Abu Ghraib, Oct. 20, 2003. Nude detainee handcuffed to bed with pair of panties draped over his face. In the public domain.

Today’s post is an excerpt from an interview with guest author Dr. Anthony Marsella back in 2008. What the US administration has been doing and attempting to justify in its “war on terror” is terrifying; it is also torture, as the recently released report on torture from the U.S. Senate corroborates.

“The issue of torture is important for our very nation. What is at stake is our moral authority in the world. The US Administration has simply used the notion that torture is an essential tool for our national defense. In fact, [George Bush] has had the audacity to say that the use of torture may be necessary to protect America.

This kind of rabid nationalism, this fear of non-existent provocation is consistent with many political leaders throughout history who sought to control and dominate people by creating fear and anxiety, so that they would increasingly rely upon their national leader for protection. This is an old trick used by dictators.

Unfortunately the media has failed to respond and the American public has been taken in by all this propaganda, so resistance has not been as widespread as we would like it to be. It would be wonderful if throughout the US all organisations as well as people would simply say to the government: what are you doing? Stop it! It is against the law! You are destroying our national character and integrity….

On the one hand Bush said: “We refuse to be part of this. America does not torture” and on the other hand we know what happened in Abu Ghraib, in Guantanamo, in Kandahar and in rendition. We also know that the Pentagon has decided to eliminate some of the Geneva Convention restrictions on Torture from its army training manual and the highest members of the US administration have had meetings in which they have authorised and actually orchestrated torture activities.

This duplicity, along with the very act of permitting torture itself, has a heavy cost on America because in the eyes of the world we have lost our moral authority. We have lost whatever role and stature we had. We are no longer the voice for democracy, freedom and justice.”

Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D., is Emeritus Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Hawaii. The complete interview can be found at http://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/6158459/1031475337/name/Marsella%20-%20The%20Moral%20Cost%20of%20Torture%2Edoc

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Today’s Assignment: Human Rights 365


Wednesday December 10 is Human Rights Day, a commemoration day for the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The theme this year is Human Rights 365—that is, a reminder that every day should be a human rights day.

Brothers and sisters, we have a long way to go.



  •  Racism violates human rights.
  • Slavery violates human rights.
  • Torture violates human rights.
  • Murder violates human rights.
  • Prolonged solitary confinement violates human rights.
  • Even severe poverty is a human rights violation.

Racism, slavery, torture, murder, prolonged solitary confinement, and severe poverty are not things people choose or desire. Nor, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, do people deserve such abominations, even if those people are different, annoying, foreign, other, scary.

The US government is fond of pointing the finger at human rights violations in selected other nations (not, generally, their allies), but such finger pointing is just another example of “Do as I say, not as I do.” All those human rights violations take place in the US today, every day, and all too many people are quick to find “justifications” concerning why racism , slavery, torture , murder, etc., are not human rights violations if done in or by the United States.

On Human Rights Day, 365 days a year, try to listen to a different drummer.  Fight racism, fight slavery, fight torture. Raise your voice against murder, solitary confinement, poverty, forced feeding, unequal opportunity, and all the social injustices that infect our society and damage us all. Make the world a better place. Right here at home. Do what you can.  365.

Posted in Human rights, police violence, Prisons, Protest, racism, slavery, Torture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Building a Racially Just Society: Paths to Progress




Note from KMM: On November 18, 2014, I posted the first few paragraphs of an essay on Building a Racially Just Society, written with my two colleagues, Roy Eidelson and Mikhail Lyubansky, with a link to the whole article at www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dangerous-ideas/201411/building-racially-just-society-psychological-insights). Here are the suggestions we provided at the end of that paper. To what extent are these suggestions applicable to all forms of violence in the US today?

Conclusion to Building a Racially Just Society: Psychological Insights

By Roy Eidelson, Mikhail Lyubansky, and Kathie Malley-Morrison

…. Conquering the racism and racial inequities so deeply embedded in U.S. history and institutions will require serious and sustained commitment by individuals, organizations, communities, and our nation as a whole.[33] That commitment will need to be multifaceted: to listen deeply to the experience of those who suffer most from racism and racial injustice; to learn about and acknowledge our own individual and collective contributions to maintaining the oppression of racism in all its societal manifestations; to be open to transforming our understanding of the system of racism and what keeps it in place; and to be ready to make choices in many aspects of our lives that will help reduce racism and racial injustice.

At the individual level, learning more about the hardships, abuses, accomplishments, and resilience that characterize the long struggle against racial injustice can provide a pathway to better understanding the current circumstances, adversities, and structural violence that need to be overcome.[34] Working to recognize and transcend our own biases is also essential; for some, this may begin by participating in challenging conversations about race, even when those interactions are uncomfortable. It is also important for all of us – including those in positions of influence and advantage – to demonstrate solidarity with the direct victims of racial injustice through concrete engagement in advocacy and other forms of collaboration.

In many workplaces and volunteer organizations, there is a need for a stronger commitment to specific actions aimed at increasing diversity and promoting respect for differences, especially in the ranks of leadership. Where appropriate, public service and other organizations – including police departments[35] – should adopt training programs that demonstrate how contemporary racism operates, including how implicit bias works and how it might be consciously overridden. Policies and procedures assuring that instances of workplace racism and discrimination are recognized, taken seriously, and addressed directly should be instituted as well. In some contexts, sustained, dialogue-driven learning opportunities can be more effective than strictly punitive responses in reducing racist and discriminatory behavior and building a culture of acceptance and mutual respect. In our schools, teachers and other educators should receive support[36] in developing the skills and educational materials necessary to make both historical and contemporary racial injustice an integral part of the curriculum and restorative justice a first option when disciplinary problems arise.

When law enforcement personnel kill unarmed black teenagers or commit other violence that punctuates the daily oppression suffered in African American communities, they should be held accountable. To the extent that attempts to enforce this accountability fall short, as they too often do, there are other ways to lay the foundation for more just interactions in the future. Community-wide restorative dialogue initiatives can be effective in establishing trust and connection when one party has inflicted violence on another. Independent of criminal proceedings, these approaches create conditions where all those impacted have an opportunity to express themselves fully and honestly in a way that others can truly hear and understand. While some types of harm inflict individual and collective wounds that are irreparable, such interventions can interrupt the cycle of violence, turn destructive anger into constructive energy, and lead to both individual and community healing and significant structural reforms, including in policing practices and policies.[37]

As a nation, we must all commit to joining together to transform the entrenched systems that, almost invisibly at times, obstruct progress toward racial equality. Toward that end, genuine intercultural, pluralistic living – rooted in horizontal, intentional, and cooperative engagement – can help to further foster respect and empathy across boundaries that too often divide people from each other. But fifty years after the Civil Rights Act was signed and Martin Luther King, Jr. received the Nobel Peace Prize, it is clear that much work remains to be done. The urgency is undeniable. Building a more racially just society is the shared responsibility of all of us.

Posted in Human rights, police violence, racism, Reconciliation and healing, Understanding violence | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments