Exploring the Psyche of Terrorism
Carroll Weinberg '49 doesn't consider himself an expert on the psychology of torture, terrorism, and ethnic conflict. But when a person is as involved in as many pursuits as he is, who has time to be an expert?
At Duke, Weinberg found his pre-med academic commitments almost overwhelming. Track and field had to take a lower priority, but he still managed to serve as president of the pre-medical society for two years. "I had to really push to get the good, broad education that was available at Duke," he says. His favorite courses were history, political science, religion, mathematics, and, above all, freshman writing seminars.
Weinberg went on to graduate training in biology, speech and language, and psychology, and finished medical school at the University of Virginia. He worked in pediatrics at Johns Hopkins and elsewhere in Baltimore for a couple of years, but says, "I was always headed for psychiatry." After serving as a commanding officer of an Army Reserve combat detachment unit in the early 1960s, he settled with his wife, Charlotte, in Philadelphia to start his practice. He's now an adjunct associate professor of psychiatry at the Medical College of Pennsylvania/Hahnemann, where he has also started a psychology program within the pediatrics department.
But his range of interests continues to extend beyond the medical realm. Weinberg is a prominent figure in a wide array of local and national community-service, human-rights, and inter-religious organizations. He serves as vice president of the American Jewish Committee and co-chair of the Inter-religious and Foreign Affairs Committee in its Philadelphia chapter. He also sits on the organization's national executive council. In 1997, he received the AJC's Human Relations Award.
He has been involved with three different think tanks: the International Society of Political Psychology, the Foreign Policy Research Institute, and the Center for the Study of Mind and Human Interaction, at the University of Virginia. Throughout the 1990s, he published several psychological analyses, spanning the subjects of terrorism, ethnic conflict, torture, and Saddam Hussein. Hussein, he says, has a "malignant, narcissistic personality, which is about as bad as you can get. People say that if you get rid of him, someone worse will come along. But I can't imagine anybody worse." His article "Terror and Terrorism," a survey of the vast spectrum of competing ideas on the subject, was published in the journal Mind and Human Interaction in 1992 and is now used by some schools as a basic text on the subject.
Weinberg's energy has never been confined to academia, and he saves time for a wide array of interests. A sometime artist and sculptor, avid skier and tennis player, father of three and grandfather of two, he's seeing fewer patients these days. But he has seen his expertise take him in unexpected directions. He's even written a couple of movie reviews for USA Today--including a psychological perspective on ET.
Just recently, one of his long-term pursuits came to fruition. When working on his terrorism and ethnic conflict research, Weinberg became aware of the vast number of ex-political prisoners who have fled to the U.S. from Africa, South and Central America, the Far East, and the Middle East. His commitment to bringing assistance to these people has culminated in the creation of Liberty Center for Survivors of Torture in Philadelphia. After searching for a government grant for five years, the center was established under his direction and now provides case-management services. "We'll be giving some counseling services ourselves," says Weinberg, "but we're trying to get as much done outside [the center] as possible." The center directs those in need to counseling, legal representation, plastic surgeons, or various other social services--all pro bono. "Most of these people can't afford health care." The center, which covers Pennsylvania and Delaware, receives about two referrals a day, and deals with a total of about 3,000 cases. "Unfortunately, a number of [victims] are reluctant to come forward and get help--particularly the women, who have often suffered dreadful sexual abuse."
"Governments have created more torture victims than any terrorist attacks," says Weinberg, noting that the number is much higher than most would think. "We believe there are about 400,000 survivors of torture in the United States."
--Greg Bloom '03
Duke Magazine-Carroll Weinberg '49, Mini-Profiles-Jul/Aug 2002
August 1, 2002