When Dr. Torture Comes Marching Home Again
How do you know you aren’t going to a doctor who tortured for the Bushies? If someone in your family is choosing a therapist – or you are helping them choose – how do you know you aren’t choosing a therapist who went to work and helped torture people? How do you know if the nurse, EMT, or pharmacist you may depend on to ease your pain – or for your very life – wasn’t part of a torture team? Well, if they served with the US military since 2001, there’s no way to know.
As we’re learning in looseheadprop’s comprehensive series on the Yoo torture memo, the Bushies’ moral depravity has poisoned officials up and down the chain of command in the White House, the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, and the armed forces. Acting under orders, Americans in uniform and American civilians have been (and continue to be) participating in war crimes and crimes against humanity – no matter how much UC Boalt Law School Professor John Yoo and other little Eichmanns of the Bush Reich may pretend otherwise.
As looseheadprop’s recent posts describe, the Bushies’ depravity has also spread out to poison many in the healing arts. Physicians and psychologists have collaborated in the
"enhanced interrogation" torture of detainees in America’s gulag for the new millenium.
At an interrogation center called Camp Na’ma, where the unofficial motto was "No blood, no foul," one intelligence officer testified that "every harsh interrogation was approved by the [commander] and the Medical prior to its execution." Doctors, in other words, essentially signed off on torture in advance. And they often didn’t inspect the victims afterward. At Abu Ghraib, according to the Army’s surgeon general, only 15% of inmates were examined for injuries after interrogation.
At Abu Ghraib (and elsewhere) "medics" witnessed the aftermath of the gruesome torture military physicians "signed off" on, and by keeping silent, collaborated with the torturers. At Gitmo, "medics" force-feed hunger strikers, reportedly using the same feeding tube on multiple detainees in sequence. This gross violation of sterile technique is the best possible way of spreading HIV, hepatitis, and other deadly viruses from one detainee to another.
They used my feeding tube for another man last Monday [February 18]. This, even though they have marked the boxes for each tube. I have been getting a sore larynx, maybe from the infection of another person using my tube.
At Abu Ghraib, a US army pathologist signed what appears to be a false death certificate – effectively concealing death by torture.
Apparently without doing an examination, and according to the documents, without performing an autopsy, the pathologist Luis A. Santiago wrote that the man had died in his sleep. [snip]An Iraqi forensic pathologist who took the body over from the US armed forces confirmed to Spiegel TV in Baghdad that he diagnosed definite torture marks on the body of the deceased. In addition, photos of the deceased confirm that contrary to the US documentation, an autopsy had been performed on the man. The scars on the torso indicate that Western doctors did the autopsy. [snip]
…Even a layman can easily recognize the obvious effects of violence on the pictures of the body: Large, dark bruises that could come from beatings can be seen on both sides of the body. On the wrists and ankles there are bruises, which presumably date back to many days of captivity. There are bruises from beatings or other forms of violent impact on the back. Other lacerations on the upper body point to injuries which can hardly be called "natural".
Accessory after the fact to murder by torture? Or "merely" accessory after the fact to war crimes?
I don’t know – I’m not a lawyer. I’m just a doctor.
I do know that my "colleagues" who collaborated in torture and war crimes are monsters. Do you want these ghouls "caring" for your loved ones?
At Gitmo (as well as in the Naval Brig in South Carolina), detainees in the Bush gulag have reportedly been given psychotropic drugs. Add pharmacists to the list of collaborators.
The list of crimes and collaboration is at best a glimpse of the atrocities in the Bush Torture Archipelago. Today we’ve no way of knowing the full list of sites – Abu Gharaib, Gitmo, Bagram, Diego Garcia, and the Naval Brig in South Carolina are the hells we know of – what CIA and DOD "black sites" have we never yet heard of? Even when all the torture sites are known, we still won’t know precisely what atrocities were committed there. Nor will we know which professionals in the "healing arts" collaborated with the Bush Reich in war crimes and crimes against humanity.
I am very concerned about having cancer. I have had blood in my urine for a long time…..they have had seven positive tests for blood in my urine. [After a first negative scan for kidney stones], they did a second scan with a tracer in the blood. This time, they did not tell me the results for two months.
Again, I was left to worry about what might be wrong with me. Again, eventually a doctor came to see me, a black male, about 40 years old, clean shaven, in a uniform without rank on it. He saw me for only give minutes. He began decently, but then got rather hostile. He told me the test was negative, meaning that there was no kidney stone. "From my experience," the doctor said to me, "I think it’s cancer."
