When the torture issue arose, the Council, despite the efforts of several council members, fell victim to some of the very silly arguments described above. Council members were told that to oppose psychologists participation in the detention actions was to cruelly suggest that our colleagues might engage in torture. In a fashion chillingly characteristic of the gaslighter it was implied that those who raised concern about torture, were themselves torturing their colleagues who were working in the military. One prominent member of the APA governance gratuitously raised the ethnicity of one of the military psychologists seemingly opening the possibility that the opponents to torture were racist.
These arguments were then followed with the grandiose closing argument that psychologists presence at the detention centers was critical to make sure torture did not recur. We psychologists had a moral duty to prevent immoral behavior. The piano player once aroused to the possibility of what was going on upstairs was now necessary to prevent it. Yes, these were the arguments that carried the day in APA deliberations and enabled the military to have its way with the APA. In the more discerning eyes of the world, they have very little credibility.
But the gaslighting is not over, even now. There is one more step in the process. History will show this to be a despicable period of American history. The people who have supported APA's position on this issue obviously do not want their legacy at APA to include that they supported a policy that failed to indict the detention centers. The recent history must be revised. In a seeming gesture of reconciliation the APA has offered to continue negotiating the matter with the dissident groups. In this fashion the historical revision has already begun. It may well be the final policy APA adopts will ultimately read the way it should have last summer and much, much earlier when it actually mattered. APA will "get it right" shortly before or shortly after George Bush leaves office. In leaving a final written policy that is like our sister organizations' original policies, APA's shocking failure at the critical time will appear never to have happened.
Such is the work of a regressed and chronically manipulated organization. Despite being an organization of psychologists, APA has been subjected to very little analysis. Psychologists are amongst the most moral and ethical people I know. They deserved better from their national organization, just as Americans have deserved better from their government.
This article originally appeared in P sychologist-Psychoanalyst, the newsletter of the Division of Psychoanalysis, Vol. XXVIII, No. 3 (Summer 2008), pp. 6-10.
Bryant L. Welch, JD, PhD is the author of the new book S tate of Confusion: Political Manipulation and the Assault on the American Mind (Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin's Press, June 10, 2008). He established the American Psychological Association Practice Directorate serving as its first executive director and currently lives and practices psychology on Hilton Head Island, SC. He can be reached directly via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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