Bravo, Colonel Bruno, Bravo

We are often discussing stories of religious intolerance and sectarian prejudice on this blog, so it is refreshing to report an act of kindness and tolerance on occasion. Despite opposition from Christian groups, the United States Air Force Academy has established an area for pagans to pray in Colorado called the Falcon Circle. The academy’s senior chaplain, Col. Robert Bruno, insisted that freedom of religion means that cadets should be able to practice their religion — a novel concept to some who later desecrated the religious site.

Ironically, as soon as Christianity took root, some followers proceeded to shake off their own oppression by turning against others, particularly pagans. One of the most famous was Hypatia who a remarkable woman — Neoplatonist philosopher in Roman Egypt and mathematician. She was murdered by a Christian mob after being accused of causing religious turmoil.

The circle cost just $50,000 but some Christian groups are up in arms over the accommodation of another faith. Yet, Col. Bruno was defiant — and right:

“The First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion does not just apply to the mainstream faith groups. It also applies to atheists, secularists, freethinkers and those whose belief systems are usually classified under the umbrella term ‘Earth-centered spirituality,’ . . . A denial of constitutional rights to one threatens the constitutional rights of all.”

My father’s firm, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, built the United States Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel designed by renowned architect Walter Netsch. I grew up with Netsch and his wife Dawn Clark (who later was on my law school faculty when I was a law student) as close family friends and I believe both my Dad and Walter would have been proud of the Air Force for the accommodation extended to all faiths.

Bravo, Col. Bruno, Bravo!

Source: Denver Post as first seen on Reddit.

58 thoughts on “Bravo, Colonel Bruno, Bravo”

  1. Awesome blog! Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers? I’m hoping to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m completely overwhelmed .. Any tips? Thanks a lot!

  2. O.S.

    You’re right about the APA. Just so the BAR. But remember, those people who try to get the word out, who succeed just a little, are doing something in spite of the cowards who run those organizations. They are speaking the truth so that others may know it.

    AMS, What is happening in Bagram is so bad that even our NATO allies stopped sending people to be rendered there. It is bad enough that Karzi is kicking us out in one month.

    As to the human experiments, there is unfortunately, already evidence that is going on.

  3. I am awaiting word on when the military academies plan to erect a temple to the True Deity–or is that Diet–the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

  4. CS Lewis believed that paganism is a prerequisite to monotheism. Even though I think paganism is a throwback to dead civilizations and belief systems, they definitely have a right to their circle of life or whatever, especially if they paid for it themselves.

  5. The problem with the APA ethics rules is they are toothless, thanks to the tweaking by those named, plus some others not named. Trying to file an ethics complaint with the American Psychological Association is like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.

    Besides, the APA is a voluntary membership organization and even if you are a member, the worst they can do to you is kick you out. APA membership is not the same as having a license to practice. And a license to practice is not required of military psychologists–licenses are certifications issued by the states, not the Federal government. Even if a military psychologist has a license to practice in one or more states, those states have no jurisdiction whatsoever for any practices outside their borders.

  6. Having almost been dead 19 months ago, being in my late 60’s, living adequately financially, with wonderful children/grandchildren one might say that I’m at the stage of life where there is little that can phase me whoever wins the next election. Sure Social Security won’t be cut for people my age, even with a Republican Administration and Medicare already covered my heart transplant, so the odds are I’m safe even if Medicare ends now. My pension may be at risk, but why worry about that now? As I’ve said before the country is a oligarchy and Obama merely represents one part of that and damn it he hasn’t been a disappointment. So screw it. I’m fine and I can show my displeasure with the President by not voting for him. It’s all the same anyway, isn’t it and principle is the most important thing.

    Why bother voting for this guy who hasn’t worked out even as I never expected him to? He’s exactly the same as G.W. Bush. They’re all the same just corporatists interested only in the 1%. Maybe Nader will run again on a third party line, maybe Roehmer, or maybe even Ron Paul? I’ll show these Democrats, I’m not taking it any more. Who cares who wins I’ll have my purity and I’ll be able to work with other people on a movement we’ll form sometime and then in the future we’ll take back the country. It doesn’t matter who wins in 2012, they’re all the same. When Obama loses on election night I’ll feel so good having played my part.

    Mitt Romney, Newty, Rick, who cares? We’ll beat them in the end, once we’ve organized some day. Maybe, just maybe things will get so terrible for people that they’ll revolt, that’ll show these Corporatists. Will many people be penniless, starving, without health care that’s tough. I’ll feel their pain, but my principles come first. Oh and as far as that link below talks about, nothing to worry about, once we organize nothing can stop us. It’s good to feel so self-righteous and pure. All power to the people……at some time to be figured out in the future.

  7. One of the writers of this article, Trudy Bond, was arrested for protesting the Bush administration. In other words, she really means what she says: “The Status Quo of Torture
    Psychologists’ Collusion in Ongoing Illegal Detentions

    As we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the arrival of the first prisoners at Guantánamo Detention Center, several thousand miles away sits another United States detention facility, less well-known but with a
    history perhaps even more gruesome. Obscured throughout the decade-long “global war on terror,” the detention center at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan is where two detainees died in December 2002. Initial autopsies at the time ruled both deaths homicides, according to a 2,000-page confidential Army file obtained by the New York Times. Autopsies of the two dead detainees found severe trauma to both prisoners’ legs. The coroner for one of the dead noted, “I’ve seen similar injuries in an individual run over by a bus.”

