Bush and the Senate Republicans made their priorities clear:
President Bush and his Senate allies will kill a Sept. 11 antiterror bill if Congress sends it to the White House with a provision to let airport screeners unionize, the White House and 36 Republicans said Tuesday.
“As the legislation currently stands, the president’s senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill,” said White House spokesman Scott Stanzel.
Senate Republicans swiftly backed up the threat with a pledge by more than enough senators to block any veto override attempt.
“If the final bill contains such a provision, forcing you to veto it, we pledge to sustain your veto,” they wrote to the president.
Any pretense that these jokers really believe there is a major threat from “terrorists” is beyond silly. the “terrorist threat,” for them, is simply a ruse to attack American inalienable rights, liberties, and the ability to pursue happiness. After afll, as Sy Hersh recently reported, Bush is funneling arms to al Qaeda linked groups in Iran and Lebanon.
February 28th, 2007
The Society for Ethnomusicology has taken a strong position condeming the use of music in torture:
Position Statement on Torture
(February 2, 2007)
On behalf of the Society for Ethnomusicology the SEM Board of Directors approves the Position Statement against the Use of Music as Torture, which originated in the SEM Ethics Committee and has the unanimous support of the Board of Directors.
The Society for Ethnomusicology condemns the use of torture in any form. An international scholarly society founded in 1955, the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) and its members are devoted to the research, study, and performance of music in all historical periods and cultural contexts. The SEM is committed to the ethical uses of music to further human understanding and to uphold the highest standards of human rights. The Society is equally committed to drawing critical attention to the abuse of such standards through the unethical uses of music to harm individuals and the societies in which they live. The U.S. government and its military and diplomatic agencies has used music as an instrument of abuse since 2001, particularly through the implementation of programs of torture in both covert and overt detention centers as part of the war on terror.
The Society for Ethnomusicology
* calls for full disclosure of U.S. government-sanctioned and funded programs that design the means of delivering music as torture;
* condemns the use of music as an instrument of torture; and
* demands that the United States government and its agencies cease using music as an instrument of physical and psychological torture.
For further information on the American history and praxis of using music as an instrument of torture, the Society for Ethnomusicology recommends the following article:
Suzanne Cusick, “Music as Torture, Music as Weapon,” Revista Transcultural de Música/Transcultural Music Review 10 (2006).
Here is the Abstract from the Cusick paper they cite:
One of the most startling aspects of musical culture in the post-Cold War United States is the systematic use of music as a weapon of war. First coming to mainstream attention in 1989, when US troops blared loud music in an effort to induce Panamanian president Manuel Norriega’s surrender, the use of “acoustic bombardment” has become standard practice on the battlefields of Iraq, and specifically musical bombardment has joined sensory deprivation and sexual humiliation as among the non-lethal means by which prisoners from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo may be coerced to yield their secrets without violating US law.
The very idea that music could be an instrument of torture confronts us with a novel—and disturbing—perspective on contemporary musicality in the United States. What is it that we in the United States might know about ourselves by contemplating this perspective? What does our government’s use of music in the “war on terror” tell us (and our antagonists) about ourselves?
This paper is a first attempt to understand the military and cultural logics on which the contemporary use of music as a weapon in torture and war is based. After briefly tracing the development of acoustic weapons in the late 20th century, and their deployment at the second battle of Falluja in November, 2004, I summarize what can be known about the theory and practice of using music to torture detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo. I contemplate some aspects of late 20th-century musical culture in the civilian US that resonate with the US security community’s conception of music as a weapon, and survey the way musical torture is discussed in the virtual world known as the blogosphere. Finally, I sketch some questions for further research and analysis.
February 28th, 2007
Philip Zimbardo, the psychologist who conducted the classic Stanford Prison Experiment has a new piece in Yale Alumni Magazine using the Milgram experiments on obedience to authority as a jumping off point to defend the situationist view that evil is largely the result of people being placed in evil-producing situations. The piece is adapted from Zimbardo’s forthcoming book The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil.
