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Understanding Suicide Terrorism
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Genesis and Future of Suicide Terrorism
Scott Atran

 Moderators: Noga Arikha, Gloria Origgi, Dan Sperber


Contemporary suicide terrorists from the Middle East are publicly deemed crazed cowards bent on senseless destruction who thrive in poverty and ignorance. Recent research indicates they have no appreciable psychopathology and are as educated and economically well-off as surrounding populations. A first line of defense is to get the communities from which suicide attackers stem to stop the attacks by learning how to minimize the receptivity of mostly ordinary people to recruiting organizations.

Recent History

Suicide attack is an ancient practice with a modern history. Its use by the Jewish sects of Zealots and Sicarii (“daggers”) in Roman-occupied Judea [1] and by the Islamic Order of Assassins (hashashin) during the early Crusader times are legendary examples.[2] The concept of “terror” as systematic use of violence to attain political ends was first codified by Maximilien Robespierre during the French Revolution. He deemed it an “emanation of virtue” that delivers “prompt, severe, and inflexible” justice, as “a consequence of the general principle of democracy applied to our country’s most pressing needs”. [3]The Reign of Terror, during which the ruling Jacobin faction exterminated thousands of potential enemies, of whatever sex, age, or condition, lasted until Robespierre’s fall ( July 1794). Similar justification for state-sponsored terror was common to 20th-century revolutions, as in Russia (Lenin), Cambodia (Pol Pot), and Iran (Khomeini).

Whether subnational (e.g., Russian anarchists) or state-supported (e.g., Japanese kamikaze), suicide attack as a weapon of terror is usually chosen by weaker parties against materially stronger foes when fighting methods of lesser cost seem unlikely to succeed. Choice is often voluntary, but typically under conditions of group pressure and charismatic leadership. Thus, the kamikaze (“divine wind”) first used in the battle of the Philippines (November 1944) were young, fairly well educated pilots who understood that pursuing conventional warfare would likely end in defeat. Many of these young men were well read in Western philosophy and literature, some were Marxists or Christians. Few believed they were dying for the emperor as a war leader or for military purposes. Rather, the state was apparently able to manipulate a deep intellectual and aesthetic tradition of painful beauty to convince the pilots that it was their honor to “die like beautiful falling cherry petals” for their real and fictive families, including parents, fellow pilots and the emperor and people of Japan.[4]

When collectively asked by Adm. Takijiro Onishi to volunteer for “special attack” (tokkotai) “transcending life and death”, all stepped forward, despite assurances that refusal would carry no shame or punishment. In the Battle of Okinawa (April 1945) some 2000 kamikaze rammed fully fueled fighter planes into more than 300 ships, killing 5000 Americans in the most costly naval battle in U.S. history. Because of such losses, there was support for using the atomic bomb to end World War II.[5]

The first major contemporary suicide terrorist attack in the Middle East was the December 1981 destruction of the Iraqi embassy in Beirut (27 dead, over 100 wounded). Its precise authors are still unknown, although it is likely that Ayatollah Khomeini approved its use by parties sponsored by Iranian intelligence. With the assassination of pro-Israeli Lebanese President Bashir Gemayel in September 1982, suicide bombing became a strategic political weapon. Under the pro-Iranian Lebanese Party of God (Hezbollah), this strategy soon achieved geopolitical effect with the October 1983 truck-bomb killing of nearly 300 American and French servicemen. American and France abandoned the multinational force policing Lebanon. By 1985, these attacks arguably led Israel to cede most of the gains made during its 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

In Israel-Palestine, suicide terrorism began in 1992, becoming part of a systematic campaign in late 1993 with attacks by Hezbollah trained members of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) aimed at derailing the Oslo Peace Accords. As early as 1988, however, PIJ founder Fathi Shiqaqi established guidelines for “exceptional” martyrdom operations involving human bombs. He followed Hezbollah in stressing that God extols martyrdom but abhors suicide: “Allah may cause to be known those who believe and may make some of you martyrs, and Allah may purify those who believe and may utterly destroy the disbelievers”; however, “no one can die except by Allah’s leave”.[6]

The recent radicalization and networking through Al-Qaeda of militant Islamic groups from North Africa, Arabia, and Central and Southeast Asia stems from the Soviet-Afghan War (1979–1989. With financial backing from the United States, members of these various groups were provided opportunities to pool and to unify doctrine, aims, training, equipment, and methods, including suicide attack. Through its multifaceted association with regional groups (by way of finance, personnel, and logistics), Al-Qaeda aims to realize flexibly its global ambition of destroying Western dominance through local initiatives to expel Western influences.[7] According to Jane’s Intelligence Review: “All the suicide terrorist groups have support infrastructures in Europe and North America”.[8]

Calling the current wave of radical Islam “fundamentalism” (in the sense of “traditionalism”) is misleading, approaching an oxymoron. Present-day radicals, whether Shi’ite (Iran, Hezbollah) or Sunni (Taliban, Al-Qaeda), are much closer in spirit and action to Europe’s post-Renaissance Counter-Reformation than to any traditional aspect of Moslem history. The idea of a ruling ecclesiastical authority, a state or national council of clergy, and a religious police devoted to physically rooting out heretics and blasphemers has its clearest historical model in the Holy Inquisition. The idea that religion must struggle to assert control over politics is radically new to Islam.[9]

Dubious Public Perceptions

Recent treatments of Homeland Security research concentrate on how to spend billions to protect sensitive installations from attack.[10,11] But this last line of defense is probably easiest to breach because of the multitude of vulnerable and likely targets (including discotheques, restaurants, and malls), the abundance of would-be attackers (needing little supervision once embarked on a mission), the relatively low costs of attack (hardware store ingredients, no escape needs), the difficulty of detection (little use of electronics), and the unlikelihood that attackers would divulge sensitive information (being unaware of connections beyond their operational cells). Exhortations to put duct tape on windows may assuage (or incite) fear, but will not prevent massive loss of life, and public realization of such paltry defense can undermine trust. Security agencies also attend to prior lines of defense, such as penetrating agent-handling networks of terrorist groups, with only intermittent success. A first line of defense is to prevent people from becoming terrorists. Here, success appears doubtful should current government and media opinions about why people become human bombs translate into policy.

Suicide terrorists often are labeled crazed cowards bent on senseless destruction who thrive in the midst of poverty and ignorance. The obvious course becomes to hunt down terrorists while simultaneously transforming their supporting cultural and economic environment from despair to hope. What research there is, however, indicates that suicide terrorists have no appreciable psychopathology and are at least as educated and economically well off as their surrounding populations.

