4 comments November 30th, 2006
Archive for November, 2006
I don’t spend a lot of time attacking other bloggers. And, given the modest readership of this blog, I don’t really expect to have others spend much time attacking me. So imagine my surprise when I accidentally discovered that Gagdad Bob, on his One Cosmos blog, found me worthy of a detailed critique. At least that’s what I think it was. Read Putting the “Psycho” in Psychoblogging and decide for yourself.
To whet your appetite, here are a few choice excerpts:
This morning I found a leftist psychoblog linked to dailykos, Psyche, Science, and Society, run by psychoanalyst Steven Soldz. It is a goldmine of leftist foolishness, cant, and cliché, and you understand in a second why this man would be linked to the breathtakingly infantile dailykos. This blogger vividly demonstrates the axiom that education has nothing to do with wisdom. More often than not, the two are inversely related….
[O]ne wonders why Dr. Soldz focuses only on our so-called projection of evil into the terrorists, but not on their projection of evil into us. After all, they started it. I promise to stop thinking they’re evil if they promise to stop trying to kill me. (By the way, you’d think Soldz might take a bit more offense at the idea that the terrorists also want to kill him merely for believing in “Jewish psychoanalysis.” After all, they’re not going to give him a pass just because he appeases evil. In fact, they probably won’t even extend the professional courtesy of killing him last.)…
Naturally, like all lying, agenda-driven leftists, Dr. Soldz willfully and misleadingly conflates torture with any number of techniques that do not deserve the term. But even then, what moral person would not waterboard a known terrorist to try to stop a massive terror plot?…
Imagine the mentality of someone who “cannot see” the 200 million souls murdered in the 20th century as a direct result of atheistic ideologies. They are “invisible” because they do not fit into the twisted template of his ignorance and bigotry. What an imbecile.
But on the positive side, I now have a ready source of inspiration when there’s nothing else to write about.
So I guess there’ll be a lot more coming. I’m glad to provide entertainment for, Gagdad Bob until he gets a life worth writing about. In the meantime, at least he spelled my name right. Oops, I take that back! He didn’t spell my name right. Oh well….
12 comments November 29th, 2006
Psychologist Paula J. Caplan has sent me the following article which was published in the Washington Post in 2004. It discusses the difficulties facing returning vets, expected, as they are, to forget the horrors they’ve experienced and return to “normal life.” The essence of her point:
We need to let returnees say they were scared and let them know that’s not crazy. We must also allow them to tell proud war stories when they want to. When they wish to talk, we must find non-psychiatric, non-pathologizing opportunities for them to do so openly, while also supporting them if they choose to see a therapist. And when they need silence, we must respect that, too.
Here’s the whole article:
For Anguished Vets, the Listening Cure
By Paula J. Caplan
Washington Post, Sunday, September 5, 2004; Page B02
In 1996, in his late twenties, Robert joined the Army Reserve to get help with college tuition. The reserve’s demands weren’t much of a hardship — until 9/11, when his life was turned upside down. First assigned to full-time duty as an airport guard, he was sent to Kabul eight months later. In Afghanistan, he counted the minutes until he could get back home. But when he did, half a year later, he found himself “all at sea.” The people around him, he felt, “acted like I’d never left. For them, nothing was different.” His feelings of turmoil were exacerbated by an uneasy sense that he had no right to them, as his unit had been shot at only once.
When he couldn’t shake feelings of depression after nearly a year at home, his sister finally suggested that he see a therapist. It seemed like the obvious solution to her, and I can see why. After all, we sent many Vietnam and Gulf War vets behind psychotherapists’ doors to deal with their anguish, and we’ve come to think it’s the best thing to do. Unfortunately, in our over-psychologized society, we’ve also come to think that it’s the only thing to do.
We’ve failed to learn what the vets of previous wars have taught us — that although therapists clearly help some soldiers, there is only so much emotional damage from war they can fix. Leaving this work to psychotherapists alone may be not only harmful to the soldiers but also dangerous for us as a nation, because it helps hide the consequences of combat, making it easier for us to go to war again the next time.
