Stephen Soldz on BLBL and Medical Complicity in US TortureWednesday, June 18th, 2008
PHR’s friend, psychologist Stephen Soldz, discussed Broken Laws, Broken Lives today on his blog, Psyche, Science, and Society. Soldz observed that in addition to “medical evidence supporting torture claims, and evidence of the severe long-term effects of the abuse,” Broken Laws, Broken Lives also “provides abundant documentation of the extent of medical and psychological complicity with the torture.”
In no case did medical personnel report abuse. In many cases they patched up detainees to facilitate additional torture:
“[W]hen the doctor had finished treating him, “I heard the doctor say ‘continue’ (to the interrogators)”, p. 21.
The cases where medical personnel were “helpful” are just as disturbing:
““[The doctor] helped me … he told the soldiers, ‘If you go on torturing him in this way, he will die’,” p. 85.
Not surprisingly, detainees did not report psychologists consulting in interrogations (SOP called for these psychologists to not identify themselves, an interesting ethical issue in itself). But treatment psychologists were perceived to be collaborating with interrogators:
“Haydar indicated, however, that he suspected the psychologists shared information with the soldiers,” p. 48.
“While in Camp Delta, Youssef asked to speak with a psychologist because he was distressed, and the two spoke about him missing his family and his feelings of sadness. Although Youssef believed the meeting was confidential, he stated that shortly after the psychologist left, he was brought to an interrogator who immediately brought up information connected to his disclosures, such as telling him that he was going to stay at Guantánamo for the rest of his life and discussing his family (“Don’t you want to leave this place and get back together with your family?”…If you do as we tell you, you can get back to your family.”). He stated, “I figured out the reason they had called me for the interrogation was because the psychologist had told them about the meeting.” He stated, “They were stressing these fears very much.” Following this interrogation, Youssef reported that he was moved to the “worst” section in Camp Delta, where he was not allowed to have a blanket or a mattress,” p. 58
After the publication of this report, any claim that psychologists helped keep detentions or interrogations “safe or ethical” are completely unsupportable. Psychologists, and indeed, all medical personnel, regardless of their personal characteristics, were simply part of the apparatus of abuse. As Maj. Gen. Taguba — who was driven out of the military because of his Abu Ghraib investigation– states in his preface:
“And the healing professions, including physicians and psychologists, became complicit in the willful infliction of harm against those the Hippocratic Oath demands they protect.”
If we do not stop this complicity, we thereby ourselves become complicit. After this report, we can no longer say “We didn’t know. We thought they were helping.”