Psychopathology: A Fundamental Attribution Error

U.S. President George W. Bush initially branded 9/11 hijackers “evil cowards.” For U.S. Senator John Warner, preemptive assaults on terrorists and those supporting terrorism are justified because: “Those who would commit suicide in their assaults on the free world are not rational and are not deterred by rational concepts” [12]. In attempting to counter anti-Moslem sentiment, some groups advised their members to respond that “terrorists are extremist maniacs who don’t represent Islam at all”. [13]

Social psychologists have investigated the “fundamental attribution error,” a tendency for people to explain behavior in terms of individual personality traits, even when significant situational factors in the larger society are at work. U.S. government and media characterizations of Middle East suicide bombers as craven homicidal lunatics may suffer from a fundamental attribution error: No instances of religious or political suicide terrorism stem from lone actions of cowering or unstable bombers. Psychologist Stanley Milgram found that ordinary Americans also readily obey destructive orders under the right circumstances.[14]

When told by a “teacher” to administer potentially life-threatening electric shocks to “learners” who fail to memorize word pairs, most comply. Even when subjects stressfully protest as victims plead and scream, use of extreme violence continues—not because of murderous tendencies but from a sense of obligation in situations of authority, no matter how trite. A legitimate hypothesis is that apparently extreme behaviors may be elicited and rendered commonplace by particular historical, political, social, and ideological contexts.

With suicide terrorism, the attributional problem is to understand why nonpathological individuals respond to novel situational factors in numbers sufficient for recruiting organizations to implement policies. In the Middle East, perceived contexts in which suicide bombers and supporters express themselves include a collective sense of historical injustice, political subservience, and social humiliation vis-a`-vis global powers and allies, as well as countervailing religious hope. Addressing such perceptions does not entail accepting them as simple reality; however, ignoring the causes of these perceptions risks misidentifying causes and solutions for suicide bombing. There is also evidence that people tend to believe that their behavior speaks for itself, that they see the world objectively, and that only other people are biased and misconstrue events.[15] Moreover, individuals tend to misperceive differences between group norms as more extreme than they really are. Resulting misunderstandings —encouraged by religious and ideological propaganda—lead antagonistic groups to interpret each other’s views of events, such as terrorism/freedom-fighting, as wrong, radical, and/or irrational. Mutual demonization and warfare readily ensue. The problem is to stop this spiral from escalating in opposing camps.

Poverty and Lack of Education Are Not Reliable Factors

Across our society, there is wide consensus that ridding society of poverty rids it of crime [16]. According to President Bush, “We fight poverty because hope is the answer to terror... We will challenge the poverty and hopelessness and lack of education and failed governments that too often allow conditions that terrorists can seize”. [17] At a gathering of Nobel Peace Prize laureates, South Africa’s Desmond Tutu and South Korea’s Kim Dae Jong opined, “at the bottom of terrorism is poverty”; Elie Wiesel and the Dalai Lama concluded, “education is the way to eliminate terrorism”.[18]

Support for this comes from research pioneered by economist Gary Becker showing that property crimes are predicted by poverty and lack of education [19]. In his incentive-based model, criminals are rational individuals acting on self-interest. Individuals choose illegal activity if rewards exceed probability of detection and incarceration together with expected loss of income from legal activity (“opportunity costs”). Insofar as criminals lack skill and education, as in much bluecollar crime, opportunity costs may be minimal; so crime pays.

Such rational-choice theories based on economic opportunities do not reliably account for some types of violent crimes (domestic homicide, hate killings). These calculations make even less sense for suicide terrorism. Suicide terrorists generally are not lacking in legitimate life opportunities relative to their general population. As the Arab press emphasizes, if martyrs had nothing to lose, sacrifice would be senseless:[20] “He who commits suicide kills himself for his own benefit, he who commits martyrdom sacrifices himself for the sake of his religion and his nation... The Mujahed is full of hope”.[22]

Research by Krueger and Maleckova suggests that education may be uncorrelated, or even positively correlated, with supporting terrorism.[22] In a December 2001 poll of 1357 West Bank and Gaza Palestinians 18 years of age or older, those having 12 or more years of schooling supported armed attacks by 68 points, those with up to 11 years of schooling by 63 points, and illiterates by 46 points. Only 40% of persons with advanced degrees supported dialogue with Israel versus 53% with college degrees and 60% with 9 years or less of schooling. In a comparison of Hezbollah militants who died in action with a random sample of Lebanese from the same age group and region, militants were less likely to come from poor homes and more likely to have had secondary school education. More recently, Krueger and colleagues found that although one third of Palestinians live in poverty, only 13 percent of Palestinian suicide bombers do; 57 percent of bombers have education beyond high school versus 15 percent of the population of comparable age.

Nevertheless, relative loss of economic or social advantage by educated persons might encourage support for terrorism. In the period leading to the first Intifada (1982–1988), the number of Palestinian men with 12 years or more of schooling more than doubled; those with less schooling increased only 30%. This coincided with a sharp increase in unemployment for college graduates relative to high school graduates. Real daily wages of college graduates fell some 30%; wages for those with only secondary schooling held steady. Underemployment also seems to be a factor among those recruited to Al-Qaeda and its allies from the Arabian peninsula.[23]

The Institutional Factor: Organizing Fictive Kin

Although humiliation and despair may help account for susceptibility to martyrdom in some situations, this is neither a complete explanation nor one applicable to other circumstances. Studies by psychologist Ariel Merari point to the importance of institutions in suicide terrorism. [24] His team interviewed 32 of 34 bomber families in Palestine/Israel (before 1998), surviving attackers,and captured recruiters.

Suicide terrorists apparently span their population’s normal distribution in terms of education, socioeconomic status, and personality type (introvert vs. extrovert). Mean age for bombers was early twenties. Almost all were unmarried and expressed religious belief before recruitment (but no more than did the general population). Except for being young, unattached males, suicide bombers differ from members of violent racist organizations with whom they are often compared.[25]

Overall, suicide terrorists exhibit no socially dysfunctional attributes (fatherless, friendless, or jobless) or suicidal symptoms. They do not vent fear of enemies or express “hopelessness” or a sense of “nothing to lose” for lack of life alternatives that would be consistent with economic rationality. Merari attributes primary responsibility for attacks to recruiting organizations, which enlist prospective candidates from this youthful and relatively unattached population. Charismatic trainers then intensely cultivate mutual commitment to die within small cells of three to six members. The final step before a martyrdom operation is a formal social contract, usually in the form of a video testament.

From 1996 to 1999 Nasra Hassan, a Pakistani relief worker, interviewed nearly 250 Palestinian recruiters and trainers, failed suicide bombers, and relatives of deceased bombers. Bombers were men aged 18 to 38: “None were uneducated, desperately poor, simple-minded, or depressed... They all seemed to be entirely normal members of their families”.[26] Yet “all were deeply religious,” believing their actions “sanctioned by the divinely revealed religion of Islam.” Leaders of sponsoring organizations complained, “Our biggest problem is the hordes of young men who beat on our doors.”