Simply sending frightened, angry soldiers off to therapists conveys disturbing messages: that we don’t want to listen, that we’re afraid we’re not qualified to listen, and that they should talk to someone who gets paid to listen. The implication is that their devastation is abnormal, that it is a mental illness, and this only adds to their burdens. Yet since there’s intense debate even among experts about the definition of mental illness, it’s all the more important for the rest of us to let returnees know that we don’t consider them weak or crazy for having problems.
According to U.S. Army reports, the suicide rate for American soldiers in Iraq is 17.3 per 100,000, nearly five times the rate for the Gulf War and 11 percent higher than for Vietnam. As of March this year, seven soldiers had committed suicide after returning from Iraq. Clearly, the emotional casualties of this war are already extremely high, and it is likely that the longer troops remain in Iraq and Afghanistan, the worse they will get.
Many soldiers’ first instinctive response to witnessing the horrors of war is to repress their feelings and never talk about them. Traditional prescriptions for men to be tough intensify the expectation that, no matter how soldiers suffer, they should handle it alone. As more women take on combat roles, the same expectations now also apply to them. So, having seen a buddy blown to bits or realizing that they have killed an Iraqi child, many soldiers choose to suffer in silence. Some do so to protect their loved ones. Others fear the pain of telling their stories and not being understood.
That’s what happened to one soldier serving in Iraq with whom I talked. He described how hard it was to sympathize with his fiancee in Dubuque when she wrote about daily frustrations like her car overheating, even as he was reeling from the shock of being reviled as an invader and occupier by the Iraqis around him. “It’s hard to have any long-distance relationship,” he told me, “but from Dubuque to the war in Iraq is impossible.” After a three-week leave, he was headed back to the war zone, his engagement ended.
Help for traumatized troops must really begin on the battlefront. Yet the military’s response has been largely inadequate, even misguided. When soldiers have breakdowns in combat, military therapists give them a little rest and a chance to talk with a counselor, then send them back into the fray, rationalizing that this helps prevent “survivor guilt.” But sending psychologically fragile soldiers back into combat is wrongheaded; they’ll likely feel guilt no matter what. Instead, therapists should advise commanding officers that these are the last people who should be sent back into battle. They should also seek ways to help the soldiers handle survivor guilt, such as pointing out that their deaths would not guarantee that others would live.
One military program, called Operational Stress Control and Readiness, or OSCAR, provides treatment in combat zones that includes antidepressant medication, usually Prozac. Though no one would begrudge a soldier anything that might dull the terror of combat, the truth is that the feelings they experience don’t disappear and will have to be dealt with eventually. And there’s something Brave-New-World-like about sending people into situations where they’re endangered and feel helpless, and then when they crack, giving them drugs to change their brain chemistry so that they can return to battle.
The military also touts its debriefings for soldiers heading home. With these programs, which often last 10 days or fewer, it hopes to decrease the violent behavior some soldiers exhibit when they get back home. The Army increased its counseling after three soldiers back from fighting in Afghanistan were accused of killing their wives in 2002. Returnees are alerted that they may have nightmares and short tempers, reminded that their wives have been making all the decisions and may not want to give up that power, and warned that their young children might not recognize them. That’s a good beginning, but for many, the debriefings are inadequate, and their very brevity can imply that this should be all they need to “get over it.”
But even with forewarning, the reality of having your child fail to recognize you can be devastating. Some counseling may work for some soldiers, but other advice — buy some flowers for the wife, take the kids to Chuck E. Cheese — may fail to smooth the troubled waters of homecoming. It’s no easy matter to know what will help, but even though the answers are neither simple nor obvious, the ongoing project of seeking them is a social responsibility.
Every one of us needs to shoulder a bit of the burden of helping our soldiers and our returning civilians with their reentry into ordinary life back in the United States. In June, I was at the bank when I heard a customer with red crew cut hair boast, “We were with the 82nd that got Saddam.” When the bank teller expressed awe, the soldier retreated a little, saying, “Well, I didn’t actually see him. But some of our guys did.” Another customer said, “Thanks for keeping us safe,” and the soldier straightened up and boomed out that he was headed for Afghanistan soon. “Gonna get bin Laden,” he declared loudly.
