it would have been nice to see some acknowledgment of how American over-reaching in the Middle East - as once advocated by Kagan - has contributed to a coalescence of the "rest" against American power. But the "history" that he sees being revived is not, as one might have thought, a multipolar world of alternately competing and cooperating great powers, but a sharply bipolar one reminiscent of the cold war. According to Kagan, "the global competition between democratic and autocratic governments will become a dominant feature of the 21st-century world". He sees the world once again riven by a grand bipolar ideological struggle, with China and Russia the standard-bearers for autocracy. His practical recommendation, then, is to unite the democratic world in a grand alliance against the new emerging autocratic axis.

This is a peculiar interpretation of the contemporary world, one that betrays a great nostalgia for the cold war and tries to cram messy reality into categories that simply do not fit. For while it is certainly true that American hegemony is eroding, "autocracy" is not a strong or consistent set of ideas around which the rest can rally, as was once the case with Marxism-Leninism. China, for example, has abandoned any principled belief in communism and has replaced it with a combination of Chinese nationalism and legitimacy based on economic growth. To the extent that there is a principle underlying Beijing's foreign policy, it is an assertion of a right to sovereignty that prevents China from being criticised by foreigners on human-rights grounds.

~ more... ~

Human shield movement to Iran receives 10,000th pledge

The Human Shield Movement to Iran today claimed its 10,000th pledge volunteer and warned President Bush that any attempt at military intervention against Iran would be met by a massive mobilization of human shields.

The human shield movement to Iran has been mobilizing for over three years now using online mechanisms such as Pledge Bank to secure volunteers willing to travel to Iran to position themselves around civilian infrastructure sites in order to try and prevent what they believe would be a catastrophic and unjustified attack. Whilst it is expected that most missiles will be directed at military installations the human shields are concerned that sites in the Iranian capital will also be targeted. Today Steven Morris from Birmingham was the 10,000th person to pledge himself as human shield volunteer. Volunteers from 22 countries have already pledged themselves to the mission and are currently in the latter stages of preparation in order to be ready to travel to Iran "at very short notice".

The Human Shield Movement gained global prominence in the 2003 when several hundreds Western civilians of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities descended on Iraq in an attempt to prevent the invasion. The movement came out of hibernation in President Bush's State of the Union in February 2005 and have been collecting pledges of people willing to go to Iran should an invasion look imminent.

Iranians forming human chain in Isfahan (January 2006)

Organizers hope that by organizing early they will be able to mount a sizeable group of volunteers willing to try and stop a future destructive folly in the Middle East. The Human Shield Mission to Iraq only had a matter of weeks to organize before the start of 'Operation Shock and Awe' and as a result the number of human shields in Baghdad was not great enough to provide an effective deterrent.

Today, a powerfully-worded warning was sent to the White House listing the shields who are willing to risk their lives to try and prevent further illegal military intervention in the Gulf.

Steven Morris, the 10,000th pledge member of the movement said today

"I am fully committed to going to Iran to try and stop an attack on Iran. I demonstrated against the Iraq war and it made no difference. Having ten thousand Westerners will make the war-mongers think twice before they attack Iran. I do not support the Ahmadinejad regime but if we ignore international law and start bombing a sovereign nation that has not deviated from its obligations under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and offers no direct threat to any nation, the world will be an much more dangerous place."

A spokesperson for the movement, David Tyler said today;

"Travelling to Iran as human shields is the 'last resort' but it seems that an attack on Iran is not just a real possibility but an imminent reality. The military and political maneuvers all seem to point to one thing, The unproven allegations that Iran is arming insurgents in Iran, the labeling of the Revolutionary Guard as terrorists, the increased military spending, the build up of forces on the Iranian borders and the unverified and unverifiable claims about Iran's nuclear weapons program have left us in little doubt that time is running out. Traditional methods of protest are ineffective in the face of the neo-Con determination to implement their global vision.

We now have our 10,000th pledge member and whilst we recognize that many of these people will not be able to actually travel to Tehran, many have already arranged Iranian visas and are ready to travel to Iran at short notice. None of the shields want to die but all are unwilling to sit by and wait for politicians to launch another disastrous war in their name. It is up to each and every one of us to do everything in our power to prevent a dangerously misguided foreign policy. Many people cannot join the movement because of commitments to family and dependents but it is incumbent on all of us to do something to our opposition to war which will once again be carried out in our name."

