Consult: Foreign Military Psychologist


Foreign Military Psychologist consultation on

“Psychologists and U.S. Coercive Interrogations”

April 15, 2009

75-minute teleconference

Transcribed by Jean Maria Arrigo

Edited and anonymized by Ray Bennett

Reviewed by Consultant

Participants:  “Consultant” (anonymized upon request), Jean Maria Arrigo, Ray Bennett, Martha Davis, Jancis Long, and Stephen Soldz

ARRIGO:  I said we’ll take introductions.  We’ll start with Ray Bennett, Martha Davis, Stephen Soldz, everybody knows me, then you, and Jancis Long when she comes on.

BENNETT:  I’m Ray Bennett.  I’m a retired military intelligence interrogator.  I served in that capacity for 22 years, and I retired in 2006.  I got involved with the group here because I was trying to rehabilitate the good name of interrogation after the abuses of the past several years.  And I was concerned about some of these practices that were being put forth as good interrogation practices, which were in direct conflict with the training I received and the way we did our jobs.


[Jancis Long joins the meeting.]

DAVIS:  Martha Davis.  I’m a clinical and research psychologist.  My research in the last 15 years has been on forensic psychology, criminal confessions, and tapes of them.  I got involved when I found out what they were doing down in Guantanamo.  And I’ve been work with WithholdAPAdues and the activist groups against torture, and also I did a documentary called Interrogation Psychologists,1 which is on the Internet now.

CONSULTANT:  Good to meet you.

SOLDZ:  Stephen Soldz.  I’m a psychologist in Boston, a clinician, also a researcher and teacher, and have done extensive writing on the issue of psychologists and interrogations and U.S. detention abuses.  Recently I’ve become a consultant on a couple of the Guantanamo cases.

CONSULTANT:  Okay, Stephen, thanks.

LONG:  I’m Jancis Long.  I’m a clinical psychologist.  I’m currently the president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility.  I’ve become very interested in the last few years on the question of professional ethics, particularly for clinicians, and the abuses that have taken place and what we can do about it, and also various other aspects of peace psychology.

CONSULTANT:  Should I introduce myself now?  I teach at a military academy here.  I teach psychology and ethics at the graduate and undergraduate level.  I’m a former military man.  I spent twelve years in the infantry and then switched over into a personnel occupation for about the last 23 years, so I had about 33 years military service, and then took a job as a civilian prof at our institution here.  My original training is in industrial organizational psychology and kind of morphed over to military psychology and military ethics in about the last ten years or so.  Oh, and I’m also the chair of the department that addresses military issues in our national psychology association (hereafter NPA).

ARRIGO:  Let me say, in preface to all this, that because our guest is employed by his nation’s military that this conversation is definitely confidential.  What comes out in the transcript will have to be worked out with our guest and with Ray.  So that we don’t try to goad our guest into making too many judgments about the U.S. military and all, I think we have to accept the parameters of the discussion as he sees fit.

SOLDZ:  Wait a minute.  I didn’t understand what you meant there.

ARRIGO:  I think we have to not ask him for judgments against the U.S. military or the APA or so, and respect limitations that he may need to set.

SOLDZ:  Oh, okay.

ARRIGO:  But our first business, I think, was to try to understand the relationship of our guest’s national psychology association with his nation’s government and also with the military department in his NPA – all of those things.  So, please, let us know.

CONSULTANT:  All right then.  Well, we have an organization called the National Psychological Association that some of you may have heard of.  It’s much like your American Psychological Association, although very much smaller.  And within that, there are number of sections, somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 to 40, and there’s one called the Military Department, of which I’m the chair.  I’ve been the chair of that section for, oh, the last two or three years now.  It’s a very small section.  It might one of the smallest sections in the National Psychological Association.  But, interestingly, it was probably the first section, because the Association got formed at the outset of World War II, late ‘30s, very similar to how your APA got started.  A number of psychologists came together to talk about how they might contribute to the war effort, because in the late ‘30s it seemed apparent, of course, that World War II was dawning.  And they started committees to look at mostly pilot selection, and then there was a major testing program done for the army, and then later on, of course, there would have been clinical psychologists dealing with mental health things.  So that’s sort of where the military section came from.  And then, over the years, it has waxed and waned.  Right now it’s very small.  It wouldn’t take a very large room for us to have a meeting of our section.

SOLDZ:  I’m wondering what size it is.  The APA’s military psychology division is just a couple of hundred, as well.

CONSULTANT:  We’re probably 35.  It speaks a pretty significant difference between the U.S. and my country.  A lot of our members are people who are actually in the industrial organizational section, who teach at universities or work with industrial firms.  They’re interested in the military side of things mostly because there’s quite a bit of HR research, human resources research, done on things like selection testing, measuring of attitudes, and those kinds of things.  Our military does a moderate amount of research in that area, and that’s also research that’s of interest to that other section.  So we have very few people in my country who would describe themselves as military psychologists. 

DAVIS:  Tell me the relationship of the NPA to APA.  Isn’t there a formal connection?

CONSULTANT:  I believe there is.  I don’t understand what it is.  [FOOTNOTE]  But, yes, there is.  And there’s a lot of people here that belong to APA.

DAVIS:  But it’s not through your organization, it’s a separate organization.

CONSULTANT:  I know that the university I went to, it was a national university with a strong research focus, and most of the profs at that university were members of APA.  But you’re right, there was some sort of a relationship, but I don’t know what it is.

ARRIGO:  What about contract work?  One thing that happens here is that people who leave the military or intelligence services, and then still have their clearances, can do lucrative contract work.  Do you have that system also in your country?

CONSULTANT:  The way our contract works, to the best of my knowledge — and it’s not something I’m intimately involved with — most of our contracts are competitive.  There is a computer program and the government places what they call their Proposal Requests on this computer program, and interested parties throughout the land can go on that program and look from time to time.  And if they see something that fits their knowledge, skills, and abilities, and then they can submit a proposal to compete for the program.   Then there are other smaller contracts that individuals could have.  If as a government employee I want to let a contract with a particular individual, I could, but it would be for a very small amount.  I think it’s less than $5000.  Anymore than that, then I have to have a competitive process for that.

ARRIGO:  And would these be classified or require people with clearances?

CONSULTANT:  Some do, and some wouldn’t.  Most of the ones that I would know of or have experience with would be just unclassified.  I have no experience on the classified side of things, on the intelligence side.

LONG:  I would be interested in knowing whether your group, the military psychology group, got into discussions about the U.S. military psychologists and the torture issue and the treatment-of-detainee issue. 

CONSULTANT:  That’s a good question.  That year, there were about three or four of us that went to that conference from my institution, and we sat in on a number of those presentations.  There were quite a few panels.  Were there seven or eight panels?

LONG:  The Mini-Conference.2

ARRIGO:  We all spoke in those.

CONSULTANT:  That’s right, yes.  Anyway, I remember sitting in on many of them.  We would talk about it afterwards and what not.  Even one of our party said, “Well, maybe we should have panel like this next summer at the National Psychological Association.”  Anyway, when we got talking about it, we didn’t really think it was a good idea.  And then, when I got home, I remember, once somebody phoned me up, a media person — I forgot who they were — and they wanted to talk to me about the controversy that you folks were having with APA.  And they asked me if there were a similar sort of thing going on in the NPA and I said, “No, there wasn’t.”  Basically, once we left San Francisco, you didn’t hear anymore about it.  Unless you picked up an American psychological publication, of course, you’d hear about it.  But in my circles it was never talked about, in my country.

DAVIS:  Is there a communication, newsletters and stuff, from the NPA at large?  Was there any acknowledgment of it?

CONSULTANT:  I don’t recall.  I’m assuming there would have been, but I really don’t recall. 

ARRIGO:  When we talked, by telephone beforehand, you were contrasting for me the countries that are making a large political presence the world and the countries that are making a small political presence in the world, and how psychologists might be drawn in or not drawn in, depending on that size issue.

CONSULTANT:  This is just my humble opinion, and I really don’t know what I’m talking about, so you have to take everything with a grain of salt.  But when you are a world leader, then there’s a certain competitive advantage that you want to maintain.  So things like professional organizations and high tech industries, all those strategic — what they call the knowledge industry nowadays — that’s an important strategic asset.  I would just surmise that the tier-one countries of the world pay a lot of attention to cultivating and nurturing their professional associations and strategic industries, whereas smaller countries, maybe some of the smaller Northern European countries, just don’t have the resources to do that.  They don’t have the global reach.  They don’t have basically the need to do that.  Is that what you meant?

ARRIGO:  Yes.  And if you could say even more what it would mean to nurture a professional association. 

CONSULTANT:  The sorts of relationships that you’re talking about:  active research programs, government funding of research, and things like that.  We have that in my country, too, but it’s at a much smaller level.  It’s very much run by the research community, if you will.

DAVIS:  You must appreciate that this is an advantage for you all, because we’re really saddled with the problems down here.

CONSULTANT:  Yes, well, every region has its own issues to deal with, don’t they?

