Docs Of War is The Daily Mirror's headline on the story that amongst those arrested for the terrorist attempts in Glasgow and London are doctors and medical students. If it turns out that any of these people were indeed involved in attempted mass murder, their being doctors shouldn't be a cause for surprise. As Adam LeBor points out at Harry's Place, medical and other professionals are not immune from being drawn into murderous projects. There's a well-known book by Robert Jay Lifton - The Nazi Doctors - that tries to explain the psychological mechanisms by which doctors at Auschwitz brought themselves to participate in the killing process. Lifton talks about one of these mechanisms, so-called 'doubling', in the interview here:
The socialization to evil, I discovered, is all too easy to accomplish. These doctors had not killed anybody until they got to Auschwitz, so they weren't extraordinary killers to start with. They were ordinary people who in that way were socialized to evil. And a key mechanism in that socialization to evil was what I came to call "doubling." One can understand that if one sees that these Nazi doctors were at the heart of the killing process in Auschwitz. They did selections, they selected in the camps. They were in charge of declaring people dead. In a sense, they ran the killing process, although their assistants more and more did it for them. So when they were in Auschwitz they had an Auschwitz self, which was responsible for doing all of this, as well as for the very vulgar life that one led in Auschwitz. Very heavy drinking and vulgar jokes, and the whole combination of things that made up Auschwitz. But they would go home to their families, from Poland to Germany, for weekends or for leaves and they would be ordinary fathers and husbands where they would function in a relatively ordinary way, calling forth a non-Auschwitz self or a prior, relatively more humane, self. And each of these selves functioned as though it were a separate autonomous self. And that's why I called it "doubling," even though, of course, they were part of the same overall self.Should any of those lately arrested be charged and found guilty of plotting terrorist attacks, can you figure out how the usual excuse-making approach will adapt itself to the fact that people more usually thought of as healers - rather than the wretched, the oppressed, the impoverished and so forth - have got caught up in plans of murder? No problem whatsoever. It might go like this:
You see? Even such people, trained to care for others, to do no harm, to heal, have been forced through alienation and desperation to extreme measures. We must be to blame. We have pushed them to it. They had no other choice.The ways of apology are endlessly adaptable.