[Paleopsych] WT: Reading minds of suicide bombers

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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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