As he walked past me on his way out, I remarked quietly that I was frightened for him. His straight-as-a-board posture vanished, and he said, “I got stabbed in Iraq. We’re sitting ducks. And it’s weird being home. Can’t stop watching my back.” Given a chance to voice anything other than the expected bravado, out came his natural feelings of vulnerability. We need to let returnees say they were scared and let them know that’s not crazy. We must also allow them to tell proud war stories when they want to. When they wish to talk, we must find non-psychiatric, non-pathologizing opportunities for them to do so openly, while also supporting them if they choose to see a therapist. And when they need silence, we must respect that, too.
In any case, a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that enormous numbers of soldiers won’t see therapists. It showed that 38 percent of soldiers thought to be mentally ill did not trust therapists, 50 percent worried that seeing one could harm their careers and a full 65 percent feared being seen as weak. Realistically, these barriers to therapy won’t be overcome anytime soon.
So we citizens must accept the social responsibility of telling returnees not only that we will listen but that we will listen for as long as they want to talk about how it felt to be over there and how it feels to be back. We need to tell them not to censor themselves for fear of upsetting us, offending our sensibilities, making us feel helpless to help them or making us angry at them. If we fail to do this, then we become complicit in concealing some of war’s most devastating consequences. And to refuse to face these fully is to increase the chances that we will go to war again.
Paula Caplan is spokeswoman for the Association of Women in Psychology and the author of “They Say You Are Crazy: How the World’s Most Powerful Psychiatrists Decide Who’s Normal” (Addison-Wesley).
1 comment November 29th, 2006
The link to the British TV Channel 4 broadcast a special on the Iraqi death squads is no longer working, again. I have so far been unable to locate a working link. If you know where an updated link is, please let me know.
Meanwhile, here is a four minute excerpt:
November 29th, 2006
Guardian reporter Natasha Walter revisited Afghanistan. What she reports about the situation of women is horrifying:
Malalai Joya is, at 28 years old, the youngest and most famous of all the women in the Afghan parliament. In a way her very presence in the parliament is a powerful symbol of change; a woman who had to work in secret in underground schools in Herat during the Taliban time is now able to speak out against her enemies in the parliament. She rose to fame at the end of 2003, when she made a speech attacking the warlords who still hold the balance of power in Afghanistan. On that occasion, one of the men she was attacking, Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, rose and told her that her speech was a crime, announced that “Jihad is the basis of this nation” and asked for her microphone to be disconnected. The then speaker of the house, Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, a former mujahideen leader, called her an infidel, and said that if she did not apologise she could not attend the next session of parliament.
Since her historic speech, Joya has survived assassination attempts and constant denunciations….
I have only just moved here,” Joya says. “I have to keep changing my house. I hate guns, but I have to have men with guns guarding me all the time. One day they will kill me. They kill women who struggle against them.” Although Joya hated wearing the burka during the Taliban years, she is still not able to take it off. “I wore it today,” she tells me, “while I was travelling, because I am not safe….”
“Here there is no democracy, no security, no women’s rights,” she says. “When I speak in parliament they threaten me. In May they beat me by throwing bottles of water at me and they shouted, ‘Take her and rape her.’ These men who are in power, never have they apologised for their crimes that they committed in the wars, and now, with the support of the US, they continue with their crimes in a different way. That is why there is no fundamental change in the situation of women.”
Read the entire article to find out what “liberation” meas.
The Taliban are returning. Imperial war only strengthens them. Yet surrendering the country back to the Taliban is a horrifying prospect.
What should be done? Hell if I know.
November 28th, 2006
Ed Kinane, who spent ten months in federal prison for writing “SOA=Torture” on the entrance sign of Ft. Benning, the home of the U.S. Army’s notorious School of the Americas, has sent me the following article seeking to explain the Bush Administration’s attraction to torture:
By Ed Kinane
It’s frightening that, at this time and in this nation, torture must be discussed as if it were a legitimate issue. What’s next — the pros and cons of child molestation?
Even hawkish old warriors like Sen. John McCain and retired General Colin Powell say torture is counterproductive.
