Stephen N. Xenakis warns that the US government is sliding in the direction of the Soviet Union when it uses psychiatrists, willing to spout pseudoscience for the purpose of identifying “enemies of the state.”
The case of Omar Khadr was the first war crimes prosecution of the Obama administration, and it could set a dangerous precedent for how mental health professionals are used in terrorism trials.
I attended the proceedings in October – the first American tribunal for a child soldier since World War II – because I had been working with Khadr’s defense team for two years. I am a child and adolescent psychiatrist and a retired Army brigadier general; the defense had asked me to evaluate Khadr’s physical and mental health, as well as advise on military procedure.
As I listened to the prosecution’s expert testimony depicting Khadr’s state of mind, I was reminded of psychiatry and the politicization of mental health under the Soviet regime. Those were the years when political dissidents were accused of insanity simply because they had the audacity to challenge the Soviet system. The medical profession, especially psychiatry, was a political instrument of control and repression.