~ From: Payvan's Iran News ~

Bush secretly authorises assassination of Iranian officials

Democrats Okay Funds for Covert Ops
Secret Bush "Finding" Widens War on Iran

By ANDREW COCKBURN- Six weeks ago, President Bush signed a secret finding authorizing a covert offensive against the Iranian regime that, according to those familiar with its contents, "unprecedented in its scope."

Bush's secret directive covers actions across a huge geographic area – from Lebanon to Afghanistan – but is also far more sweeping in the type of actions permitted under its guidelines – up to and including the assassination of targeted officials. This widened scope clears the way, for example, for full support for the military arm of Mujahedin-e Khalq, the cultish Iranian opposition group, despite its enduring position on the State Department's list of terrorist groups.

Similarly, covert funds can now flow without restriction to Jundullah, or "army of god," the militant Sunni group in Iranian Baluchistan – just across the Afghan border -- whose leader was featured not long ago on Dan Rather Reports cutting his brother in law's throat.

Other elements that will benefit from U.S. largesse and advice include Iranian Kurdish nationalists, as well the Ahwazi arabs of south west Iran. Further afield, operations against Iran's Hezbollah allies in Lebanon will be stepped up, along with efforts to destabilize the Syrian regime.

All this costs money, which in turn must be authorized by Congress, or at least a by few witting members of the intelligence committees. That has not proved a problem. An initial outlay of $300 million to finance implementation of the finding has been swiftly approved with bipartisan support, apparently regardless of the unpopularity of the current war and the perilous condition of the U.S. economy.
~ more... ~

Chile military shields Pinochet-era abusers: Amnesty

Chile's armed forces are still shielding their own from justice for killings and torture during Augusto Pinochet's iron-fisted 1973-1990 dictatorship, Amnesty International charged on Wednesday.

Some Pinochet-era officers remain in senior military posts, while others have moved into politics and are hindering efforts to punish those responsible for abuses, said Sergio Laurenti, Amnesty's executive director in Chile.

"Clearly there has been institutional shielding ... by the armed forces to protect their members," Laurenti said ahead of the launch of the group's global annual human rights report.

"The main reason is that there are officials in the armed forces in high ranks who are responsible for human rights violations," he added.

About 3,000 people were killed during Pinochet's rule and another 28,000 were tortured, most of them suspected leftists.

Laurenti singled out the Navy's denial of knowledge about torture aboard the infamous training ship Esmeralda early in the dictatorship, saying it was "symptomatic" of protection the armed forces have afforded military personnel.

Rights groups and the relatives of the dictatorship's victims say the wheels of justice are turning too slowly.

Only around two dozen security officials have been convicted of crimes so far, nearly two decades on since the dictatorship ended, while nearly 500 are under investigation.

~ more... ~

Musical Innerlube: Talkin' bout a revolution - Tracy Chapman

"If you don't make them bleed, they can't prosecute for it"

A Critique of Stephen Behnke's Letter to the ACLU

By Stephen Soldz

Since 2005, the American Psychological Association (APA) has steadfastly asserted that psychologists participating in detainee interrogations protects detainees by helping to keep these interrogations "safe, legal, ethical, and effective." Last week, the APA's Ethics Director Stephen Behnke seized upon newly released portions of an official investigation of US detainee abuse, called the Church Report, as an opportunity to reinvigorate support for the APA policy of psychologist participation in interrogations.

In a letter to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), The APA's Dr. Behnke stated:

"In carefully reviewing the documents, we note that according to the information obtained by the ACLU, psychologists supporting interrogations 'emphasized their separation from detainee medical care', and that a psychologist who suspected abuse 'recommended the interrogation not proceed and brought in medical personnel to evaluate the detainee.' According to these documents, APA's policy of engagement served the intended purpose: to stop interrogations that cross the bounds of ethical propriety."

