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The al-Zawahiri Syndrome

07.05.2007 05:29 | DISPATCHES

By all accounts, the attempted London and Glasgow bombings were an Islamist plot. But because of the eight arrested, seven are doctors or medical students and one a lab technician (two more doctors have been detained for questioning in Australia), we wonder if there's another phenomenon at work here. Sure, they appear to follow in the footsteps of bin Laden's right-hand man Dr. al-Zawahiri. But Islamism may be a cover. Perhaps, instead of seeking to redress societal grievances, they're acting out a psychological disorder. . . such as misogyny.


Writing in Slate, Christopher Hitchens commented that one of the car bombs "might have been parked outside a club in Piccadilly because it was 'ladies night'." "The murderers," he speculates, "did not just want body parts in general but female body parts in particular." Yes, but doctors?


Conservative blogger Dr. Sanity explains. "In the case of doctors, it is. . . those cruel and often sadistic impulses existing within us all," she writes, "that gives them the ability to deal with other people's pain and suffering without diminishing their ability to. . . remedy it. It is a delicate balancing act. . . and things can get greatly out of balance by a variety of individual, cultural and environmental factors."


In other words, a doctor may have more in common with a terrorist than we think -- they're both ticking time bombs. Let's call it the al-Zawahiri Syndrome.


Looks like the phrase "at least do no harm"* -- rendered obsolete by Nazi doctors and, of late, American doctors enabling torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay -- won't be returning to the medical lexicon anytime soon.


*Not actually from the Hippocratic Oath, as commonly thought, but from Hippocrates's page-turner Epidemics.


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