Numerous are the reasons — both expedient and moral — for eliminating torture:
- ~ Tortu re degrades and dehumanizes the torturer. That may be his business, but that torturer comes home and becomes a husband, a father, a neighbor, a politician….
- Torture undermines the moral stature of those who condone it. Torture loses “hearts and minds” and allies — huge strategic mistakes.
- Torture embitters the tortured and those who care about them. Like invasion and bombing, torture recruits “terrorists.”
- If enemy soldiers face torture upon being captured, they are less likely to surrender. Their determined resistance causes more casualties on both sides.
- Torture is utterly inconsistent with New Testament Christianity. Jesus, who was himself tortured by invaders occupying his country, urged, “Love your enemy.”
The case against torture is massive and compelling. What more need be said? Why is the torture issue still alive?
The issue keeps coming up because torture keeps being exposed at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo or wherever. The issue keeps coming up because the Bush administration keeps pushing torture as a “legitimate” response to “terrorism” — a terrorism it’s doing its utmost to generate. Bush Inc.’s war on Iraq is just terrorism with a bigger budget and bigger bombs.
The Bush administration didn’t pioneer torture. Invaders, almost by definition, use torture. In the 20th and 21st centuries invaders favor air wars. Bombing cities — Baghdad and Fallujah for example — is mega-torture.
The U.S. Army used torture in Viet Nam. Those techniques were secretly taught at the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas in Panama and then at Ft. Benning, Georgia years before Bush became Commander-in-Chief. The difference now is that Bush brazenly seeks to legalize and institutionalize torture.
The case against torture being unanswerable, why does the “Christian” George W. Bush jeopardize his soul? Why, despite broad condemnation and despite the strategic cost, does he openly promote torture?
I’m not yet ready to accept the recently suggested hypothesis that Bush is the devil. The likelier answer is more mundane. I suspect — but would welcome being proved wrong — that the Bush administration is seeking to establish precedent.
If US people and the US Congress can be conned or scared into tolerating the torture of “enemies,” this will help legitimize torture generally. On this slippery slope, we will be de-sensitized to torture wherever it occurs and regardless of the technicalities of jurisdiction.
Why would our Neo-con leaders want that? Tolerating torture abroad paves the way for torture at home. Not only will anyone designated a foreign enemy be liable to torture, but also those designated as domestic enemies. If you don’t support the you-are-either-with-us-or-against-us Bush administration, you just might end up on its enemy list.
Sound farfetched? Consider: Bush Inc., by promoting torture, puts our own soldiers at greater risk. If these war criminals dismiss the lives and rights of our own soldiers, why would they be any great respecter of non-soldier US citizens?
Already we have seen how Bush Inc., through illegal domestic spying and the so-called Patriot Acts and through extraordinary rendition and the suspension of habeas corpus, is no great respecter of the Constitution.
Domestic torture — or internal terrorism as it might be called — is business as usual for certain US allies and other authoritarian states seeking to squash dissent and intimidate opposition. Neo-cons here know they cannot succeed in conquering the world if they don’t first finish conquering the US.
In 1998/99 Kinane spent ten months in federal prison for writing “SOA=Torture” on the entrance sign of Ft. Benning, the home of the U.S. Army’s notorious School of the Americas. Contact him at email@example.com.
November 28th, 2006
I have just sent this letter to the CEO of the American Psychological Association explaining why I am withholding my dues:
November 27, 2006
Norman B. Anderson, CEO
American Psychological Association
750 First Street
Washington, DC 20002-4242
Dear Dr. Anderson:
It is with great sadness that I have decided that I can not in good conscience continue paying dues to the American Psychological Association, an organization that uses my money to support the participation of psychologists in illegal and immoral national security interrogations at Guantanamo and other concentration camps, known and unknown.
Guantanamo is illegal according to international law as detainees are held there without due process and with no legal protections, possibly for the rest of their lives. The United Nations Committee on Torture found that detention at Guantanamo was itself tantamount to torture. Further, there are repeated credible allegations of abuse and torture against detainees held at Guantanamo and other known and secret national security detention facilities. Psychologists, including Major John Leso, a member of APA, have reportedly participated in these abuses.