LONG:  Definitely, you get more activity when it’s your people, when you feel it’s your people that are doing these wrong things, and that if you don’t speak up that you’re part of the problem.   There are thousands of human rights issues around the world.  But it’s the one where you feel you are becoming a silent witness when you ought to be a speaking witness that really get you.

CONSULTANT:  Yes.  And I guess that something that all of us as professionals have to be vigilant of and beware of our social responsibility.

ARRIGO:  The problems that we’re running into with this topic, we recognize that it isn’t exactly a problem of personalities.  At least we think not, as far as the problems of psychology and the military go.  Maybe with our national leaders it might have been issues of personality.  But we don’t really understand the systems that we’re dealing with.  We’re appealing to you for any insight you can give us.

CONSULTANT:  This is just based on my own professional experience here in my country.  The military is very much an action-oriented organization.  It’s mission oriented.  It’s mission driven.  And people who are in the military are taught from a very early age that getting the job done is really important.  That carries with it a lot of social influences that impact on behavior in obvious, explicit and also in very subtle and implicit ways.  In a way, the military is not much different from private industry, because industry has a bottom line.  It’s very outcome driven, if you will.  I see a lot of similarities.  So when you would look at the organizational culture of these types of institutions, you would see that there would be many levels of influences.  Let’s call them explicit, nuanced, and implicit.

ARRIGO:  How does the ideology figure in, though, with the military?  We wouldn’t have that element in industry, that we’re going to sacrifice ourselves for our country, for instance.  People are getting paid by industry, but they aren’t sacrificing themselves for it.

CONSULTANT:  I don’t know.  I’ve never really thought about it that way.  I guess one — maybe just deflecting that a little bit — Instead of thinking about that in terms of self-sacrifice, think about it in terms of consequence of error and what happens to one’s comrades if things don’t go well or if a particular mission doesn’t succeed or something happens.  That can be a pretty powerful, dramatic influence.

SOLDZ:  The accounts of Abu Ghraib in particular certainly emphasize that.  You know:  “The soldiers are being killed outside and we need intelligence and we need it now, and you’re the only ones who can get it.”

CONSULTANT:  From everything that I read, that seemed to have a powerful influence on people’s behavior. 

ARRIGO:  I don’t know whether this is asking you a question too far in the direction that you don’t want to speak, but let me try it out.  One of the huge puzzles that we have is why there have not been really any military or intelligence psychologists to speak out.  We’ve had a number of intelligence professionals, even interrogators, and military attorneys.   But as far as military health professionals, they have really been mum.  We don’t understand why their lips should be completely sealed up while interrogators are sort of coming out of the walls to make protests.  Do you have any sense of how the military culture for health professionals would cause this? 

CONSULTANT:  No.  No, I’d just be guessing.  Your military interrogators, they probably understand the interrogation process better.

LONG:  Better than the military clinicians, you’re saying?

CONSULTANT:  Well, perhaps.  It’s just a hypothesis on my part.  Some of the things I’ve been reading and some of the things that you’ve been sending suggest that the softer, gentler approach to interrogation yields the greater results.  Then you have to ask yourself, why does abusive interrogation and torture survive in the world?  Perhaps the answer is that at some basic human level we intuitively think that it works.  And then when people pursue it, they pursue it for what they think are good reasons.   I’m guessing and stepping outside my area of expertise and just surmising.

ARRIGO:  That’s okay.  We’ll go along with that.  But our question is why it is that the military attorneys have stepped forward, the military police, interrogators, guards, but no health professionals, who’ve been involved or on the sidelines.  It seems like a completely closed fraternity.

CONSULTANT:  Yes.  I was reading something, oh, a couple of months ago.  It was about the Rwandan genocide.  Everybody remember that one?

All:  Yes.

CONSULTANT:  It was a short one-page article in Newsweek magazine3 on the Rwanda genocide of 1994 that made mention of education and its impact on moral behavior.  And this individual who had written the piece said:  “Well, you know, the people who stood up in the Rwandan genocide and actually helped folks or didn’t participate in the atrocities weren’t the highly educated folks, the people with status in society. Oftentimes they were very poor, common people, which kind of runs counterintuitive to everything we know about moral development being related to education and intelligence.  And so maybe it suggests that the more you have invested in an organization, the more you toe the line.

DAVIS:  The psychologists and the psychiatrists  — I don’t quite know how this would fit with the lawyers, Jean Maria, but one could probably track that the higher ranking officers who get higher rank in part because of their education are the few among the whistle blowers, compared to the lower ranking.  That would be an interesting question.

ARRIGO:  This is a point that Ray had brought up to us before.  He worked as an interrogator in his military career, and there isn’t a corresponding civilian occupation.


ARRIGO:  Whereas, for the military psychologists and doctors, they have corresponding civilian occupations.

