‘Guantanamo Nightmare’: Roy Eidelson on American Psychology and Torture

Roy Eidelson

Roy Eidelson

Roy Eidelson, clinical psychologist, president of Eidelson Consulting and member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, published a fascinating essay in the latest edition of Counterpunch (available online here). It’s a cautionary tale for psychology: a futuristic, distopian vision of a discipline so entangled with the military machinations of the US army that the APA has moved its headquarters to Guantanamo Bay… The opening paragraph reads as follows: ‘It was June 2025, and balloons, streamers, and fanfare celebrated the grand opening of the American Psychological Association’s new headquarters and museum at the former Guantanamo Bay Detention Center in Cuba. Although a wave of mass resignations had followed the Association’s controversial decision to move its home from Washington, DC, pragmatists viewed the unsolicited offer from the White House as simply too good to refuse: rent-free use of the facility in exchange for the APA’s continuing and uncompromising fealty to the Department of Defense and the CIA.’

One could argue that Eidelson and like-minded critics, by focusing their attention primarily on the abuse of psychological knowledge and techniques by unethical psychologists, eschew a more fundamental encounter with the political history of psychology in relation to the nation-state, the military, and US imperialism in particular. Psychology, one could insist, is not a politically neutral tool (or set of tools) applied by either morally good or morally corrupt psychologists. In other words, psychology cannot be sanitized politically simply by taking recourse to the ethical principle of ‘do no harm’; or by portraying its current entanglement with torture as merely an aberration, something that runs counter to the discipline’s political logic. Even so, basically we are allies in recognizing the need to speak out against APA’s current stance (or lack of it) on the involvement of psychologists in torture. As Eidelson writes in an addendum to his distopian piece:

‘Addendum. There are important steps that the American Psychological Association can undertake immediately to ensure that nightmare scenarios like this never become reality. The APA can annul and repudiate the illegitimate 2005 PENS Report. The APA can enforce the 2008 member referendum prohibiting psychologists from working in national security settings (like Guantanamo) that violate the U.S. Constitution or international law. The APA can adjudicate the six-year-old ethics complaint against John Leso and remove the statute of limitations for violations involving torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. The APA can establish clear ethical restrictions on psychologist involvement in national security operations and research where individuals are targeted for harm, where voluntary informed consent is absent, and where timely outside ethical oversight is infeasible. The APA can formally support bills introduced in state legislatures that would prohibit licensed health provider participation in the ill treatment of prisoners. The APA can invite and fully cooperate with an independent investigation of the Association itself, in order to promote appropriate measures aimed at greater transparency and accountability and institutional reform. I encourage fellow psychologists and other interested individuals to support these initiatives and to call upon APA leaders to do the same.’

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One Response to ‘Guantanamo Nightmare’: Roy Eidelson on American Psychology and Torture

  1. themoralcommunitiesproject says:

    Reblogged this on The Moral Communities Project.

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