The Logic of Suicide Terrorism

diamond geezer

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Jan 26, 2004
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Bush said after 911 that it was an attack on freedom and had nothing to do with any US actions.

Blair said this week that the London bombings were an attack on freedom.

Saying it's anything to do with Iraq is a no-no.

As usual the last thing either of these bull-****ters will ever say, is the truth.

link

Associate Professor Robert Pape of the University of Chicago, whose book on suicide terrorism, Dying to Win, is beginning to receive wide notice. Pape has found that the most common American perceptions about who the terrorists are and what motivates them are off by a wide margin. In his office is the world’s largest database of information about suicide terrorists, rows and rows of manila folders containing articles and biographical snippets in dozens of languages compiled by Pape and teams of graduate students, a trove of data that has been sorted and analyzed and which underscores the great need for reappraising the Bush administration’s current strategy. Below are excerpts from a conversation with the man who knows more about suicide terrorists than any other American.
Over the past two years, I have collected the first complete database of every suicide-terrorist attack around the world from 1980 to early 2004. This research is conducted not only in English but also in native-language sources—Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, and Tamil, and others—so that we can gather information not only from newspapers but also from products from the terrorist community. The terrorists are often quite proud of what they do in their local communities, and they produce albums and all kinds of other information that can be very helpful to understand suicide-terrorist attacks.

This wealth of information creates a new picture about what is motivating suicide terrorism. Islamic fundamentalism is not as closely associated with suicide terrorism as many people think. The world leader in suicide terrorism is a group that you may not be familiar with: the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.

This is a Marxist group, a completely secular group that draws from the Hindu families of the Tamil regions of the country. They invented the famous suicide vest for their suicide assassination of Rajiv Ghandi in May 1991. The Palestinians got the idea of the suicide vest from the Tamil Tigers
The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank, every major suicide-terrorist campaign—over 95 percent of all the incidents—has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw.
The evidence shows that the presence of American troops is clearly the pivotal factor driving suicide terrorism.

If Islamic fundamentalism were the pivotal factor, then we should see some of the largest Islamic fundamentalist countries in the world, like Iran, which has 70 million people—three times the population of Iraq and three times the population of Saudi Arabia—with some of the most active groups in suicide terrorism against the United States. However, there has never been an al-Qaeda suicide terrorist from Iran, and we have no evidence that there are any suicide terrorists in Iraq from Iran.

Sudan is a country of 21 million people. Its government is extremely Islamic fundamentalist. The ideology of Sudan was so congenial to Osama bin Laden that he spent three years in Sudan in the 1990s. Yet there has never been an al-Qaeda suicide terrorist from Sudan.

I have the first complete set of data on every al-Qaeda suicide terrorist from 1995 to early 2004, and they are not from some of the largest Islamic fundamentalist countries in the world. Two thirds are from the countries where the United States has stationed heavy combat troops since 1990.

Another point in this regard is Iraq itself. Before our invasion, Iraq never had a suicide-terrorist attack in its history. Never. Since our invasion, suicide terrorism has been escalating rapidly with 20 attacks in 2003, 48 in 2004, and over 50 in just the first five months of 2005. Every year that the United States has stationed 150,000 combat troops in Iraq, suicide terrorism has doubled.
I have collected demographic data from around the world on the 462 suicide terrorists since 1980 who completed the mission, actually killed themselves. This information tells us that most are walk-in volunteers. Very few are criminals. Few are actually longtime members of a terrorist group. For most suicide terrorists, their first experience with violence is their very own suicide-terrorist attack.

There is no evidence there were any suicide-terrorist organizations lying in wait in Iraq before our invasion. What is happening is that the suicide terrorists have been produced by the invasion.
Al-Qaeda appears to have made a deliberate decision not to attack the United States in the short term. We know this not only from the pattern of their attacks but because we have an actual al-Qaeda planning document found by Norwegian intelligence. The document says that al-Qaeda should not try to attack the continent of the United States in the short term but instead should focus its energies on hitting America’s allies in order to try to split the coalition.

What the document then goes on to do is analyze whether they should hit Britain, Poland, or Spain. It concludes that they should hit Spain just before the March 2004 elections because, and I am quoting almost verbatim: Spain could not withstand two, maximum three, blows before withdrawing from the coalition, and then others would fall like dominoes.

That is exactly what happened. Six months after the document was produced, al-Qaeda attacked Spain in Madrid. That caused Spain to withdraw from the coalition. Others have followed. So al-Qaeda certainly has demonstrated the capacity to attack and in fact they have done over 15 suicide-terrorist attacks since 2002, more than all the years before 9/11 combined. Al-Qaeda is not weaker now. Al-Qaeda is stronger.
I not only study the patterns of where suicide terrorism has occurred but also where it hasn’t occurred. Not every foreign occupation has produced suicide terrorism. Why do some and not others? Here is where religion matters, but not quite in the way most people think. In virtually every instance where an occupation has produced a suicide-terrorist campaign, there has been a religious difference between the occupier and the occupied community. That is true not only in places such as Lebanon and in Iraq today but also in Sri Lanka, where it is the Sinhala Buddhists who are having a dispute with the Hindu Tamils.

When there is a religious difference between the occupier and the occupied, that enables terrorist leaders to demonize the occupier in especially vicious ways. Now, that still requires the occupier to be there. Absent the presence of foreign troops, Osama bin Laden could make his arguments but there wouldn’t be much reality behind them. The reason that it is so difficult for us to dispute those arguments is because we really do have tens of thousands of combat soldiers sitting on the Arabian Peninsula.
Many people worry that once a large number of suicide terrorists have acted that it is impossible to wind it down. The history of the last 20 years, however, shows the opposite. Once the occupying forces withdraw from the homeland territory of the terrorists, they often stop—and often on a dime.

In Lebanon, for instance, there were 41 suicide-terrorist attacks from 1982 to 1986, and after the U.S. withdrew its forces, France withdrew its forces, and then Israel withdrew to just that six-mile buffer zone of Lebanon, they virtually ceased. They didn’t completely stop, but there was no campaign of suicide terrorism. Once Israel withdrew from the vast bulk of Lebanese territory, the suicide terrorists did not follow Israel to Tel Aviv.
TAC: What do you think the chances are of a weapon of mass destruction being used in an American city?

RP: I think it depends not exclusively, but heavily, on how long our combat forces remain in the Persian Gulf. The central motive for anti-American terrorism, suicide terrorism, and catastrophic terrorism is response to foreign occupation, the presence of our troops. The longer our forces stay on the ground in the Arabian Peninsula, the greater the risk of the next 9/11, whether that is a suicide attack, a nuclear attack, or a biological attack.
 

JW8725

macrumors 6502a
May 8, 2005
740
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Well im from Leeds about 5 mins from the area where those bombers came from. I do firmly think they were pawns for someone else. The area is a chav area and the people that live there are commoners who dont really have the intellect to do something of this magnatude. Its council estate territory. Something isnt right here
 

Applespider

macrumors G4
Reading the part that suggests they are not long-term members of a group or particularly religiously motivated, I wonder if suicide bombers actually intend to take their own lives regardless. But because of the stigma still associated with suicide (or their religion's guidance against it), decide that they might as well be part of a larger 'cause' when they do it...
 

toontra

macrumors 6502
Feb 6, 2003
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London UK
I agree - for Blair to say that these bombings were nothing to do with the Iraq invasion is more of the same BS and self-justification. Unfortunately in the current political climate no-one is going to call him on this for fear of being branded anti-patriotic and a terrorist sympathizer (or worse).

Does anyone really suggest that these kids (and God knows how many more like them) were not radicalized by Britain's involvement with Bush in the war?

If that's how our some of our own citizens have reacted, just imagine the hatred that has been stirred up across the middle-east.
 

Peterkro

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rossoUK said:
Well im from Leeds about 5 mins from the area where those bombers came from. I do firmly think they were pawns for someone else. The area is a chav area and the people that live there are commoners who dont really have the intellect to do something of this magnatude. Its council estate territory. Something isnt right here
Its that kind of intolerance and hatred of the other that causes people to believe they have no other option than to use deadly force to change things.Because people are poor doesn't make them less intelligent,in fact it appears the reverse is true,most of the middle classes wouldn't last 5 minutes in their environment.
 

Sayhey

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May 22, 2003
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It shows how the sloppy use of words like "terrorism" for ideological reasons only serves to muddle the strategy needed to defeat al-Qaida and its allied organizations of militant religious fundamentalists. Not all suicide bombers should be condemned - or do we now think the conspiracy to kill Hitler in WWII was wrong because the plotters were willing to give their lives in the planting of a covert bomb? Not all uses of terror are confined to Iraqi or Palestinian insurgents. Or do we not understand what "shock and awe" was all about in the start of the US invasion. And it is not just the "bad guys" who target innocent civilians. Perhaps it would do for US citizens to reflect on how the "good guys" used incendiary bombs and the world's first and only wartime use of nuclear weapons against primarily civilian populations at Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki.

