Thanks everyone for the comments - I'm so glad I'm not alone being disgusted by the AAP recommendations. However, after a few days of pondering (and, like everyone else, being thoroughly annoyed at MIL for telling me I was making a "big mistake" planning to cosleep) I have had some thoughts on this and I think I am starting to maybe slightly understand where the AAP is coming from.
First, I think that their point that cosleeping *as practiced in North America and the West* is potentially a problem, is valid. We typically do NOT cosleep naturally. As a pp pointed out, our beds and bedding are very different than Asian/African bedding and all our blankets and pillows and soft mattresses are risky. Also, and this is something I feel is vastly overlooked, a lot of parents still put baby to bed long before they retire. My baby hasn't been born yet so maybe I'm missing something, but I don't get this. Babies sleep just fine in slings or carriers or in bassinettes in the living room or carseats or wherever during the day, why don't they sleep in the same room that the parents are in during the evening hours? It's not like "bedtime" is a valid concept for an infant. I don't think people do this in non-Western countries but pretty much everyone I know - even "attachment" parents - does this here. So there are typically 3-4 hours every night when baby is sleeping alone, even if technically the baby is sleeping in the same room as the parents. And if the baby doesn't have a crib, he/she is basically sleeping alone, in an adult bed, which everyone, McKenna included, agrees is a bad idea. But I don't think this staggered bedtime has been looked at as a factor - in my perusal of the AAP research it didn't seem to be the case; nor did the AAP mention it. (But if I'm wrong about this, please someone correct me. I would very much like to be told that a lot of people don't put their babies to bed before themselves!)
Second, giving the AAP the benefit of the doubt and putting on my "cynical cranky" hat for a minute: given that it seems none of us are arguing that things like accidental cosleeping, alcohol use, puffy comforters etc. ARE risks, would the AAP really want to come out and say "cosleeping is great"? Because as much as we want to believe otherwise, people are generally pretty lazy when it comes to the whole reading/listening thing, and if they don't pay attention to the caveats on cosleeping they WILL put their children at risk. Moreover, this information is disseminated through the mass media, so a lot of people will pay attention only to the headlines, and take only the headlines away as retained information.
It's a totally different scenario than with breastfeeding. There are no risks with breastfeeding. If you do it "wrong" it's not fatal.
I guess what I'm saying is that if I were generating policies for the AAP, I'd be concerned about the capability of my audience to take in the information. And it IS sad and maybe I am being excessively cynical, but in the hypothetical situation of the AAP releasing a "cosleeping is good if..." recommendation, how many people are actually going to read through (or even listen to) ALL the points? How many media outlets are going to report anything other than "The AAP recommends cosleeping"? And how many people are going to take any of the caveats seriously? How many people are going to just think, "this is great, we don't have to spend any money on a crib" and stuff Junior in their waterbed between their two obese, over-medicated, over-tired bodies and then say "but the AAP said it was ok"?
I sincerely wish that the AAP hadn't released a statement at all. And I wish they had included much more information about the methodological discrepancies between Western cosleeping and other cosleeping practices, and I REALLY wish that they had made more of a big deal about the risks of babies being put to sleep in a room by themselves. But if they felt they had to release a statement just on cosleeping, and didn't have any research on those discrepancies, then I guess I am reluctantly concluding that they maybe didn't do so badly.
It's not quite right to just blame the AAP. Our culture and its aversion to critical thinking (and in some cases, basic literacy) has a lot to do with this as well. What the AAP did in its statement was cater to the lowest common denominator, because they would be blamed for any misunderstandings.
Sorry for the long babble, I just felt the need to play devil's advocate there a bit. And no I do not work for the AAP (heck, I'm not even American) nor am I a fan, I just think there is some blame to share here.