The Dark Side of “Comprehensive Soldier Fitness”

Roy Eidelson, Marc Pilisuk and Stephen Soldz

Why is the world's largest organization of psychologists so aggressively promoting a new, massive, and untested military program? The APA's enthusiasm for mandatory "resilience training" for all US soldiers is troubling on many counts.

The January 2011 issue of the American Psychologist, the American Psychological Association's (APA) flagship journal, is devoted entirely to 13 articles that detail and celebrate the virtues of a new US Army-APA collaboration. Built around positive psychology and with key contributions from former APA President Martin Seligman and his colleagues, Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) is a $125 million resilience training initiative designed to reduce and prevent the adverse psychological consequences of combat for our soldiers and veterans. While these are undoubtedly worthy aspirations, the special issue is nevertheless troubling in several important respects: the authors of the articles, all of whom are involved in the CSF program, offer very little discussion of conceptual and ethical considerations; the special issue does not provide a forum for any independent critical or cautionary voices whatsoever; and through this format, the APA itself has adopted a jingoistic cheerleading stance toward a research project about which many crucial questions should be posed. We discuss these and related concerns below.

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Why the U.S. Wants Military Commission Show Trials for 9/11 Suspects

Jeff Kaye

A number of commentators have replied to Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement today that five suspects in the 9/11 attacks, including alleged Al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, will not be tried in civilian courts for the terrorist attacks almost ten years ago, but will be tried by President Obama’s revamped military commissions tribunals. What no commentator has stated thus far is the plain truth that the commissions’ main purpose is to produce government propaganda, not justice. These are meant to be show trials, part of an overarching plan of “exploitation” of prisoners, which includes, besides a misguided attempt by some to gain intelligence data, the inducement of false confessions and the recruitment of informants via torture. The aim behind all this is political: to mobilize the U.S. population for imperialist war adventures abroad, and political repression and economic austerity at home.

Holder claims he wanted civilian trials that would “prove the defendants’ guilt while adhering to the bedrock traditions and values of our laws.” The Attorney General blamed Congress for passing restrictions on bringing Guantanamo prisoners to the United States for making civilian trials inside the United States impossible. Marcy Wheeler has noted that the Congressional restrictions related to the Department of Defense, not the Department of Justice, and there is plenty of reason to believe the Obama administration could have pressed politicians on this issue, but chose not to. (Others see it differently.)

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Spend Money on Negotiation and Development — Avoid More War: Open Letter to Congress

Anne Anderson

As a member of Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR), an international organization dedicated to bringing psychology to the service of peace and social justice, I am most concerned about the recent suggestions to “zero-out” the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and cut State Department Funds. These agencies are on the front lines of providing for our national security through their efforts through negotiations to promote the interests of the United States of America, manage conflict non-violently, watch for future threats, and build more peaceful and open societies that will be good for democracy, economic development, and the well-being of their peoples.

In PsySR’s recent message on supporting democratic change in the Middle East (February 1, 2011), the organization noted that:

“From events like these [in Egypt] – driven by the collective power and pent up frustrations of a long-suffering citizenry – emerge outcomes that are often tenuous and unexpected. Sudden change brings with it both opportunities and dangers. Popular revolts can lead to more just and democratic societies. However, history shows that the dethroning of tyrants does not guarantee a quick transformation to democratic rule, and sometimes instead sets the stage for new autocracies. Lasting democratic progress depends upon continued broad participation, and the relationships and structures that encourage it.” [emphasis added].

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12 Most Frustrating Moments of “Waiting for Superman”

Josh Eidelson

- The way Davis Guggenheim used the kids’ stories. Each of the kids was sympathetic, and they dramatized the deep inequality of opportunity in America. But neither the kids nor their parents got much chance to talk about what they thought would make their school better or worse. Instead we got Guggenheim intoning that if this girl didn’t get into a charter school, her life would basically be hopeless. If Guggenheim believes that these kids are suffering because too many of their teachers should be fired but won’t be, why not let the kids say so? If he believes these kids are suffering because teachers or administrators have low expectations for them, why not let the kids say that? And if the kids instead talked about classes that were too big, or teachers that were overwhelmed or undertrained, or being hungry in class, that would have been interesting too.

- Something that sounded like Darth Vader’s Imperial March played over slow motion shots of Democrats appearing with members of teachers’ unions. This was especially agitating watching the movie as the Governor of Wisconsin is trying to permanently eliminate teachers’ bargaining rights in the name of closing a deficit he created with corporate tax cuts.

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PsySR Calls on U.S. to Support Democratic Change

In light of unfolding events in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere in the Middle East, Northern Africa, and beyond, Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) has issued the statement below calling on leaders of the United States to stand firmly in support of democratic change. This statement is also available on the PsySR website.

PsySR Calls on U.S. to Support Democratic Change in the Middle East

The rapidly unfolding events in Egypt and Tunisia have stunned and engaged the world. The governments of these countries have long been criticized for their widespread human rights violations, including restrictions on freedom of expression and association, the abuse of state of emergency powers, the imprisonment of dissidents, the use of torture, and the persecution of journalists and human rights defenders. But today we are witnesses to the extraordinary power manifest when ordinary people join together and challenge undemocratic rulers, expressing the seemingly timeless human aspiration to be free of tyranny, oppression, and exploitation.

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Open Letter: The Solitary Confinement of PFC Bradley Manning

Psychologists for Social Responsibility is deeply concerned about the pretrial detention conditions of alleged Wikileaks source PFC Bradley Manning, including solitary confinement for over five months, a forced lack of exercise, and possible sleep deprivation. It has been reported by his attorney and a visitor that Manning’s mental health is suffering greatly from his treatment.

As a response, PsySR has issued the Open Letter below to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressing our concerns about this misuse of solitary confinement and alerting him to the psychological literature on its harmful effects. It has been sent to the Secretary and PsySR is now releasing it publicly, The text of the letter and a PDF version are also available on PsySR’s website at www.psysr.org/gates-manning-letter.

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A Commitment to Address Poverty and Inequality

Psychologists for Social Responsibility has issued the following statement, developed by PsySR’s Poverty and Inequality Project, in an effort to direct greater attention to these urgent issues from psychologists, other mental health professionals, policymakers, and the general public.

Poverty is the single greatest threat to individual human development and it simultaneously creates profound social disruption in the United States and around the world. Unless institutions and citizens take steps now to reduce and prevent poverty—and the growing inequality that deepens and widens its damaging repercussions—we will face a nightmarish future that can be measured in untold numbers of destroyed lives, communities, and institutions.

Poverty and inequality are responsible for adults often being too stressed to parent well; inadequate access to nourishing food, clean water, and sanitation; dilapidated housing, homelessness, and dangerous communities; schools unable to educate children to read, write, and think for themselves; conflict, crime, and violence; few work opportunities and low pay for jobs that do exist; daily struggles to manage personal, family, and financial chaos; and risks for premature birth and early death. All of these consequences contribute to the developmental damage that results from limited access to the basic resources that nurture us. Ultimately, poverty and inequality engender hopelessness, helplessness, and misery, and they tear at the social fabric of families and communities.

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