They then said that the next time a doctor would be coming with the appropriate expertise would be in May. Nobody would be coming before that, and he might not come even then. "You will leave me worrying about this for months?" I asked. "I don’t have the necessary equipment," said the doctor. He apparently thought the prisoners were not as important as the soldiers in his care. "I don’t mind if you suffer or not," he said. "It’s not my problem. I’m not here for you." He left.
So when Dr. Torture comes marching home again, how will know him – or her?
Professional identity is a start, but not enough. We know that at least some military psychologists (PhD’s) publicly support psychologists’ participation in torture. To their lasting shame, the American Psychological Association’s "leaders" failed to outright condemn this – though the recent elections in the APA show the rank-and-file oppose their colleagues’ collaboration. In contrast, official organized medicine (the home of MD’s and DO’s) has flatly condemned physicians’ participation in torture.
But that doesn’t mean psychologists are "the problem" and physicians and osteopaths are "OK". Both groups – psychologists and physicians – have followed orders and collaborated with the torturers. Pharmacists obviously have – so too have "medics" in the armed forces.
As we all know, America’s "leaders" have their own army of pet attorneys who will grovel and contort to justify any atrocity President Bush The Frog Torturer desires to inflict on a nation or a person. Rank upon rank of bemedalled "experts" will rise up from their Beltway crypts to tell us President Torquemada is right and just – so we must obey. And servile cynical profiteers in the media – "news" people and the writers and actors for "24" chief among them – have grown wealthy building echo-chambers for the crypt-dwellers.
So what can we do?
A lot. Hospital by hospital, county by county, state by state – we are the antidote to the poison the Bush Reich introduced to the healing arts.
And we have a lot of treatment options.
The biggest is state licensure. In the end, licensure is a political process – state reps tell the state medical board what to do. In California, the Legislature got so disgusted with my theater of the medical arts – psychotherapy – that they outlawed psychotherapists from having significant social involvement with clients. The CA medical board will also sanction docs (including loss of license) for having business relations with patients. No CA law currently prohibits licensure of physicians and other health professionals who collaborated in torture….but the Legislature passes lots of laws every year. This will be one more.
Every health care system I’ve ever worked in demanded that I give my entire professional work history – and they checked it out. This holds true for academic teaching hospitals, private hospitals, county hospitals, outpatient clinics. And they demand the same of other license providers: psychologists, nurses, pharmacists, EMT’s, and the like.
These histories ask if I’ve ever been arrested, convicted, etc. I’ve never been asked if I tortured or been party to torture – but any health care system that wishes can add that.
Any state or city or county can refuse to employ or provide their public funds to health professionals who’ve tortured or assisted torturers – and demand all seeking compensation from a given system to attest they never have never collaboratored with torture or torturers.
Any academic medical center can deny employment to tortures or torture collaborators – as can any other health care system. As UC’s Boalt School of Law is finding, the consequence of employing torturers – much less giving them tenure – are severe, and inexorable.
And any consumer choosing new health care providers (if they have a choice) can ask if the provider served in the armed forces during the Bush Reich – and then ask if the provider is a torture collaborator.
Docs didn’t used to lose their licenses for drunk driving – now they do. That change came from public pressure.
While the Boy Frog-Torturer sits in the Oval Office and "no table" Nancy waggles her gavel, we may not be able to make the collaborators – and worse – that pass for our "leaders" to stop the torture.
Coming together as individuals, we can make the healing arts a no-go zones for torturers and those who collaborated with them.
Will some of the docs and psychologists and medics just lie? Sure. And – just like the immigrants who lied when they denied complicity in the Nazi Reich – they’ll ultimately be found out. With the CIA and FBI knowing a lot of Bushie secrets, we’ll have the tools to know who lied about torture much sooner than we had the tools to detect a lot of the now-elderly Nazis.
So the torture docs lied – big deal? Well, in CA and other states, significant acts of deception in licensure (or hospital privileges) are themselves ground for loss of license. And each state shares the "defrocked" list with the other states.
Will this stop the torture today? Nope. I wish it would.
At the least, these efforts – and others like them – will empower us to sanction the torturers and the collaborators. In moving to exclude the torture docs from the hospitals and clinics we pay for – and from laying hands upon us and our loved ones – we reclaim our common humanity.
Nuremberg established "just following orders" is no excuse. We can set ourselves apart from the "Good Bushies" who even now support torture and other crimes of humanity – and remind my colleagues that physicians were also convicted of war crimes.
Or we can do nothing – stand by passively and let our families and kids depend on the mercy and ethics of the "little Mengeles" who collaborated with the Bush Reich in torture and crimes against humanity.
I know what I’ll do. Hope you’ll join me. Please call you state reps and state medical board. Tell our servants when Dr Torture comes marching home again – the doc will have to find other work.
The local slaughterhouse is always looking for a few good sadists.