Probing the minds of the bombers
and compiled by Maqbool Ahmed Siraj
Professor Robert A. Pape who teaches international relations at the University
of Chicago carried out a research study on what the US State Department calls
‘Suicide Terrorism’ for two years between 2003 and 2005. Pape headed the
‘Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism’ as its director.
Funds for the study
The study was funded by Carnegie Corp., the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduction
Agency, the University of Chicago and the Argonne National Laboratory.
The study was based on the US State Department’s presumption that suicide
terrorism is mainly a product of an evil ideology called ‘Islamic
fundamentalism’ and that this ideology will produce campaigns of suicide
terrorism wherever it exists and regardless of US military policies.
Palestine/Israel, Lebanon, entire Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya,
Kashmir, Sri Lanka,
Size of the Study, age, ideology and gender of the bombers:
* Pape established 462 individuals in his “universe” of suicide terrorists
available for analytical purposes.
* Hezbollah suicide bombers in the period 1982-1986 were 71% Christian, 21%
Communist/Socialist, 8% Islamist.
* In general, the study says, suicide terrorists are in their early 20s. Females
are fewer in Islamist groups: “Islamist fundamentalism may actually reduce the
number of suicide terrorists by discouraging certain categories of individuals”.
Female suicide terrorists tend to be older than male.
* The survey in Lebanon identified 38 of the 41 attackers. Thirty of them were
affiliated to groups opposed to Islamic fundamentalism. Three were not clearly
associated with ideology. All 38 were native Lebanese. The book contains
pictures of four women suicide attackers; all are dressed in Western clothes
with stylish haircuts and even make-up.
* There is no documented mental illness in any case of suicide terrorism, though
there are 16 cases of personal trauma (e.g. the loss of a loved one). Arab
suicide terrorists are in general better educated than average and are from the
working or middle classes. “They resemble the kind of politically conscious
individuals who might join a grassroots movement more than they do wayward
adolescents or religious fanatics”
Pape’s statistics “definitively show that people are attacked by suicide car
bombs not because of who they are or what they believe, as Presidents Clinton
and Bush have been saying to the American people.” Instead, “people use car
bombs to attack occupying powers. This war is about what we do in the world, not
who we are.”
Motivation for the suicide bombers:
The study says ‘the taproot of suicide terrorism is nationalism’ and “at bottom
suicide terrorism is a strategy for national liberation from foreign occupation
by a democratic state”. In 1978 the United Nations General Assembly recognised
“the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence ... from ... foreign
occupation by all available means, particularly armed struggle”
Since September 11, 2001, the United States has responded to the growing threat
of suicide terrorism by embarking on a policy to conquer Muslim countries - not
simply rooting out existing havens for terrorists in Afghanistan but going
further to remake Muslim societies in the Persian Gulf. To be sure, the United
States must be ready to use force to protect Americans and their allies and must
do so when necessary. However, the close association between foreign military
occupations and the growth of suicide terrorist movements in the occupied
regions should make us hesitate over any strategy centering on the
transformation of Muslim societies by means of heavy military power.
It is deep sense of injustice in Palestine that propels Palestine youth to
sacrifice their lives. They blame foreign occupation of their land by Israel
which is the stooge of British and American imperialism.
In Iraq and Afghanistan American occupation of their land is pivotal to suicide
bombers blowing themselves. The study says there were no jihadists in Iraq prior
to American invasion. Now there are jihadist galore who are willing to lay down
their life to oust the ‘American liberators’.
Sense of humiliation among Iraqis who were detained, tortured, photographed in
nude and even women were detained to obtain confessions by the US forces.
Statistical analysis fails to corroborate Salafism-terrorism connection, but it
does corroborate a connection to U.S. military policies in the Persian Gulf
The study says: ‘The notion that Islamic fundamentalism is bent on world
domination is “pure fantasy’.
The study says while the US dubs the resistance against occupation as
‘terrorism’, conveniently ignores that the state of Israel was itself the
product of sustained terrorism by Jewish groups such as Irgun and Haganah.
Richard Norton-Taylor’s report in The Guardian on disclosures from declassified
MI5 files reads: Jewish terrorists planned to assassinate members of Clement
Attlee’s post-War British Labour government. Menachem Begin, then leader of the
extremist Irgun Zvai Leumi resistance group and a future Prime Minister of
Israel, had tried to trick it by having cosmetic surgery to disguise his
identity. In 1946, Irgun blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem and attacked
the British embassy in Rome. A year later, MI5 received a report about a rumour
that Begin (who later became Israel’s prime minister and even shared the Nobel
Peace Prize with Yasser Arafat) had “undergone a plastic facial operation and
that his appearance is totally different from that displayed on police
Michael Scheuer, former CIA analyst and author of Imperial Hubris
There were no jihadists in Iraq before we invaded. There are now thousands,
Iraqi and foreign, and they are going to be enduring problem because many have
embraced the global jihadist agenda:
David Benjamin, former member of the Clinton’s National Security Council
Suicide terrorism is not so much committed by religious fanatics looking for a
quick trip to paradise as it is by a variety of secular and religious
individuals who fear that their societies will be unalterably transformed by a
religiously motivated occupier.
Pape’s policy prescription is:
* Withdrawal of U.S. troops from the entire Gulf while ensuring the maintenance
of the “critical infrastructure” for their rapid return, if need be.
* He urges “off-shore balancing” - alliances plus troops deployment on the seas
to facilitate return. It is doubtful if this will suffice given the inflamed
wrath in the region.
* Besides, author hints, amends are called for in Palestine. Unless the peace
process is invigorated, there is little hope for peace. The Palestine question
has an appeal that moves the entire West Asia and spreads far beyond it.
Abridged and compiled by Maqbool Ahmed Siraj, Graphics by Sayeeda Tabassum