    In January 2009, to much fanfare, newly-elected President Barack Obama signed a directive authorizing the closing of Guantánamo Detention Center. But a month later the new administration discreetly told a federal judge that military detainees at Bagram had no habeas corpus rights to challenge their imprisonment. At the same time, the Pentagon was moving forward on plans to build a new prison in Bagram, renamed the “Detention Facility in Parwan” (DFIP). This facility was designed to accommodate 600 prisoners under normal conditions and as many as 1,100 during a “surge.”

    Today, President Obama has abandoned his inaugural pledge to close Guantánamo and there are more than 3,000 detainees at Bagram — five times the number of prisoners when the president took office — with a scheduled expansion of the facility by the end of 2012 to house up to 5,500 detainees. One troubling constant across the developments at Bagram is the presence and involvement of psychologists at these facilities, which clearly violate international legal standards for the treatment of detainees. Among the military psychologists present during the early years of the Bagram prison were Colonel Morgan Banks, Captain Bryce Lefever, and Colonel Larry James, notable for their key roles in formulating American Psychological Association (APA) much-criticized ethics policy on psychologist-assisted interrogations.

    According to Banks’ biographical statement, he “spent four months over the winter of 2001/2002 at Bagram Airfield.” More broadly, Banks provided technical, consultation, and interrogation support to all Army psychologists. He also assisted in establishing the Army’s first permanent SERE training program. As for Lefever’s biosketch, it notes that he also served at the detention center at Bagram Air Base. He “was deployed as the Joint Special Forces Task Force psychologist to Afghanistan in 2002, where he lectured to interrogators and was consulted on various interrogation techniques.”

    The third military psychologist, James, was the Chief Psychologist for the Joint Intelligence Group at Guantánamo when, according to his book, Fixing Hell, he flew to Afghanistan to transfer three juveniles who had been forcibly and arbitrarily detained at Bagram. James described these boys as “the most fragile . . . children [he] had ever met,” yet he oversaw their being loaded onto a cargo plane at Bagram Air Force Base, “bound [and] blindfolded,” for a flight that typically lasted over 20 hours. Others who appear to have been transferred from Bagram to Guantánamo that same day reported being chained around the waist, wrists, back and ankles and the intense pain of being unable to speak, see, hear, move, or even stretch or breathe properly. The boys were essentially kidnapped, and were returned home a year later, having never had access to legal counsel and having never been charged with a crime.

    Public information about exactly what transpires at Bagram today is scarce. The BBC was allowed a rare, one-hour visit to the new Parwan/Bagram prison in 2010. The report noted that “Prisoners are kept in 56 cells, which the prisoners refer to as ‘cages’. The front of the cells are made of mesh, the ceiling is clear, and the other three walls are solid. Guards can see down into the cells from above.” These detainees were moved around in wheelchairs, wearing goggles and headphones to block sight and sound.

    In 2011, Daphne Eviatar, an attorney for Human Rights First, interviewed 18 former detainees from the main facility in Parwan and was permitted to observe seven detainee hearings there. In her detailed report she noted:

    After many years of completely denying detainees in Afghanistan the opportunity to defend themselves against arbitrary detention, the United States government has finally implemented a hearing process that allows detainees to hear the charges against them and to make a statement in their own defense. Although a significant improvement, these new hearings fall short of minimum standards of due process required by international law.” [Emphasis added.]

    In a subsequent interview with CBS News, Eviatar stated:

    [Parwan] is worse than Guantánamo because there are fewer rights…There was no evidence presented, there was no questioning of the government’s evidence, whether this person had done anything wrong, whether he deserved to be in prison. So that’s a real problem — you have a complete lack of due process.

    And in 2010 the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirmed the existence of a separate, second detention facility at Parwan. Many former prisoners have referred to it as the Tor Jail, translated as “Black Jail.” Nine former prisoners interviewed separately by the BBC spoke of almost identical treatment there: distressingly cold cells, perpetual loud noise, constant light, and, violating any sense of privacy, camera surveillance. One former prisoner said American soldiers made him dance to music to obtain permission to use the toilet.

    Today, there are clear indications that psychologists continue to be involved in the detention and interrogation of detainees at Parwan/Bagram. Such activities stand in direct contravention of APA policy based on a 2008 petition resolution. Approved through a member-led referendum, this resolution prohibits psychologists from working in settings where “persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law (e.g., the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the US Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights” (or if they are providing treatment for military personnel).

    Significant evidence that psychologists are working at Bagram/Parwan in violation of APA policy comes in part from a symposium on “Operational Problems in Behavioral Sciences” sponsored by the United States Air Force Medical Service in August 2011. The first slide of the partially redacted powerpoint presentation on the “BSCT Mission” describes the role of the Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) as providing: “…psychological expertise and consultation in order to assist the command in conducting safe, legal, ethical, and effective detention facility operations, intelligence interrogations, and detainee debriefing operations” (OTSG/MEDCOM Policy Memo 09-053).