Does all this mean we are the same as the horrible, despicable people who crashed planes into the World Trade Center or blew up commuters in Madrid or London? NO! But what it does mean is that our own propaganda can blind us to who the real enemy is and how we can go about defeating them. The enemy is a religious based movement that seeks to end the largely worldwide consensus that the Enlightenment was right and the separation of religion from government is a vital principle of the modern age. It would do us well to remember we are fighting against religious extremists who are not the only ones to sink to the use of terror.
 

Applespider

macrumors G4
rossoUK said:
The area is a chav area and the people that live there are commoners who dont really have the intellect to do something of this magnatude. Its council estate territory. Something isnt right here
And who knows whether that attitude of superiority was one of the reasons that they felt justified in attacking? I know many people who live on council estates and work in manual jobs who have a lot more common sense, respect for others and manners than most of the upper-class toffs that I see around me in the streets at work each day.

They may be working class - that doesn't make them commoners and it certainly doesn't give you the right to question their intellect.
 

skunk

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Jun 29, 2002
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Sayhey said:
It shows how the sloppy use of words like "terrorism" for ideological reasons only serves to muddle the strategy needed to defeat al-Qaida and its allied organizations of militant religious fundamentalists.
Evidently, if this guy's information is right, the strategy requires total withdrawal from Muslim lands. Not just Iraq, but Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, etc. Why are we there anyway? Nobody else who buys their oil seems to feel the need to be there.

Not all suicide bombers should be condemned - or do we now think the conspiracy to kill Hitler in WWII was wrong because the plotters were willing to give their lives in the planting of a covert bomb?
Von Stauffenberg was not a suicide bomber.

Not all uses of terror are confined to Iraqi or Palestinian insurgents. Or do we not understand what "shock and awe" was all about in the start of the US invasion. And it is not just the "bad guys" who target innocent civilians. Perhaps it would do for US citizens to reflect on how the "good guys" used incendiary bombs and the world's first and only wartime use of nuclear weapons against primarily civilian populations at Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki.
Very true.

Does all this mean we are the same as the horrible, despicable people who crashed planes into the World Trade Center or blew up commuters in Madrid or London? NO!
I question this. In what way is it "better" to kill 10,000 people from the air with bombs than 3,000 with jetliners?

But what it does mean is that our own propaganda can blind us to who the real enemy is and how we can go about defeating them. The enemy is a religious based movement that seeks to end the largely worldwide consensus that the Enlightenment was right and the separation of religion from government is a vital principle of the modern age. It would do us well to remember we are fighting against religious extremists who are not the only ones to sink to the use of terror.
The point of the report is that "we" cannot defeat them.
 

Ugg

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Apr 7, 2003
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That was an eye opener for me. My biggest question has always been what is the motivation for the attacks? It has been answered now and perfectly understandable. Israel is therefore doomed until they totally withdraw and allow self rule, as is the US in Iraq and Russia in Chechnya.

I question your idea, Applespider, that the men were already suicidal. I think they were young, idealistic men who were manipulated by the true terrorists into supporting their cause. Let's face it, those in their 20s are often fatalistic and with enough support can be convinced of almost anything.
 

jefhatfield

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Jul 9, 2000
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i hope we can learn from the lesson of the messy occupation we have had in iraq

i think the us military learned a lot from vietnam and to the beginning of the second gulf war, we knew not to go in unprepared...but this last time, with w, we have repeated many of the same mistakes of the vietnam war (no exit strategy and no mandate)

our current presence in iraq will go down in history as one of our major military blunders and i can see the history channel writers working on this one...black hawk down was a movie spawned from our poor planning in africa which resulted in 19 deaths of us military personnel

when this mess in iraq is over and bush and his supporters are out of office, even republicans will be able to look back on this war and criticize it the same way they can now criticize nixon and watergate
 

IJ Reilly

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Jul 16, 2002
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Ugg said:
I question your idea, Applespider, that the men were already suicidal. I think they were young, idealistic men who were manipulated by the true terrorists into supporting their cause. Let's face it, those in their 20s are often fatalistic and with enough support can be convinced of almost anything.
You've brought up an interesting point, and the one that will be debated a great deal over the next few months. If it turns out the London bombings were essentially acts of domestic violence, as it now appears, the questions and therefore the answers about who and how must be different. This act won't fit so easily under the convenient rubric of "international terrorism." It will look a lot more like Timothy McVeigh or Columbine High School than Osama bin Laden.
 

mactastic

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skunk said:
I question this. In what way is it "better" to kill 10,000 people from the air with bombs than 3,000 with jetliners?
Theoretically we are targeting legitimate military targets. I realize that there is significant debate surrounding this, but for the most part soldiers are taking care to target those who target them. Yes the line gets blurred and crossed, but there is a differrence between collateral damage, as it's known, and looking for the biggest crowd of people to blow up.
 

