February 01, 2010

No Role for Mental Health Professionals in the Practice of Torture

One of the ways I keep up with what's going on in the world is through email feeds from selected websites. One of them is from Science Daily, a wonderful site that publishes nuggets about the latest scientific research.

The title of this blog is from an article at Science Daily. Don't believe me? Click on the title and go read the short.

The research seems to be supported by this quote from an article in the New England Journal of Medicine titled "Doctors and Interrogators at Guantanamo Bay", published July 7, 2005:

"Clinical expertise has a limited place in the planning and oversight of lawful interrogation. Psychologists play such a role in criminal investigations, and medical monitoring of detainees is called for by international legal instruments. But proximity of health professionals to interrogation settings, even when they act as caregivers, carries risk. It may invite interrogators to be more aggressive, because they imagine that these professionals will set needed limits."

The latest research according to Science Daily implies that the psychologists/psychiatrists aren't capable of setting limits because they don't have the necessary expertise.

And while all of this is very interesting (at least to psychologists and psychiatrists and torturers), and in an intellectual way I myself find it a fascinating discussion, what I want to know is this:

Why are we even TALKING about torture in the first place?

When the shit hit the fan about "interrogation techniques" at Guantanamo Bay I thought this whole torture business was over with. Apparently not. Apparently it's still acceptable for the US government to torture information out of suspected terrorists. Else why would research be going on into who's fit to participate?

Americans are members of a nation that practices the torture of other human beings. That means we all sanction it, because we're not doing anything to stop the government from doing it (even if the government would admit that it's still going on). And what about the people who are actually doing the torturing? Americans are sanctioning government employment of sociopaths and sadists, and we're paying them for their "skills" with our own money. Yours and mine.

Like many Americans, I don't give a lot of thought to homeland terrorism. I don't let fear rule my life, or even enter into it that much. When I do think about it it's usually in terms of "Oh, well, the government is watching out for that sort of thing." And when I think about what "watching out for" means, I certainly don't think it includes torture. Not after Guantanamo Bay anyway.

It seems I'm wrong. And it makes me sick to my stomach.

Do you have any thoughts about the practice of torture to secure information from suspected terrorists? Is it acceptable? What are the costs and are you willing to pay them?

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