Joe has asked me to forward this note to the list because the gremlins
have knocked him off. The gremlin snuffers are out searching for the guilty
Message From: Phil Zimbardo <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Abuse of Iraqi prisoners and the SPE parallels
Posted By: Phil Zimbardo
Institution: Stanford U.
Date: May 1 2004, 12:46 p.m.
5 1 04
Just a quick note before heading off to a meeting of the Council of
Scientific Society Presidents (CSSP) where Psych is the only social
science among 62 societies represented, and I am its chair elect.
Recent horrors being displayed of sexual degradation of Iraqi
prisoners by U.S. military army reservists elicit direct and sad
parallels between similar behavior of the "guards" in the Stanford
Prison Experiment against their "prisoners." As the guards on the
night shift became ever more bored with their long 8 hour shift, they
began to use the prisoners as play things for their amusement,
believing that their actions were not under surviellance during the
night (they were secretly video taped for subsequent viewing). I then
discovered they would get them to simulate sodomy and other
homophobic behaviors. They also stripped prisoners naked for various
offenses, took away their sheets and mattresses, put them in solitary
for excessive periods -- all of which are mirrored in the behavior of
military police in the Abu Ghraib prison outside of Bagdad. It is one
reason we ended the study a week early because the guards were
abusing the power in their roles, and were becoming unco!
ntrollable by our staff. (see www.prisonexp.org)
See the report by Seymour Hersh, who helped expose the MY Lai
massacre, for details of the exent of the torture, abuse of all
kinds, murder of inmates, coverups by senior officers and details.
In the current situation, we must not allow the politicians and
pentagon to dismiss the seriousness of what happened with the usual
dispositional analysis of a few bad apples in a good barrel. Bush
said it should not reflect on the good nature of all Americans or our
Wrong. The situational analysis says the barrel of war is filled with
vinegar that will transform good cucumbers into sour pickles and will
always do it to make the majority of good people, men and women, into
perpetrators of evil, where there is: anonymity-deindividuation,
dehumanization, secrecy, diffusion of
responsibility, social modeling, big power differentials,
frustration, feelings of revenge,obedience to authority, lack of
supervision that conveys a sense of permissiveness.
Remember the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, other good boy-soldiers
murdered, raped, scalped and burned to death hundreds of innocent
Vietnamese civilians, and only one was tried and Lt. Calley was soon
released to become a hero of the right wing.
I studied torturers and death squad executioners in Brazil and there
civil and military police committed the most atrocious horrors
against fellow citizens once they were labelled the "enemy" --
socialists and communists-- and the ideology of "National Security"
made them a threat to the fascist military junta running the
country--with the support of our government.
Again we show in our recent book that basic social psych principles
were operating to morph ordinary Brazilian police into brutal
torturers and heartless mass murderers (see Violence Workers, UC
Berkeley press, 2003, Huggins, Haritos-Fatouros, Zimbardo).
The ubiquitous causal force in all this is the Evil of War, and the
cover story of "National Security," and now the exaggerated fears of
terrorism that have been induced by ten "credible" terror alarms is
transforming our nation into a culture of victims and our soldiers
into brutal abusers of other human beings.
This one incident of waton, repeated, dehumanized abuse of innocent
Iraqi civilian detainees will haunt the objectives of the Bush
administration of bringing any semblance of US- style democracy to
the Middle East -- it will now not happen. It is not Americans at our
worst, it is human nature succumbing to the power of evil situational
forces. The horror is that our soldiers should never have been put in
harm's way to be killed, maimed, and now to have to function in
situations that enabled them to behave in ways that are a perversion
of the perfection of our humanity. The rush to this pre-emptive war
was based on lies, false assumptions and political and economic
objectives that had nothing to do with WMD, terrorism, or enhancing
our national security.
WAR IS INDEED HELL, AND THIS AGGRESSIVE, NEEDLESS WAR IS HELL ON
EARTH THAT WILL HAVE LONG-LASTING NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES AT HOME AND
ONE SLIM HOPE IS SOME IMPROVEMENT AFTER THE NOV. ELECTIONS IF THE
CURRENT WAR-MONGERING ADMINISTRATION IS DEFEATED. BUT THE CURRENT
NATIONAL INERTIA IS AMAZING TO ME, ESPECIALLY AMONG OUR PASSIVE
Sent courtesy of Social Psychology Network
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