APA sidelined Task Force on the Psychological Effects of Efforts to Prevent Terrorism to not offend Bush administration
Those of us fighting the American Psychological Association’s campaign of denial, deceit, and delay in order to maintain psychologists in Bush’s illegal and abusive interrogations are not surprised that the APA leadership has used similar slimy tactics to counter other challenges to its cozy relationship with the War of Terror boondoggle and war machine. Paul Kimmel writes of how APA sidelined a report from an APA task force he chaired, the Task Force on the Psychological Effects of Efforts to Prevent Terrorism. [This article will appear in the APA's Peace Psychology Division newsletter (Division 48). Reprinted with permission.]
Reflections From Panama
Greetings from Panama City where Ramona and I are living until December to see if we want to relocate here in 2008. We missed seeing you in San Francisco, but through the wonders of the Internet, kept up with much of what happened there. We were saddened, but not surprised, when we read Linda Woolf’s commentary on the Moratorium proposal.
As Yogi Berra said, it was like “deja vu all over again.” The experiences that she described in dealing with the APA before and during the Council meetings brought back many memories of my two years as Chair of the Council’s Task Force on the Psychological Effects of Efforts to Prevent Terrorism.
At their February 2003 meetings we were charged with “assessing the emotional and behavioral effects of processes initiated in the U.S. to safeguard American lives and property and prevent future acts of terrorism.”
Council approved this Task Force proposal nearly unanimously with one long time council member calling it the “most important task force ever established by Council.”
The Board of Directors of the APA, President Sternberg and Secretary Levant vetted the 15 Task Force members that I recommended and added one other researcher from NIH. We pursued our assignments individually and coordinated through conference calls attended by a variety of employees of the APA’s Public Interest Directorate between June and October of 2003. The editing of the final document was done by e-mail with expert help from Art Kendall on the necessary detailed work.
Three other experts in conflict resolution reviewed our work in March 2004. Their comments were taken into account in the Final Report that went to the Board of Directors’ June 2004 meeting. At this meeting the Report was approved for the Council meetings of July 2004.
And then the fun began.
Just before the afternoon session at which I was scheduled to present our Report to the APA Council, Ron Levant, Rhea Farberman, Henry Tomes and my contact on the Board of Directors called me from lunch to discuss our Report. I was told that to have the Report “received” by the Association – as proposed in our Agenda item – would not be as powerful as having it “reported” to the APA after being reviewed by a number of relevant Boards and Committees. They suggested that I amend our item on the floor to have such a review take place so that the Association could do more with our findings and recommendations than just accepting them.
With little time to consult the rest of the Task Force (there had been no mention of such a review process before this hurried discussion), I amended the proposal as requested (although Bernice Lott, another TF member on Council, who was skeptical of this last minute turn of events, opposed postponing the reception of our time-sensitive work). My expectation was that by going through the review process, the Report would be stronger and the Association would act upon it more quickly and comprehensively after Council approved it in February 2005.
Attending the meetings and responding to the suggestions of the many Boards and Committees involved a lot more work for me and our authors, as these groups had different interests and points of view regarding our findings and recommendations.
When we finished revising our Report in light of their suggestions, the APA Board of Directors recommended it be rejected as lacking “peer review” in spite of the fact that it was a policy piece and not an academic journal article.
It was also suggested that our findings and recommendations were too “political” (it seems that only the status quo is not “political” or “politically correct” at the Association).
We brought our responses to the Board of Directors’ objections to the February 2005 Council meetings, only to find our item being moved down the agenda by Ron Levant (presiding as President) until there were just 10 minutes left in the final afternoon session.
This was barely enough time to go over the main item and no time for discussion of or response to the Board’s critique.
Our first speaker was cut off by Levant (there were several others ready and able to address their issues) and a vote was called.
We were voted down – as Representatives were leaving to catch flights and other Convention activities – and the Report was never received by the APA.
As many of you know, I took the initiative to transform the 12 articles written by the Task Force members into chapters in “Collateral Damage: The Psychological Consequences of America’s War on Terrorism” published by Praeger in August 2006. The APA’s attorney made it clear that I was not to intimate in any way that the book was endorsed or approved by the Association.
Like Linda in her struggles with the recent Moratorium proposal, I felt neglected, misled and taken advantage of by the Board of Directors and members of the APA Central Office.
There was little money for the Task Force (our only meeting was at our own expense, staying late at the 2004 Convention in Toronto) and no single staff member was assigned by the Public Interest Directorate to assist us as needed with our volunteer activities.
The APA’s Director of Public Affairs told me that the Association could not publish some of our statements such as “more people will die from the ‘war on terrorism’ than died on 9/11,” even before the Report was seen by Council. In short, rather than feeling we were part of a professional organization working together to promote the general welfare, I felt that we were being led through a series of obstacles in an effort to prevent us from bringing to the public important information about the effects of our government’s policies on terrorism.
After being rejected, our Report was referred to the Board of Scientific Affairs for further review where it has remained undiscussed for two and one half years.
Thus, our findings and recommendations are available only to those who purchase “Collateral Damage.”
Joanne Tortorici Luna favorably reviewed our book in the August 15 2007) on-line issue of PsyCritiques. It ends, “It is good to know that, in a moment of our history when even a supposedly independent press has largely suspended its critical voice, there are still some who will call it as they see it. Psychologists are sometimes referred to as those who are willing to speak the unspeakable. There is no better time than now.”
I sincerely hope that the time is not too far off when our membership association will speak with a clearer voice on critical national and international issues.
In the meantime, I suggest that you read the rest of the PsyCritiques’
book review and/or buy a copy of “Collateral Damage” to see what it is that the Association will not associate with.
1 comment September 21st, 2007