Psychologist Brian Barber surveyed 900 Moslem adolescents during Gaza’s first Intifada(1987–1993)[27]. Results show high levels of participation in and victimization from violence. For males, 81% reported throwing stones, 66% suffered physical assault, and 63% were shot at (versus 51, 38, and 20% for females). Involvement in violence was not strongly correlated with depression or antisocial behavior. Adolescents most involved displayed strong individual pride and social cohesion. This was reflected in activities: for males, 87% delivered supplies to activists, 83% visited martyred families, and 71% tended the wounded (57, 46, and 37% for females). A follow-up during the second Intifada (2000 –2002) indicates that those still unmarried act in ways considered personally more dangerous but socially more meaningful. Increasingly, many view martyr acts as most meaningful. By summer 2002, 70 to 80% of Palestinians endorsed martyr operations.[28]

Previously, recruiters scouted mosques, schools, and refugee camps for candidates deemed susceptible to intense religious indoctrination and logistical training. During the second Intifada, there has been a surfeit of volunteers and increasing involvement of secular organizations (allowing women). The frequency and violence of suicide attacks have escalated (more bombings since February 2002 than during 1993–2000); planning has been less painstaking. Despite these changes, there is little to indicate overall change in bomber profiles (mostly unmarried, average socioeconomic status, moderately religious).[24, 26]

In contrast to Palestinians, surveys with a control group of Bosnian Moslem adolescents from the same time period reveal markedly weaker expressions of self-esteem, hope for the future, and prosocial behavior.[26] A key difference is that Palestinians routinely invoke religion to invest personal trauma with proactive social meaning that takes injury as a badge of honor. Bosnian Moslems typically report not considering religious affiliation a significant part of personal or collective identity until seemingly arbitrary violence forced awareness upon them.

Thus, a critical factor determining suicide terrorism behavior is arguably loyalty to intimate cohorts of peers, which recruiting organizations often promote through religious communion.[29] Consider data on 39 recruits to Harkat al-Ansar, a Pakistani-based ally of Al-Qaeda. All were unmarried males, most had studied the Quran. All believed that by sacrificing themselves they would help secure the future of their “family” of fictive kin: “Each [martyr] has a special place—among them are brothers, just as there are sons and those even more dear”.[30] A Singapore Parliamentary report on 31 captured operatives from Jemaah Islamiyah and other Al-Qaeda allies in Southeast Asia underscores the pattern: “These men were not ignorant, destitute or disenfranchised. All 31 had received secular education... Like many of their counterparts in militant Islamic organizations in the region, they held normal, respectable jobs... As a group, most of the detainees regarded religion as their most important personal value... secrecy over the true knowledge of jihad, helped create a sense of sharing and empowerment vis-a`-vis others".[31]

Such sentiments characterize institutional manipulation of emotionally driven commitments that may have emerged under natural selection’s influence to refine or override short-term rational calculations that would otherwise preclude achieving goals against long odds. Most typically, such emotionally driven commitments serve as survival mechanisms to inspire action in otherwise paralyzing circumstances, as when a weaker person convincingly menaces a stronger person into thinking twice before attempting to take advantage. In religiously inspired suicide terrorism, however, these emotions are purposely manipulated by organizational leaders, recruiters, and trainers to benefit the organization rather than the individual.[32]

Rational Choice Is the Sponsor’s Prerogative, Not the Agent’s

Little tangible benefit (in terms of rational choice theories) accrues to the suicide bomber, certainly not enough to make the likely gain one of maximized “expected utility.” Heightened social recognition occurs only after death, obviating personal material benefit. But for leaders who almost never consider killing themselves (despite declarations of readiness to die), material benefits more likely outweigh losses in martyrdom operations. Hassan cites one Palestinian official’s prescription for a successful mission: “a willing young man... nails, gunpowder, a light switch and a short cable, mercury (readily obtainable from thermometers), acetone... The most expensive item is transportation to an Israeli town”.[26] The total cost is about $150.

For the sponsoring organization, suicide bombers are expendable assets whose losses generate more assets by expanding public support and pools of potential recruits. Shortly after 9/11, an intelligence survey of educated Saudis (ages 25 to 41) concluded that 95% supported Al-Qaeda.[33] In a December 2002 Pew Research Center survey on growing anti-Americanism, only 6% of Egyptians viewed America and its “War on Terror” favorably.[34] Money flows from those willing to let others die, easily offsetting operational costs (training, supporting personnel, safe houses, explosives and other arms, transportation, and communication). After a Jerusalem supermarket bombing by an 18-year-old Palestinian female, a Saudi telethon raised more than $100 million for “the Al-Quds Intifada"

Massive retaliation further increases people’s sense of victimization and readiness to behave according to organizational doctrines and policies structured to take advantage of such feelings. In a poll of 1179 West Bank and Gaza Palestinians in spring 2002, 66% said army operations increased their backing for suicide bombings.[35] By year’s end, 73% of Lebanese Moslems considered suicide bombings justifiable. This radicalization of opinion increases both demand and supply for martyrdom operations. A December 2002 UN report credited volunteers with swelling a reviving Al-Qaeda in 40 countries.[36] The organization’s influence in the larger society—most significantly its directing elites—increases in turn.

Priorities for Homeland Security

The last line of defense against suicide terrorism —preventing bombers from reaching targets—may be the most expensive and least likely to succeed. Random bag or body searches cannot be very effective against people willing to die, although this may provide some semblance of security and hence psychological defense against suicide terrorism’s psychological warfare. A middle line of defense, penetrating and destroying recruiting organizations and isolating their leaders, may be successful in the near term, but even more resistant organizations could emerge instead.

The first line of defense is to drastically reduce receptivity of potential recruits to recruiting organizations. But how? It is important to know what probably will not work. Raising literacy rates may have no effect and could be counterproductive should greater literacy translate into greater exposure to terrorist propaganda (in Pakistan, literacy and dislike for the United States increased as the number of religious madrasa schools increased from 3000 to 39,000 since 1978).[23, 34] Lessening poverty may have no effect, and could be counterproductive if poverty reduction for the entire population amounted to a downward redistribution of wealth that left those initially better off with fewer opportunities than before. Ending occupation or reducing perceived humiliation may help, but not if the population believes this to be a victory inspired by terror (e.g., Israel’s apparently forced withdrawal from Lebanon).

If suicide-bombing is crucially (though not exclusively) an institution-level phenomenon, it may require finding the right mix of pressure and inducements to get the communities themselves to abandon support for institutions that recruit suicide attackers. One way is to so damage the community’s social and political fabric that any support by the local population or authorities for sponsors of suicide attacks collapses, as happened regarding the kamikaze as a by-product of the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In the present world, however, such a strategy would neither be morally justifiable nor practical to implement, given the dispersed and distributed organization of terrorist institutions among distantly separated populations that collectively number in the hundreds of millions. Likewise, retaliation in kind (“tit-for-tat”) is not morally acceptable if allies are sought.[37] Even in more localized settings, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, coercive policies alone may not achieve lasting relief from attack and can exacerbate the problem over time. On the inducement side, social psychology research indicates that people who identify with antagonistic groups use conflicting information from the other group to reinforce antagonism. Thus, simply trying to persuade others from without by bombarding them with more self-serving information may only increase hostility.