    A later slide reveals that the current BSCTs at the Parwan Detention Facility are composed of a psychologist or forensic psychiatrist, who must be licensed for independent practice, and a “behavioral science technician.” Further confirming the presence of psychologists, a June 2010 newspaper article about Parwan by the military editor of the Fayettville Observer notes: “Air Force Maj. Colin Burchfield, 34, a clinical psychologist, observes the behavior of both detainees and guards on TV monitors.”

    Disturbingly, and contrary to the APA’s 2008 referendum policy, one of the key documents still used to support the ongoing involvement of psychologists at the Parwan facility is an earlier 2005 report from the APA’s “Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security” (the PENS Report). The PENS Report, cited in the Operational Problems powerpoint presentation described above, endorsed psychologists’ engagement in detainee interrogations — despite evidence that psychologists were involved in abusive interrogations and practices that violate international law.

    Six of the nine voting members of the PENS Task Force were on the payroll of the U.S. military and/or intelligence agencies. Five of these six served in chains of command that had been accused of the kinds of abuses that led to the creation of the Task Force, including the three psychologists linked to the early Bagram prison: Dr. Morgan Banks, Dr. Bryce Lefever, and Dr. Larry James. The PENS Task Force concluded that psychologists have an important role to play in keeping interrogations “safe, legal, ethical, and effective,” and the APA Board approved the PENS Report in a highly unusual emergency vote.

    The APA’s claims that it stands strongly against torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment are belied by the organization’s repeated failure to take assertive and meaningful action. There is no clearer example than the continuing participation of psychologists in detention and interrogation activities at the Parwan/Bagram prison — a site where international law itself is seemingly confined indefinitely to a small, dark cell.

    But health professionals, human rights advocates, and intelligence professionals of conscience worldwide have refused to accept this status quo. One noteworthy and promising effort is an online petition campaign calling for the annulment of APA’s PENS Report. The initiative has been supported by many distinguished members of APA, as well as non-psychologists such as psychiatrists Robert Jay Lifton and bioethicist Dr. Steven Miles; scholar-activists such as Daniel Ellsberg and Noam Chomsky; attorneys who have represented Guantanamo detainees; eminent veterans of the intelligence community; and many other psychologists and human rights advocates. Please consider joining this call and signing the petition at”

    find the article at Counterpunch

    1. Once they begin locking people up for no reason and with no recourse to due process it is a small step to the Medical and Psychological experimentation and testing done by the Nazis in the forties.

      If this type of facility can exist; why not a more secret facility where there are zero controls or limits to the actions taken?

      The more I learn; the more I am willing to examine and believe things worse than these.

  8. Gene

    when they graduate high school and there’s a waiting list to work at mikki d’s the army doesn’t look so bad.

  9. Here is real courage. Tomorrow prisoners in Gitmo are going to peacefully protest their unjust imprisonment. Some groups in the US plan to protest this as well. Here is the video from Democracy Now: scroll down the page a bit if it doesn’t come up right away.

  10. Speaking of bad apples…

    The US army’s enemy within
    Struggling to recruit for its foreign wars, the US military has quietly dropped prohibitions against enlisting neo-Nazis
    By Matt Kennard, Monday 13 July 2009

    Over the last eight years, the US military has changed profoundly as it has sought to keep up troop levels in the war on terror without instituting a much-needed programme of conscription. In 2005, the US military missed its enlistment targets by the largest margin since 1979. Consequently, the door has been opened to felons, the overweight, foreign citizens, the mentally ill, the aged and other previously marginalised groups. Some of this loosening of regulation has been explicit, such as softening attitudes to felons and the overweight, and some, like that with mental illness and alcoholics, has been implicitly applied. In 1992, as secretary of defence, Dick Cheney said, “The military is not a social welfare agency… We aren’t there to run social experiments. We are there to fight and win wars,” but under his administration’s watch a “social experiment” is what it became.

    Over at Salon, I recently published my year-long investigation into one of the most disturbing results of this clamour for new troops: the rise of neo-Nazis and white supremacists in the ranks of the US military. Last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center – the anti-racist group in the US – wrote to Congress to demand action. I spoke with all the main neo-Nazi groups in the US and they reported a loosening of attitudes to their members. This has expressed itself through turning a blind eye to extremist tattoos (one of the best clues to extremism) during enlistment, the failure to discharge extremist soldiers when they are discovered, and even the promotion of “hardcore” (read: extremist) soldiers in a hostile theatre of war. Through the Freedom of Information Act, I procured reports that showed the body set up to investigate extremism, the Criminal Investigative Command, had terminated investigations prematurely, even when it discovered extremist soldiers operating at bases in the US.


    Neo-Nazis are in the Army now
    Why the U.S. military is ignoring its own regulations and permitting white supremacists to join its ranks.
    By Matt Kennard

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