Psychological situationism (as distinct from the Situationist political movement of the 1960′s and 70′s) is an important trend in social psychology that emphasizes the importance of situations, as opposed to personal dispositions, in generating particular behaviors. Psychologist Walter Mischel popularized situationism in 1968 with his argument that situations were more powerful than dispositional traits in predicting behavior. This work dealt a blow to personality psychology. Over the succeeding decades personality psychologists refined their work and showed that dispositional differences among individuals do, indeed, exist and predict average behavior fairly well. Thus, dispositional extroversion may not be a good predictor of whether an individual will attend a particular party, but it is a good predictor of how many parties the person is likely to attend in a year.
Milgram and Zimbardo’s work demonstrates that, sometimes, the power of situations can be overpowering. This power is frequently underemphasized, including by by psychoanalytic colleagues. But the situationists are also sometimes guilty of underemphasizing the effects of dispositional differences. Mischel, himself, eventually developed a more complex view of the relationship of personality and situation to behavior. He eventually generated strong evidence of the power of dispositional differences in “impulse control” in young children to predict life functioning many years later. I have also generated evidence that personality in college predicts life course functioning in many domains [The Big Five personality traits and the life course: A 50-year longitudinal study].
In any case, the situationists are surely right that evil-producing situations play a large role in the generation of evil. Institutions like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo exist to abuse those detained there. If one wants to stop this abuse, one must change the institutions that create it. Merely punishing the “evil-doers” as if they are “a few bad apples” is largely a distraction from the required institutional change. If one wants to look for evil-doers, look first at those who created the situation, rather than at those who acted badly under the situational pressures created by the designers. For American torture, efforts at change, and at punishment, should look at the true perpetrators, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Gonzales.
Here is an excerpt from Zimbardo on the application of situationist ideas to the understanding of torture:
Arendt’s phrase “the banality of evil” continues to resonate because genocide has been unleashed around the world and torture and terrorism continue to be common features of our global landscape. A few years ago, the sociologist and Brazil expert Martha Huggins, the Greek psychologist and torture expert Mika Haritos-Fatouros, and I interviewed several dozen torturers. These men did their daily dirty deeds for years in Brazil as policemen, sanctioned by the government to get confessions by torturing “subversive” enemies of the state.
The systematic torture by men of their fellow men and women represents one of the darkest sides of human nature. Surely, my colleagues and I reasoned, here was a place where dispositional evil would be manifest. The torturers shared a common enemy: men, women, and children who, though citizens of their state, even neighbors, were declared by “the System” to be threats to the country’s national security — as socialists and Communists. Some had to be eliminated efficiently, while others, who might hold secret information, had to be made to yield it up by torture, confess and then be killed.
Torture always involves a personal relationship; it is essential for the torturer to understand what kind of torture to employ, what intensity of torture to use on a certain person at a certain time. Wrong kind or too little — no confession. Too much — the victim dies before confessing. In either case, the torturer fails to deliver the goods and incurs the wrath of the senior officers. Learning to determine the right kind and degree of torture that yields up the desired information elicits abounding rewards and flowing praise from one’s superiors. It took time and emerging insights into human weaknesses for these torturers to become adept at their craft.
What kind of men could do such deeds? Did they need to rely on sadistic impulses and a history of sociopathic life experiences to rip and tear the flesh of fellow beings day in and day out for years on end?
We found that sadists are selected out of the training process by trainers because they are not controllable. They get off on the pleasure of inflicting pain, and thus do not sustain the focus on the goal of extracting confessions. From all the evidence we could muster, torturers were not unusual or deviant in any way prior to practicing their new roles, nor were there any persisting deviant tendencies or pathologies among any of them in the years following their work as torturers and executioners. Their transformation was entirely explainable as being the consequence of a number of situational and systemic factors, such as the training they were given to play this new role; their group camaraderie; acceptance of the national security ideology; and their learned belief in socialists and Communists as enemies of their state.
He then goes on to discuss the similarities in the processes producing torturers and those producing Palestinian suicide bombers. Read the whole piece!
February 28th, 2007