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Ghislaine Boulanger writes:

Should we withhold our 2007 dues to the American Psychological Association?

There has been a lot of discussion recently about whether to withhold dues from the APA in light of the continuing use of psychologists in Guantanamo and other sites in which 'enemy combatants' are being tortured. Some have been categorically opposed to withholding dues, arguing that it is better to stay within the organization and work from there, saying that not paying dues is poor strategy; others have urged a wait and see attitude. For some of us this is not a question of strategy, it is a question of conscience. Which is not to say that sometimes acts of conscience cannot also be strategic. Be that as it may, let me speak for myself, I simply cannot in good conscience continue paying dues to an organization whose ethics code supports the use of psychologists in facilities that do not observe international human rights law.


I cannot support an organization whose spokesmen do not speak for me (recall Stephen Behnke, APA's director of ethics, telling a reporter from the NY Times last June that "helping military interrogators made a valuable contribution because it was part of an effort to prevent terrorism"). I do not wish to be associated with an organization whose president publishes columns on the question of psychological ethics that are at best naive and at worst disingenuous (see Gerald Koocher's President's columns in the February 2006 and July/August 2006 Psychological Monitor).

I have watched this struggle for several years believing that good sense would prevail. I hoped that it would this summer, and thought, briefly, that it had, only to watch as the 2006 resolution against torture was subverted by the addition of a clause rendering changes meaningless. Worst of all, the APA continues to support the use of psychologists in facilities that contravene the Geneva Conventions, making American psychologists vulnerable to charges of unethical conduct and poor judgment in the international community.

Some psychologists opposed to these ethics are continuing to work actively within the APA to change the policy. Others, in an act of 'civil disobedience,' are opting to withhold dues. I do not believe that those of us who are withholding our dues are in any way questioning or undermining what those who are working within the system are seeking to accomplish. At best our action can add further impetus to the argument that current policies are offensive to at least some of the memberhsip.

A number of us who are interested in withholding dues want to reach as many like-minded psychologists as we can. To that end we have set up a listserve which interested psychologists can join in order to discuss how to organize as a group and how to maximize the impact of our decision. If you are interested in exploring this direction, we invite you to join the listserve. This is how to do it: To join the Withholdapadues listserve, you have to have a Yahoo account first. If you don't have a Yahoo account, it takes less than five minutes to go through all the steps (and it's free), if you have a Yahoo account, you probably know that it takes less than 60 seconds to join a specific group). In either case, go to: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/withholdapadues and follow the directions. Once you have made it into the group, please send us a message to withholdapadues@yahoogroups.com to tell us that you have joined the group. If you have any trouble going through this process, please send an email to our webmaster, Rachel Kadushin, at Kadushin@aol.com and she will make sure you get onto the listserve.

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