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Pimps, the US Military, and Domestic Terrorism

Like pimps on the street and pimps in strip clubs, the US military is using psychological methods to harm, not heal. Many of the practices systematically used by pimps to control women in prostitution – sensory deprivation, dehumanization, threats to family, deliberately induced exhaustion – are the same as those used by military torturers. I’ve written briefly and plan to write more about these practices. See p 114 of this article click here Also see the torture pornography thread on this blog.

The US military has used psychologists to assist in the practice of torture, now it’s funding psychological research on the use of mind control as a weapon of destruction. This is nothing new – similar research was conducted in the 1950s-1980s. The American Psychological Association has miserably failed to oppose these practices, while other groups such as Physicians for Human Rights and Psychologists for Social Responsibility have taken far more ethical stands against psychologists’ participation in torture and mind control.

The National Science Foundation, through Project Minerva (they love being perverse. She’s the goddess of wisdom) is offering $50 million to fund psychological counterinsurgency programs that further military goals of the United States. For a chilling analysis of this program, please read Tom Burghardt’s Militarizing the Social Sciences click here For those of you who know the ways that pimps use mind control, this will be all-too familiar.


  1. My acrobat isn’t working so I wasn’t yet able to read the first link.
    But this goes to the heart of the argument of prostitution being about choice.
    A liberal society doesn’t mean anything goes, and let the dominators rule through fear and violence.
    Freedom means everyone is able to become more human, not less. A free person will not choose to be dehumanized. When someone is “voluntarily” moving in the direction of giving up her humanity that’s evidence she’s not free, her chains are just not obvious.

  2. Dear Melissa:
    Thank you for your bold and courageous statement about US military torture methods and their simialrity to the methdos used by pimps to gain mind control over women for prostitution. The parallels are certainly there. We need to stop seeing torture as something exotic and apart from teh daily violence and abuses that occur in our schools, colleges, homes, and work places. The principles and purposes are often the same — control, dominance, brutality.

  3. Many of the practices systematically used by pimps to control women in prostitution – sensory deprivation, dehumanization, threats to family, deliberately induced exhaustion – are the same as those used by military torturers.
    Yeah, I’m not surprised at all. I already knew that.
    Yet, what bothers me and saddens me the most is that most anti-torture activists (who campaign against military torture) cannot see the torture that is happening in prostitution and in pornography on a daily basis.
    This is real sad, ’cause when it’s women as a class who is the primarily victimized group and the torture is sexualized and/or made available for many men who believe that it is “their male right” to use, abuse and discard female bodies for their selfish pleasure, then nobody notices the torture. Not even most of the anti-torture activists. They suddenly lose their anti-torture politics. All they see is “sex”, not torture. This is so heart-breaking…

