Saturday, June 03, 2006

On responsibility

First, some activities to pencil in your diaries. First Presbyterian Church of LaGrange, Chicago, is continuing their forum tomorrow. You can find more details here. There is a teach-in in the afternoon on 7 June at the CCR Conference Room, New York. You can get details here. You'll need to RSVP to if you want to attend.

A special welcome goes to Dr James Benjamin, Assistant Professor in Psychology and researcher on the psychology of torture and genocide. A sound understanding of a problem is a prerequisite to solving it, and we are lucky to have him blogging on this topic this coming month.

James' post on 29 July 2005 discusses research he is doing on torture in the Greek military dictatorship during the late 60s, early 70s. Notable was the following quote, reiterating the point about torturers not necessarily psychopathic:

Most notably, both case studies help to put to rest the myth that
torturers are psychopathic monsters. If anything, potential torturers
are strikingly average, and from Haritos-Fatouros' work it appears
that there is typically an effort by the governments sponsoring
torture to screen out people who are psychologically disturbed.

If the torturers themselves are not the problem, who, or what, is? The quote continues

We also learn a good deal about how potential torturers are trained, and just how extensive the training is. It turns out that there has to be rather strong institutional support for torture in order for it to occur as a general rule of thumb.

James' introductory post here points to a three part series on torture and genocide, which helps illuminate what these institutional supports are.

The West has a strong culture of individual responsibility, but this should not mean that we are satisfied when only guards and those who did the physical deeds are punished. The chain of command has a duty of care towards their soldiers, and they should never take advantage of that and manipulate them psychologically into doing horrific things. If anything, this is a worse crime than that committed by the guards, made all the worse when those responsible then make their subordinates take all of the blame.

In turn, we have a greater responsibility, which is to ensure that the policies and laws of our govts do not foster the kind of environment in which these crimes can take place. And further, if they do occur, we have a responsibility to our men and women in uniform to hold those who are truly responsible to account.


Blogger Dr. Strangelove said...

Ok, my first torture post of the month is up and it features John Yoo. I wanted to start at the roots and work my way out. Please have a read and recommend if appropriate. Thanks.

1:35 PM  
Blogger elendil said...

It looks good, thanks. I'll add it to the next update.

4:26 PM  
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