On Sunday, the American Psychological Association (APA), meeting in convention in San Francisco, will decide whether to adopt an ethical standard that prohibits members of the profession from orchestrating "interrogations" and torture for the U.S. government.
The American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association have such standards; the APA currently has a more equivocating standard that has been interpreted by some psychologists in ways reminiscent of how President Bush carefully parses non-denial denials of government lawlessness. Instead of simply declaring "torture is always wrong," the APA sounds proud that it keeps its place alongside the torturers. In March, its president told the Washington Monthly that
To a lot of psychologists, this sounds like wanting to be "in with in-crowd" at the cost of disgracing their profession -- and abetting the birth of an out-right torture state.
This July in Vanity Fair, Katherine Eban reported the apparent marriage between the APA and the U.S. military.
Many psychologists are simply disgusted.
Those working to get their association out of the torture business held a rally at Moscone Center late Friday afternoon. Several hundred psychologists and friends listened to impassioned denunciations of what they consider the association's current shifty stance.
Dr. Ghislaine Boulanger is a leader of the movement to "Withhold APA Dues" until the association unequivocally repudiates psychologists' involvement in torture. Of French origin, she compared those who participate in government "interrogation" schemes collaborators with the Nazis who worked in the Vichy government. She believes their stance "subjects psychology to contempt and derision."
Dr. Stephen Soldz, who blogs at Psyche, Science, and Society, charged that the APA has "done everything in its power" to keep psychologists in the "interrogation" business.
Dr Brad Olson emphasized that psychologists ought to be governed by the ancient medical injunction: "first do no harm."
People in the crowd stepped up to take "Stop Torture" buttons ...
... while Hector Aristizabal gave a preview of the show he was to perform later that evening as a benefit for Survivors International.
Let us hope we'll read on Monday that the American Psychological Association has come out clearly against torture. It doesn't seem a lot to expect of a "helping" profession. Campaigns like the one these psychologists are waging within their profession are a significant part of how we take our country back.
UPDATE: Sunday, August 18: According to AP:
Looks like some members will be joining the movement to withhold dues, if Friday's rally is any indication.