CONSULTANT:  Police officers and detectives would be the corresponding — I’m not sure what you mean about there being no correspondence.

ARRIGO:  You speak to that, Ray.

BENNETT:  Well, certainly detectives and law enforcement officers conduct interrogations.  What was different, let’s say before 2001, was that the two fields were very distinct in the motivations of the sources that you were talking to.  In a law enforcement scenario, the person you’re talking to, he’s putting himself on the line.  If he admits to something, if he gives the information that the detective is after, then he’s going to jail for it.  Whereas, in the military context, there was no personal consequence like that.  If we got the information over who was over the next hill—

DAVIS:  Oh, I see what you mean.

BENNETT:  Now, of course, in the current environment, with the focus on terrorist activity and what not, that line is increasingly blurred, because terrorist activity at its core is illegal, unlawful activity.  So law enforcement is going to become involved in there and we become law enforcement interrogators, more than we were military interrogators.

ARRIGO:  So my point, what I was asking our guest about,  is that it would seem that people whose skills — medical, psychological — are most directly transferable  to the civilian sector are the people who are quiet, and the people whose skills are less directly transferable to the civilian sector are speaking out.

SOLDZ:  The JAG [Judge Advocate General, i.e., military] attorneys are contrary to that.

ARRIGO:  Military law is more different from civilian law than therapy in the military is different from therapy in civilians.

CONSULTANT:  It’s a puzzle, isn’t it?  And, you know, it runs a little counterintuitive  to what some outsiders have as an impression of the United States.  Because one of the things that many people admire about the United States is that there always seem to be people who will stand up and say, “Hey, this is wrong, or something’s wrong here,” where that doesn’t always happen even in other Western societies to the same extent.

BENNETT:  If I could make an observation here, all the people that you mentioned, the interrogators, the lawyers, even the MPs [military police], all these people were trained — some more than others — in the right and left limits within which we could operate when it comes to dealing with what we used to call enemy prisoners of war.   And only a handful of these mental health professionals, as much as we can tell, brought in to work on this, they were told by the Justice Department,  “This is legal,” and they proceeded.   Now, afterwards, there’s this debate going on — well, it’s not much of a debate really — After they contributed to this, many of them are finding out that what they did wasn’t legal, so there’s not a big motivation for them to speak up.  I think that might contribute something.

ARRIGO:  So military psychologists wouldn’t —  Maybe we could ask our guest what kind of ethics training military psychologists have in his country.

CONSULTANT:  Well, they’ve all been to graduate school.  Most of their ethics training would depend on what kind of program they took.   If they took a research-based program — like many of our uniformed psychologists — they’re a very small group — they work in human resource research: selection, testing, selection test development, measuring attitudes and abilities, and those sorts of things, that would help with personnel selection and retention, you know, personnel types of issues.  So they would have training in research ethics mostly.  We employ clinical psychologists in our military, but they’re all civilians.  So their training would be more on the clinical practice side.

ARRIGO:  But they have to get clearances, right?

CONSULTANT:  You mean security clearances, for sensitive information?  I don’t know if they do or not.  They would have to get a minimal clearance, you’re right, but it wouldn’t be high levels of security clearance.

SOLDZ:  But the civilians, where would they get training in the Geneva Conventions and things like that?

CONSULTANT:  I’d be guessing if I said anything.

DAVIS: If one of your psychologists, whether civilian or military, were working on personnel evaluation and somebody had psychiatric problems post some battlefield assignment, there would be no pressure or interference on the psychologist — That psychologist’s assessment of the soldier would be completely independent and protected, right?

CONSULTANT: Oh, yes.  You mean, like the medical file?

DAVIS:  No.  Like there’s a scandal emerging in the United States, that both civilian and military psychologists that are in charge of evaluating returning soldiers, if they give a PTSD or brain damage diagnosis, they get pressure from their commanding officers and higher ups in the VA (Veterans Administration), to not be too liberal because it impacts the benefits package.  And I would assume that in some countries, which have a more enlightened benefits package altogether, that this is not even a problem.

CONSULTANT:  Well, it’s not something that I’ve heard of, so I’d have to say no.  But it’s not an area that I know well.

DAVIS:  In other words, if there were a soldier of your country who did have psychiatric problems that developed while they were in the service, one way or another, they would be evaluated, and the psychologist’s evaluation would affect the treatment plan and the series of benefits?  They would get benefits, right?

CONSULTANT:  Yes.  We have a pretty extensive program.  Our resources in this area have grown in the last ten years.  We have mental health clinics all across the country at all our bases, soldiers coming home with troubles, we have screening procedures, just like you folks have for your returning men and women.  Then those folks that are flagged for a closer look are encouraged to go off and see somebody in the clinic.

