Gallup reports that Democrats have much worse mental health than Republicans. The result holds up even when they control for other variables, such as income. The results are very interesting. My own, relatively small-scale research did not find similar differences. One possible alternative explanation could be that Republicans are less likely to admit to mental health problems. Or, they might just be “healthier”:
Republicans Report Much Better Mental Health Than Others
Relationship persists even when controlling for other variables
by Frank Newport
PRINCETON, NJ — Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats or independents to rate their mental health as excellent, according to data from the last four November Gallup Health and Healthcare polls. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans report having excellent mental health, compared to 43% of independents and 38% of Democrats. This relationship between party identification and reports of excellent mental health persists even within categories of income, age, gender, church attendance, and education.
The basic data — based on an aggregated sample of more than 4,000 interviews conducted since 2004 — are straightforward.
The differences are quite significant, as can be seen. While Democrats are slightly less likely to report excellent mental health than are independents, the big distinctions in these data are the differences between Republicans and everyone else.
One could be quick to assume that these differences are based on the underlying demographic and socioeconomic patterns related to party identification in America today. A recent Gallup report (see “Strong Relationship Between Income and Mental Health” in Related Items) reviewed these mental health data more generally, and found that men, those with higher incomes, those with higher education levels, and whites are more likely than others to report excellent mental health. Some of these patterns describe characteristics of Republicans, of course.
But an analysis of the relationship between party identification and self-reported excellent mental health within various categories of age, gender, church attendance, income, education, and other variables shows that the basic pattern persists regardless of these characteristics. In other words, party identification appears to have an independent effect on mental health even when each of these is controlled for.
The accompanying graphs display the relationship between party identification and self-reported mental health crossed by categories of a number of relevant variables. In almost all cases, Republicans are more likely to report excellent mental health across the various categories.
For example, Republicans are significantly more likely to report excellent mental health than are independents or Democrats among those making less than $50,000 a year, and among those making at least $50,000 a year. Republicans are also more likely than independents and Democrats to report excellent mental health within all four categories of educational attainment.
Gallup also conducted a separate multivariate analysis that looked at the impact of a list of variables — including party identification — on self-reported mental health. This analysis showed that even when the impact of these other variables is controlled for statistically, there is an independent and highly significant impact of being a Republican on mental health.
The accompanying table displays the result of this analysis, showing the regression coefficients that represent the relationship of each variable to mental health while controlling for the other variables in the model. (Coefficients marked with an asterisk are significant at the .000 level.)
The table shows that income, education, gender, church attendance, and being a Republican are significantly related to self-reported mental health — each such relationship occurring even when the impact of the other variables is taken into account.
What are the implications of these findings?
Correlation is no proof of causation, of course. The reason the relationship exists between being a Republican and more positive mental health is unknown, and one cannot say whether something about being a Republican causes a person to be more mentally healthy, or whether something about being mentally healthy causes a person to choose to become a Republican (or whether some third variable is responsible for causing both to be parallel).
Previous analysis (see Related Items) shows that a number of variables are related to self-reported mental health — including, in particular, income. Because Republicans have on average higher incomes than independents or Democrats, part of the explanation for the relationship between being a Republican and having better mental health is a result of this underlying factor. The same is true for several other variables.
But the key finding of the analyses presented here is that being a Republican appears to have an independent relationship on positive mental health above and beyond what can be explained by these types of demographic and lifestyle variables. The exact explanation for this persistent relationship — as noted — is unclear.
Results are based on an aggregated sample of telephone interviews with 4,014 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted in November 2004, November 2005, November 2006, and November 2007. For results based on the total aggregated sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points. The margin of error for smaller subsamples reported in this analysis will be larger.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
Indiana Daily Student News reports that American Psychological Association President Sharon Brehm was today to discuss APA’s shameful policy on psychologists participating in detainee interrogations with concerned faculty and students at Indiana University, Bloomington, where she teaches.
Groups to question psych professor on torture policy;
Critics: Psychologists should stay away from interrogations
Following a controversial anti-torture resolution passed by the American Psychological Association last summer, concerned faculty and students will have a chance to discuss the policy Friday with the association’s president, IU psychology professor Sharon Brehm.
Brehm, who was elected leader of the association in 2006, has been criticized by many of her constituents for not doing enough to end the psychological torture of foreign terror suspects, specifically the presence of psychologists during the detainees’ interrogations.
