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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 10/29/15

Making a Choice: APA Reform or Business As Usual?

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It is also noteworthy that Kilburg and his colleagues did not issue a similar public call for scientific validation when Behnke, Banks, and others repeatedly asserted that psychologists play a key role in keeping detention and interrogation operations "safe, legal, ethical, and effective." That was a claim, with profound consequences, for which there was never any scientific basis, and for which no meaningful research or evidence was ever presented. Yet the same voices that now seek to discredit the Hoffman Report offered no criticism of this central rationale for the collusion-driven PENS Report.

Taking a Stand for Change

Intimidation, strategic deception, and obfuscation have no constructive role to play as the APA tries to chart an ethical course forward after a tragic period of psychologist involvement in detainee torture and abuse. None of these ploys effectively counters the Hoffman Report's key findings: that senior APA and DoD officials collaborated secretly to consistently push the APA's ethics policies in whatever direction suited the preferences of the DoD. Even after the fact, the participants failed to openly acknowledge their covert activities to the APA's membership or to the public. That is sufficient reason to be very cautious about trusting any narrative that now portrays these individuals as the victims of baseless allegations.

At the same time, we should not lose sight of the larger picture. Psychologists like Banks, Dunivin, and James are representatives of an exceedingly small contingent within the profession of psychology -- and even within the field of military psychology. Their area of specialization -- what some call adversarial operational psychology -- involves national security operations designed to harm or exploit, where targets have no informed consent protections and where interventions are often classified and beyond the reach of outside ethical oversight. In short, these practices diverge sharply from the principles and expectations that guide the daily work of almost all psychologists -- whether in the military or not -- who work as healthcare providers, researchers, teachers, or consultants.

The weeks and months ahead are a crucial time for redeeming the APA and our profession. We must not let a small contingent create false divisions among us in their search for supporters. The real divide here is not between psychologists who are employed by the military and those who work in the civil sector. Nor is it between psychologists who are healthcare practitioners and those who work in non-clinical areas. The divide that matters is the one between psychologists who recognize the urgent need for accountability and reform and those who instead insist that no wrongdoing took place and that business as usual should prevail.

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Roy Eidelson is a psychologist who studies, writes about, and consults on the role of psychological issues in political, organizational, and group conflict settings. He is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, a member of (more...)

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