ARRIGO:  I wonder whether you can advise us at all on how we might make some fruitful contact with our military psychologists.  I joined the Division of Military Psychologists, and I am officially the [Division of] Peace Psychology liaison to them.  But we don’t want to be involved in a one-sided casebook.  We’re actually very interested in having commentary from them.  But we don’t know how to go about this.

CONSULTANT:  I was thinking about that, and I’m not really sure what the way ahead is for you.  I was thinking that you might have gotten some contacts while you were at the conference in San Diego there4, you know, the older folks, people who are retired from the military.

ARRIGO:  Just let me clue people in.  Our guest is talking about the military ethics conference here in January, but I don’t recall meeting anybody in the social sciences at that conference.


LONG:  And this was a conference put on by the military?

CONSULTANT:  That’s right.  It’s a conference they put on every year.  It’s called the International Society of Military Ethics, and it meets the last Thursday and Friday of January every year. 

The other thing I got thinking about is, do you remember the generals’ revolt, and there was number of army generals that got together and wrote – you’ll have to help me on the details here – but they went public on their discontent with policy.  Maybe making contact with one or two of those gentlemen and then asking them to help connect you to people in the military psychology community….

ARRIGO:  That’s a very interesting idea.

DAVIS:  So no one at the San Diego conference was in Division 19, in the Military Psychology –

CONSULTANT:  Oh, yes, I’m sure there were; many were.  But they’re all younger people, and they still have thriving careers, and they’re busy with –

ARRIGO:  At the military ethics conference, you think there were people from Division 19 there??

CONSULTANT:  Oh, yes.  There was a couple.  Not too many, but there was a couple of psychologists there.

ARRIGO:  Can you connect me with them or tell them my name?

CONSULTANT:  Yes, I’ll e-mail you the names.

ARRIGO:  Oh, great.  That’s interesting. I hadn’t –

CONSULTANT:  I don’t think there were very many, Jean Maria, but there were a couple.  But there were a lot of chaplains there.

ARRIGO:  Yes, there were many chaplains.  And we’ve consulted with two chaplains.  So we have that perspective, but this is the one that we’re missing. 

One of our difficulties is that the leadership of Division 19, right now, is one of the people most directly involved in ….


ARRIGO:  So it’s sort of delicate.

SOLDZ:  But the idea of trying to go through the generals is interesting.  Because Division 19 has only, like, 300 members.  There have to be several thousand military psychologists.  It means that most are not members.  So if we could get people who are not part of that network, they’re more likely to be open to us. 


ARRIGO:  So the generals might know people who are not part of that network….

What is the difference between psychologists who are part of the network and who aren’t, at least in your country?  How does that work?  Who are your nonmembers?

CONSULTANT:  We have a lot of nonmembers.  They are mostly men and women in uniform.  They’re younger folk, and they’re mid-career, and they’re busy with their professional careers and their families and their lives.  And they just don’t have the money to join the Association or go to the conference.  And then, another reason is, there are a lot of military conferences around the world that focus on specific issues.  So, for example, if you’re a military psychologist working on developing personnel selection tests, there are places for you to go that are much more interesting than the our national psychological association. 

DAVIS:  You mean, they specialize in your specialty?

CONSULTANT:  Yes.  I find that that’s what people do when you’re younger.  Then as you get older and you’re more interested in a broader perspective in your psychological tastes, then things like national associations become more interesting to you.

DAVIS:  Stephen, I’m surprised to see 200 or 300 [members of the APA Division of Military Psychology].  I thought it was more like 500.  Maybe it’s gone down in the last few years.

SOLDZ:  I think it’s less than 500.  Remember that many of those people are also non-uniformed people, just people interested in military psychology.

DAVIS:  I see.  They’re not military psychologists. 

But many of those are also clinicians, right?  They’re people who are working with treating the soldiers.  So there’s actually very, very few there that seem to be related to intelligence or anything—

SOLDZ:  Well, we wouldn’t know.  There’s also the IO [industrial organizational] folks, like [William] Strickland.

DAVIS:  Right.  Obviously some do identify themselves as related to intelligence, but it seems that that group is really not the voice of all this, that it’s got some representatives but that the voice is coming from some place else.  I think that there’s more power and influence in the forensic psychology division, which is much larger and very, very powerful.  And some of them cross over into intelligence work and, now, War on Terrorism stuff.  So it seems to me that there are more people who would be sensitive to this is Division 41 Forensic [Psychology] than actually within the Military Psychology group.

