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Gitmo Psychologist Larry James Appointed to White House Panel on the “Well-Being” of the American Military Family

Barack Obama is worried about the “psychological well-being” of the American military family.   He should be.  His and Mr. Bush’s wars are generating tens of thousands of physically and mentally wounded  veterans.  PTSD rates are high.  Families living with multiple deployments are sometimes at wits end to meet expenses, and by month’s end are on food stamps.  Multiple deployments severely strain marriages and parenting relationships, which will have generational effects.  Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress raise the specter of cutbacks for veterans and veterans’ health programs.

Mr. Obama has responded with a classic technique: create a White House-led task force.  This one is entitled, “Enhancing the Psychological Well-Being of The Military Family.”  It was to have met Friday with Michelle Obama.  One of its lead members is Dr. Larry C. James.

It is an Orwellian choice and another example of Mr. Obama doubling down on CheneyBush’s GWOT.  Before he retired from the Army, Dr. James, along with Drs James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, was at the center of the controversies involving the use of torture and inhumane techniques against prisoners held by or for the US.  In Gitmo, most of those prisoners were later determined to have done nothing at all except become swept up in a panicked frenzy.

According to complaints filed with his licensing authorities in Louisiana and Ohio (both of which determined they could not act on them), this is what happened at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib during Dr. James’ tenure:

During his tenure at the prison, boys and men were threatened with rape and death for themselves and their family members; sexually, culturally, and religiously humiliated; forced naked; deprived of sleep; subjected to sensory deprivation, over-stimulation, and extreme isolation; short-shackled into stress positions for hours; and physically assaulted. The evidence indicates that abuse of this kind was systemic, that BSCT health professionals played an integral role in its planning and practice. . . .

(Emphasis mine.)  Dr. James claims he was sent to Abu Ghraib to fix it.   But this is how he describes his role, from his book, Fixing Hell, An Army Psychologist Confronts Abu Ghraib:

“It was clear to me that I was no longer a doctor but rather a combatant with the sole purpose of helping the Army kill or capture the enemy.”

Coming from a senior health care practitioner, that’s called an admission against interest.  As Army Major General Antonio Taguba, who investigated Abu Ghraib, has said,there was no doubt that war crimes occurred there; the issue is whether anyone will be held accountable.  Greenwald:

Of all the psychologists to choose from, why would they possibly choose to honor and elevate the former chief psychologist of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib at the height of the Bush abuses?  More disturbing still, among those most damaged by detainee abuse are the service members forced to participate in it; why would the White House possibly want to put on a task force about the health of military families someone, such as Dr. James, who at the very least is directly associated with policies that so profoundly harmed numerous members of the military and their families?….

Whatever the explanation, the symbolism here is as ugly as the mindset underlying it.

Dr. James is currently head of the psychology department at Wright State University in Dayton, OH.  As it has in San Diego, the military has several operations in Dayton and has sway in the local economy.

We had several discussions yesterday at Emptywheel about the domestication of GWOT policies.  Coincidentally, one of Dr. James’ workshops at Wright State is a program to train local “law enforcement officials, members of the Department of Homeland Security, DOD, and the Border Patrol” in the use of psychological techniques he developed.  Its aims:

Define Psychological Terrorism
Identify Types of Psychological Terrorism
Discuss the role of the media in counter terrorism efforts
Identify how demographics are used to recruit teenage terrorists
Understand the psychological make-up of the suicide bomber
Discuss strategies to prevent psychological terrorism

I hope that Jeff Kaye will have more on this shortly.

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