To give Dr. Behnke credit, he did acknowledge the abuses described in the newly released material as "abhorrent." However, any unbiased “careful review" of the documents falls far short of supporting Dr. Behnke's conclusion. Quite the contrary, the report raises new concerns about the roles of psychologists in US interrogations.

Dr. Behnke's letter to the ACLU was widely distributed within the APA as a defense of the association's long-contested policy. It therefore important to carefully examine his claims in the context of what is known about interrogation abuses in Iraq. In a separate article, Trudy Bond responded to Dr. Behnke's claims in the same letter, questioning his assertions that the APA is willing to adjudicate reports of psychologists participating in detainee abuse. I will focus instead here on examining Dr. Behnke's claim that the Church Report supports the APA's policy of participation in detainee interrogations. In this process I briefly revisit previous justifications for APA policy.

Newly Released Church Report Materials

On May 30, 2008, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced the release, under the Freedom of Information Act, of previously redacted portions of the Church Report on US military detainee abuses. This material contains numerous reports of physical and mental abuse, including several detainee deaths. The report makes clear that:

"[M]edical personnel often have exposure to the circumstances of detainee treatment."

In discussing a number of these deaths the report states:

"We do not know if medical personnel reported suspicions of detainee abuse in this case, but the circumstances probably should have led them to consider detainee abuse."

Although the language is sanitized, this statement nevertheless strongly points to the failure of medical personnel to take appropriate action in the face of likely interrogation abuse. Yet, in only one of eight deaths judged "suspicious for abuse" is there evidence that an Army physician reported the abuse. Thus, even in the face of potential homicide, medical personnel, for the most part, appear to have remained silent.

With regard to psychologists, the report stated:

"In Iraq, we interviewed two military personnel and one civilian serving in this capacity. All three emphasized their separation from detainee medical care. Only one believed he had observed or suspected detainee abuse. No details were offered, except that, when this occurred, he recommended the interrogation not proceed and brought in medical personnel to evaluate the detainee."

The newly released material also reports that interrogation techniques [authorized by a September 2003 memorandum from commanding General Ricardo Sanchez] continued to be widely used until at least July 2004, well after some techniques were retracted in October 2003. Other techniques were banned in May 2004 [in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal]. These included:

" Isolation."

" Environmental Manipulation: Altering the environment to create moderate discomfort (e.g. adjusting temperature or introducing an unpleasant smell)…. [Caution: Based on court cases in other countries, some nations may view application of this technique in certain circumstances to be inhumane. Consideration of these views should be given prior to use of this technique.]"

" Presence of Military Working Dog: Exploits Arab fear of dogs while maintaining security during interrogations."

" Yelling, Loud Music, and Light Control: Used to create fear, disorient detainee and prolong capture shock."

" Sleep Management: Detainee provided minimum 4 hours of sleep per 24 hour period, not to exceed 72 continuous hours."

" Stress Positions: Use of physical postures (sitting, standing, kneeling, prone, ect.) for no more than 1 hour per use. Use of technique(s) will not exceed 4 hours and adequate rest between use of each position will be provided."

As was confirmed by the just released Justice Department Inspector General report on FBI involvement in abusive interrogations, these techniques were derived from the military's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) program to train US military personnel how to resist breaking under torture. As the Defense Department Inspector General reported, these techniques were "reverse engineered" by military and intelligence psychologists into US interrogation techniques. Authorization to use these techniques was hidden as, even after the Abu Ghraib scandal, the administration refused to release the Sanchez memo for nearly a year. These techniques, according to the Church Report, continued in widespread use long after their use had been retracted.

Special Forces

According to accounts by individuals like former Iraq Army interrogator Tony Lagouranis, these SERE techniques were regularly used by Special Forces in Iraq. Other interrogators learned of them, directly or indirectly, from Special Forces and attempted to imitate the techniques used by these revered units. Abuses by the Navy SEALS, a Special Forces unit, were reported by Lagouranis:

"They would actually have the detainee stripped nude, laying on the floor, pouring ice water over his body. They were taking his temperature with a rectal thermometer. We had one guy who had been burned by the navy SEALs. He looked like he had a lighter held up to his legs. One guy's feet were like huge and black and blue, his toes were obviously all broken, he couldn't walk."

