November 18, 2014

More Interesting than the Sergeant Realizes

Letter from Paul Greenberg to Esther Greenberg, April 2, 1951 (excerpt)Letter from Paul Greenberg to Esther Greenberg, April 2, 1951 (excerpt)

This letter is quite a glimpse into the complexities of my father’s wartime experience. It is reassuring and moving to witness his horror at the eviction of a Korean family from their home so that it can be turned over to his troop as a place to stay. I like how he uses his discomfiting access to the evicted family’s home to try to restore some measure of their humanity and to see the cultural richness and poltical nuance in their lives. And yet he cannot entirely escape his own position as a western, military invader. Why did he think it okay to tear off the piece of a picture from the wal of the evicted family’s home? Why is it okay for him to send it home to my mother? Sixty-three years later, I have found this nameless Korean family’s peace dove, still folded into the pages of the letter. It is a remarkable artifiact. I should not possess it.

About 5 miles southeast of Seoul
April 2, 1951

Dearest Esther,

We finally got clear roads and came through to here. We are living in a house that the Korean dwellers were evicted [from]. It is sort of horrible. We pull up in a truck. The sergeant says wait a minute, takes a South Korean soldier and after a few minutes we march in while some poor Korean Family is moving its valuables into a neighbor's house. This family is more interesting than the sergeant realizes. Note the picture I tore off a picture that was glued on the wall.

The house is poor one of the sort you see all over the country side. A fence surrounds a small area of land. Within the fence are several rooms and a platform. The middle is bare earth and bare sky. Along the ceiling is an ingenious method for storage space. Sliding panels open and serve as drawers and closets. One room has a fire hearth with three holes each big enough to hold a different size crockery bowel for cooking. On each side of the 4 sides is an exit. These people have a box of Chinese phonograph records. They look terribly interesting. I wish there was a vic here and also I wish I could read Chinese. Seoul is really a rubble. Very few buildings are standing. Those that are standing are smashed up inside. The city is overrun with Americans, British, Turkish, and South Korean soldiers. It seems the civilians there are all there for the purpose of selling to soldiers: silks, liquor, prostitutes, candy, labor and assorted souvenirs.

One more thing I need honey. I hate to be a pest but I need a metal soap dish and a metal toothbrush case (a toothbrush enclosed). The plastic ones break too easily. I feel terrible when I complain about my physical condition. All these men have been wounded or have things like dysentery or yellow jaundis [sic]. However complain I will until I get out of the Infantry.

I haven’t seen the newspaper in a few days but optimism runs high here. People are betting that this mess will be over in 2 to 3 weeks. I sure hope so. There is a good chance that I will get some of my mail here. That would be the best thing that happened in a long time.

I saw a weather report that said it was still quite cold in New York. By now spring must be there. I bet the park looks beautiful: green and even some flowers showing through. I am afraid that I won’t go much for walking when I get home, not for a while anyway but the idea of a walk in the park with you pleases me.

I have early guard duty tonight (I get some sleep at least) so I have to close now

Good night prettyface until tomorrow


letters paul greenberg esther greenberg korean war seoul korea new york city
November 18, 2014

How Ferguson Showed Us the Truth about Police

Artwork by @MollyCrabapple

ferguson police brutality michael brown eric garner darrien hunt alejandro nieto ezell ford john crawford darren wilson fusion video youtube molly crabapple
November 18, 2014

Detroit Needs this White Dude to Wash His Balls

The Daily Show's Jessica Williams investigates Detroit's aggressive water shutoffs, which targets many of the city's poorest residents while leaving large commercial properties unscathed.

detroit water human rights daily show jessica williams video
November 15, 2014

It Is Hard to Believe Anyone Could Ever Forget

Letter from Paul Greenberg to Esther Greenberg, Sept. 23, 1951 (excerpt)Letter from Paul Greenberg to Esther Greenberg, Sept. 23, 1951 (excerpt)

After close to a year of combat in Korea in September 1951, my father contracted dysentery and was sent for treatment at a military hospital in Sasebo, Japan. He wrote this letter to my mother from the hospital in Sasebo. 

23 Sept. 1951
Sasebo, Japan

Dearest Esther,

Two more ships left the harbor this morning. Two more ships. 3,000 men. I wonder how they will fare? My guess is 1000 will never come back. That is not so they will know what it is to live and love. Of the rest how many will be deformed, how many will be sick as I am? Who will walk! Who will lose an arm or a leg?!

To many people at home peace means many things. Economic security, keeping their loved ones ever near or maybe just an ideal a good ideal. But how many know what it means to the 3,000 on these ships? How many know what it means to the close to 200,000 combat soldiers here (not including the Chinese and North + South Koreans)? How many have seen a man laugh when his best friend was killed. Not laughter of delight but laughter of relief—gladness that it wasn’t he who was killed. Who knows what it is to stay awake hoping that you will live through just one more night. If you live tonight maybe you will live tomorrow night.

Peace can stop the noise of the big guns forever trying to find you with their missiles of death and deformity. Peace can stop the endless marches which always end with bullets. Peace can stop those bullets from searching for your tired aching body. Peace can bring you home to your wife, mother, girlfriend.

I wonder how many of those at home who press for armed conflict have experienced all this. Have those veterans of previous wars forgotten so soon the horror they suffered? It is hard to believe anyone could ever forget.

I have been seeing advertisements in the magazines — they ask you to buy defense bonds for the memory of a brave dead young man who was killed in Korea. Why — they do not say so but it is to put another young man in his place. I read about how our men must be armed. Are we just entities that should be armed, lead an abnormal existence until our lives are cut short by death or wound? Don’t we have the right to live to love to carry on a normal existence?

In the past I have always claimed that in order to convince people to act on a situation you must show them how it will affect them if they do and how if they don’t act. But surely people must grasp that bigger than any ideology and economic gain, religious or political belief is the saving of the lives of our young.

I have purposely avoided what this means in terms of the Chinese or Korean people. I feel certain it is the same.

What has 15 months of war accomplished? Scores of thousands of young men killed. Many more than can be counted are wounded. Millions of people are homeless. Infants starve, cry for lost or dead parents. Cities are ruined. I wonder how much worse it could have been for South Korea under North Korean rule or vice versa. I doubt if the difference in an ordinary person’s life would have changed one bit noticeably. But those 3,000 who leave tomorrow. Those 3,000 who have left almost daily for a year now what of them? Almost all of us have our answer. Peace! Peace and the right to make our own destiny at home.

I guess I got in an speechifying mood. I get this way whenever I hear a news broadcast or read time or newsweek magazines.

The weather is beautiful. An early fall day. Bright and with just a touch of a chill in the air. Everything is bright and green and comfortable. Just the kind of day to do lots of exciting things and come home with flushed cheeks and happy smiles and feel refreshed rather than worn out.

We could go to the Museum and Central Park maybe even row in the lake. Eat in a fancy restaurant and go to a show or movie and then to our home. Oh how I long for a day like that. To me right now it seems like the ecstasy of ecstasies.

They are bringing me my lunch now and for the first time in days I feel hungry so good afternoon prettyface. I love you—


letters dad mom esther greenberg paul greenberg army korean war sasebo japan
November 15, 2014

Beginning of the End

The American Psychological Association has announced that it will conduct an indepenedent review of its role in US torture during the Bush administration. James Risen reports for the New York Times:

The nation’s largest organization of psychologists will conduct an independent review into whether it colluded with or supported the government’s use of torture in the interrogation of prisoners during the Bush administration.  

The American Psychological Association said in a statement released late Wednesday that its board had named David H. Hoffman, a Chicago lawyer, to conduct the review.

For years, questions about the role of American psychologists and behavioral scientists in the development and implementation of the Bush-era interrogation program have been raised by human rights advocates as well as by critics within the psychological profession itself. Psychologists were involved in developing the enhanced interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects by the Central Intelligence Agency. Later, a number of psychologists, in the military and in the intelligence community, were involved in carrying out and monitoring interrogations. 

In an interview, Mr. Hoffman, a former federal prosecutor and onetime inspector general of the city of Chicago, emphasized the independence of his investigation. We will go wherever the evidence leads,” he said.

In 2006, I began my first online communications job at an organiztion called Physicians for Human Rights. PHR had recently published its groundbreaking report, Break Them Down: Systematic Use of Psychological Torture by US Forces, which was the first explanation of how psychological torture became part of the so called US war on terror. Though we would come to learn much more about the insidious and corrupt invovlement of psychologists in the US torture regime, it was already clear to PHRs Campaign Against Torture team that US torture could not go on as it had if health professionals would abide by their professional ethics and abstain from participation in interrogations. In the spring of 2006, the American Medical Association and ˙American Psychiatric Association both adopted official policies against member participation in interrogations—but the American Psychological Association did not follow suit. Risen notes that

critics have cited the association’s 2002 decision to modify its ethics rules that in effect gave greater professional cover to psychologists who had been helping to monitor and oversee interrogations. 

The most important change was a new guideline that made it clear that if a psychologist faced a conflict between the A.P.A.’s ethics code and a lawful order, the psychologist could follow the law. Critics say this introduced the Nuremberg defense into American psychology — following orders was an acceptable reason to violate professional ethics. 

“It’s sad that the A.P.A., rather than protecting its members from engaging in interrogation activities, bent its rules to allow their participation in those interrogations,” [Stephen] Soldz said. 

Over the next four years PHR released a series of follow-up reports looking at the health consequences and legality of enhanced interrogation techniques; medical evidence confirming the first-hand accounts of alleged victims of torture by US personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay; specifics of unethical health professional involvement in establishing a legal rational for torture; and profoundly distrubing evidence that CIA medical personel performed illegal experimentation on prisoners in the agency’s attempte to justify the war crime of torture.

I left PHR in 2010 but remain immensely proud to have part of these efforts and to have met an inspiring cadre of health professionals who have advocated tirelessly to restore meaning to their fundamental ethical precept of first, do no harm.

Despite the mounting evidence from PHR and other revelations, reported by journalists, the APA was unable to disentangle itself from the US torture regime. Risen’s exposé in his new book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War, of some of the corruption that kept psychologists involved in torture, has triggered the long overdue investigaiton finally initiated by the APA. In Pay Any Price, Risen wrote about

the email archive of Scott Gerwehr, a behavioral researcher with ties to the C.I.A. and other agencies who died in 2008, to provide a glimpse at the network of psychologists, academic researchers, contractors and intelligence and Pentagon officials who formed the behavioral science infrastructure that grew up after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to support the Bush administration’s war on terror. 

Most notable, the emails reveal that after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in 2004, the association was eager to get out in front of the controversy by developing new professional guidelines for psychologists involved in interrogations. The group created a committee to study the matter, and in 2005 issued a report that, in effect, enabled psychologists involved in the Bush interrogation program to continue. A number of psychologists and human rights advocates have been critical of the work of that committee, known as the PENS Task Force, ever since.

As the US continues to struggle with accountability for torture, the APA’s independent review is a major step forward towards a full assessment of how the US torture program became possible and towards ensuring that these human rights abuses cannot be repeated.

torture american psychological association apa bush adminstration james risen new york times david h hoffman human rights first do no harm medical ethics central intelligence agency cia physicians for human rights american medical association ama american psychiatric association abu ghraib