While the 2007 resolution reaffirms the organization’s stance against all types of torture – something many psychologists have called a step in the right direction – it did not include a proposal to suspend psychologists’ involvement in interrogations at U.S. prisons for foreign detainees. The Progressive Faculty Coalition, the Bloomington branch of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the IU chapter of Amnesty International will sponsor the discussion. It will begin at 4:30 p.m. Friday in the Psychology Building, Room 128.
Brehm has been depicted in human-rights circles as a barrier to ending prisoner torture. But professor Cynthia Hoffman, a member of the Progressive Faculty Coalition, said the discussion will not focus on Brehm’s personal beliefs, but instead aims to examine her organization’s torture policy. Hoffman disagreed with the American Psychological Association’s current torture policy of not removing the association’s psychologists from U.S. interrogations of foreign prisoners.
“I think that we as citizens need to have a lot of information about what has happened, how often and who has been involved,” Hoffman said.
Already, the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association have passed similar provisions to the one the American Psychological Association rejected last summer.
Despite the scrutiny she is under, Brehm has maintained her belief in the importance of psychologists’ presence at government interrogations.
“Our members have a responsibility to intervene to stop acts of abuse wherever they occur and to report such incidents to the appropriate authorities,” Brehm wrote in a January 2007 letter to Washington Monthly magazine.
The American Psychological Association’s 2007 resolution is largely modeled off a similar 2006 enactment. And while this year’s resolution did not provide for the removal of psychologists from interrogation sites like many had hoped, it lays out a set of specific ethical guidelines for psychologists working with government interrogators.
Friday’s meeting will be a focus on policy, not personality, Hoffman said. The discussion will follow an open-floor model where Brehm will have the opportunity to explain her organization’s resolution. The public are invited to attend and take part in the discussion.
“My expectation is that (Brehm) will listen to our concerns,” Hoffman said.
I anyone from IU reads this, I’d love to have a report of the discussion.
There are not many things that I agree with Senator McCain about. But his response to a question about waterboarding at the Republican debate is one of them.
It is too bad that, when he had the opportunity to stop it, with the Military Commissions Act of last year, he folded and endorsed a “compromise” that allowed the administration to redefine the Geneva Conventions Common Article 3. And when the President issued a signing order nullifying, he claimed, the McCain Amendment, the Senator remained mum. Alas, the prospect of becoming President was more alluring than that of stopping abuse.
David Bromwich, on Huffington Post, reminds us of the extent to which our country, Republicans and Democrats alike. has accepted torture as an inevitable part of modern life, in the:
The Torture Compromise of 2007
A friend at a dinner party on the East coast found herself in an argument in which she was the only person opposed to torture. The other invitees, all graduates of favored preparatory schools and Ivy League colleges, worked in the law, investment banking, urban planning and the arts. They agreed that President Bush was incompetent and untrustworthy; but his fundamental mistake about torture had been to go after the law. Torture, they said, cannot be a policy, and a law that permits torture cannot be on the books. What is wanted is a leader who will break the law selectively, in a way we can trust. Torture should be allowable, but only by the right people and for the right reason. To a man and woman, the guests who held this view were supporters of Hillary Clinton.
Go back a year. A scholar-adviser of Democratic candidates was addressing a group of journalists shortly before the 2006 election. Confident of a victory, he rattled off the legislative successes that would come soon after the Democratic majority was in place. Prescription drugs, minimum wage. As the discussion wound down, a deferential question came from a liberal editor at the back of the room. “Can we expect the Democrats to repeal the suspension of habeas corpus and the Military Commissions Act?” The answer was (slowly), No. “Of course, we’re all against those things, but they can’t be a primary concern to a new majority. The laws should be changed. And things will get better; but I wouldn’t expect this to be at the top of the Democratic agenda.”
Sherrod Brown confirmed the accuracy of that prediction was he was asked, a few days after the election, whether he would work to repeal the Military Commissions Act, and he replied that he could vote to repeal it but would not sponsor a bill to that effect, because he had other priorities. Hillary Clinton, in turn, vouched for the understanding claimed by her supporters when she gave her reasoning against the confirmation of Michael Mukasey: “In the event we were ever confronted with having to interrogate a detainee with knowledge of an imminent threat to millions of Americans, then the decision to depart from standard international practice must be made by the president, and the president must be held accountable.” Careful words. Leave aside the pandering to “the ticking-bomb scenario” by which the doctrine of torture has been sugar-coated to drug the popular mind these past several years. If interrogation is done against the law, and if the interrogation is ordered and superintended by the president alone, what can it mean to hold the president “accountable”?