Other research suggests that most people have more moderate views than what they consider their group norm to be. Inciting and empowering moderates from within to confront inadequacies and inconsistencies in their own knowledge (of others as evil), values (respect for life), and behaviour (support for killing), and other members of their group,[38] can produce emotional dissatisfaction leading to lasting change and influence on the part of these individuals.[39] Funding for civic education and debate may help, also interfaith confidence-building through intercommunity interaction initiatives (as Singapore’s government proposes). Ethnic profiling, isolation, and preemptive attack on potential (but not yet actual) supporters of terrorism probably will not help. Another strategy is for the United States and its allies to change behavior by directly addressing and lessening sentiments of grievance and humiliation, especially in Palestine (where images of daily violence have made it the global focus of Moslem attention).[40] For no evidence (historical or otherwise) indicates that support for suicide terrorism will evaporate without complicity in achieving at least some fundamental goals that suicide bombers and supporting communities share.

Of course, this does not mean negotiating over all goals, such as Al-Qaeda’s quest to replace the Western-inspired system of nation-states with a global caliphate, first in Moslem lands and then everywhere. Unlike other groups, Al-Qaeda publicizes no specific demands after martyr actions. As with an avenging army, it seeks no compromise. But most people who currently sympathize with it might.

Perhaps to stop the bombing we need research to understand which configurations of psychological and cultural relationships are luring and binding thousands, possibly millions, of mostly ordinary people into the terrorist organization’s martyr-making web. Study is needed on how terrorist institutions form and on similarities and differences across organizational structures, recruiting practices, and populations recruited. Are there reliable differences between religious and secular groups, or between ideologically driven and grievance-driven terrorism? Interviews with surviving Hamas bombers and captured Al-Qaeda operatives suggest that ideology and grievance are factors for both groups but relative weights and consequences may differ.

We also need to investigate any significant causal relations between our society’s policies and actions and those of terrorist organizations and supporters. We may find that the global economic, political, and cultural agenda of our own society has a catalyzing role in moves to retreat from our world view (Taliban) or to create a global counterweight (Al-Qaeda). Funding such research may be difficult. As with the somewhat tendentious and self-serving use of “terror” as a policy concept,[41] to reduce dissonance our governments and media may wish to ignore these relations as legitimate topics for inquiry into what terrorism is all about and why it exists. This call for research may demand more patience than any administration could politically tolerate during times of crisis. In the long run, however, our society can ill afford to ignore either the consequences of its own actions or the causes behind the actions of others. Potential costs of such ignorance are terrible to contemplate. The comparatively minor expense of research into such consequences and causes could have inestimable benefit.

Postscript: Where in the World is the War on Terror Going?

Two important documents crucial to the War on Terrorism were recently released in the United States. On May 23, the U.S. General Accounting Office delivered its final report to Congress on “Combating Terrorism”.[42] On June 3, the Pew Research Center published the latest installment of a multiyear survey on global attitudes to political policies and social values.[43] The GAO report does not evaluate the effectiveness of anti-terrorist programs, and the Pew survey of 15,000 people in 21 nations does not inquire into reasons for global attitudes. Nevertheless, the Pew findings, together with recent research on the socio-economic backgrounds of terrorists and their supporters, seriously undermine the rationale and prognosis for the War on Terrorism.

According to GAO, funding to combat overseas terrorism increased 133 percent from 2001 to $11.4 billion for fiscal 2004 (GAO, p. 12). In addition, the Department of Defense spent $30 billion on military operations against terrorism in 2002 alone (considerably more in 2003, including 78.7 billion voted for a war against Iraq primarily billed as depriving terrorists of weapons of mass destruction). Despite detailed review of actions related to billions spent by dozens of federal civilian and military agencies there is little mention of funding or efforts to understand or prevent people becoming terrorists in the first place. Moreover, the fact that the number of suicide attacks by Al-Qaeda (or its allies) and by Palestinian bombers one month after Baghdad’s fall (5 in Israel, 3 in Saudia Arabia, 5 in Morocco) was higher than for every month in the preceding year suggests that, contrary to earlier claims by President Bush and others in the U.S. Administration and media, the war on terrorism has not appreciably diminished the scourge of suicide attack – the most devastating form of terrorism.

GAO describes interagency efforts to “defeat and prevent terrorism” (GAO, p. 5). Prevention focuses on the goal of “diminishing the underlying conditions that terrorists seek to exploit”, as presented in the President’s National Strategy for Combating Terrorism (released in February to elaborate Section III of the new National Security Strategy of the United States).[44] NSCT is prefaced by “an understanding of the terrorist threat” as outlined in the President’s Address to Congress on September 20, 2001 (NSCT, p. 3): America was attacked because the 9/11 plotters “hate our freedoms” and democracy,[45] and they incite hatred among their supporters by exploiting “conditions of poverty, deprivation, social disenfranchisement” (NSCT, p. 13). Accordingly, a U.S. State Department report issued on the first anniversary of 9/11 said that development aid should be based on “the belief that poverty provides a breeding ground for terrorism”.[46]

But the Pew findings indicate that populations supporting terrorist actions are actually disposed favorably to American forms of government, education, economy and personal liberty, despite these people’s trust in Osama Bin Laden and support for suicide actions. Studies by Palestinian political scientist Khalil Shikaki suggest that upwards of 80% of Palestinians consider Israel to have the most admirable form of government, with America next, although numerous polls indicate that 60-70% of Palestinians also express support for suicide attack. An earlier Zogby poll of Arab impressions of America (April 2002) shows the same pattern of support for America’s freedoms and democracy but rejection of its dealings with others [48] – a pattern that undercuts the thesis of a “clash of civilizations” [49] or NSCT’s conclusion of “a clash between civilization and those who would destroy it”. [50]

Newer studies also confirm earlier reports showing that suicide terrorists and their supporters are not impoverished, uneducated, spiteful, or socially disfavored. Palestinian economist Basel Saleh compiled information on 171 militants killed in action (nearly all during the Second Intifada, 2000-2003) from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) news services, including 87 suicide attackers.[51] Majorities of militants were unmarried males (20-29 yrs.), from families with both parents living and 6-10 siblings, and who completed secondary school or attended college. Suicide attackers, which included bombers (29 Hamas, 18 PIJ) and shooters (14 Hamas, 26 PIJ), had more pronounced tendencies in these directions. A majority of Hamas bombers attended college; PIJ had more shooters aged 14-19. Majorities of bombers, but few shooters, had prior histories of arrest or injury by Israel’s army; however, most shooters had one or more family members with such histories. This underscores the earlier speculation that personal grievance could be a greater factor in Palestinian cases than for Al-Qaeda and its ideological allies.

