Thoughts on Terrorism

By Colin A. Ross, M.D.

Today, I ordered two books on Osama bin Laden. . . . I expect to find traumatic childhoods, extreme anger at authority figures, and the psychology of perpetrators in the terrorists. I expect to find that the terrorists have abused their children and wives, and that they have been reinforced by their religious leaders.

There are instruments of evil hiding in caves in Afghanistan. There are also evil terrorists in too many homes in North America, perpetrating abuse and neglect on their spouses and children. And there have been evil men and women operating within psychiatry, in Nazi Germany, and also at the leading medical schools in North America. My next two books, one completed, and one almost finished, are about the evil within psychiatry.

There are many forms and degrees of terrorism. According to The Trauma Model, most, if not all, are rooted in childhood trauma, abuse and neglect, whether that abuse is perpetrated by individual parents, neighbors, and professionals, or by a culture as a whole. In the long term we cannot win against terrorists who hijack planes, if we harbor perpetrators of abuse in our homes, churches, youth organizations and medical schools. In the last ten years, more U.S. citizens have died from child abuse than from the acts of terrorists. Where are the political will and the budget to fight against child abuse and neglect? When are we going to see a Presidential appropriation of $20 billion to fight that war? I hope that the events of September 11 will awaken us to all forms of terrorism, and that we will take decisive action against the chronic childhood trauma eating at the roots of the human spirit in North America.

Our children deserve protection in their homes too, not just when they are on airplanes or in office buildings. Thousands of people in New York and Washington will develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because of the events of September 11, but they will be fewer in number than the cases of PTSD arising from child abuse and neglect in the year 2001. We need a plan for both forms of terror.

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