# Who becomes a terrorist?

Discussion in 'World Events' started by Fraggle Rocker, Jan 10, 2010.

1. ### Fraggle RockerStaff Member

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Abstracted from a piece in today's Washington Post by Jessica Stern, a lecturer at Harvard Law School, a member of the Hoover Institution Task Force on National Security and Law, and author of Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill.

Five Myths about Who Becomes a Terrorist
[These are NOT direct quotes from the article. This material has been condensed and heavily edited.]

We all have some idea of what a terrorist will be like: young, socially alienated, deeply religious, and from one of the 14 countries that will earn him special scrutiny when he boards a U.S. airliner, such as Algeria, Iran and Syria. Yet five young Americans from close, prosperous families and good schools were recently apprehended in Pakistan. The old generalizations no longer hold up.

Myth #1: Most terrorists are spoiled rich kids.
Many of the prominent ones certainly are, such as the Christmas Underwear Bomber. But of the 25,000 insurgents and suspects detained in Iraq, nearly all were previously unemployed. In a country where economic prospects are bleak, jihad can be one of the few jobs available. Even in a wealthy country like Saudi Arabia, only 3% of the people going through the rehabilitation program come from high-income backgrounds.

Myth #2: Al-Qaeda members come from the most repressive Mideastern countries.
Al Qaeda's core organization is now based in Pakistan (let the readers decide if that is a repressive country) but affiliates operate in the Islamic Maghreb, Indonesia and Somalia. It has a more amorphous following of independent cells and unaffiliated individuals around the world, even in Texas. No political system reliable promotes or deters terrorism. There are many more terrorist incidents in democratic India than in authoritarian China and Saudi Arabia. The transition to democracy is a particularly dangerous period, e.g. Spain in the 1970s, Russia in the 1990s and Iraq today. Failed and failing states with no strong government at all, like Yemen and Somalia, are especially fertile ground for terrorism.

Myth #3. Al-Qaeda is made up of religious zealots.
Rank-and-file terrorists who claim to be motivated by religious ideology are often ignorant about Islam. The Saudis have interrogated thousands, and only 5% had formal religious roles, whereas 25% had criminal histories, often drug-related. In Europe, Muslim youths rebel against what they consider the contaminated Islam of their parents, but the form of Islam they find on the internet and other sources is often highly unorthodox and even a do-it-yourself mix of disparate teachings. One popular Syrian imam is self-taught--and a former drug dealer. Many groups linked to Al Qaeda use hip-hop or rap music to build their anti-American messages, even though such music is counter to the extremist version of Islam promoted by the terror network. Indeed most of the world's Muslims insist that it is ignorance of Islam that is more likely to make youth vulnerable to a violent ideology, rather than an understanding and acceptance of the faith.

Myth #4. Terrorists are motivated by a strong belief in their cause.
Although terrorist movements often arise in response to a perceived injustice (real or imaginary), ideology is not the most important factor in an individual's decision to join. In the author's experience with interviewing terrorists, she found that they often simply want a new identity and are motivated by a feeling of humiliation rather than the group's goals. One Kashmiri founded his group because "Muslims have been overpowered by the West. Our ego hurts . . . we are not able to live up to our own standards for ourselves." Terrorism is a career and the reasons for choosing it are as varied as any other career, including market conditions, social networks, recruitment, education, and sheer individual preference. And as with any job, the motivation for staying with a cause may change with time. Terrorist groups that don't disappear quickly from attrition or mismanagement usually have a flexible ideology that attracts a wide variety of recruits and funding sources. Al Qaeda, for example, is one of the most highly disciplined terror forces, but its goals and its list of enemies changes constantly. U.S. analysts find a lack of clarity in the group's purpose, and one of its leading strategic thinkers equates its constantly shifting goals to "waging jihad like a rhinoceros... stupid and futile."

Myth #5. The typical terrorist is an alienated loner.
This is an accurate portrayal of the Christmas Underwear Bomber, but for most terrorist recruits the problem is the wrong kind of friends, rather than no friends. This is very similar to the way street gang recruiting works in the United States and Latin America: kids join a terrorist group because one of their buddies is already a member. A survey of Guantanamo detainees revealed that knowing a member of Al Qaeda is a better predictor of who would join than belief in jihad. The Saudi government competes with their convicts' ties to terrorist networks by reconnecting them with their families and communities, and even trying to find wives for them. Although some individuals join terrorist groups out of a misplaced desire to transform society, over time the social and psychological rewards of having something to belong to become prominent.

Conclusion
Terrorists want to better their own circumstances just as much as they want to improve the world.

3. ### kmguruStaff Member

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Myth #1: Most terrorists are spoiled rich kids.

Myth #2: Al-Qaeda members come from the most repressive Mideastern countries.

Myth #3. Al-Qaeda is made up of religious zealots.
The Leaders are not, but members are brain washed to believe as such

Myth #4. Terrorists are motivated by a strong belief in their cause.
Their Leaders believe in their cause and turn the innocent (like a vampire?)

Myth #5. The typical terrorist is an alienated loner.
Who said that?