Sources with the U.S. Army Defense Intelligence Agency provided me summaries of interrogations with detainees at Guantanamo, Cuba. Saudi-born operatives, especially those in leadership positions, are often “educated above reasonable employment level... a surprising number have graduate degrees and come from high-status families.” Motivation and commitment are evident in the willingness to sacrifice material and emotional comforts (families, jobs, physical security), and to pay their own way from their homes to travel long distances. Many told interrogators that if released from detention they would return to Jihad. Detainees evince little history of personal grievance, but frequently cite older relatives and respected community members who participated in earlier Jihads as influencing decisions to join the fight. Yemenis have more modest education and social status, and are often recruited and financed through mosques in Yemen and abroad (especially England). As with Hamas and PIJ, religious indoctrination by Al-Qaeda and allies (of recruits who initially express only moderate religiosity) appears crucial to creating intimate cells of fictive kin whose members commit to willingly die for one another.

All 9/11 attackers, including 15 Saudis and 4 others of Middle Eastern origin, were young, single males from middle class families. All were recruited in Europe by religious organizations connected with Al-Qaeda, when most were enrolled in a secular higher education curriculum. No “personality” defects were evident before the attack, and none discovered in hindsight (despite intense scrutiny).[52]

Social psychologists have long documented what they call “the fundamental attribution error". This interpretation bias seems to be especially prevalent in “individualistic” cultures, such as those of the United States and Western Europe. In contrast, many cultures (in Africa and Asia) in which a “collectivist” ethic is more prevalent show less susceptibility to such judgments.[53] U.S. government and media characterizations of Middle East suicide bombers as homicidal maniacs may also suffer from a fundamental attribution error: there is no instance of religious or political suicide terrorism resulting from the lone action of a mentally unstable bomber (e.g., a suicidal Unabomber) or even of someone acting entirely under his own authority and responsibility (e.g., a suicidal Timothy McVeigh).

What leads a normal person to suicide terrorism? Part of the answer may lie in philosopher Hannah Arendt’s notion of the “banality of evil”, which she used to describe the fact that mostly ordinary Germans were recruited to man Nazi extermination camps, not sadistic lunatics.[54] (Milgram interpreted his experiments on obedience to authority among American adults as confirming Arendt’s thesis). The primacy of situational over personality factors suggests the futility of attempts to psychologically profile the suicide terrorist. A Federal Interagency report on “The Sociologiy and Psychology of Terrorism” in current use by the CIA, and which includes detailed literature reviews and psychological profiles of Al-Qaeda, Hamas and other suicide-sponsoring organization leaders, states: “People who have joined terrorist groups have come from a wide variety of cultures, nationalities and ideological causes, all strata of society, and diverse populations. Their personalities and characteristics are as diverse as those of people in the general population. There seems to be a general agreement among psychologists that there is no particular psychological attribute that can be used to describe the terrorist or any ‘personality’ that is distinctive of terrorists”.[55] Months – sometimes years – of intense indoctrination can lead to “blind obedience” no matter who the individual, as indicated in research on people who become torturers for their governments[56].

It is the particular genius of institutions, like Al-Qaeda, Hamas or Hezbollah, that takes ordinary people into a mind-set of historical, political and religious grievance and turns them into human bombs. Intense indoctrination often lasting 18 months or more causes recruits to identify emotionally with their small cell (typically 3-8 members), viewing it as a family of fictive kin for whom they are as willing to die as a mother for her child or a soldier for his buddies. Like good advertisers, the charismatic leaders of martyr-sponsoring organizations turn ordinary desires for family and religion into cravings for what they’re pitching, to the benefit of the manipulating organization rather than the individual being manipulated (much as the pornography industry turns universal and innate desires for sexual mates into lust for paper or electronic images to ends that reduce personal fitness but benefit the manipulators).[57]

Despite numerous studies of individual behavior in group contexts that show situation to be a much better predictor than personality,[58] the Pew survey finds that Americans overwhelmingly believe that personal decision, success and failure depend upon individual choice, responsibility and personality. Most of the world disagrees. This is plausibly one reason for which Americans tend to think of terrorists as “homicidal maniacs”, whereas the rest of the world tends not to.

Whether because of a fundamental attribution error, or willful blindness to avoid dissonance with one’s own worldview, Americans mostly view attempts to understand what motivates terrorism as at best a waste of time, at worst pandering to terrorism. But countering terrorism also requires facing problems with our own society’s appraisals and actions. Such considerations are wholly absent from the GAO report and the NSCT. What these people dislike is not America’s internal liberties or culture, but its external actions and foreign policy. A 1997 U.S. Department of Defense Science Board report surmises (in response to the suicide bombing of U.S. Air Force housing at Khobar Towers in Saudia Arabia): "Historical data show a strong correlation between U.S. involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States".[59]

There seems to be a direct correlation between U.S. military and counterinsurgency aid, human rights abuses by the governments aided, and rise in terrorism. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch regularly document “horrific” and “massive” humans rights abuses occurring in those countries that receive the most U.S. aid in absolute terms. Thus, the U.S.State Dept. 2003 budget for Foreign Military Financing is $4.107 billion.[60] The FMF budget includes as its top receivers: $2.1 billion for Israel,[61], $1.3 billion for Egypt [62], $98 million for Colombia,[63] $50 million for Pakistan [64]. Special Economic Support Funds were also budgeted as part of emergency supplemental bills: $600 million for Pakistan; $40.5 million in economic and law enforcement assistance for Uzbekistan; $45 million in FMF for Turkey[66] and Uzbekistan [65]; $42.2 million for training and equipment for border security forces in the Central Asian Republics (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan);[67] and additional millions in special Defense Department funds for counterterrorism training and operations in the Central Asian Republics and Georgia.[68] A recent National Research Council report, “Discouraging Terrorism,” finds that: “With respect to political context, terrorism and its supporting audiences appear to be fostered by policies of extreme political repression and discouraged by policies of incorporating both dissident and moderate groups responsibly into civil society and the political process”. [69] The situation may be critical in Central Asia, one area of intensified U.S. intervention where anti-American and pro-Radical Islamic sentiment is rapidly rising, and where Al-Qaeda appears to be relocating.

