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mary pipher takes a stand

mary pipher takes a stand

Dr. Mary Pipher, a prominent psychologist and author, recently returned a Presidential Citation award she had received from the American Psychological Association, in protest over the Association’s endorsement of its members’ participation in CIA interrogations.

Her gesture makes a symbolic and largely personal statement against the increasing tolerance by this nation’s leaders of “enhanced interrogation techniques” — i.e. torture — but it is nevertheless a courageous and honorable act, an act which gains her nothing, but reflects a deep integrity and an unwillingness to look the other way or to wait for somebody else to speak up.

Here is the text of her letter to the APA:

August 21, 2007

American Psychological Association,
750 First Street, NE,
Washington, DC 20002-4242

President Brehm:

I am writing to inform you that I am returning my Presidential Citation dated 2/02/06 and awarded to me by then President of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Gerald Koocher. I have struggled for many months with this decision, and I make it with pain and sorrow. I was honored to receive this award and proud to be a member of APA. Over the years I have spoken at national conventions many times and had enjoyed an excellent relationship with the APA and its staff. With this letter, I feel as if I am ostracizing a good friend.

I do not want an award from an organization that sanctions its members’ participation in the enhanced interrogations at CIA Black Sites and at Guantanamo. The presence of psychologists has both educated the interrogation teams in more skillful methods of breaking people down and legitimized the process of torture in defiance of the Geneva Conventions.

The behavior of psychologists on these enhanced interrogation teams violates our own Code of Ethics (2002) in which we pledge to respect the dignity and worth of all people, with special responsibility towards the most vulnerable. I consider prisoners in secret CIA-run facilities with no right of habeas corpus or access to attorneys, family or media to be highly vulnerable. I also believe that when any of us are degraded, all of human life is degraded. This letter is as much about us as it is about prisoners.

In our Ethics Code we agree to promote honesty and accuracy. Our involvement in these projects has been secretive and dishonest. Finally, as psychologists we vow to do no harm. Without question, we violate this oath when we allow people in our care to be deprived of sleep or subjected to sensory over-stimulation or deprivation.

I cannot accept the August 19, 2007 Reaffirmation of APA’s Position Against Torture (Substitute Motion Three). Under this motion, psychologists will be allowed to continue working on interrogation teams that are not subject to the Geneva Conventions. This motion places our organization on the side of the CIA and Department of Defense and at odds with the United Nations, The Red Cross, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association. With this reaffirmation we have made a terrible mistake.

I know that the return of my Presidential Citation from Dr. Koocher will be of small import, but it is what I can do to disassociate myself from what I consider to be a heinous policy. All of my life I have tried my best to stand up for those with no voices and no power. The prisoners our government labels as enemy combatants are in this category.

I return my citation as a matter of conscience and in the hopes that the APA will reconsider its current unethical position. We have long been a wonderful organization that respected human rights and promoted tolerance, kindness, and peace. Nothing is more fundamental to our core orientation and professional service to others than our commitment to all people’s inherent dignity, safety and welfare. I hope my letter may be useful in restoring the APA to its long-respected and important stance as a beacon of integrity and kindness for all human beings.

Respectfully,

Dr. Mary Pipher

disheartened, but not surprised

disheartened, but not surprised

Many Troops Say Torture OK is the title of an article posted at Military.com. The article discusses a report released today by the Army Medical Department detailing the results of a study of American service personnel in Iraq.

Among the findings of the report:

  • More than a third of those surveyed believe torture should be permitted if it could save the life of a fellow soldier or Marine.
  • Ten percent of the soldiers and Marines in the survey admitted they had mistreated civilians or damaged property “when it was not necessary.”
  • Only a third of Marines and roughly half of soldiers reported they believed that noncombatants should be treated with dignity.

This is appalling. This is embarrassing. This makes me ashamed. What is it we are claiming to defend? Freedom? Dignity? Human rights? Or just ourselves and our ability to pursue our privileged way of life without outside interference?

But such pervasive disregard for human dignity and for the rule of law does not come to exist in a vacuum. It grows and spreads and is deemed acceptable, because our nation’s leaders do not say otherwise, but, in fact, support its assumptions. When our nation’s leaders refuse to be bound by the Geneva Conventions, when they find a time and a reason for “alternative interrogation techniques,” when they downplay the “collateral damage” done to noncombatants, when national security trumps everything else, then the kind of attitude among fighting men and women revealed in this survey is not surprising … disheartening, but not surprising.

sadly, this is who we have become

sadly, this is who we have become

Watch the trailer for a new film documentary, Taxi to the Darkside, chronicling the fundamental shift in our government’s attitude toward and acceptance of what are euphemistically called “alternative interrogation techniques,” or more plainly called, torture.