CONSULTANT:  My impression is that in that Military Psychology section you’re going to have a lot of people who are employed teaching psychology and doing what I would call human-resource-type research:  selection, attitude measurement, performance….

ARRIGO:  Is your country not doing weapons development?

CONSULTANT:  Not in the kind of way that you would understand weapons development, no.

ARRIGO:  You don’t have the equivalent of HumRRO [Human Resources Research Organization] or RAND Corporation or organizations like that there?

CONSULTANT:  I don’t think so.  Again, I’m stepping outside my comfort level here, we have small companies that make certain things, like vehicles, weapons, and what-not.  But nothing on any kind of a grand scale, I wouldn’t think…. But that’s just a guess.

ARRIGO:  So after World War II, your government didn’t say, like the U.S. government, “Wow, these psychologists did so much for us, you know, got tank crews to work together when people came from all parts of the country, so we’re going to keep funding research in this area”?  It didn’t happen in your country?

CONSULTANT:  I don’t think so, no.  And, another thing, I don’t think we had the wartime research infrastructure like you folks had.  You had researchers on the shores of Normandy and in the South Pacific measuring the attitudes of soldiers in combat and that sort of thing.  We didn’t have those kinds of research projects. 

ARRIGO:  That sort of befuddles us!  Why not?

CONSULTANT:  Well, part of it is just straight resources.  We just don’t have the money.

And, again, it’s just my little theory on your global scope and what your geopolitical aims are and national interest and that sort of thing.  We’re a small country, and so we have a limited grasp, a limited reach, and limited resources.

LONG:  We’ve also had come up in the Casebook the situation of training soldiers by kind of harsh means, creating a lot fear, you know, false fears that they’ve done wrong or that they’re going to die or that sort of thing.5  I wonder if the way soldiers are trained has come up in your psychology group at all, in the ethics considerations of your country’s army.

CONSULTANT:  No.  I’m not sure what you mean by the harsh training.

LONG:  We’ve had people who’ve been told that they’ve been given an injection which contained an air bubble [which would kill them immediately].  We’ve had people who’ve been told that they’ve done something which would cause other people to die or be injured.

ARRIGO:  She’s referring to psychological stress experiments done by Mitchell Berkun in the 1950s.


LONG:  I just wondered whether historically this had ever been something that anybody complained about in your military.

CONSULTANT:  It’s not something that I’ve ever heard about.

SOLDZ:  I have some questions – I don’t know whether we’re ready for a different topic now – in terms of the military in your country and training.  One thing that the U.S. military has confronted was that many soldiers in combat didn’t fire their weapons.  In the 60s they systematically moved to counter this by revamping basic training and focusing much more on dehumanizing the enemy and making killing automatic.  I was wondering if that had happened in your country, where your military has a rather different history.

CONSULTANT:  Well, I guess I’ve read the same stuff that you’re talking about, Grossman’s book On Killing,6 where he talks about how military marksman training has changed over the last few decades.  We have probably followed suit in the same way.  We went from the old bulls-eye target to the silhouette of the soldier and what not.  I’ve been to a couple of presentations in the last few years by our commanders coming back from deployments, and they say that our soldiers are firing their weapons.

SOLDZ:  As an ethicist, do you see ethical issues or complexities around that?

CONSULTANT:  I do.  Are you familiar with the Just War tradition?

SOLDZ:  Yes.

CONSULTANT:  We teach that, pretty much at all levels, to our leadership.  Junior, middle-grade, senior officers learn all about that, as do some of the enlisted ranks, as well.  We have pretty extensive ethics training for our soldiers.  Our army has an army ethics program.  They have a web site, if you wanted to go see it.  But, basically, our ethics training revolves around the Just War tradition, the Laws of Armed Conflict, and the various Geneva Conventions, and those sorts of things.

ARRIGO:  Do you have covert operations in your country?

CONSULTANT:  We have special operations teams.

SOLDZ:  Do you feel that the ethics training really permeates the troops?  Yesterday I heard General Antonio Taguba, the general who investigated Abu Ghraib and was forced out of the military as punishment, who very much emphasized the ethics training in the U.S. military – but training which failed, in a number of cases.  I’m wondering what your sense is, whether it really permeates your military, that the average soldier gets it, in some sense and internalizes the message?

CONSULTANT:  I’d be guessing if I said anything.  We haven’t had much in the way of unprofessional, unethical acts on deployments.  We’ve had couple of little things, but nothing really big.  I don’t know if it’s because of ethics training or because of the quality of the soldier or if it’s because of the leadership.  And you have to remember, we’re a much smaller army.

SOLDZ:  And in the same types of combat in some situations.

CONSULTANT:  In many situations, yes.

