S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Middle East Report Card

??? -
Does the Bush administration deserve an apple for doing a good job in the Middle East, or is it worthy of a lemon for failure? A majority of the American people would choose the lemon, according to the most recent public opinion polls. And the missteps were not just in Iraq.

Afghanistan - "The Good War Gone Bad." It started as an apple and morphed into a lemon. The blog Informed Comment Global Affairs - is Juan Cole's group blog. One of its authors, Middle East specialist Barnett Rubin, points out that the policy in Afghanistan was wrong almost from the beginning of the administration's invasion. With a flawed and poorly planned policy and poor implementation the results are predictable. A few weeks ago I saved this post illustrating my point: "New York Times on Failure in Afghanistan" by Barnett R. Rubin (8/12/07). To quote,

In today's New York Times, reporters David Rohde and David Sanger published a retrospective overview of how the Bush administration has failed in Afghanistan. While the article contains no revelations to those following the issue closely, some parts of the account have not appeared in print in such a prominent place before. The article provides a comprehensive overview of how, in the words of the NYT's headline, "The 'Good War' Went Bad."

More about Afghanistan - a different metaphor. Barnett Rubin did his promised follow-ups later. Titled, "WSJ vs. NYT: is the Afghan glass half empty or half full?" (8/14/07); and "Wherein One Pessoptimist Meets Another" (8/20/07), Barnett's work is an outstanding analysis of the actual truth about Afghanistan. The first of these two is a very well-reasoned argument against a Wall Street Journal article by a neocon acquaintance published just after the NYT piece. The "Pessoptimist" piece is an interesting profile of an Afghan woman's experience of going home to Afghanistan, to find the situation much worse than when she originally fled her native land for America.
Invading Iraq became the grand distraction from Afghanistan. After ignoring the vast reservoir of good will from many potential ally nations towards the U.S. after the 9/11/01 attacks, and letting Osama bin Laden escape from Tora Bora in Afghanistan, the US. invented reasons to attack Iraq. What huge regrets remain for us who knew that decision was wrong from the beginning. No apple for this worst administration ever, as Keith Olberman would say.

We are in a land of lemons, I mean lemmings. Those mistakes and failures haunt us today in the diminution of U.S. institutions. The mainstream media was co-opted in many ways in the process. Congress became completely ineffectual as a co-equal branch of government. The Supreme Court lurched to the right. And Bush administration attacks on the Constitution have made us less, rather than more safe. The U.S. became an aggressor nation for the first time in my memory, and the torture of other human beings became an authorized U.S. practice. Worse, people in the helping professions have been there to participate.

APA: the American Psychological Association - Now psychology, one of the sister professions of my own (social work), has also become co-opted, refusing to ban the practice. They deserve a lemon for this failure. The story comes fromDaily Kos' Valtin, who posted "Edge of the Precipice: APA Meets the Devil's Details" (8/18/07). To quote,

APA . . . debate between anti-torture forces and the military is one-sided. Not because anti-torture activists aren't getting their say, but because of the tremendous weight of the U.S. government, and the psychological reality that conformity to power is a tremendously strong motivator. In addition, it's believed that the pro-government, pro-military forces already have the majority on the Council. It's not clear that the old moratorium resolution, or a new amendment crafted by Neil Altman and others that attempts to sneak a moratorium of sorts into the new resolution, will even be allowed to come to a vote.

Altman's amendment calls for psychologists only to work in health care roles, not as advisers to interrogation or conditions of detention. I still find this unacceptable, but it may be the most anti-torture forces can hope for at this point... if there's any reason left to hope at all.

After tomorrow, we'll know if my pessimism was merited.

And the Kossack's pessimism was merited. The APA did cave! Yahoo! News (8/20/07) reported, "US psychologists scrap interrogation ban." And the justification is awful. This is sour lemonade. To quote,

The nation's largest group of psychologists scrapped a measure Sunday that would have prohibited members from assisting interrogators at Guantanamo Bay and other U.S. military detention centers.

The American Psychological Association's policy-making council voted against a proposal to ban psychologists from taking part in any interrogations at U.S. military prisons "in which detainees are deprived of adequate protection of their human rights."

Instead, the group approved a resolution that reaffirmed the association's opposition to torture and restricted members from taking part in interrogations that involved any of more than a dozen specific practices, including sleep deprivation and forced nakedness. Violators could be expelled and lose their state licenses to practice.

Critics of the proposed ban who spoke before the vote at the 148,000-member organization's annual meeting said the presence of psychologists would help insure interrogators did not abuse prisoners.

We need apples to be in ascendancy. These are times still too sour for my taste. I am counting the days until a change of administrations, until there is at least a chance to give the teacher an apple for a job well done.

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The Future Was Yesterday said...

I was stunned to see this here. You do your homework, and do it well! I'm a Psychologist, and I've been pounding the keyboard sending mails out to other professionals for many months.

I hold my profession pretty much in contempt, because so many of them have opinions for sale. You can go in a courtroom, and one shrink says the Defendant's nuts; the next one says he's as sane as anybody. Opinions differ from professional to professional, but not by that degree, I assure you!

Whether it's the money that draws them to "advise" on stuff like this, the promises of notoriety, or threats of what will happen to them if they don't, I don't know.

I just know it makes all of us look like prostitutes.

Carol Gee said...

Future, thanks so much for your comment. It sounds like this is particularly painful for you, too.
As a clinical social worker I always hated getting subpoenas, and was only deposed and testified in one case during my career, thank goodness. And I was a "fact witness," not an "expert."
And, at age 70, I am still getting military social worker recruitment mail from the armed services. I am sorry Psychologists allowed themselves to be recruited to engage in unethical activities. And I also know that there must have been social workers in the lot, as well. I am not naive about that.