The Scottish patriot Ross, in act 4 of Macbeth, is given to utter words that now seem piercing:
Alas, poor country!
Almost afraid to know itself.
We Americans are watching a process which, if allowed to continue to its logical end, will change what it means to be an American. It will change us morally, politically, and socially.
Alfred McCoy, in his extraordinary book A Question of Torture, recounts the history of the techniques designed in the 1950s and 1960s and tested on real- life political subjects through the 1980s, which aim at destroying the identity and breaking down the resistance of suspects. There is a direct progression from American and Canadian state-funded behavioral experiments, to the instruction given by U.S. special forces to the secret police of client states, to our own adoption of the same techniques in Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and Iraq. The final step down, in which we do the thing ourselves, may mark a change of kind rather than degree. In any case, the climb out of this limbo of barbarism will not be easy; and a policy of reform can hardly commence until the question is answered: “How came we here?”
Accurate history must include the fact that the earliest large-scale approval of extraordinary renditions occurred in the administration of Bill Clinton. Nor can it fail to remark that the Clinton-Blair NATO war against Serbia was a rehearsal for the war on Iraq. In the same way that many non-political Americans forget (even though they have heard) that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11, most liberals have forgotten (though they once heard) that the pretext for the Serbia bombing, the supposed massacre of tens of thousands of Kosovars, was a fabrication thoroughly exposed in the aftermath of that war.
Buried with the motives and causes of our humanitarian wars, lies an elaborate system of excuses and consolations. We give ourselves the right to conduct wars of choice, with destructive effects on others out of all proportion to the risk to ourselves, because we know we are not the sort of people who enjoy wars. So, too, we may reserve the right to torture when torture is really necessary, just because we are not the sort of people who torture. By contrast, the enemy must be fought by tremendous and disproportionate means precisely because the enemy are the sort of people who do torture. Hunted back to its hiding place, this train of thought would perhaps disclose the premise that it is better to be killed by Americans than it is to be killed by other people.
We have not yet come to terms with a fundamental self-deception. Such practices as rendition and torture and the indefinite detention of military-age Arab men, from street sweeps, where no charges are made and no names supplied (a tactic whose large-scale innovation is partly responsible for the reduction of violence in Baghdad)–these practices follow us home. Think of the post-2001 method of corralling anti-war demonstrators by police phalanx into intersection-sized boxes to be moved forward block by block against their will. Or the unwarranted mass arrests of demonstrators in New York City to “protect” the 2004 Republican convention.
Such have been some of our domestic experiments. But we have gone further. In August of this year, a Miami jury convicted of terrorism-conspiracy charges an American citizen, José Padilla, who had been tortured in prison, against whom the evidence was of exactly the character that would have convicted a Miami black man of rape in the year 1927. These things are happening. And yet, in the middle of the longest presidential campaign in our history, the only candidates to speak against the degradation that is now in progress are Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul–both of them ignored or, as often, ridiculed by the mainstream media. Their speech, and the silence or reticence or politic circumlocution of others, is the largest symptom of the silent crisis at home. How can we place ourselves again in the track of constitutional liberty unless we reject all of the persons and all of the means by which it has been betrayed?
Regular readers will recall that a number of college psychology departments have passed a resolution asking the American Psychological Association to change its policy on psychologist participation in interrogations. It appears that APA President Sharon Brehm, who never responded to the over 700 psychologists who signed an Open Letter to her last June, has changed her responded to the Earlham psychology department that began this movement. Here is Dr. brehm’s letter and a response from Michael Jackson, Chair of the Earlham department:
November 6, 2007
Dr. Michael R. Jackson
Chair, Department of Psychology
801 National Road West
Richmond, IN 47374
Dear Dr. Jackson:
Thank you for your letter of October 20 regarding the American Psychological Association’s position on interrogation of detainees.
While I strongly support your right to voice disagreement with the Association’s position, I believe the resolution passed by your department understates APA’s strict ban on psychologists’ playing any role in abusive, inhuman and degrading interrogations. While it is true that APA has stopped short of a complete moratorium, the restrictions placed on psychologists’ involvement in interrogations are unequivocal and are aimed at a goal I know we share: the protection of detainee welfare.
APA’s objective in setting forth these rules regarding psychologists’ participation in interrogations is simple: To prohibit torture and abuse. Torture and abuse are immoral, unethical and ineffective. APA has emphasized this point repeatedly and over the last two decades, has passed four resolutions and two statements addressing this issue.
