From resistance to
A narrative of psychoanalytic activism
Suddenly, no, at last, at long last, I couldn’t anymore, I couldn’t go on.Someone said, you can’t stay here. I couldn’t stay there and I couldn’tgo on.Samuel Beckett
Texts for Nothing I, 1967, p. 75
I plan to tell two intertwined stories. One is personal: the story of how I sud-denly—no, at last, at long last—couldn’t go on. I couldn’t go on as simplyan observer of the history of government abuses of detainees in the war onterror, but found myself unwittingly applying psychoanalytic skills to inu-ence that history, and how I ultimately found that I had to act. It is not mystory alone, but the story of how a small group of psychologists and psycho-analysts uncovered and changed the American Psychological Association’scomplicity our country’s military and intelligence torture programs, andperhaps, in the process interfered with its continued execution.The second story, simultaneous with the rst, is the story of the Bushadministration’s program of torture and abuse of detainees, and of theessential role psychologists played in that program.Telling the two stories together and discovering what I have to tell con-tinues to surprise me. I still nd it unfathomable that pulling on the threadsof the role of psychologists unraveled the Bush administration’s covert tor-ture program—its development, its execution, its legal justications, and itsdissemination—and unfathomable, too, that all of these involved psycholo-gists and psychology. But the reason we pulled these threads in the rst placeis because, as it happens, the story we were presented with—from the Bushadministration and from the American Psychological Association—aboutthe role of psychologists and psychology in national security interrogationsdidn’t make sense. It wasn’t that the story was incoherent or inconsistent.It wasn’t that it was ethically suspect, even though that played a role. Itwas that, for me at least, the story aroused skepticism and curiosity
as a psychoanalyst
. I found myself listening
to the material that thegovernment and the APA were presenting, much like I listen to my patients’
U: Checkbook titlegainst refs.
AU: Sometimesthe separatingasterisk weredeleted. Theyinterrupted theflow of text andare better reserved for timeswhen the subjectmatter changesor to break longpassages.
From: Adrienne Harris & Steven Botticelli (eds.) (2010).
First do no harm: The paradoxical encounters of psychoanalysis, warmaking, and resistance
. New York:Routledge.