At Large

A Taste of Their Medicine

Terrorism again erodes a key convention that undergirds our civilization.

By 7.9.07

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"Those who cure you will kill you," my grandmother always said, but she was trying to get me to eat less pastrami. That phrase took on a sinister cast earlier this month when we learned it was delivered as a warning from an Islamic terrorist-qua-negotiator to a British Christian cleric. The threat was campy, but in the event it proved accurate. Shortly after that message, a cabal of Muslim physicians and medical technicians in Great Britain's Health Service drove three car bombs into crowded locales in England and Scotland.

Fortunately, they were more adept at stents than stunts, at bypasses than trespasses, at transfusions than transponders. Their surgical strikes struck out; the only one that actually detonated did very limited damage in a Glasgow Airport terminal. Some combination of their ineptitude, our good fortune (read God's grace here, if you are, like me, so inclined) and solid police work forestalled any greater calamity.

Yet a very real loss was sustained. It is a loss that will ramify through the social fabric, possibly never to be recouped. It represents another terrorist breakthrough, another Western breakdown. Once again Muslim radicals have taken aim at one of our cultural totems and eroded a key convention that undergirds our civilization. At some point this onslaught of tramontane subversions may reach a critical mass and leave us without a viable society.

One thing we have always known to count on is that a doctor will heal regardless of religious or political affiliation. Medicate first, debate later. A vicious murderer in jail knows he will be helped if he consults the prison doctor. Billy Graham can go to a far-left medic in Frisco without fearing the agnostic's diagnostics. Dr. Robert Appleson told me that in Nashville in 1990, when the head of the local KKK was injured in an accident, the hospital administrator deliberately assigned him a Jewish physician. That Doc Bernstein may have been cross at his patient, but there was no danger of a double-cross.

This creates a foundation of trust indispensable to a healthy society, and I'm not talking pulse-rate health. But I have been catching glimpses over a period of years of the phenomenon of Arab doctors breaking this pact.

In 1992 Jewish artist Chaiah Schwab (one of her sketches hangs in my living room) was in a terrible traffic accident in Pennsylvania, on her way from New York to Ohio. Her husband was killed instantly and she felt like she was in pretty bad shape herself. A doctor of Middle Eastern origin treated her at the area emergency room. He was brusque and hostile, then released her after declaring her fit. She took a cab from the hospital to the airport, where she collapsed and nearly died. She was convinced she had been deliberately maltreated, but she could not marshal enough evidence for a lawsuit.

I was not fully sold on her interpretation of events, but a year ago I got an eerie sort of confirmation. My friend, Doctor J. D., a Harvard grantee in radiology, is an absolute genius of his field who recalls every X-ray he has ever seen in detail. He went to take his certification exams in Indiana, I believe. One of the subject segments was presided over by an Arab, who was antagonistic in their encounter and subsequently failed him. To retake the test, an applicant must face a full panel of top practitioners. When they saw the level of his mastery, they realized he had been maliciously sabotaged and promised to investigate.

This sort of mixture of church and hissed hate is a breach of the social contract. But why should we be surprised? After all, terrorism by definition is defiance against the constraint of civil convention, presumably in service of some aethereal cause. If one can intentionally kill a child, whom all mankind is bound to protect, why not slaughter the adults who entrust their lives to one's tender ministrations?

On a local radio show last Thursday, we were treated to a chilling call from a Hispanic immigrant who recounted his internship in internal medicine at a Bronx Hospital after September 11th. He reported that a number of Muslim doctors from the Middle East found the downing of the towers unobjectionable and protested when he celebrated Saddam Hussein's ouster. If our medical schools are the updated version of the pre-9/11 flight schools, we need to beware. Look out for the student who wants to learn how to open people up but not how to close them.

Jay D. Homnick, commentator and humorist, is a frequent contributor to The American Spectator. He also writes for Human Events.

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Jay D. Homnick, commentator and humorist, is a frequent contributor to The American Spectator.