APA’s 2006 resolution regarding interrogations was the first of APA’s numerous human rights resolutions to recognize explicitly that, as an accredited non-governmental organization at the United Nations, APA is committed to promoting and protecting human rights in accordance with the U.N. Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other U.N. conventions and international standards. The 2006 resolution draws its definition of torture directly from the U.N. convention’s definition of torture, thus adopting the U.N. definition as APA policy. Accordingly, APA is calling upon the Bush administration and Congress to safeguard the welfare of detainees and to ensure the judicial review of their detention.
The 2007 resolution expresses APA’s grave concern over settings in which detainees are deprived of adequate protection of their human rights, affirms the prerogative of psychologists to refuse to work in such settings, and calls upon APA to explore ways to support psychologists who refuse to work in such settings or refuse to obey orders that constitute torture.
There is strong support within APA for ethical interrogations that leave no room for abusive or harmful techniques. After many years of intense discussion, APA has chosen a strategy of engagement. The cost of disengagement is that one loses any ability to influence policy—and the opportunity to prevent torture, humiliation or abuse in actual interrogations.
While it is clear that you disagree with APA’s stance, I encourage you to remain engaged in the dialogue. Thank you again for contacting me and please don’t hesitate to do so again if you have other concerns.
Sharon Stephens Brehm, PhD
Here is Dr. Jackson’s incredibly powerful response:
November 29, 2007
Dr. Sharon S. Brehm
American Psychological Association
750 First Street, NE
Washington, D.C. 20002-4242
Dear Dr. Brehm:
Thank you for your letter of November 6, 2007 and you thoughtful comments summarizing APA’s current position on interrogations.
I am afraid I cannot entirely agree with the implication of your comments that APA has taken a clear and effective stance against coercive interrogations over the past two decades. As you know, in recent years human rights organizations have increasingly expressed concerns about psychologists’ participation in improper interrogations and called upon APA to take stronger action; and a growing number of psychologists, both as individuals and in dissident groups, have voiced increasingly intense criticism of APA’s stance on the interrogation issue. It has only been in the context of this rising outcry that APA has moved, especially in the past few months, toward a more clear and explicit condemnation of improper forms of interrogation. However, this is an extremely encouraging development, and I applaud this very important change in APA’s policies and priorities.
Nevertheless, I believe that there is still a significant problem in APA’s “policy of engagement.” While you are correct that we share a concern for the welfare of detainees, another equally important issue concerns the legal structures protecting fundamental human rights—rights that are recognized in international treaty obligations and that are ordinarily accorded to prisoners by all nations that respect the rule of law. These rights, which include the right of habeas corpus and, more generally, the right to due process of law, are not currently being accorded to these detainees; and, indeed, the detainees are being held in secret and/or isolated locations precisely for the purpose of facilitating this deprivation. When psychologists, with the acquiescence of APA, participate in illegal interrogations in secret facilities, not only does this personally harm detainees; it also violates APA’s General Ethical Principle E (Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity), undermines the moral stature of psychology, and weakens our system of jurisprudence by legitimizing the suspension of basic human rights.
APA hopes that psychologists’ participation in these illegal interrogations will help to protect detainees—a hope which many find quixotic in light of the current administration’s open disparagement of internationally accepted standards of conduct and its infamous determination to carry out coercive interrogations. Quixotic or not, APA’s hope must be measured against the actual damage that is being done by its “policy of engagement” to the one and only instrument that is specifically designed for the purpose of protecting these detainees, and all individuals, from abuses of authority: the rule of law.
Michael R. Jackson, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of Psychology
I must comment on this line in Dr. Brehm’s letter:
The cost of disengagement is that one loses any ability to influence policy—and the opportunity to prevent torture, humiliation or abuse in actual interrogations.
Given the continuing nature of the Bush administration’s torture regime, the APA has no evidence whatsoever that they have any ability to influence policy on torture gained from their playing nice with a regime openly committed to detainee abuse at any cost. How in the world could the APA’s sanctioning the illegal detentions and often abusive interrogations lead to positive policy change? Or is the policy they want to change one that filters resources — precious research and clinical funding — to psychologists?
Any rational analysis would reveal the overwhelming evidence that psychologists were central to the creation, implementation, dissemination, and institutionalization of the American torture regime. The APA’s concept of constructive engagement was to appoint a number of psychologists with direct involvement in interrogations at Guantanamo, Afghanistan, and the CIA black sites to formulate its “ethics” policy on psychologist involvement (the so-called PENS Task Force). the evidence has accumulated that many of these PENS members were in chains of command directly implicated, by government documents and reporters as playing major roles in abusive interrogations.
