Cutthroats in White Coats

Yesterday, an Army psychiatrist opened fire in a medical office at a U.S. Army base in Texas, killing 12 people and wounding 30. The soldier, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, is a Muslim who was reportedly angered by the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and also upset at his impending deployment there. Media reports say that he defended Islamic terrorist attacks in Internet postings and public comments.

It might seem counter-intuitive that a doctor (of any kind) could turn so murderous — and especially surprising that a psychiatrist could commit acts usually motivated by internal angst. But Theodore Dalrymple says, in a July 30, 2007 article for National Review written shortly after terrorist attacks carried out in Britain by Muslim doctors, that medical professionals fit the profile for such behavior:

Doctors are the type of people one might expect to become terrorists: not all or even many doctors, of course, but some, because they have precisely the right psychological “qualifications” to do so.

First, doctors must train themselves to be dispassionate in the face of suffering, and be prepared to do things that might cause their patients discomfort and even pain, for the higher purpose of the good of the patients. The need for doctors to be able to distance themselves in this way is recognized by the old medical-school ritual of throwing medical students into the dissecting room on their first day, so that they learn to master and overcome their natural repugnance.

Clearly, this kind of mastery can tip over quite easily into aggression and sadism, if it is not allied to a very strong moral sense. And since the medical profession is very large worldwide, counting millions, it is inevitable that there should be some among them who are lacking this moral sense.

Second, and more important, there needs to be an ideology to which aggression and sadism can attach, if doctors are to become terrorists. Furthermore, such an ideology is likely to appeal not so much to the uneducated masses, at least to the extent of acting on it, as to the educated classes.

It needs a high degree of abstraction to believe that bombing an airport terminal in Glasgow will conduce to anything but the death of people at random. In their day-to-day dealings, no doubt the plotters were perfectly decent and kindly, possibly even feeling sympathy for the sufferings of the people whom they met in their training and practice as doctors. But just as the dissecting room can overcome natural repugnance, so can an ideology overcome all the social inhibitions against killing people.

As Solzhenitsyn pointed out in a different context, it is ideology that allows people to commit the most terrible acts in the belief that they are bringing about a better world. It blinds them to the most obvious moral considerations; it renders the most absolute evil good.

Islamism is nothing if not an ideology, a poisonous mixture of medieval superstition, sociology, and modern political philosophy. People who plan to set off bombs in airports with cellphones are clearly of the modern world, yet they do so in the hope of bringing about a “return” to an imagined 7th-century paradise. It requires a great deal of education and training to believe such nonsense.

Read the whole article here

4 thoughts on “Cutthroats in White Coats

  1. John Armor

    I have followed the work of Dr. Dalrymple for many years. I always read any article with his byline, and I remember his original article about the attacks in Scotland.

    Moments ago, I found out about this particular website, and have bookmarked it. Thank you for your efforts in making the excellent work of this able and eclectic thinker and writer even more available to the thinking public.



    John Armor, Esq.

  2. Steve

    It is our pleasure, John. Let us know if you see any room for improvement, and feel free to comment any time. Thanks.

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