The GAO report highlights two key objectives in realizing the NSCT goal of diminishing support for terrorism: strengthening the “Partnership Initiative” and winning the “War of Ideas.” The NSCT’s Partnership Initiative involves counterterrorism aid, including law enforcement training and military assistance, “intended to promote U.S. national security interests by contributing to global and regional stability, strengthening military support for democratically-elected governments” and fostering “democratic values including respect for internationally recognized civil and human rights” (GAO, pp. 119-120). Winning the “War of Ideas” involves foreign aid programs and media broadcasts to promote democratic values “to kindle the hopes and aspirations of freedom.” (NSCT, p. 14)

The “new partners in the war on terrorism” cited in the GAO report are the Eurasian Republics of Kazakhistan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Georgia. (GAO, p. 24) All but one of them is run by a former Communist Party leader-turned-nationalist, whose rule – like Saddam’s – involves a brutal personality cult. All have been condemned by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for increasing human rights abuses. As for winning the War of Ideas about democracy and personal freedoms, the Pew survey strongly suggests that Muslim opinion in favor of these values means that war was already won. This raises suspicion that the call to battle against haters of democracy and freedom – like the alarms about Iraq’s imminent use of weapons of mass destruction and its ties to Al-Qaeda[70] - was cynically designed to rally the home front for a strategic push into South and Central Asia. The Pew survey intimates that much of the world – apart from America – thinks so.[71]

References and Notes

1. In The Jewish War, written nearly two thousand years ago, Josephus described the revolt against Roman rule in Judea. Judea then included what is now much of modern Israel and Palestine. The uprising began with bands of youths throwing stones, and Roman soldiers using wooden staves instead of swords to control the crowds. Then Zealots and Sicarii – partisan groups with a millenarian message of Jewish resurgence and salvation - began to up the ante with acts of “terrorism” (as Josephus called it), including suicide dagger attacks in public forums against Jews who collaborated with Romans, against Greek interlopers who settled and desecrated the sacred soil of Israel, and against the Romans who ruled the land. As the “terrorists” had hoped, Rome’s increasingly brutal reaction to ever more outrageous partisan actions eventually mobilized much of the general Jewish population to support the uprising. For Josephus, who began as a general of the Jewish patriots but cast his lot with Rome after being captured, the partisans liquidated public figures who professed “burning hatred of wrong and love of freedom.” The rebels were evil people, opportunistically seeking to enslave others to their will by murdering good people who loved freedom and served the larger community. The rebels, of course, thought of themselves as “freedom fighters,” and their enemies as slave masters and evildoers in the eyes of God. The revolt ended in 73 A.D. with the mass suicide of hundreds of Sicarii families at the desert fortress of Masada, but their example inspired further uprisings in two succeeding generations. As a result, Rome decided to exile all Jews from Judea and erase the memory of their tie to the land by renaming it Palastina (after the Philistines). Consequences of the Jewish Diaspora for world history were varied and profound (e.g., in monotheism’s spread throughout the Roman Empire and into Arabia and southwest Asia), and they are still with us (e.g., both Israeli and Palestinian militants revere the zeal of Masada’s last defenders). Josephus, The Jewish War (Dorset, New York, 1981).

2. B. Lewis, The Assassins (Basic, New York, 2002).

3. M. Robespierre, “Principes de morale politique,” speech delivered to French National Convention, 5 February 1794; available at discours/1794.htm.

4. “A major strategy of the state from the beginning of the Meiji period was to transfer the notion of love, loyalty, and the indebtedness from one’s parent’s to the emperor, who was constructed and represented to the people as their father, with the entire nation of Japan constituting one family.” E. Ohnuki-Tierney, Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalisms (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2002), pp. 204-205.

5. A. Axell, Kamikaze (Longman, New York, 2002).

6. Quran, chapt. 3, verses 140–146. Compare this statement with that of Hamas leader Abd Al-’Aziz Al-Rantisi, Al-Hayat (London-Beirut), 25 April 2002.

7. U.S. Department of Justice, Al Qaeda Training Manual, online release 7 December 2001; available at

8. “Suicide terrorism: A global threat,” Jane’s BioSecurity (2002); available at shtml.

9. B. Lewis, What Went Wrong (Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 2002). The notion ofa distinct religious authority, or clergy, was traditionally alien to Islam. The de facto modern clergy recognized by Islamic suicide attackers includes mullahs of Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as the 19th-century administrative office of ayatollah in Iran and the former Ottoman office of State Attorney, or mufti (e.g., in Palestine, Syria, and Arabia). Many in this “clergy” also oppose suicide bombing.

10. D. Malakoff, Science 295, 254 (2002).

11. D. Chapin et al., Science 297, 1997 (2002).

12. D. Von Drehle, “Debate over Iraq focuses on outcome,” Washington Post (7 October 2002). Senator Warner’s remarks were in support of a change in strategic defense from the Cold War policy of massive retaliation after attack to a preemptive policy of military action before a potential threat is realized. His example of a “rational concept of deterrence” was MAD (the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction); however, MAD’s operational premise was the apparently irrational threat of guaranteeing one’s own destruction in order to destroy the enemy. [T. Schelling, The Strategy of Conflict (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, 1960).] If executed, this policy would have led to the annihilation of all actors and all possible benefits – an expected outcome that cannot be rational on any theory of rational choice. Arguably, MAD worked because the USA, Russia and the rest of humankind are still around. Recent disclosures on the Cuban Missile Crisis (October 1962) suggest luck was also involved. Thus, two of three officers with joint decision-making command of a Soviet submarine voted for a nuclear torpedo response to an attacking U.S destroyer; only the veto of a third officer (Vasili Arkhipov) possibly saved the world. [K. Sullivan, “One word from nuclear war,” International Herald Tribune (14 October 2002).]

13. Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, “Confronting anti-Arab or anti-Muslim sentiments,” 21 September 2002; available at

14. S. Milgram, Obedience to Authority (Harper & Row, New York, 1974). Milgram recruited U.S. college-educated adults to, supposedly, help others learn better. When the learner, hidden by a screen, failed to memorize arbitrary word pairs fast enough, the helper was instructed to administer an electric shock, and to increase voltage with each erroneous answer (which the learner, actually an actor, deliberately got wrong). Most helpers complied with instructions to give potentially lethal shocks (labeled as 450 volts, but in fact 0) despite victims’ screams and pleas. Although this experiment showed how situations can be staged to elicit blind obedience to authority, a more general lesson is that manipulation of context can trump individual personality and psychology to generate apparently extreme behaviors in ordinary people.

15. L. Ross, C. Stillinger, “Psychological factors in conflict resolution,” Negotiation J. 7, 389 (1991).

16. R. Clark, Crime in America (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1970).

17. White House news release, 22 March 2002; available at 20020322-1.html.

18. J. J. Jai, “Getting at the roots of terrorism,” Christian Science Monitor, 10 December 2001, p. 7.

19. G. Becker, “Crime and punishment: An economic approach,” Pol. Econ. 76, 169 (1968).

20. “They are youth at the peak oftheir blooming, who at a certain moment decide to turn their bodies into body parts. . . .owers.” Editorial, Al-Risala (Hamas weekly), 7 June 2001.

