October 5th, 2010
Alan Gilbert, at Democratic Individuality, discusses the Guatemalan research abuses and places them in the context of decades of horrific research conducted against unwitting prisoners, depressed housewives, and other “undesireables.” He concludes by relating it to the recent CIA research:
Experimentation on prisoners in America has abated, though, according to Reverby’s interview today, it is still being debated. Nonetheless, psychologists, anthropologists and other professionals have participated in “medicalizing” torture. As opposed to the American Medical and Psychiatric Associations which stood against war crimes, the leadership of the American Psychological Association has participated in certifying “walling” – so that a torturer who throws a prisoner against a wall without maiming her is just doing “kind and usual punishment” – and the like. The CIA has long corrupted medical research, working on sensory deprivation – covering the body in an orange suit, wearing goggles, distorting the senses, getting the prisoner in a diaper on the way to be tortured on Jeppeson airlines in Egypt or Uzbekistan or Guantanamo – to break down the person’s psyche (see Albert W. McCoy, A Question of Torture). Charles Graner, who went to jail for Abu Ghraib, “taking the fall” for the crimes of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice inter alia, was a prison guard in America. He learned to put women’s underwear on the heads of naked men long before he got to Abu Ghraib.
Still, the medical experimentation practiced by government-instigated or sponsored physicians on prisoners in the US and Guatemala, and developed largely on a racist and sexist basis, has been stopped or, to some extent, abated. Now, however, similar procedures are engaged in by officials and doctor/psychologists torturing Arab and Muslim captives. The seemingly consolidated gains of one era have been undercut, in a sharply authoritarian direction, by the Bush-Cheney administation. They have been limited by Obama (as in the case of Hilary Clinton’s apology to the Guatemalan government), but the criminals have also been protected by the Obama administration. Jessica Mitford once quipped, “You may not be able to change the world, but at least you can embarrass the guilty.” But sometimes, real victories can be won after long and difficult struggle. They are always, however, in danger of erosion. This is perhaps the most devastating argument against “reformism.” At the least, the will to fight must be constantly renewed. The American doctors knew they were “not Nazis”; in the absence of movements from below against racism, however, they distinguished – and today distinguish – themselves in the annals of crime.
The whole article, while long, is well worth reading. For long-time activists it will bring back many memories of struggles long past that are, alas, still all too contemporary.