Until the APA leadership honestly comes to terms with this history, any claims that psychologist participation in Bush’s abuses contributes to positive policy change will ring silly.
In the meantime, we can interpret the fact that Dr. Brehm responded to the Earlham psychologists as an indication that the APA leadership is afraid that our movement of dissident psychologists who put ethics above access to the powerful will continue to grow. Lets make their fear come true!
Amy Goodman’s weekly column is on the sorry spectacle of the Democrats choosing Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who ordered many of the abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq as the person to give their response to the President’s weekly radio address. Evidently, they have no trouble using one pro-torture official to confront another. Despite the talk, torture is truly a nonpartisan policy now:
Have They No Shame?
By Amy Goodman
Every Saturday, the president of the United States gives a radio address to the nation. It is followed by the Democratic response, usually given by a senator or representative. This past Saturday the Democrats chose retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez to give their response, the same general accused in at least three lawsuits in the U.S. and Europe of authorizing torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners in Iraq. This, combined with the Democrats’ endorsement of Attorney General Michael Mukasey despite his unwillingness to label waterboarding as torture, indicates that the Democrats are increasingly aligned with President Bush’s torture policies.
Sanchez headed the Army’s operations in Iraq from June 2003 to June 2004. In September 2003, Sanchez issued a memo authorizing numerous techniques, including “stress positions” and the use of “military working dogs” to exploit “Arab fear of dogs” during interrogations. He was in charge when the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison occurred.
Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who headed Abu Ghraib at the time, worked under Gen. Sanchez. She was demoted to colonel, the only military officer to be punished. She told me about another illegal practice, holding prisoners as so-called ghost detainees: “We were directed on several occasions through Gen. [Barbara] Fast or Gen. Sanchez. The instructions were originating at the Pentagon from Secretary Rumsfeld, and we were instructed to hold prisoners without assigning a prisoner number or putting them on the database, and that is contrary to the Geneva Conventions. We all knew it was contrary to the Geneva Conventions.” In addition to keeping prisoners off the database there were other abuses, she said, like prison temperatures reaching 120 to 140 degrees, dehydration and the order from Gen. Geoffrey Miller to treat prisoners “like dogs.”
And it’s not just about treatment of prisoners. In 2006, Karpinski testified at a mock trial, called the Bush Crimes Commission. She revealed that several female U.S. soldiers had died of dehydration by denying themselves water. They were afraid to go to the latrine at night to urinate, for fear of being raped by fellow soldiers: “Because the women, in fear of getting up in the hours of darkness to go out to the portolets or the latrines, were not drinking liquids after 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon. And in 120-degree heat or warmer, because there was no air conditioning at most of the facilities, they were dying from dehydration in their sleep. What [Sanchez’s deputy commanding general, Walter Wojdakowski] told the surgeon to do was, ‘Don’t brief those details anymore. And don’t say specifically that they’re women. You can provide that in a written report, but don’t brief it in the open anymore.’” Karpinski said Sanchez was at that briefing.
Former military interrogator Tony Lagouranis, author of “Fear Up Harsh,” described the use of dogs: “We were using dogs in the Mosul detention facility, which was at the Mosul airport. We would put the prisoner in a shipping container. We would keep him up all night with music and strobe lights, stress positions, and then we would bring in dogs. The prisoner was blindfolded, so he didn’t really understand what was going on, but we had the dog controlled. The dog would be barking and jumping on the prisoner, and the prisoner wouldn’t really understand what was going on.”
Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch elaborated on Sanchez: “For those three months of mayhem that were occurring right under his nose, he never stepped in. And, also, he misled Congress about it. He was asked twice at a congressional hearing whether he ever approved the use of guard dogs. This was before the memo came out. And both times he said he never approved it. [W]e finally got the actual memo, in which he approves ‘exploiting Arab fear of dogs.’ ” Brody dismissed the military report clearing Sanchez of any wrongdoing: “It’s just not credible for the Army to keep investigating itself and keep finding itself innocent.”
This is not about politics. This is about the moral compass of the nation. The Democrats may be celebrating a retired general who has turned on his commander in chief. But the public should take pause.
The Democrats had a chance to draw a line in the sand, to absolutely require Mukasey to denounce waterboarding before his elevation to attorney general. Now they have chosen as their spokesman a discredited general, linked to the most egregious abuses in Iraq. The Bush administration passed Sanchez over for a promotion, worried about reliving the Abu Ghraib scandal during the 2006 election year. Now it’s the Democrats who have resuscitated him. Have they no shame?