SOLDZ:  I’m not sure what your role abroad is.

CONSULTANT:  Well, they are engaged in combat.

ARRIGO:  I wonder who goes into your military.

CONSULTANT:  It’s not an area that I know really well, but, by and large, they’re high school graduates or almost high school graduates.  They go through a criminal investigation check.  So there is a screen process that takes place.  They can’t have a criminal record.  They take initial IQ tests and undergo examinations and that sort of thing.  So there’s a rigorous selection policy and program put in place.  Not everybody gets into the military.

ARRIGO:  Can you tell us what the IQ cut-off is?

CONSULTANT:  It’s an in-house test, developed by the military.  So it doesn’t really correspond to any of the IQ tests that you know.  And it’s been so long since I looked at that literature.  There might have been studies done long ago that did a correlational analysis with an existing IQ test, but I don’t know of any.

ARRIGO:  Maybe we should take last questions and comments now so we don’t run overtime.  How about if we go in this order:  Jancis, Ray, Stephen, Martha, me?

LONG:  To ask you the final question, not particularly, I think, because you’ve answered very clearly.  It sort of makes me feel that smaller countries that do less and have less war are a great idea.

CONSULTANT:  I can’t comment on that.  [Laughter.]

LONG:  It sounded as though, in your groups, it didn’t really come up.  You know, “We are psychologists, too, and we don’t like what the psychologists there are doing, even if they’re in another country.”  But it doesn’t feel like that happened.  So I guess you answered me on that, unless I missed something.

CONSULTANT:  As I said, we sat in on the presentations and we found it all very interesting and stimulating, but it just didn’t seem to relate to what we were experiencing back home.  And once we go back home, other than just talking about it in passing to one another, nobody else in the country ever raised it with me.

LONG:  I will raise one final other question.  What has bothered military psychologists in your country in recent years about their own work?  Is there anything that has particularly made them go to their books or go to their thoughts or have excited conversations?

CONSULTANT:  Maybe not military psychologists.  But in the military realm there was some discussion early on in the missions abroad around the handling of detainees.  Because we’re a small army and when we went abroad we didn’t have the facilities for detaining individuals, so we were presented with some dilemmas as to, “Who do we turn these people over to?”

SOLDZ:  And what happened?

CONSULTANT:  I don’t really know it well, Stephen, but I think initially that we were turning them over to the U.S., and now we’re turning them over to the local authorities.

DAVIS:  Oh, dear!

CONSULTANT:  I should say, there was a bit of controversy around that, and then we, to my knowledge, we have rewritten the agreement with the local authorities so that we can now go into the prisons and monitor, and that sort of thing.  So that seems to satisfy any moral qualms that we had about turning them over to the local authorities.

BENNETT:  I understand that you’re not having the same problems [inaudible] the environment.  Being a much smaller army, you’re not going to run into these types of problems.  But if you had a similar problem in the military in your country that you could address, or seek redress for that problem….  Here it’s very much politically driven.

CONSULTANT:  I think it’d be politically driven here as well.  Back in the ‘90s, we had an incident in a country where a number of our soldiers killed some local people, and it caused quite a stir.  There was what we call an inquiry, established by the government, and they investigated it.  People were charged.  Some soldiers went to jail.

BENNETT:  Thank you.

ARRIGO:  Stephen?

SOLDZ:  I think I’m set.  Thank you for talking to us.

DAVIS:  Actually, you just hit the nail on the head for me for my question.  I was going to ask whether there were incidents, like you just described, and how it was handled.

DAVIS:  So, in other words, when there was an incident like this, or, also, an incident in Srebrenica [July 1995 Srebrenica Massacre] –

CONSULTANT:  That was the Dutch. 

DAVIS:  But the way it was handled, the officer was actually indicted as well as the lower-ranked soldiers, in that case.  Here, we don’t indict officers apparently. -- I don’t want to go into that. – But was there a lot of controversy about the outcome, or was generally believed that it was fair, that it was unfair to the soldiers?  What was the consensus?

CONSULTANT:  I don’t think you could say that there was any consensus.  With all these issues, there’s always different people have different perspectives on it, and it depends on where you are.  The impression that many of us had at the time was that there was more interest about this in the populous area of our country. So a lot of the media coverage around this was there.  I just forget how many people went to jail.  It was a small number.  But an officer went to jail.

DAVIS:  It was a military judiciary process, not a civilian process.

CONSULTANT:  I think so.  Well, there were several things that happened.  First there was an inquiry, and that inquiry was established by the government.  It had what we call commissioners, which is kind of like a tribunal, and there were three of them, and there were lawyers, and people were called before this inquiry to give testimony and what not.  And sort of concurrent with that would have been the military police investigations, and certain people were charged and court martialed and convicted. 