Further reports of abuse by Special Forces include the New York Times's March 19, 2006 article chillingly entitled "In Secret Unit's 'Black Room,' a Grim Portrait of U.S. Abuse":

"American soldiers made one of the former Iraqi government's torture chambers into their own interrogation cell. They named it the Black Room.

In the windowless, jet-black garage-size room, some soldiers beat prisoners with rifle butts, yelled and spit in their faces and, in a nearby area, used detainees for target practice in a game of jailer paintball….

Placards posted by soldiers at the detention area advised, "NO BLOOD, NO FOUL." The slogan, as one Defense Department official explained, reflected an adage adopted by Task Force 6-26: 'If you don't make them bleed, they can't prosecute for it.' "

This unit combined elements from throughout the Special Forces:

"The task force was a melting pot of military and civilian units. It drew on elite troops from the Joint Special Operations Command, whose elements include the Army unit Delta Force, Navy's Seal Team 6 and the 75th Ranger Regiment."

There are numerous other reports of pervasive abuse by troops across Iraq. Thus Capt. Ian Fishback and two other members of the 82nd Airborne Division told Human Rights Watch in 2005 that the abuse in their unit was routine. As reported in the New York Times:

"In separate statements to the human rights organization, Captain Fishback and two sergeants described systematic abuses of Iraqi prisoners, including beatings, exposure to extremes of hot and cold, stacking in human pyramids and sleep deprivation at Camp Mercury, a forward operating base near Falluja."

Capt. Fishback also quoted an Army Ranger, a Special Forces unit, as saying (after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in April 2004):

"I talked to an officer in the Ranger regiment and his response was, he wouldn't tell me exactly what he witnessed but he said “I witnessed things that were more intense than what you witnessed,” but it wasn't anything that exceeded what I had heard about at SERE school"

Military Intelligence

Military Intelligence units in Iraq were also involved in much of the detainee abuse. Thus, the International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC] inspected detention facilities across the country and, in a leaked February 2004 report, described systematic abuse by military intelligence throughout Iraq. It states:

"persons deprived of their liberty under supervision of the Military Intelligence were at high risk of being subjected to a variety of harsh treatments ranging from insults, threats and humiliations to both physical and psychological coercion, which in some cases was tantamount to torture, in order to force cooperation with their interrogators" (p. 3-4).

The ICRC further reported:

"In certain cases such as in Abu Ghraib military intelligence section, methods of physical and psychological coercion used by the interrogators appeared to be part of the standard operating procedures by military intelligence personnel to obtain confessions and extract information. Several military intelligence officers confirmed to the ICRC that it was part of the military intelligence process to hold a person deprived of his liberty naked in a completely dark and empty cell for a prolonged period to use inhumane and degrading treatment, including physical and psychological coercion" (p. 11).

It is important to note that no one was prosecuted or convicted at Abu Ghraib for isolating or humiliating prisoners, or for putting prisoners in 'stress positions.' These were considered standard operating procedures by the prosecution. The convictions were handed down for taking the infamous photographs or when there was evidence of physical abuse that went beyond these techniques.

The Church Report

It is relevant to understand that the Church Report is widely viewed as an attempt to whitewash detainee abuse through sidestepping the extent to which abuse was standard operating procedure and thus reducing command responsibility for that abuse. Thus Human Rights Watch characterizes the Church Report as a partial cover-up containing patent falsehoods:

"The Church report was supposed to be the definitive report on the development of interrogation techniques and detainee abuse in the “global war on terror” but the unclassified summary suggests a careful attempt — months after the Schlesinger and Fay/Jones report put the Pentagon on the defensive — to present a version of the facts that would not cause any trouble for the hierarchy. Time and again, the summary goes out of its way to rebut any inference that government policy was to blame, to the point of straining credibility and flatly contradicting the earlier reports. The report concluded that there was 'no single, overarching explanation' for the 'few' cases in which detainees had not been treated humanely.