  4. Ken Pope, Ph.D. & Thomas G. Gutheil, M.D.
    Contrasting Ethical Policies of
    Physicians and Psychologists Concerning Interrogation of Detainees.
    In the British Medical Journal, April 30, 2009
    Download the article for free at
    While the AMA (American Medical Association) has come out with strong ethical principles against physicians’ involvement with torture in any capacity, the APA (American Psychological Association) has failed to incorporate similar ethical guidelines, even though the APA membership voted in favor of rejecting any psychologist’s participation in torture in any way.
    According to Pope and Gutheil, here’s what the AMA has to say:
    Physicians limited their involvement in detainee interrogations to such a degree that they prohibited even monitoring an interrogation with intent to intervene. Priscilla Ray, chair of the American Medical Association (AMA) council on ethical and judicial affairs, stated: “Physicians must not conduct, directly participate in, or monitor an interrogation with an intent to intervene, because this undermines the physician’s role as healer. Because it is justifiable for physicians to serve in roles that serve the public interest, AMA policy permits physicians to develop general interrogation strategies that are not coercive, but are humane and respect the rights of individuals.
    But the APA has waffled, avoided, denied and rejected similar ethical guidelines for psychologists. From the article: “From the moment US military and civilian officials began detaining and interrogating Guantanamo Bay prisoners with methods that the Red Cross has called tantamount to torture, they have had the assistance of psychologists.”
    “Psychologists weren’t merely complicit in America’s aggressive new
    interrogation regime. Psychologists, working in secrecy, had actually
    designed the tactics and trained interrogators in them.”
    Mayer noted that a general “drafted military psychologists to play
    direct roles in breaking detainees down. The psychologists were both
    treating the detainees clinically and advising interrogators on how to
    manipulate them and exploit their phobias.” (18)
    Previously classified US Justice Department documents released in April
    2009 in response to freedom of information requests described the roles
    played by both “on-site psychologists” and “outside psychologists” in
    justifying the use of waterboarding and other techniques.
    Here’s an excerpt from the section on the 2008 vote of the membership on
    the work setting petition: “In 2008, the APA took a vote of its
    membership on a resolution stating that psychologists may not work in
    settings where ‘persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either
    International Law (eg, the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva
    Conventions) or the US Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are
    working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent
    third party working to protect human rights.’ It was approved by 8,792
    members, with 6,157 voting against (from a membership of over 148,000).
    (23) However, this new policy is not enforceable or part of the ethics
    code. Responses to a series of questions about the resolution posted on
    the APA’s website state: “The petition would not become part of the APA
    Ethics Code nor be enforceable as are prohibitions set forth in the
    Ethics Code.” (24) The APA has released several admirable public
    statements against torture over the years, but has included none in the
    enforceable section of its ethics code.”

  5. Psychologists linked to Bush-era torture cast the profession in a bad light
    Editorial The Oregonian
    Wednesday August 12, 2009
    New details about the work of two psychologists after Sept. 11
    raise questions about the American Psychological Association, too
    You already know that the Constitution was mangled after Sept. 11, and that Bush-administration lawyers stretched U.S. law beyond recognition to rationalize torture. Less well known is the contribution two psychologists made to brutal interrogations.
    On Wednesday, The New York Times showed how the two psychologists — both military retirees — became architects and early overseers of the Central Intelligence Agency’s harsh interrogation techniques.
    To be fair, the two seem to have been infected by the same group-think panic that affected others within the administration. Said The Times:
    Col. Steven M. Kleinman, an Air Force interrogator and intelligence officer who knows (the two psychologists), said he thought loyalty to their country in the panicky wake of the Sept. 11 attacks prompted their excursion into interrogation.
    He said the result was a tragedy for the country, and for them. “I feel their primary motivation was they thought they had skills and insights that would make the nation safer,” Colonel Kleinman said. “But good persons in extreme circumstances can do horrific things.”
    What the newspaper did not touch on is the criticism, internal soul-searching and disgust within the psychology profession prompted by the role these two played. The American Psychological Association itself has come in for considerable criticism, often from its own members, because the APA failed to distance itself, early on, from the chilling notion that it was OK for psychologists to oversee military interrogations.
    The rationalization has been that “24”-style situations would be even worse if psychologists weren’t around to put the brakes on. Some have said that the real fear, within the profession, was of limiting job opportunities within the military and chances for federal grants.
    But no matter what the motivation, it’s pretty hard to understand how psychologists could ever countenance harsh interrogation techniques, like waterboarding, that qualify as torture. The ground-breaking experiments that psychologists have done, illuminating the tendency for humans to inflict pain on other humans when asked to do so by an authority figure, ought to have pointed the profession in the opposite direction.
    In totalitarian countries, there’s a long history of “mental health” practitioners being entertwined with thought-controls and imprisonment. And this history should have made psychologists wary, as well. A chilling echo of this reverberates in the details about the psychologists, who seem to have set the dosage of discomfort for captives, and may have helped to ease the consciences of the people involved by giving harsh techniques a stamp of approval.
    A shadow has fallen on the profession, and the APA — and rightfully so.

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