War and Psychiatrists

War and Psychiatrists

We like to acquaint our readers with interesting things we read, and then work out how psychiatry is involved. The most recent interesting thing we have read (although not the most interesting thing in the world) is an article titled “The Truth About Iraq And why it matters” by Dick Cheney and Liz Cheney, in the July 21, 2014 issue of The Weekly Standard. (Click here to read the article.)

Keep in mind, we are not arguing for or against the Cheneys’ viewpoints; that is something about which one must come to one’s own conclusions. However, we’d like to take two quotes from the article, out of context to be sure, and expound on the issue as it relates to psychiatry.

Quote the first: “We also know, again confirmed in documents captured after the war, that Saddam provided funding, training, and other support to numerous terrorist organizations and individuals over decades, including to Ayman al Zawahiri, the man who leads al Qaeda today.”

A relatively innocuous statement, perhaps — but not to someone who recognizes the name and its relation to psychiatry (which the authors may not recognize, or may not consider significant.)

Here’s the point. Very few may know about an Egyptian psychiatrist, formerly Osama bin Laden’s right hand man, named Ayman al-Zawahiri. Former psychiatrist Ayman al-Zawahiri “is the guy—he’s the operational commander … number one, on the right-hand side of Osama [bin Laden] … He believes that violence is purifying.” [Vincent Cannistraro, former counter-terrorism official, U.S. Central Intelligence Agency]

Ayman al-ZawahiriWell, so bin Laden is now out of the picture, but al-Zawahiri is not.

A psychiatrist and surgeon who was convicted of terrorism in Egypt and sentenced to death in absentia; al-Zawahiri studied behavior, psychology and pharmacology as part of his medical degree at Cairo University. Interpol issued an arrest warrant for al-Zawahiri relating to his role in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Quote the second: “We won’t defeat our enemies by retreating. We won’t win if we adopt a false narrative about the past, fail to learn the lessons of history, or seek security in disengagement and isolationism. We will only defeat our enemies if we are clear-eyed about the threat and have the will to do what it takes for as long as it takes—until the war is won.”

Cheney was talking about Iraq and al Qaeda. We’re talking about war, terrorism and psychiatry. We think this quote still applies. What do you think?

Find out more about war, terrorism and psychiatry by clicking here.

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