Numerous international organizations – including the European Union, Amnesty International, and Physicians for Human Rights – have condemned the existence or the nature of treatment at Guantanamo. Amnesty International, in their annual report, called Guantanamo “the gulag of our time.” Psychologists participating there are thus aiding and abetting torture or abusive and dehumanizing behavior in this gulag.
The situation has become worse with the passage of the 2006 Military Commissions Act, which APA opposed. With the passage of this act, all legal protections have been overtly removed for national security detainees. Further, this act makes it clear, as do press reports, that detention may be for the rest of detainees lives. Additionally, the act essentially suspends United States participation in the Geneva Conventions protections against torture by allowing the President to redefine what these Conventions mean.
With these actions, along with many others, the United States government has declared itself an international outlaw. It is time for men and women of goodwill to refuse to collaborate with this outlaw in its illegal, immoral actions.
The APA has engaged in a repeated pattern of duplicitous, evasive, and illegitimate behaviors in order to protect the participation of psychologists in Guantanamo and the other gulags. The APA appointed a Presidential Task Force (PENS) to look into these matters and recommend policy. The APA kept the membership of the PENS Task Force secret. When the membership leaked out, the reason for secrecy became clear. Five of nine voting members, a majority, were from the military. At least four of them had direct experience with the interrogations the morality of which was in question. Further, APA officials took a strong role in “guiding” the PENS Task Force to its predetermined conclusion that participation in coercive national security interrogations was ethical. Not surprisingly, the APA officials insisted that PENS members sign a confidentiality agreement, thus attempting to keep their immoral manipulation private. Upon reaching a conclusion, the PENS report was rushed through within days to official APA approval by the Board, circumventing the usual step of debate at Council. Thus, the PENS Task Force was a farce and its conclusions are, because of the duplicity with which it was created and manipulated, null and void.
In the summer of 2006 the APA reaffirmed its opposition to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. However, the APA managed, through a last-minute revision, to define ” Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” in such a manner –by reference to the United States Reservations, Declarations and Understandings to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the McCain Amendment, and three Amendments to the U.S. Constitution – as to remove much of the Resolution’s force. Through this subtle revision, the Resolution now implicitly defines ” Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” using the relativistic “shocks the conscience” standard of American jurisprudence, allowing abusive behaviors to be justified through a claim of necessity to protect against harm.
The question of the treatment of national security detainees is one of those moral issues that defines a society. One either opposes these horrors or implicitly accepts them. The APA has repeatedly taken the latter path. It is part of the problem. In its response to this moral crisis, the APA has facilitated the abuse.
Therefore, I have decided that I can no longer pay dues to the APA because I cannot, in good conscience, pay to aid the APA’s immoral actions. I refuse to accept the legitimacy of the leadership of the Association. Therefore, I am not at this time resigning membership. I look forward to the day when I can again in good conscience pay dues to the Association.
Thank you for your attention.
Stephen Soldz, Ph.D.
1 comment November 27th, 2006
The Total Surveillance Society is possibly about to get a new boost in Britain where police are considering posting microphones to identify and record aggressive street conversations, the Times reports:
Police and councils are considering monitoring conversations in the street using high-powered microphones attached to CCTV cameras, write Steven Swinford and Nicola Smith.
The microphones can detect conversations 100 yards away and record aggressive exchanges before they become violent.
The devices are used at 300 sites in Holland and police, councils and transport officials in London have shown an interest in installing them before the 2012 Olympics.
The interest in the equipment comes amid growing concern that Britain is becoming a “surveillance society”. It was recently highlighted that there are more than 4.2m CCTV cameras, with the average person being filmed more than 300 times a day. The addition of microphones would take surveillance into uncharted territory.
Of course they claim that the devices will only pick up aggressive speech, such as when you argue with your husband or yell at your child:
The equipment can pick up aggressive tones on the basis of 12 factors, including decibel level, pitch and the speed at which words are spoken. Background noise is filtered out, enabling the camera to focus on specific conversations in public places.
