Articles

WHAT HAPPENS TO THE "MERELY WOUNDED" THE RADIOLOGY OF SUICIDE BOMBING TERRORISM

 

31 August 2004

 

By Louis Rene Beres, Ph.D. and Michael L. Messing, M.D.

 

There are times on this endlessly bleeding planet where the

survivors of terror-violence must surely envy the dead. One such time is

the recurring occasion of Palestinian suicide bombing. Finding heroism and

sacredness in the exploded bodies of despised "infidels," the Palestinian

suicide bomber absolutely abhors any sense of humane civilizational limits.

For him or for her, "God's Will" is now easily discovered in the broken and

charred corpses of "enemy" women and children.

 

This morning Palestinian suicide bombers blew up two buses in Be'er

Sheva, Israel. The intial count was 12 killed and 100 wounded. What

"meanings" lie behind these twin bus attacks?

 

The Palestinian terrorist wants, above all, to transform Israeli pain

into Palestinian power. He reasons, carefully, that such pain must point

recognizably toward the victim's death, but he always takes steps to

ensure that even "survivors" will suffer terribly. Violating the inviolable,

he also declares with unspeakable cruelty that no Jew can ever be or feel

immune. Although he contends convincingly in the arena of world public

opinion that the enemy is entirely political, that the enemy is the "Zionist,"

it is evident in all of his writings and holy teachings that the enemy is

actually defined along religious lines. For him the enemy, at least the main

enemy, is any and every Jew on the face of the earth.

 

The cruelty is palpable. During the routine rotation of a radiologist

in a busy city hospital, the variety of patient problems reveal just

another difficult workday. But things are now very different in Be'er

Sheva's hospital. In recent years, with the recurrent waves of suicide

bombings, unique and hideous trauma, evident on radiographic images, has

become a "regular" part of the Israeli physician's practice in many

hospitals across the country.

 

X-rays of suicide bombing victims often show hundreds of metallic

fragments, ranging in size from millimeters to whole nails, grotesquely

embedded in the victims' bodies - literally from head to foot. What had been

created originally for constructive purposes has been transformed by Arab

terrorists into the very deadliest of destructive projectiles. Nails,

screws, nuts and ball-bearings are packed by the suicide bombers into their

explosive vests to maximize lethal effects and to inflict unimaginable pain

and suffering on Jewish bodies. These perversely transformed objects,

usually after being dipped in rat poison or other available toxins, are

propelled with the force of bullets, penetrating skin, flesh and bone with a

furious indifference to all notions of minimal human decency.

 

The nails fly head first, presenting themselves in a strangely surreal

yet orderly arangement within the victims' bodies. Many are embedded "only"

to the depth of their entrance sites. Others burrow their way in more

deeply, and lodge under the skin where the examining physician can actually

touch and feel their alien presence. Others must be removed after hours of

meticulous exploration. Still others enter the body far deeper, perforating

and lacerating vital organs at random. CT scans of these victims' heads

show blood, air, metal and bone fragments displacing normal brain tissue.

 

The "lucky" patient who survives the initial explosive insult may

often require extensive surgery to repair damaged organs. Others may

sustain fractures, burns, amputations, vascular injuries, paralysis,

blindness or brain damage. A collapsed lung or perforated colon - what

would ordinarily be considered a major injury - is now taken as a blessing

for these merely "wounded" victims of Palestinian terrorism.

 

Although some of the victims recover physically and return to a

"normal" life, many more require a lifetime of ongoing rehabilitation. Some

are assuredly impaired permanently. And all suffer serious psychological

effects that need to be treated. Post-traumatic stress disorder,

depression and anxiety affect not only the victims of the attack, but all of

Israeli society. Anecdotal reports have indicated a dramatic rise in the

use of prescription antidepressants and sedatives. How could it be

otherwise, in a society living under constant attack by those who cry out:

"When the martyr dies a martyr's death, he attains the height of bliss...."

 

The Palestinian "martyr's" unheroic weapon has now literally and

figuratively penetrated the hearts and souls as well as the bodies of an

entire nation. Too often, unfortunately, television and print media are

unable or unwilling to transmit the full human measure of such penetration

to viewers and readers. The result is that too few people all over the

world are able to understand the true horror of the Palestinian suicide

bomber. For them, Israeli "wounded" are little more than an anesthetized

statistic, an abstract list of numbers that elicits barely a nodding sigh of

concern. It is already too late to transform those Arab terrorists who

would blow themselves up to murder Jewish men, women and children, but

their uniquely hideous methods must at last be acknowledged.

 

For the Palestinian suicide bomber, violence and the sacred are

unambiguously intertwined. This homicidal terrorist believes without

hesitation that there can be no greater glory for a Muslim than inflicting

measureless pain upon all Jews. With such a profane belief, even the most

elementary standards of armed conflict are easily set aside in favor of

purely sadistic violence and celebrations of mass murder. Hearing the

lamentations of its citizens - agonized cries that no people should ever be

made to utter - the State of Israel now has an undeniable obligation to

listen closely and to defend itself. Here in the United States we should

also pay close attention, for as we already know all too well, we are not

immune to suicide terror attacks.

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LOUIS RENE BERES, Ph.D., was educated at Princeton and is the author of ten

books dealing with terrorism and international law. He is Professor of

Political Science at Purdue University and Chair of "Project Daniel," a small

group advising Israel's Prime Minister on nuclear war and nuclear

terrorism. Prof. Beres is also the academic advisor to the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies.

 

MICHAEL L. MESSING, M.D., is a radiologist trained at Cook County Hospital

and Northwestern University in Chicago. He is currently studying the

medical effects of terrorism, and has on several occasions volunteered in

Israeli hospitals to aid victims of suicide bombings.

 

Reply to:

Louis Rene Beres

Professor of International Law

Department of Political Science

Purdue University

West Lafayette IN 47907

USA

 

TEL 765/494-4189

FAX 765/494-0833

E MAIL BERES@POLSCI.PURDUE.EDU

 

Michael L. Messing

Department of Radiology

Evanston Northwestern Healthcare

Highland Park Hospital

Highland Park, IL 60035

USA

 

FREEMAN CENTER FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES


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