Although Secretary Rumsfeld and General Sanchez both approved the use of guard dogs to strike fear in detainees, and although guard dogs were featured prominently in the Abu Ghraib photos, the Church executive summary states that 'it is clear that none of the pictured abuses at Abu Ghraib bear any resemblance to approved policies at any level, in any theater.' Indeed, the only mention of dogs in the entire summary is the patently false statement that in Afghanistan and Iraq 'interrogators clearly understood that abusive practices and techniques — such as … terrorizing detainees with unmuzzled dogs … — were at all times prohibited.' "

Given the nature of this report, it should be taken as a statement of what cannot be denied, and not as a definitive account of the nature or the extent of detainee abuse.

Previous APA Policy Justifications

The APA has utilized many questionable arguments and deceptive tactics to justify psychologists' participation in interrogations. In 2005, the APA appointed a Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS). This Task Force was given the mandate to determine APA policy on psychologists' participation in detainee interrogations. The majority of the Task Force membership, it turns out, consisted of military and intelligence psychologists who played roles in post 9/11 interrogations at Guantánamo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the CIA's "black site" torture centers. Not surprisingly, this task force emphasized psychologists important role is aiding national security by participating in these interrogations.

In support of its policy the APA has highlighted every available report of psychologists resisting interrogation abuses. While finding small pockets of resistance would hardly defend the policy, the APA has been able to offer only three incidents of psychologists ostensibly opposing the abusive interrogation policy. This despite the central role of psychologists in interrogations at Guantánamo and the CIA black sites and their participation in interrogations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The most noteworthy example offered thus far has been that of Michael Gelles, a Navy Criminal Investigative Service psychologist. Gelles forcefully opposed opposed some of the worst abuses committed at Guantánamo and reported them to his commander, leading to policy changes. While Dr. Gelles acted honorably and may have helped change policies, one should remember that, long after these interventions the ICRC found conditions at Guantánamo continued to be abusive. As the New York Times described the ICRC findings during their June 2004 visit:

"[I]nvestigators had found a system devised to break the will of the prisoners at Guantánamo, who now number about 550, and make them wholly dependent on their interrogators through 'humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions.' Investigators said that the methods used were increasingly 'more refined and repressive' than learned about on previous visits.

''The construction of such a system, whose stated purpose is the production of intelligence, cannot be considered other than an intentional system of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and a form of torture,' the report said. It said that in addition to the exposure to loud and persistent noise and music and to prolonged cold, detainees were subjected to 'some beatings.' The report did not say how many of the detainees were subjected to such treatment."

Thus, whatever successes Dr. Gelles' achieved, they did little to dismantle the abusive system, described in the ICRC report as "tantamount to torture.” Even Dr. Gelles' valiant attempt to oppose these interrogation techniques did little, in the end, to keep interrogations "safe, legal, ethical, and effective."

The APA has also at times pointed to Col. Larry James as an example of a psychologist successfully opposing torture. But there is simply no evidence to support this claim. Col. James was the Chief Psychologist on the Joint Intelligence Task Force in charge of the Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) at Guantánamo in early 2003. As the Red Cross noted when they returned to Guantánamo a year after col. James' departure, conditions had only become increasingly "more refined and repressive" since Col. James was stationed there. Additionally, during Col. James' tour at Guantánamo, the Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures were adopted mandating a minimum of four weeks isolation for all new detainees:

"to enhance and exploit the disorientation and disorganization felt by a newly arrived detainee in the interrogation process. It concentrates on isolating the detainee and fostering dependence of the detainee on his interrogator."

The Joint Intelligence Task Force, of which Col. James was the Chief Psychologist, was in fact assigned the role of deciding when a detainee had been sufficiently disoriented, disorganized, and dependent on his interrogator enough to be released from this isolation. When this policy was described in Harpers online, Dr. Behnke, the APA's Ethics wrote a letter agreeing that this use of isolation was unethical for psychologists:

"With the recent posting on the Internet of what has been identified as the U.S. military's 2003 operating manual for the Guantánamo detention center, attention has been directed to the use of isolation and sensory deprivation as interrogation procedures. APA policy specifically prohibits using any such technique, alone or in combination with other techniques for the purpose of breaking down a detainee."

Nonetheless, even after this information became public, APA officials have continued to cite Col. James to audiences as an anti-torture hero.