We are reassured that the microphones won’t be used to record “private conversations”:
According to a spokesman for Richard Thomas, Britain’s information commissioner, sound recorded by the cameras would be treated under British law in the same way as CCTV footage. Under the commissioner’s code of practice, audio can be recorded for the detection, prevention of crime and apprehension and prosecution of offenders. It cannot be used for recording private conversations.
It is inevitable, of course, once they exist, that the microphones will be used to record more and more conversation. “Abuses” will occur. Officials and the public will, initially, be “horrified.” Then, of course, many will start arguing that the only way to assure security is to record all conversations.
We need to remember that modern computing technology increasingly allows the integration of information. Eventually the recorded voices will routinely be identified using voice recognition technology and recorded images identified via face recognition algorithms. Already, in Britain plans are underway to record all automobile travel with license plate recognition technology. We know the United States national Security Agency is currently monitoring millions, perhaps billions, of email communications. It is only a matter of a few years until government officials, marketers, or others will be able to track our every movement and action, all in the name of “security.”
The writers of the great dystopian novels never dreamed that the Total Surveillance Society would be constructed with so little opposition. The next few years may be the last to stop this seemingly inevitable trend. It is hard to be optimistic. After all, a society in which the average person is filmed 300 times a day is one in which the spirit of liberty has long ceased to dwell.
November 27th, 2006
Guess even the White House thinks things are really going bad in Iraq. They’ve removed the “Mission Accomplished” banner from the White House web site video of the President’s speech:
November 26th, 2006
Laurie David, a producer of “An Inconvenient Truth,” has an Op Ed in today’s Washington Post which indicates that the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) has turned down 50,000 free copies of “An Inconvenient Truth” because they are concerned about “special interests.” However, they had no problem taking $6 million from Exxon Mobil. They also have no difficulty accepting money from Shell Oil and the American Petroleum Institute (API). The NSTA has had no difficulty distributing “You Can’t Be Cool Without Fuel,” produced by the API to pitch for use of oil.
The education organization also hosts an annual convention — which is described on Exxon Mobil’s Web site as featuring “more than 450 companies and organizations displaying the most current textbooks, lab equipment, computer hardware and software, and teaching enhancements.” The company “regularly displays” its “many . . . education materials” at the exhibition. John Borowski, a science teacher at North Salem High School in Salem, Ore., was dismayed by NSTA’s partnerships with industrial polluters when he attended the association’s annual convention this year and witnessed hundreds of teachers and school administrators walk away with armloads of free corporate lesson plans.
Along with propaganda challenging global warming from Exxon Mobil, the curricular offerings included lessons on forestry provided by Weyerhaeuser and International Paper, Borowski says, and the benefits of genetic engineering courtesy of biotech giant Monsanto.
“The materials from the American Petroleum Institute and the other corporate interests are the worst form of a lie: omission,” Borowski says. “The oil and coal guys won’t address global warming, and the timber industry papers over clear-cuts.”
An API memo leaked to the media as long ago as 1998 succinctly explains why the association is angling to infiltrate the classroom: “Informing teachers/students about uncertainties in climate science will begin to erect barriers against further efforts to impose Kyoto-like measures in the future.”
So, how is any of this different from showing Gore’s movie in the classroom? The answer is that neither Gore nor Participant Productions, which made the movie, stands to profit a nickel from giving away DVDs, and we aren’t facing millions of dollars in lost business from limits on global-warming pollution and a shift to cleaner, renewable energy.
It’s hard to say whether NSTA is a bad guy here or just a sorry victim of tight education budgets. And we don’t pretend that a two-hour movie is a substitute for a rigorous science curriculum. Students should expect, and parents should demand, that educators present an honest and unbiased look at the true state of knowledge about the challenges of the day.
As for Exxon Mobil — which just began a fuzzy advertising campaign that trumpets clean energy and low emissions — this story shows that slapping green stripes on a corporate tiger doesn’t change the beast within. The company is still playing the same cynical game it has for years.
While NSTA and Exxon Mobil ponder the moral lesson they’re teaching with all this, there are 50,000 DVDs sitting in a Los Angeles warehouse, waiting to be distributed. In the meantime, Mom and Dad may want to keep a sharp eye on their kids’ science homework.
Read the whole article.
2 comments November 26th, 2006