Psychopath or not?
Are suicide bombers crazy? Do you think their way of thinking is rational? At first, the answer anyone would give seems obvious: they must be crazy and have irrational thoughts to blow themselves up and kill innocent people in the process. However, terrorism experts have proposed several rational motives for their actions. Some political scientists believe that terrorists make a tactical choice to use suicide bombings against a stronger enemy. Other experts argue that suicide terrorism is part of a “cycle of humiliation” fueled by a suicide bombers’ desire to strike back at those who have mistreated or shamed them. Some psychologists have concluded that suicide bombers are ordinary, everyday people who are unlikely to commit violent acts until they identify with and join a terrorist group which manipulates and pressures them to commit these violent acts. Suicide bombing attacks have become a weapon of choice among terrorist groups because of their lethality and ability to cause mayhem and fear. Though depressing, the almost daily news reports of deaths caused by suicide attacks rarely explain what motivates the attackers. Between 1981 and 2006, 1200 suicide attacks constituted 4 percent of all terrorist attacks in the world and killed 14,599 people or 32 percent of all terrorism related deaths. The question is why? Between 1981 and 2006, 1200 suicide attacks constituted 4 percent of all terrorist attacks in the world and killed 14,599 people or 32 percent of all terrorism related deaths. (figure 1) Despite everyone’s stereotype belief that suicide bombers “are both sociopathic and irrational people, many political scientists believe that most terrorists are rational people with tactical goals. Evans (a political scientist), for example, argues that terrorism is a strategy. Those who use it want to expose their cause, draw the enemy into a costly conflict, and provoke an overreaction that will make the enemy look foolish or evil, recruit supporters, and prevent finding the middle ground. Robert Pape also believes that suicide terrorism has an essential strategic logic. It is politics more than religious passion that has led terrorists to blow themselves up. In Roberts view, “Suicide-terrorist attacks are not encouraged by religion but more as a clear strategic objective: to force modern democracies to remove military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland.” While terrorism can be seen as a rational strategy, feelings of shame and embarrassment may make suicide the weapon of choice because they can get their revenge as well as just end their miserable life, Interviews of failed bombers or bombers-in-training reveal that they are striking back at those who humiliated or injured them. On October 4, 2003, 29 year old Palestinian lawyer Hanadi Jaradat exploded her suicide belt in the Maxim restaurant in Haifa killing 20 people and wounding many more. According to her family, her suicide mission was in revenge for the killing of her brother and her fiancé by the Israeli security forces and in revenge for all the crimes Israel had perpetrated in the West Bank by killing Palestinians and confiscating their lands. The main motive for many suicide bombings in Israel is revenge for acts committed by Israelis. The bombers want to send a message: their enemies are responsible for their humiliation and ultimately for their death. In September 2007 when American forces raided an Iraqi insurgent camp in the desert town of Singar near the Syrian border they discovered biographies of more than seven hundred foreign fighters. The Americans were surprised to find that 137 were Libyans and 52 of them were from a small Libyan town of Darnah. The reason why so many of Darnah’s young men had gone to Iraq for suicide missions was not the global jihadi ideology, but an explosive mix of desperation, pride, anger, sense of powerlessness, local tradition of resistance and...
References: Altman, N. (2005, March/April). On the psychology of suicide bombing. Tikkun, 20(2). Retrieved November 20 2012, from Academic Search Elite database.
Atran, S. (2004, Summer). Mishandling suicide terrorism. The Washington Quarterly, 27(3), 67–90. Retrieved November 20 from the Center for Strategic and International Studies Web site: www.twq.com/04summer/docs/04summer_atran.pdf
Evans, E. (2005, Spring). The mind of a terrorist: How terrorists see strategy and morality. World Affairs, 167(4), 175–179.
Haqqani, H., & Kimmage, D. (2005, October 3). Suicidology: The online bios of Iraq’s “martyrs.” New Republic, 233(14), 14–16. Retrieved November 21 2012, from Academic Search Elite database.
Hudson, R. A. (1999, September) The sociology and psychology of terrorism: Who becomes a terrorist and why? Retrieved November 22 2012, from Library of Congress Web site: http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/pdf-files/Soc_Psych_of_Terrorism.pdf
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