21. Sheikh YussufAl-Qaradhawi (a spiritual leader of theMuslim Brotherhood), Al-Ahram Al-Arabi (Cairo), 3 February 2001.

22. A. Krueger, J. Maleckova, NBER Working Paper no. w9074, National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA, July 2002; available at http://papers. A. Krueger, “Poverty doesn’t create terrorists,” New York Times, 29 May 2003.

23. T. Friedman, Longitudes and Attitudes (Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, New York, 2002). Leaders ofAl-Qaeda’s international cells are often middle-class, European educated converts to radical Islam. Family histories indicate little religious fervor before emigration to a solitary existence in Europe and subsequent belonging to a local prayer group or mosque (available tapes preach a revolutionary end to daily, personal alienation through collective action to destroy perceived impediments to “restoring” Islam’s values and dominance). As with other radical Islamic groups, ordinary cell operatives are often resident Middle East bachelors from middle-class families.

24. A. Merari, paper presented to Institute for Social Research seminar series, “The Psychology of Extremism,” Univ. ofMichigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 11 February 2002.

25. R. Ezekiel, The Racist Mind (Viking, New York, 1995).

26. N. Hassan, , “Talking to the “human bombs,” The New Yorker, 19 November 2001; available at ?011119fa_FACT1.

27. B. Barber, Heart and Stones (Palgrave, New York, in press).

28. D. Brooks, , “The Culture of Martyrdom,” The Atlantic Monthly 289 (6), 18 ( June 2002); available at

29. Unlike people willing to blow themselves up, for frontline soldiers in an apparently hopeless battle, there usually remains hope for survival [G. Allport, J. Gillespie, J. Young, J. Psychol. 25, 3 (1948)]. The distance between no hope and some (however small) is infinite, which represents the ultimate measure of devotion that religions typically uphold as ideal. While commitment to die for nonkin cannot be rendered within standard theories ofExpected Utility, there are moves theorists attempt, such as invoking “infinite utility.” Using “infinite utility” to patch theories of rationality creates holes elsewhere in the system. Thus, expected utilities are usually weighted averages, which has scant sense when one term is infinite. The deeper point is that notions of maximization of anticipated benefits cannot account for such behaviors, and ad hoc moves to maintain rational utility at all costs result in a concept of rationality or utility doing little explanatory work. In sum, reliance on rational-choice theories may not be the best way to understand and try to stop suicide terrorism.

30. D. Rhode, A. Chivers, “Qaeda’s grocery lists and manuals of killing,” New York Times, 17 March 2002.

31. “White Paper—The Jemaah Islamiyah Arrests,” (Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore, 9 January 2003); available at Recruitment and indoctrination into Jemaah Islamiyah are similar in other radical Islamic groups: “The first stage . . . involved religious classes organised for a general mass. . . . The second stage . . . involved identifying those who were captivated enough to find out more about the plight of Muslims in other regions. [ JI spiritual leader] Ibrahim Maidan identified potential members from those who were curious enough to remain after classes to enquire further. He engaged those students’ interest and compassion and finally invited those he deemed suitable to join JI. This recruitment process would usually take about 18 months. The few who were selected as members were made to feel a strong sense ofexclusivity and selfesteem . . . a strong sense ofin-group superiority.”

32. In much the same way, the pornography, fast food, or soft drink industries manipulate innate desires for naturally scarce commodities like sexual mates, fatty foods, and sugar to ends that reduce personal fitness but benefit the manipulating institution. [S. Atran, In Gods We Trust: the Evolutionary Landscape of Religion (Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 2002)].

33. E. Sciolino, “Don’t weaken Arafat, Saudi warns Bush,” New York Times, 27 January 2002.

34. “What the world thinks in 2002: How global publics view: Their lives, their countries, the world, America” (Survey Rep., Pew Research Center, 4 December 2002); available at display.php3?ReportID_165.

35. Reuters News Service, 11 June 2002; accessed at nm/20020611/wl_nm/mideast_palestini.

36. C. Lynch, Washington Post, 18 December 2002.

37. R. Axelrod, W. Hamilton, “Evolution of cooperation,” Science 211, 1390 (1981).

38. M. Bazerman, M. Neale, Negotiating Rationally (Free Press, New York, 1991).

39. A. Eagly, S. Chaiken, The Psychology of Attitudes (Harcourt Brace, Fort Worth, TX, 1993).

40. One possibility is to offer and guarantee a clear resolution of “final status” acceptable to majorities of Israelis and Palestinians. Without clear resolution of final status before implementation of “confidence building” measures, with an understanding by all parties ofwhat to expect in the end, it is likely that doubts about ultimate intentions will undermine any interim accord—as in every case since 1948. [S. Atran, “Stones against the iron fist, terror within the nation,” Politics and Society 18, 481 (1990)].

41. N. Chomsky, 9-11 (Seven Stories Press, New York, 2001).

42. “Combating terrorism: Interagency framework and agency programs to address the overseas threat” (U.S. General Accounting Office, Washington, DC, 23 May 2003); accessed 3 June 2003 at

43. “Views of a changing world 2003” (Survey Rep., Pew Research Center, 3 June 2003); available at

44. “National Security Strategy for Combating Terrorism” (U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC, February 2003); available at http://usinfo.state,gove/topical/pol/terror/strategy/, p. 13.

45. White House news release, 20 September 2001, available at 46. “September 11 one year later” (U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC, September 2002), p. 14; available at www.usinfo.stat/gov/journals/itgic/0902/ijge/ijge0902.pdf.

47. J. Bennett, “Arab showplace? Could it be the West Bank?” New York Times, 2 April 2003.

48. “Arab Nations’ ‘Impressions of America’ Poll” (Survey Rep., Zogby International, Utica, NY, 2002); available at

49. S. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1996).

50. Identification of America’s political vision with world civilization is as old as the U.S. Civil War ("We shall either nobly save, or meanly lose, the last great hope of mankind,” U.S. President A. Lincoln, Getttysburg Address, 19 November 1863). Beginning with the Spanish –American War, successive U.S. Administrations called upon America’s civilizing mission to justify foreign intervention. According to U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt : « If a nation shows that it knows how to act with reasonable efficiency and decency in social and political matters, if it keeps order and pays its obligations, it need fear no interference from the United States. Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation, and may lead the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power.” [T. Roosevelt, « The Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine," May 1904]. At least since the end of the Cold War, the notion of America as the world’s one « universal nation » has informed increasingly militant aspects of U.S. global policy, both in the economic sphere (“America stands alone as the world’s indispensable nation,” U.S. President Bill Clinton, Second Inaugural Address, 20 January 1997 ; “The emerging global order needs an enforcer. That’s America’s new burden.” Syndicated columnist Thomas Friedman, “Manifesto for the Free World,” New York Times Magazine, 28 March 1999, p. 40) and military sphere (« And by our actions, we will secure the peace, and lead the world to a better day, » U.S. President George W. Bush, Remarks on Iraq, 7 October, 2002 ; available at; “We need to err on the side of being strong. And if people want to say we're an imperial power, fine,” William Kristol, Editor and Publisher of The Weekly Standard, on Fox News, May 2003).

