Voice in the Wilderness

The news about the "war on terror" your local newspaper won't print.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Suicide Attacks Increase -- Author Says He Knows Why

Iraq had never experienced a suicide bomb attack before the U.S. invaded in March of 2003. In April, there were 69 such attacks, and their rate is increasing monthly. Writes Carol Wilson in the Los Angeles Times:
Suicide attacks are on the rise because the explosive devices "are simple to construct and easy to operate, thus making suicide bombers difficult to detect," said Navy Cmdr. Fred Gaghan, in charge of the Combined Explosive Exploitation Cell in Iraq that studies bomb scenes for clues to insurgent tactics.

"They are viewed by terrorists as a successful means with which to kill or injure coalition, Iraqi security forces and innocent Iraqi citizens," Gaghan said. (Read the entire article.)
While many American policy-makers still cling to the notion that suicide bombers are outside agitators and not Iraqis, and that the bombers are "Islamic fundamentalists" who have been promised a berth in the hereafter as a reward for their attacks, and that suicide bombers are down-and-outers who have nothing to live for, an American professor believes otherwise, and says he has the data to prove it. Robert Pape, a member of the political science faculty at the University of Chicago, has written a book in which he claims that suicide bombings have an intrinsic goal: Get occupying forces out. Pape, an associate professor at the prestigious university, compiled a database of 25 years worth of attacks, according to the Reuters news agency. (Read the entire article.)
"Islamic fundamentalism is not the primary driver of suicide terrorism," Pape said. "Nearly all suicide terrorist attacks are committed for a secular strategic goal -- to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory the terrorists view as their homeland."
According to the book flap:
Military options may disrupt terrorist operations in the short term, but a lasting solution to suicide terrorism will require a comprehensive, long-term approach–one that abandons visions of empire and relies on a combined strategy of vigorous homeland security, nation building in troubled states, and greater energy independence.
If Pape's analysis is correct, we haven't a clue. Even Iraqi security high-ups are taking the traditional view. The L.A. Times reports:
[Saad] Obeidi [a retired Iraqi major general and security expert] sees the rise in suicide bombings as recognition among Iraqi extremists that such attacks are an effective weapon against the superior numbers and arms of the coalition forces.

Insurgents "are choosing this method to create a balance against superpower might," he said. "The use of such methods is linked with some spiritual or religious motives. The aim is to die in the name of religion and become a martyr and go to paradise."

Maj. Gen. Munem Said Abdulqadir, head of the Iraqi police force explosive ordnance demolition team in Baghdad, faulted the now-disbanded U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority for barring even mid-level figures of Saddam Hussein's regime from the new security order.

He said he feared there were thousands of technically savvy and disaffected Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs, vulnerable to recruitment as suicide bombers.

"Jobless people are very easy targets," he said of the Iraqis being drawn into bomb-making and suicide missions. "Find them jobs, and most will give up."
Pape disagrees, according to Reuters:
"The standard stereotype of a suicide attacker as a lonely individual on the margins of society with a miserable existence is actually quite far from the truth," he said.

. . . "Once you have a more complete picture you can see that the main cause of suicide terrorism is a response to foreign occupation, not Islamic fundamentalism, and the use of heavy combat forces to transform a Muslim society is only likely to increase the number of suicide terrorists as is now happening."
What seems to be apparent is that the United States, like Great Britain before it, has failed to understand the difference between a Muslim society and a Christian society, or respect that difference. The British paid dearly for it in India and the Middle East. And the U.S. may be about to do the same.

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