Professional ethics in the War on Terror
Though their actions invoke less dramatic imagery than the interrogators and prison guards who tortured and humiliated Muslim detainees at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, equally guilty are the legions of professionals who facilitated the abuse.
Although the principal maxim of medical ethics is “First do no harm,” psychologists and doctors working for the military and CIA actively assisted in the torture of human beings. Psychologists helped fine-tune techniques such as sleep deprivation, stress positions and waterboarding, and doctors often monitored harsh interrogations, intervening when necessary to keep struggling prisoners alive and alert so the questioning could continue.
How could medical professionals demonstrate such little empathy in the presence of human suffering?
“People are capable of incredible cruelty. It’s increased in circumstances where there aren’t clear rules and boundaries,” says psychoanalyst Dr. Stephen Soldz. “We dehumanized the enemy after 9/11. We did it as a culture and the military did it spectacularly well. Like many others, military doctors felt a duty to serve their country.”
In 2007 Dr. Soldz urged the American Psychological Association to ban psychologists from participating in the interrogation of terror suspects.
“Professional ethics are always weak,” he says. “We have wonderful statements by professional associations about what the ethics are, but many people don’t internalize them.”
Justice Department memos revealed that doctors with the CIA’s Office of Medical Services declared that depriving prisoners of sleep for upwards of 180 hours was not classified as torture, nor was hosing down detainees with freezing cold water for up to two-thirds of the time it takes hypothermia to set in.
“They signed up to be part of the CIA’s covert operations, so presumably their commitment to medical ethics was long gone,” Dr. Soldz explains…
See also Glenn Greenwald: “the Obama administration is knowingly imprisoning a completely innocent human being who has been kept in a cage in an island prison, thousands of miles from his home, for the last 8 years, since he’s 18 years old, despite having done absolutely nothing wrong.” here