51. B. Saleh, paper presented to the Graduate Research Forum, Kansas State Univ., 4 April (2003).

52. A. Karatnycky, “Under our very noses,” National Review, 5 November 2001; available at

53. For example, one set of studies compared how Americans and Chinese interpreted murders, as when a recently fired postal worker stormed into a post office killing several people inside then himself. As predicted, Americans (university students and journalists) attributed the murders more to personality factors (“bad temper,” “psychologically disturbed”), whereas the Chinese (students and reporters) attributed more to situational factors (“victim of policy,” “isolation from the community”). M. Morris, R. Nisbett, K. Peng, “Causal attribution across domains and cultures,” in D. Sperber, D. Premack, A. Premack, Causal Cognition (New York, Oxford Univ. Press, 1995), pp. 577-612.

54. H. Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (Viking Press, New York, 1970).

55. “The Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism” (Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC, September 1999, p. 40); released 14 December 2001 at DIA interrogators of Guantanamo detainees concur with these findings.

56. M. Haritos-Fatouros, “The official torturer: A learning model for obedience to the authority of violence,” J. Applied Social Psychology, 18, 1107-1120.

57. S. Atran, “Genesis of suicide terrorism,” Science, 299, 1534-1539.

58. L. Ross, R. Nisbett. The Person and the Situation (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1991).

59. "DoD Responses to Transnational Threats, Vol. 2: DSB Force Protection Panel Report to DSB” (U.S. Department of Defense, Washington, DC, December 1997, p. 8); available at

60. M. Ciarrocca, W. Hartung, “Increases In Military Spending And Security Assistance Since 9/11/01,” A Fact Sheet Prepared By The Arms Trade Resource Center, 4 October 2002; available at

61. “The heavy price of Israeli incursions” (Amnesty International Wire, May 2002); available at

62. “In the name of counterterrorism: Human rights abuses worldwide. III. Country studies” (Human Rights Watch Briefing Paper for the 59th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, 25 March 2003); available at

63. “Colombian human rights crisis deepens” (Amnesty International Wire, May 2002); available at

64. “Pakistan: Government breaks its own laws to participate in ‘war against terrorism’” (Amnesty International News Release, 20 June 2002); available at

65. “The meaning of concern: Washington indulges Uzbekistan’s atrocities” (Human Rights Watch, 27 March 2003); available at

66. “Turkey: Human Rights Watch World Report 2001”; available at

67. A. Rashid, Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia (Penguin, New York, 2003).

68. “Georgia” (Amnesty International Rep. 2002); available at

69. Discouraging Terrorism (National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 2002), p. 2.

70. CIA interrogations of top Qaeda leaders in U.S. custody (including Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, Al-Qaeda chief of operations until captured in Pakistan on 1 March 2002) revealed that Bin Laden had ruled any cooperation with Saddam Hussein. [J. Risen, “Captives Deny Qaeda Worked with Baghdad,” New York Times, 9 June 2003.] At the time of these interrogations, U.S. officials continued to assert that war with Iraq was justified because: "Baghdad has a long history of supporting terrorism. It has also had contacts with al-Qaeda." [George Tenet, Director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, testifying before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. BBC NEWS, “U.S. says Iraq linked to Al-Qaeda,” 19 March 19 2003 ; available at]

Open Some final remarks (0 replies)
Nilufer Gole, Jul 31, 2003 21:46 UT
Open Thanks to all and I'll try to get back (0 replies)
Scott Atran, Jul 31, 2003 20:59 UT
Open Future prospects: my concluding comments (1 reply)
Ian Pitchford, Jul 30, 2003 14:16 UT
Open The Association for Civil RIghts in Israel (0 replies)
Ian Pitchford, Jul 29, 2003 10:13 UT
Open My Final Remarks (0 replies)
Basel Saleh, Jul 27, 2003 3:06 UT
Open 'Sucide bombers' and historical reference points (0 replies)
Ian Pitchford, Jul 24, 2003 11:36 UT
Open Is suicide terrorism a costly war strategy? (0 replies)
Stefano Nespor, Jul 23, 2003 20:36 UT
Open Anti-essentialism (0 replies)
Mohammad Nafissi, Jul 23, 2003 20:21 UT
Open Banalizing Bombs (0 replies)
David Lehman, Jul 23, 2003 20:16 UT
Open I have two unresolved questions (5 replies)
Herbert Gintis, Jul 22, 2003 16:52 UT
Open How terrorism ends (1 reply)
Ian Pitchford, Jul 21, 2003 16:03 UT
Open Ideology is what explains suicide terror (7 replies)
Francisco Gil-White, Jul 21, 2003 1:12 UT
Open Speaking of costs of suicide attacks (2 replies)
Pasquale Pasquino, Jul 19, 2003 22:41 UT
Open Are we then to defend the Nazis? (3 replies)
Francisco Gil-White, Jul 19, 2003 3:26 UT
Open History: real and imagined (2 replies)
Ian Pitchford, Jul 17, 2003 21:36 UT
Open A political sociologist's perspective (0 replies)
Jeff Goodwin, Jul 16, 2003 11:32 UT
Open Grievance vs. Ideology: A fundamental difference or a false dichotomy? (6 replies)
Francisco Gil-White, Jul 14, 2003 17:48 UT
Open Two issues: Grievances and Power Resources (1 reply)
Basel Saleh, Jul 13, 2003 6:30 UT
Open Islam and Rationality (9 replies)
Scott Atran, Jul 8, 2003 8:25 UT
Open A fundamental difference? (5 replies)
Ian Pitchford, Jul 6, 2003 20:27 UT
Open Who has the power of a Fatwa? (2 replies)
Basel Saleh, Jul 5, 2003 17:22 UT
Open A few historical remarks (4 replies)
Avigdor Arikha, Jul 5, 2003 9:45 UT
Open The fundamental attribution error (3 replies)
Ian Pitchford, Jul 4, 2003 21:45 UT
Open A demographic and sociological perspective (4 replies)
Gene Hammel, Jul 4, 2003 5:41 UT
Open A theoretical context (3 replies)
Ian Pitchford, Jul 3, 2003 14:30 UT
Open Why Not Suicide Bombers? (3 replies)
Basel Saleh, Jul 3, 2003 5:43 UT
Open suicide + bomber = "Suicide Bomber"? (1 reply)
Nicholas Humphrey, Jul 2, 2003 12:04 UT
Open Deprivation Theory offers an answer (3 replies)
Basel Saleh, Jul 2, 2003 5:23 UT
Open Are they irrational? (4 replies)
Dan Sperber, Jul 1, 2003 19:17 UT
Open Sorting out some issues (4 replies)
Herbert Gintis, Jul 1, 2003 18:15 UT
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