One can look at the world of terrorism as a violent kaleidoscope, with endlessly jarring combinations of explosions, religious images, chaos and blood. With that confusion uppermost in people’s minds, the terror doctors have gained an upper hand.
A first step to bring order out of such confusion is to isolate who is responsible, how they manufacture chaos and why, and who benefits.
With a body count that dwarfs his contemporaries, Ayman al-Zawahiri is the major guiding influence. He and his accomplices arrogated to themselves the power to interpret and act upon holy writingswritings al-Zawahiri habitually perverts. As expressed by terrorism expert Reuven Paz, al-Zawahiri has placed himself in the first row of al-Qaeda ideologues “despite his lack of an official Islamic education.”6
In an interview with Freedom, Paz, the director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of the Project for the Study of Islamist Movements, stressed that al-Zawahiri and other terror leaders are by no means Muslim scholars. “They don’t have basic Islamic education and therefore, in many cases, they also invent new doctrines and theories,” Paz said.
Those spurious interpretations target the disenfranchised youth of Palestine and other terrorist breeding grounds. “The problem is that most of these youngsters’ knowledge in Islam is very poor, so they tend to follow ... all kinds of innovated new interpretationssome of them violations of Islamic belief,” said Paz.
To gain greater understanding of coercive psychiatric methods that can facilitate such reconditioning, one can look back to the depths of the Cold War, when Western intelligence was locked in a no-holds-barred struggle with the Soviet Union. Both sides sought to “program” individuals to execute orders without hesitationeven orders to commit acts of violence. (See “Inside the Sleep Room”.)
Anson Shupe, Ph.D., professor of sociology at Indiana-Purdue University at Fort Wayne, pointed to a common denominator in the work of psychiatrists, past and present, who engage in coercive methods to serve ideological interests and governments. “There is a certain ruthlessness and an arrogance that ’We know best’ and ’We can do what we want and dispense with people in the process,’” Shupe said. “There is no concept of ethics. The end justifies the means.”
In a February 5, 2004, commentary in the Lebanon Daily Star, Jessica Stern, Ph.D., author of Terror in the Name of God, compared the words of al-Zawahiri with an earlier psychiatrist, Frantz Fanon, the apparent guiding light for today’s terrorists.
Al-Zawahiri urges Islamic youth to use force rather than tolerate what he terms humiliation. “Violence, in other words, restores the dignity of humiliated youth,” wrote Stern.
In such statements, Stern pointed out, the al-Qaeda boss echoes Algerian psychiatrist Fanon. In his book, The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon wrote, “Violence is a purifying force. It frees the native from his inferiority complex and from despair and inaction. It makes him fearless and restores his self-respect.”7
Fanon launched post-World War II terrorism when he became the leading theorist of the Algerian terrorist group, the National Liberation Front. Fanon “romanticized murder,”8 promoting violence and hatred with a frightening effectiveness that transcended national and religious boundaries.
His legacy includes not only the estimated 1 million lives lost during the Algerian war against the French, but another 100,000 or more in brutal killings and counter-killings that wracked the nation in the 1990s and into the 21st century. Algeria has yet to recover a sense of normality, more than four decades after Fanon’s death.
In the larger picture, Fanon’s inflammatory works ignited terrorist activities and violence in other countries, including Iran (where one of his disciples led the 1979 revolution), Zimbabwe, Somalia, Sudan and Sierra Leone.
Fanon also inspired terrorist groups in Palestine. Researcher Ely Karmon noted that an inflammatory leaflet from Al-Fatah (“The Victory”), Yasser Arafat’s organization, “was little more than a collection of quotations” from Fanon.9
“You Press the Button to Blow Yourself Up”
But even as Freedom’s investigative actions unearth the pervasive psychiatric influences behind terrorism, active members of that profession are often the most prominent propagandists for justified mayhem on a massive scalesending an insidious message that the cause is not only just but holy.
Adel Sadeq is but one example. Appearing in April 2002 on the Arab Radio and Television Networkbroadcast throughout the Middle EastSadeq incited viewers to become suicide bombers. “As a professional psychiatrist,” he said, “I say that the height of bliss comes with the end of the countdown: ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. And then, you press the button to blow yourself up.”
He continued: “When the martyr reaches ’one,’ and then ’boom,’ he explodes, and senses himself flying, because he knows for certain that he is not dead ... it is a transition to another, more beautiful, world. None in the [Western] world sacrifices his life for his homeland. If his homeland is drowning, he is the first to jump ship. In our culture it is different.... This is the only Arab weapon there is, and anyone who says otherwise is a conspirator.”10
Sadeq’s call to violence carried the weight of his dual positions as chairman of the Arab Psychiatric Association and head of the Department of Psychiatry at Cairo’s Ein Shams University.
Although backlash over Sadeq’s reckless remarks caused him to backpedal several months later, his high-profile television appearance had a deadly effect. According to statistics compiled by Freedom from a review of news media sources, in the 24 months following Sadeq’s statements, the death toll in the Middle East due to suicide bombings more than doubled over the previous 24 months, rising from 201 to 511.