Monday, June 27, 2005

U.S. Army In Self-Exculpation Shock

Boy, the Gitmo Good News Express just keeps on rollin' lately. Hard on the heels of widespread report of ethical concerns over military physician involvement in detainee interrogations, it emerges that there's really nothing to worry about at all. (I think that link requires [free] registration; sorry.)

The surgeon-general of the U.S. Army has apparently conducted an investigation (because really, who better to conduct an investigation into the Army's unethical use of its doctors than the Army?), and 'found no evidence of ethical misconduct at Guantánamo Bay,' according to testimony before the American Medical Association:
Dr. Kiley told the AMA meeting he had delivered to top officials at the Pentagon an "assessment" of allegations about military physicians' involvement in torture or abuse of prisoners of war and detainees.

The contents of that assessment, an Army term used to describe an investigation not handled by military lawyers, have not been made public. But Dr. Kiley told a military colleague that the assessment will find no wrong-doing by military doctors, and the colleague passed that on to the AMA meeting.
[The colleague] added that 'to my knowledge, not a single case of misconduct has been verified. Not a single one.'
I'd be very interested to know what it is they think they're looking for. Since it's public record that they're using military psychiatrists and psychologists, in the guise of 'behavorial science consultants', on their 'Biscuit teams', it's hard not to conclude that the jig is more than a little bit up. To my knowledge, nobody's claiming these docs actually wielded the pliers themselves, so looking for 'cases of misconduct' is radically beside the point.

The 'misconduct' inheres in military doctors' presence on these teams, and in their participation in the teams' purpose: the softening up of prisoners for interrogation. Call them Behavioral Science Consultants, call them Mental Susceptibility Engineers, call them fucking banana splits with whipped cream for all I care, they're doctors. And by participating in the brutal interrogation of unlawful detainees, they're doing harm.

Of course, ultimately responsibility for this deployment of medical personnel lies with the U.S. military. Then again, calling the U.S. military on the carpet for ethical misconduct is like standing in a rainstorm and shouting that it's ruining your new suede Manolos: unsurprising, undeniable, and unlikely to make it stop.

The truth is that everyone involved in this disgraceful business is culpable: the docs who followed orders that violated their professional ethics as well as the authorities who issued them. Don't be holding your breath for the day we get an 'assessment' from those authorities acknowledging that truth.

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