Saturday, April 29, 2006

What makes a suicide bomber?

Interesting article on the July 21st failed bomb attacks, from Jamestown. Were they copycat attacks, or were we fortunate that they failed to explode? The trial of these men has just started.

Meanwhile, just found this article on the BBC about how experts are puzzled as to what makes a terrorist, very interesting after the research I did today, and posted below. I agree that individual psychological profiling is pretty useless without an understanding of the individual's place in his group, and his place in society. It doesn't follow that someone who is an activist, or has extremist views, will go on to be a terrorist - and to conflate anger at foreign policy with being sympathetic to terrorism ( as Bush has done in the past) is disengenuous. The would-be jihadi suicide bomber must be susceptible to indoctrination and rigid, repressive, unquestioning adherence to a political extremist ideaology. Angry young men, idealistic, resentful lacking direction are easier recruits to suicidal death-cult extremism then those who have been taught to think, question and consider, who don't call for dramatic adolescent quick-fix dramatic gestures of nihilistic violence. And it is still rare to go to the brink, young men may flirt with extremism but grow out of it, or start to question what they are told, like Khaled al-Berry. It is noticeable how the July 7th bombers withdrew from their friends and families and local Mosques, and isolated themselves as a cell of 'brother-soldiers', apart from the 'sinful' world they hoped to change. Their seperatist group dynamic reinforced their beliefs. They saw themselves as heroes, martyrs, doing what they did for love of their people. I used the phrase 'pitiless narcism' once, but they would have seen it as altruism. To get to this terrible point you have to feel a huge sense of injustice, and you have to utterly deaden your normal human empathy towards all those who are Not Your People. See them as 'collateral damage' in the righteous war. Whose lives are of less value than the safety of Your People. You need a pretty apocalyptic worldview. Good People vs. Evil-doers. Sound familiar?

An intelligent understanding of the widespread anger caused by aggressive foreign policies and social injustice, never mind illegal invasions and the use of torture and chemical weapons, might help too. Terrorists are not utterly mad, or evil, or psychopathic, they are ordinary people with what seem to them to be sane and noble ideas. It is the raging violence and pitiless despair of their ideas we must challenge: terrorism is the messenger, not the message. Our strategy for tackling the ideas will have far more moral force and effectiveness if we are not bombing, torturing, repressing and inprisoning people in the name of freedom and democracy and safety.

Mind you, if these young men are found to have boarded the trains on July 21st intending to cause mass murder with bombs I hope they go to prison for a very long time indeed.

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