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.
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  and by the Islamic Order of Assassins (hashashin)
during the early Crusader times are legendary examples. 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”. 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.
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.
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”.
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. According to Jane’s Intelligence Review:
“All the suicide terrorist groups have support infrastructures in
Europe and North America”.
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.
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” . 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”. 
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
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. 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
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 . 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”.  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”.
Support for this comes from research pioneered by economist Gary
Becker showing that property crimes are predicted by poverty and lack
of education . 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: “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”.
Research by Krueger and Maleckova suggests that education may be
uncorrelated, or even positively correlated, with supporting
terrorism. 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
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.
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.  His team interviewed 32 of 34 bomber families in
Palestine/Israel (before 1998), surviving attackers,and captured
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
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”. 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). 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.
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. 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
Thus, a critical factor determining suicide terrorism behavior is
arguably loyalty to intimate cohorts of peers, which recruiting
organizations often promote through religious communion. 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”. 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".
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.
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”. The total cost is about
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. In a December 2002 Pew Research Center survey on growing
anti-Americanism, only 6% of Egyptians viewed America and its “War on
Terror” favorably. 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.
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. 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. 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,
can produce emotional dissatisfaction leading to lasting change and
influence on the part of these individuals. 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). 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, 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
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”. On June 3, the Pew Research Center published the latest
installment of a multiyear survey on global attitudes to political
policies and social values. 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
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
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). 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, 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”.
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  – a
pattern that undercuts the thesis of a “clash of civilizations”  or
NSCT’s conclusion of “a clash between civilization and those who would
destroy it”. 
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.
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).
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. 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. (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”. 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.
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).
Despite numerous studies of individual behavior in group contexts
that show situation to be a much better predictor than personality,
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".
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. The FMF budget includes as its top
receivers: $2.1 billion for Israel,, $1.3 billion for Egypt ,
$98 million for Colombia, $50 million for Pakistan . 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 and Uzbekistan ; $42.2 million for training and
equipment for border security forces in the Central Asian Republics
(Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan,
Kazakhstan); and additional millions in special Defense Department
funds for counterterrorism training and operations in the Central Asian
Republics and Georgia. 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”.  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 - 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.
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
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);
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
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 www.uua.org/uuawo/issues/respond/confront.html.
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
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 www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/03/
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
22. A. Krueger, J. Maleckova, NBER Working Paper no. w9074, National
Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge,
MA, July 2002; available at http://papers. nber.org/papers/W9074. A.
Krueger, “Poverty doesn’t create terrorists,” New York Times, 29 May
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
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 www.newyorker.com/fact/content/
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
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 www2.mha.gov.sg. 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
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 http://people-press.org/reports/ display.php3?ReportID_165.
35. Reuters News Service, 11 June 2002; accessed at
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
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
www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/10/20021007-8.html; “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 www.freedomhouse.org/media/0501nr.htm.
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
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 http://hrw.org/un/chr59/counter-terrorism-bck4.htm.
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 http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/2002/pakistan06202002.html.
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 http://www.hrw.org/wr2k1/europe/turkey.html.
67. A. Rashid, Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia (Penguin, New York, 2003).
68. “Georgia” (Amnesty International Rep. 2002); available at http://web.amnesty.org/web/ar2002.nsf/eur/georgia?Open.
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
Some final remarks
Nilufer Gole, Jul 31, 2003 21:46 UT
Thanks to all and I'll try to get back
Scott Atran, Jul 31, 2003 20:59 UT
Future prospects: my concluding comments
Ian Pitchford, Jul 30, 2003 14:16 UT
The Association for Civil RIghts in Israel
Ian Pitchford, Jul 29, 2003 10:13 UT
My Final Remarks
Basel Saleh, Jul 27, 2003 3:06 UT
'Sucide bombers' and historical reference points
Ian Pitchford, Jul 24, 2003 11:36 UT
Is suicide terrorism a costly war strategy?
Stefano Nespor, Jul 23, 2003 20:36 UT
Mohammad Nafissi, Jul 23, 2003 20:21 UT
David Lehman, Jul 23, 2003 20:16 UT
I have two unresolved questions
Herbert Gintis, Jul 22, 2003 16:52 UT
How terrorism ends
Ian Pitchford, Jul 21, 2003 16:03 UT
Ideology is what explains suicide terror
Francisco Gil-White, Jul 21, 2003 1:12 UT
Speaking of costs of suicide attacks
Pasquale Pasquino, Jul 19, 2003 22:41 UT
Are we then to defend the Nazis?
Francisco Gil-White, Jul 19, 2003 3:26 UT
History: real and imagined
Ian Pitchford, Jul 17, 2003 21:36 UT
A political sociologist's perspective
Jeff Goodwin, Jul 16, 2003 11:32 UT
Grievance vs. Ideology: A fundamental difference or a false dichotomy?
Francisco Gil-White, Jul 14, 2003 17:48 UT
Two issues: Grievances and Power Resources
Basel Saleh, Jul 13, 2003 6:30 UT
Islam and Rationality
Scott Atran, Jul 8, 2003 8:25 UT
A fundamental difference?
Ian Pitchford, Jul 6, 2003 20:27 UT
Who has the power of a Fatwa?
Basel Saleh, Jul 5, 2003 17:22 UT
A few historical remarks
Avigdor Arikha, Jul 5, 2003 9:45 UT
The fundamental attribution error
Ian Pitchford, Jul 4, 2003 21:45 UT
A demographic and sociological perspective
Gene Hammel, Jul 4, 2003 5:41 UT
A theoretical context
Ian Pitchford, Jul 3, 2003 14:30 UT
Why Not Suicide Bombers?
Basel Saleh, Jul 3, 2003 5:43 UT
suicide + bomber = "Suicide Bomber"?
Nicholas Humphrey, Jul 2, 2003 12:04 UT
Deprivation Theory offers an answer
Basel Saleh, Jul 2, 2003 5:23 UT
Are they irrational?
Dan Sperber, Jul 1, 2003 19:17 UT
Sorting out some issues
Herbert Gintis, Jul 1, 2003 18:15 UT
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