[Paleopsych] WT: Reading minds of suicide bombers
checker at panix.com
Tue Jul 26 19:38:51 UTC 2005
Reading minds of suicide bombers
By David R. Sands
Published July 24, 2005
They are not crazy. They are not coerced. And in most cases,
researchers believe, the suicide bombers attacking U.S. forces and
their Iraqi allies in ever greater numbers aren't even Iraqis.
A startling surge of deadly attacks across Iraq -- with hundreds
killed in recent months -- has U.S. officials and private terrorism
specialists scrambling to identify and understand the motivations of
the suicide bombers.
Given the grisly nature of most of the attacks, forensic evidence
has been hard to find: A 20-year-old Saudi medical student is believed
responsible for the attack last year in a U.S. Army mess tent that
killed 22 and a Yemeni national was captured when his bomb failed to
explode. But the vast majority of attackers have not been positively
Terrorism scholars say the attackers in Iraq mirror many of the
patterns seen in other suicide terror waves, from Sri Lanka's Tamil
Tigers to Palestinian Islamist groups targeting Israel.
"These are willing volunteers. I have yet to find a single case of
true coercion among suicide attackers," said Robert A. Pape, a
political scientist at the University of Chicago and a leading scholar
of modern suicide terrorism movements.
"They're working within a defined organization with political
goals, and most are socially well integrated -- technicians, ambulance
drivers or some other midlevel occupation," he said.
Suicide terrorists as a group are "rarely ignorant or
impoverished," according to University of Michigan psychologist and
anthropologist Scott Atran in a study last year published in the
Washington Quarterly. "Nor are they crazed, cowardly, apathetic or
The bombers benefit from a sophisticated network of handlers who
offer safe houses and weapons, U.S. officials in Baghdad say. Repeated
security sweeps have been unable to penetrate networks bringing
militants from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen and elsewhere to blow
themselves up in Iraq.
Contradicting another stereotype, suicide bombers in Iraq are in
their late 20s or early 30s, many from the Arabian Peninsula or North
Africa with families and well-established ties in their communities.
As in the July 7 subway bombings in London, the bombers typically have
little or no history of violence or religious activism.
A new study by the Global Research in International Affairs Center
in Israel found that virtually all of the 154 non-Iraqi Arab fighters
killed in Iraq by coalition forces "have never taken part in any
terrorist activity prior to their arrival in Iraq."
Audrey Kurth Cronin, a terrorist specialist at the Congressional
Research Service, noted in an analysis of suicide terrorism that the
popular image that the attacks are carried out by "individual deranged
fanatics" is "almost never the case."
Suicide attacks share many of the characteristics of all terrorist
strikes -- including gaining attention to the cause, anger, revenge,
personal humiliation and retribution, she noted.
Based on claims from Islamist Web sites and broadcasts, terrorism
specialists estimate that perhaps three-fifths of Iraq's suicide
attacks are carried out by Saudi nationals, coming in through the
porous Syrian border.
Mr. Pape said his research of suicide attacks worldwide over the
past two decades finds Iraq very much in the pattern.
Religion is far less of a factor than politics, he concludes.
"In the vast majority of cases, the central objective of the
suicide terrorist campaign has been to force a democratic state to
leave an occupied homeland," he said, citing cases ranging from Sri
Lanka and Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s to Chechnya and Iraq today.
Mr. Pape said in a telephone interview it was unlikely the
terrorist networks would run out of suicide recruits, given the flow
of foreign fighters into Iraq and the resistance of many Iraqi Sunnis
to the U.S.-backed government.
But some critics argue Mr. Pape's work understates the importance
of religion -- and particularly radical Islamist ideology -- in modern
suicide terror campaigns. Most of the suicide terror campaigns of the
past two decades have been organized by Islamist groups.
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