Turning ordinary people into suicide bombers

I read an interesting article today, “The Ordinary Bombers” by Michael Bond (p18, issue 2509, New Scientist Magazine, 23 July 2005).

It talks about the psychology of suicide bombers. How, study after study has shown that suicide terrorists are usually more affluent than average for their community, usually better educated, rarely suicidal (in the pathological sense) and rarely have symptoms of mental illness, drug or alcohol abuse.

Damn, sounds like most of us – doesn’t it?

I remember years ago I studied up a fair bit about cult and cult-like mentality and the use of methodologies such as Large Group Awareness Training (LGAT) [Someone remind me to rant about this in a future post]. It seems that militant groups utilise a similar but opposite methodology (SGAT?) similar to those used to train kamikaze pilots during WWII.

According to the author:

The sense of duty to a small group of peers that the process creates can, they say, turn just about anyone into a potential suicide bomber: the crucial factor is not the psychology of the individual, but that of the group.

Apparently, virtually every suicide attack in modern times has been conceived and managed by militant groups utilising these same methods:

First, find people, usually young and male, who are sympathetic to the group’s cause and organise them into small units. Second, exploit their motivation to fight for the cause using religious or political indoctrination, emphasising the heroic nature of their mission and the nobility of self-sacrifice. Third, have all members of the unit make a pact declaring their commitment to what they are about to do. Beyond this point, it becomes psychologically very hard for them to back out.

The article finishes with a hard to swallow but all too honest paragraph:

The immediate reaction to suicide bombers is to label them as animals, or inherently evil. But this will not do. Blowing themselves up in a crowd is often the first evil thing these people have done. And they are not animals. The most difficult thing of all is to recognise that suicide bombers are, alas, all too human.

Like I said, hard to swallow. In today’s day and age, it’s often hard for us to recognize that these people are human, and may very well have been … influenced … to create acts of such despicability.

I think that we (in the global sense) have entered a vicious circle where one side is constantly vilifying the other, retaliating, and then the other repeats the same pattern …

It’s not a pretty thought, and one that will very quickly bring us towards the vision of Nostradamus unless we can somehow begin to see both sides of the picture and realise that we are fighting for interpretations more than causes.

Well, that’s all for me …


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