Friday, December 10, 2004

How to make a suicide bomber

I can't remember where I found the link to Reasons Terrorists Haven't Hit Us Again. But the part I found most interesting was this:
But if exposure to American life won’t prevent suicide bombings, exposure to Americans might. “The more a person develops normal relations, the more comfortable he is in an environment, the less likely he is to commit an act of violence,” Johnson says. “The social literature on this goes back more than a hundred years, whether it be crime, gang violence, or political violence.” The September 11 hijackers, in a way, were the exceptions that prove the rule: Because they were able to move freely about the country without attracting suspicion, they could isolate themselves.

So if a sleeper cell had been planted here for years, it would have had to integrate into American life and would probably be less inclined to extreme acts of violence. For terrorists who’ve managed to slip in since 9/11, it will be hard for them to remain a self-insulating unit without attracting suspicion. And if a potential bomber arrives on his own, he’ll have daily social contacts that will lower the chance of his carrying out a suicide mission.

Complete isolation and a radically short time lapse between the moment a bomber is tapped and when he carries out the attack are essential to successful suicide attacks. “Studies of Hamas suicide bombers indicate there’s only a 24-hour window between finding the candidate and carrying out the mission,” says Swetnam. “It sounds incredible, but Hamas does the entire process within one day.” Hamas recruiters don’t select suicide bombers from within their own cadres; instead, they pull in a dogmatic and disillusioned young male outside their operation. It takes a deep pool of disaffected males to find the one willing to carry out a suicide mission.

Throughout the night, they’ll keep the candidate in a closed room and bombard him with dogma about his mission as a soldier of Allah and “rev him up about being a hero,” as Swetnam puts it. “They tell him, ‘Allah only asks once, and he’s asking you now.’ ” Only in extremely rare cases has a suicide bomber been known to back out of a mission, Swetnam says; one of the few that is known about occurred when his isolation buffer broke down. “He is said to have run into his brother on the way to his assignment, and that was enough to cause second thoughts.”
IMO that passage was both comforting and scary. Comforting in that it reinforces what I already believed, that there's nothing uniquely evil about Islam or Arabs that turns them into killers - it's just that that's who they have to work with.

The scary side? Never mind.

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