And here is another trailer for an HBO documentary investigating the abuse of detainees at Abu Graib.

speaking out against torture is not a “left”/”right” thing … it’s a following jesus thing!

speaking out against torture is not a “left”/”right” thing … it’s a following jesus thing!

The National Association of Evangelicals has endorsed a declaration confirming their opposition as people of faith, as followers of Jesus, to the use of torture under any circumstances, even in a “war on terrorism.” The permissibiity of “enhanced interrogation techniques” is not a “left”/”right” issue. It is an issue of basic human rights, of basic human dignity, of basic regard for Jesus’ teaching on the way we are to treat our neighbors and our enemies.

I am encouraged that the whole church is speaking with one voice on this issue. May our voice be heard! May our nation not find itself “winning” the war on terrorism at the cost of its own soul!

I am quoting here the whole of the executive summary of the declaration. You may find the summary in its original context and a link to the full declaration on the Evangelicals for Human Rights website.

AN EVANGELICAL DECLARATION AGAINST TORTURE:
PROTECTING HUMAN RIGHTS IN AN AGE OF TERROR

Executive Summary

1. Introduction: From a Christian perspective, every human life is sacred. As evangelical Christians, recognition of this transcendent moral dignity is non-negotiable in every area of life, including our assessment of public policies. This commitment has been tested in the war on terror, as a public debate has occurred over the moral legitimacy of torture and of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees held by our nation in the current conflict. We write this declaration to affirm our support for detainee human rights and our opposition to any resort to torture.

2. Sanctity of Life: We ground our commitment to human rights in the core Christian theological conviction that each and every human life is sacred. This theme wends its way throughout the Scriptures: in Creation, Law, the Incarnation, Jesus’ teaching and ministry, the Cross, and his Resurrection. Concern for the sanctity of life leads us to vigilant sensitivity to how human beings are treated and whether their God-given rights are being respected.

3. Human Rights: Human rights, which function to protect human dignity and the sanctity of life, cannot be cancelled and should not be overridden. Recognition of human rights creates obligations to act on behalf of others whose rights are being violated. Human rights place a shield around people who otherwise would find themselves at the mercy of those who are angry, aggrieved, or frightened. While human rights language can be misused, this demands its clarification rather than abandonment. Among the most significant human rights is the right to security of person, which includes the right not to be tortured.

4. Christian History and Human Rights: The concept of human rights is not a “secular” notion but instead finds expression in Christian sources long before the Enlightenment. More secularized versions of the human rights ethic which came to occupy such a large place in Western thought should be seen as derivative of earlier religious arguments. Twentieth century assaults on human rights by totalitarian states led to a renewal of “rights talk” after World War II. Most branches of the Christian tradition, including evangelicalism, now embrace a human rights ethic.

5. Ethical Implications: Everyone bears an obligation to act in ways that recognize human rights. This responsibility takes different forms at different levels. Churches must teach their members to think biblically about morally difficult and emotionally intense public issues such as this one. Our own government must honor its constitutional and moral responsibilities to respect and protect human rights. The United States historically has been a leader in supporting international human rights efforts, but our moral vision has blurred since 9/11. We need to regain our moral clarity.

6. Legal Structures: International law contains numerous clear and unequivocal bans on torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. These bans are wise and right and must be embraced without reservation once again by our own government. Likewise, United States law and military doctrine has banned the resort to torture and cruel and degrading treatment. Tragically, documented acts of torture and of inhumane and cruel behavior have occurred at various sites in the U.S. war on terror, and current law opens procedural loopholes for more to continue. We commend the Pentagon’s revised Army Field Manual for clearly banning such acts, and urge that this ban extend to every sector of the United States government without exception, including our intelligence agencies.

7. Concluding Recommendations: The abominable acts of 9/11, along with the continuing threat of terrorist attacks, create profound security challenges. However, these challenges must be met within a moral and legal framework consistent with our values and laws, among which is a commitment to human rights that we as evangelicals share with many others. In this light, we renounce the resort to torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees, call for the extension of procedural protections and human rights to all detainees, seek clear government-wide embrace of the Geneva Conventions, including those articles banning torture and cruel treatment of prisoners, and urge the reversal of any U.S. government law, policy, or practice that violates the moral standards outlined in this declaration.