APA and the Newly-Released Materials

Contained in the newly released sections of the Church Report is an official acknowledgement that psychologists in so-called Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCTs) functioned in both Iraq and Afghanistan. But what had not been clear before is that these BSCTs are "mostly within Special Operations, where they provide direct support to military operations." That is, the BSCT psychologists were, as described above, within the units especially known for using brutal means for dealing with detainees (Arrigo & Bennett, 2007).

Given this context, it is especially misleading that the APA's Ethics Director points to two vague sentences in the report to argue that this material supports the APA's policy of "engagement" with the Bush administration's interrogation regime. Here are the relevant sentences from the Church report:

"In Iraq, we interviewed two military personnel and one civilian serving in this capacity. All three emphasized their separation from detainee medical care. Only one believed he had observed or suspected detainee abuse. No details were offered, except that, when this occurred, he recommended the interrogation not proceed and brought in medical personnel to evaluate the detainee."

Given that these BSCT psychologists are "mostly within Special Operations" and are assigned to military intelligence, a curious reader might wonder about the routine nature of interrogations witnessed or participated in by the BSCT psychologists. These routine interrogations likely included techniques approved by the September 2003 memorandum from Gen. Sanchez which the very same Church Report materials document were still in widespread use through at least July 2004. Given this background, there is a more plausible reading of these sentences. It is most likely that what was "abuse" to a BSCT psychologist were interrogation tactics that went beyond those authorized by the September 2003 memo as 'standard operating procedure.' That is, given the "No Blood, No Foul" attitude of many Special Forces units, “abuse” would very likely be tactics that led to serious and visible physical harm. The fact that the BSCT "brought in medical personnel to evaluate the detainee" also supports such an interpretation. In years of reading and writing about detainee abuse in Iraq and elsewhere, I have never seen accounts of medical personnel being brought in to examine victims exposed "merely" to psychological abuse such as isolation, stress positions, sleep deprivation, or exposure to loud noises or freezing temperatures. It is unlikely that this sole report of a psychologist reporting abuse was referring to these widespread, but standard, abuses.

Can I prove my interpretation of this passage is the correct one? No. The wording is ambiguous and "no details were offered." But Dr. Behnke's claim that these newly released materials provide evidence that "APA's policy of engagement served the intended purpose – to stop interrogations that cross the bounds of ethical propriety" – is totally unsupported. In contrast, my interpretation is grounded in knowledge about detainee abuse in Iraq and about the Church report. Dr. Behnke's "careful" review of these documents does not attempt to understand the role of psychologists in abuse of detainees but, like U.S. “intelligence” about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, fixes the data around established APA policy.


Arrigo, Jean Maria, & Bennett, Ray. (2007). Organizational Supports for Abusive Interrogations in “The War on Terror.” In Torture Is for Amateurs, special issue of Peace and Conflict, 13 (4): 411-421.

Asia Times: Bush to attack Iran by August

From : Think Progress

Asia Times is reporting that “a retired US career diplomat and former assistant secretary of state still active in the foreign affairs community” are alleging that the Bush administration “plans to launch an air strike against Iran within the next two months” :

The source, a retired US career diplomat and former assistant secretary of state still active in the foreign affairs community, speaking anonymously, said last week that the US plans an air strike against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The air strike would target the headquarters of the IRGC's elite Quds force. With an estimated strength of up to 90,000 fighters, the Quds' stated mission is to spread Iran's revolution of 1979 throughout the region.
Last week, the White House denied a story in the Jerusalem Post that claimed that President Bush “intends to attack Iran before the end of his term.”

Raw Story is reporting that aides to Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) are denying any knowledge of a Bush administration plan to strike Iran by August:
"That story was inaccurate. Senator Feinstein has not received any briefing – classified or unclassified – from the Administration involving any plans to strike Iran," Philip J. Lavelle, the California Democrat's press secretary, wrote in an e-mail to RAW STORY Wednesday. "In addition, she has not submitted an op-ed to the NYT, or any other paper, on this subject in recent days. She has been a strong advocate for diplomacy with Iran, and will continue to be one." Lugar spokesman Andy Fisher was more succinct: "No briefing. No oped. No conversations. No story."


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