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 500 stations in North America.
UPDATE: The interview has now been placed on YouTube:
Excerpt from transcript:
Note: The following is a verbatim transcript of the program’s spoken dialogue.
[ phone ringing ]
Pinky: Hi, is this Dr. Stephen Soldz?
Soldz: Yes it is.
Pinky: Hi, this is Pinky… from the desert.
Soldz: Hi, how you doing?
Pinky: Um, fine thank you. Dr. Soldz, may I ask you some questions about psychoanalysis and fear and… empire building and stuff?
Pinky: Okay… Um, maybe first can you please tell me about psychoanalysis – like, what’s it for? And what is the objective of therapy?
Soldz: Well, psychoanalysis is based on the assumption that in addition to the things we’re aware of that there’s a lot of mental life that we’re unaware of, you know, the concept of ‘unconscious’. In particular, wishes and motives that we’re unaware of because they conflict with other aspects of life – with reality, with the way we think we should be, and that these unconscious wishes and motives frequently get in the way of us having a enjoyable, meaningful life. So, the essence of analysis is to get people to talk and to try and find out why people are avoiding certain areas. Technically we call it resistance, but what it is that people are avoiding and why they are avoiding it, and to try and reduce this resistance to knowing yourself. So that people then develop greater flexibility and can live their life with less compulsion and a wider range of thoughts and feelings guiding them. So that is sort of the essence of what the process is about.
Pinky: When people construct these kinds of – can I call them self-narratives? – if these narratives differ from outward ‘reality’ too much, is this merely annoying or can this be dangerous?
Soldz: That’s a good question. I mean, all of our self narratives, as you put it, differ from reality in various ways. None of us lives totally ‘in reality’. So, but, if too much of it differs from… and especially the internal reality, for example, someone who thinks of themselves as only being a nice person who never gets angry, that can be very limiting. There are many things in the world that do get one angry and if one has to keep that out of awareness that one never gets angry, then it can express itself in various other ways that can cause problems. So no, it’s not always a problem, but it often is.
Pinky: In one of your talks, I heard you characterize America as suffering from a sort of ‘social narcissism’. Can you please explain what you mean by this?
I was on Democracy Now! for a brief interview Monday covering the recently leaked 2003 Guantanamo Standard Operating Procedures manual and its link to the struggle to change American Psychological Association policy on psychologists participating in interrogations. Watch, listen, or read here.
Michael Otterman, at his American Torture web site, discusses attempts to strengthen the Australian Psychological Society (APS) and American Psychological Association’s (APA) anti-torture resolutions. In particular, he deals with the issue of defining the term “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment,” (CIDTP) which, along with torture, are unethical and banned for psychologist participation. As we’ve discussed here, the APA, in 2006, based its definition of CIDTP on the United States Reservations to the UN Convention Against Torture, which sets a high, and flexible bar for defining activities as CIDTP. These Reservations, based as they are on US Constitutional jurisprudence, define CIDTP as those forms of treatment of detainees that “shocks the conscience.” As Otterman and law professor David Luban point out, this definition has been consistently manipulated by the Bush administration in such a way that any treatment by our government, almost by definition, does not “shock the conscience” and is therefore legal.
“The term “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” should be interpreted so as to extend the widest possible protection against abuses, whether physical or mental, including the holding of a detained or imprisoned person in conditions which deprive him, temporarily or permanently. of the use of any of his natural senses, such as sight or hearing, or of his awareness of place and the passing of time.”
This wording is especially appropriate for use by psychologists as it clarifies that isolation and sensory deprivation, which together constitute the essence of the American psychological torture paradigm, are forms of CIDTP. As I reported a couple of weeks ago, isolation, according to a 2003 Standard Operating Procedures Manual, was in routine use with all new detainees at Guantanamo at the time. The APA Ethics Director, in a letter to Harpers magazine last week stated that, according to the 2007 resolution, isolation and sensory deprivation were, in fact, unethical:
“With the recent posting on the Internet of what has been identified as the U.S. military¹s 2003 operating manual for the Guantanamo 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. In a recent, public exchange (found at www.apa.org) with an author of APA¹s 2007 resolution, I directly addressed this issue: Given the concerns that have been expressed let me state clearly and unequivocally the 2007 Resolution should never be interpreted as allowing isolation, sensory deprivation and over-stimulation, or sleep deprivation either alone or in combination to be used as interrogation techniques to break down a detainee in order to elicit information.”