DAVIS:  Thank you very much for your –

ARRIGO:  I have a couple of questions.  One is, a lot of our difficulties have not really been with the military services but with the CIA and the other intelligence agencies that don’t seem to have the accountability that the military has, or tradition.  And I wonder if you have any parallel to that in your country?

CONSULTANT:  Nothing that I know anything about.  We have our own intelligence community.

ARRIGO:  But are they just part of the military, like we have military intelligence?


ARRIGO:  There’s kind of a separate dynamic with them that people are dealing with [inaudible]. 

CONSULTANT:  We have a military intelligence group within our military, but I don’t know anything about it.

DAVIS:  Do psychologists do counterintelligence work?

CONSULTANT:  I don’t think so.  Certainly none in uniform do.

ARRIGO:  Or counterterrorism?

DAVIS:  No, no, counterintelligence work.  Do they do interviews of soldiers suspected of being --  In other words, do they do investigations where they actually interview suspects of some sort, even if they’re soldier suspects?

CONSULTANT:  I don’t know.  It’s not my area of expertise at all.

DAVIS:  Here they bleed over into it.  Here they go from the screening, to the counterintelligence, and then they get closer and closer to the actual prisoner of war interrogations. 


ARRIGO:  The second question I had was, in the United States we haven’t really been able to figure out, with the defense psychologists, what the whole structure – who their subordinates are.  We don’t think that PhD psychologists are sent out to some remote outpost.  But somebody is sent out there.  There are going to be some sort of lower-level mental health workers, just like there are medics.  There’s somebody in every small unit who’s got the first aid kit, right?


ARRIGO:  We don’t know how this works in our military with mental health.  Can you give us any clue about that?

CONSULTANT:  I wouldn’t know.  I’d be guessing if I said anything. 

ARRIGO:  In your country are there not assistant psychologists, as it were?

CONSULTANT:  I don’t think so, but I don’t know.  Most of our clinical psychologists – I think all of our clinical psychologists – again, I’m guessing here – are civilian. 

ARRIGO:  But if you have forces abroad, you wouldn’t have –

CONSULTANT:  No, in uniform I think we have psychiatrists.

ARRIGO:  Oh, oh, okay.

CONSULTANT:  I don’t think we have clinical psychologists in uniform, but that’s just a guess.

ARRIGO:  How would we find out about that if we were curious?

CONSULTANT:  I guess we just phone the closest mental health unit.

ARRIGO:  Could you get that information for us?


ARRIGO:  Then the last question I have – this comes from a few years ago at JSCOPE (this was when the military ethics conference was called the Joint Services Conference on Professional Ethics) – I talked to three military people from your country who had come there.  I thanked them for coming to us in the U.S.  They said that there wasn’t any such conference at home and that they came to this conference because they couldn’t talk about these things freely in.  Does that ring any bells with you?

CONSULTANT:  Does that mean that they can’t talk freely about such issues or that there’s no collection of people who have expertise in understanding these issues that come together and provide a venue for talking about it?

ARRIGO:  I understood them to mean that they couldn’t talk freely.

CONSULTANT:  That’s not been my experience.  My experience has been that if something is on the soldiers’ minds, you’re going to hear about it.  They’re going to tell you.



1 Davis, Martha. (2008).  Interrogation Psychologists:  The Making of a Professional Crisis.  [Video].  [Available at Focus Reframed:, accessed December 15, 2008].

2 (2007, August).  Mini-conference on ethics and interrogation.  Convention of the American Psychological Association, San Francisco, CA.

3 E. Cose, “The Lessons of Rwanda,” Newsweek, 21 April 2008, 33.

April 25, 2009, addition from Consultant:  The author of the piece, on describing the experience of Rakia Omaar, director of Africa Rights, a Kigali-based human-rights organization, stated that: 

Omaar has also learned that education is no cure [for atrocities].  Doctors, politicians and teachers were as brutally complicit [in the Rwandan genocide] as everyone else.  Those who shielded their neighbors from violence – at huge personal risk – were “almost universally peasants … It was very shocking to me that education isn’t, in the way you want it to be, the answer.”

4 (2009, January 27-28).  International Symposium on Military Ethics.  University of San Diego, San Diego, CA.

5 Berkun, Mitchell M., Bialek, Hilton M., Kern, Richard P., & Yagi, Kan.  (1962).  Experimental studies of psychological stress in man [Special issue].  Psychological Monographs:  General and Applied, 76 (15).

6 Grossman, Dave.  (1995).  On Killing : The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society.  Boston:  Little Brown.