Peterkro

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mactastic said:
Theoretically we are targeting legitimate military targets. I realize that there is significant debate surrounding this, but for the most part soldiers are taking care to target those who target them. Yes the line gets blurred and crossed, but there is a differrence between collateral damage, as it's known, and looking for the biggest crowd of people to blow up.
So in what way were Hiroshima,Nagasaki,Dresden etc not looking for the biggest crowd of people to blow up.
 

mactastic

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Yeah those are shameful episodes in our past, I agree. And likely our forces have engaged in some indiscriminate killing in Iraq and Afghanistan. But our forces can be punished for doing what al-Qaeda does routinely. Whether or not they are punished is another matter.

As I've said before, its not a question of whether or not we're the same as them. The question is why aren't we different enough from them.
 

zimv20

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Jul 18, 2002
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Peterkro said:
So in what way were Hiroshima,Nagasaki,Dresden etc not looking for the biggest crowd of people to blow up.
regarding the japanese cities, there were a number of factors that went into site selection. i believe the largest factor was targeting military-industrial areas. iirc, hiroshima was host to ship-building yards.

afaik, targeting civilians was not a positive factor, but i suspect it also wasn't a large negative factor.

i visited the peace museum in hiroshima last year and they had a very informative display about site selection and how the american military narrowed down its list of targets. one of the final factors ended up being how many allied POWs were believed to be held in the respective areas. though it was known that some POWs were being held in the two final target cities, there were apparently fewer than in other targets.

btw, i'm not defending the decision to use nukes, just clearing up the misconception that the purpose was to target civilians.
 

Peterkro

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In my opinion(of course )all three examples were out and out terror bombings and the same strategic targets excuse was dragged out for all three.In the case of Japan the need to assume control before the Soviets got a chance to arrive was (opinion) at the heart of US thought.What gets me is all these power crazed MF's are all on the same side of the coin(Bush,Blair,Bin Laden,Saud etc)and the vast majority of human kind is on the other.
 

zimv20

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i'm really not disagreeing with you guys, just shedding some light on target selection. if the goal _was_ to kill as many japanese civilians as possible, they would have nuked tokyo, for starters.

and to dispirit the country, probably kyoto, too.

as long as we're on about tokyo, it did get the crap bombed out of it with conventional bombs. i believe that more people were killed in a single night of bombing of tokyo than died in hiroshima from the atomic bomb. but i'll have to check that.
 

skunk

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Peterkro said:
In my opinion(of course )all three examples were out and out terror bombings and the same strategic targets excuse was dragged out for all three.In the case of Japan the need to assume control before the Soviets got a chance to arrive was (opinion) at the heart of US thought.What gets me is all these power crazed MF's are all on the same side of the coin(Bush,Blair,Bin Laden,Saud etc)and the vast majority of human kind is on the other.
Right. But it's not going to change until the "vast majority" stops allowing these lunatics to tell them what to do.
 

skunk

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zimv20 said:
i'm really not disagreeing with you guys, just shedding some light on target selection. if the goal _was_ to kill as many japanese civilians as possible, they would have nuked tokyo, for starters.

and to dispirit the country, probably kyoto, too.

as long as we're on about tokyo, it did get the crap bombed out of it with conventional bombs. i believe that more people were killed in a single night of bombing of tokyo than died in hiroshima from the atomic bomb. but i'll have to check that.
So they didn't really need to nuke Tokyo, did they? Not sure what point you're making here. :confused:
 

Peterkro

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zimv20 said:
regarding the japanese cities, there were a number of factors that went into site selection. i believe the largest factor was targeting military-industrial areas. iirc, hiroshima was host to ship-building yards.

afaik, targeting civilians was not a positive factor, but i suspect it also wasn't a large negative factor.

i visited the peace museum in hiroshima last year and they had a very informative display about site selection and how the american military narrowed down its list of targets. one of the final factors ended up being how many allied POWs were believed to be held in the respective areas. though it was known that some POWs were being held in the two final target cities, there were apparently fewer than in other targets.

btw, i'm not defending the decision to use nukes, just clearing up the misconception that the purpose was to target civilians.
The problem here is Bin Landen and his cohorts can just as easily point out that the Twin Towers and the London undergroud(and many others) are strategic targets in their war against Western occupation of their homelands.