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In reality, they really aren't much different than common thugs and street-gang members. There really aren't all that many actual suicide bombers - those are just the most extreme of the extremists. The rest are mostly interested in the fun of rampant mayhem.

7. ### fellowtravelerBannedBanned

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REPLY: WRONG: They are a bunch of dickheads who cant get laid and think being a martyr will get them 72 virgins. A bunch of goat fers who cant get a woman to have sex with them. That is my conclusion. ...traveler

8. ### sandyBannedBanned

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Satanic, demon-possessed lunatics.

9. ### nirakar( i ^ i )Registered Senior Member

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I don't trust the Hoover Institute.

10. ### Fraggle RockerStaff Member

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The author says that many of the high-profile leaders do indeed fit the stereotype and bin Laden certainly does. But that doesn't hold for the rank and file. The Saudi statistics say that even there, where there are a lot of rich people, only 3% of the terrorists they've captured came from a wealthy background.
The author says that most of the members are not religious zealots. Look at the Palestinian and Lebanese terrorists. Religion has almost nothing to do with their crusade; it's all about politics. Most of the anti-American terrorists don't hate us because we're not Muslim. They hate us because we support (or even install) leaders in their countries that they don't like.
The author quoted one of their own leaders, saying that their cause changes so often it's hard to keep track of it.
I don't know where you live but it's a common stereotype in the USA.
Why? I'm a Libertarian and they are often quoted in our magazines. It's a little bit too libertarian-right for me, since I'm one of the twelve libertarian-leftists in this country, but I can calibrate for that.

11. ### kmguruStaff Member

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They only capture the pawns. Without money funneled by the rich, the whole terrorism item will be a thing of the past.

That is why they want 72 virgins or that Jihad is the main purpose yet that is not religious? Whatever...

The author might not be able to keep track of anything, but the DHS does...kinda...

I live in the south, I have not heard any such gossip at the office or church or while passing by. May it is a Northern thing...

12. ### Anti-FlagPun intendedRegistered Senior Member

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I think the phrase "we're looking for some idiots with no future" comes into it somewhere.

I hear the taliban get their recruits from the suicide hotline.

13. ### nirakar( i ^ i )Registered Senior Member

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Sometimes I think I am the 13th libertarian leftest but then I realize that I have too many non-libertarian views so really I am from the left wing of Perot's Reform Party.

I have no problem with Libertarian points of view especially when they are scholarly and well argued. But that is not what I feel that the Hoover Institution is.

Too many times I feel that I have caught them slipping things that they should have known to be untrue into otherwise scholarly articles. I can't remember the examples but that is my impression so I consider them a semi-covert advocacy group as much or more than a scholarly organization as they seem to portray themselves.

Also, for my tastes the Hoover institute needs to decide whether it wants to support Libertarianism or Klepto-capitalism/corporate welfare. The two groups just are not compatible.

Even the Cato institute that I feel better about seems to me to be slightly penetrated by servants of klepto capitalists who probably fear real Libertarianism and would like some influence over the directions in which libertarianism moves.

I also don't like the Hoover Institution's pro war / pro US global hegemony stance which I also feel is incompatible with Libertarianism.

I don't see hidden pro war messages in this particular article that you posted but I keep an eye out for them in anything coming from the Hoover Institute. My other problem of Hoover Institute people representing their work as more scholarly than it really is might apply to this article.

If "Terror in the Name of God" deliberately ignores or downplays legitimate grievances against US foreign policy and or deliberately ignores the sort of sincerity comparable to what Christian fundamentalist antiabortionist feel and or portray the terrorist as more irrational than they really are then the book would be engaging in the sort of dishonesty that I have grown to expect from people associated with the Hoover Institute.

Edit: I took a look at the Amazon book review and the people who don't like the book mostly think she (the author) is to fair to Muslims and makes them to comparable to Christian, Jewish and Skinhead terrorists so maybe I am letting my prejudice against the Hoover Institute's Neocons make me too Cynical and suspicious.

The terrorist are doing the Neocons a favor by being terrorists as long as everybody misunderstands the terrorists motives. Those that want US bases all over the world to enhance US power benefit from having the Islamic crazies as an excuse for the US being everywhere and spending a fortune. The Islamic crazies in turn benefit from the US forces being everywhere and acting like bulls in a china shop.

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Hoover_Institution
Senior fellows

* Richard V. Allen, former U.S. National Security Advisor.
* Gary S. Becker, 1992 Nobel economics laureate
* Michael Boskin, professor of economics at Stanford, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George H.W. Bush
* Niall Ferguson, historian
* Morris P. Fiorina, political scientist and author
* Timothy Garton Ash, historian, author, columnist
* Victor Davis Hanson, classicist and military historian
* Eric Hanushek, economist and specialist on education policy
* Ken Jowitt, historian and author
* Kenneth L. Judd, economist
* William J. Perry, former U.S. Secretary of Defense
* Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State
* Abraham Sofaer, scholar
* Thomas Sowell, economist and author
* Shelby Steele, author
* John B. Taylor, former U.S. Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs

Last edited: Jan 11, 2010
14. ### fellowtravelerBannedBanned

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Ignorant goat fers from many places. Hey, they get 72 virgins when they die. Gee, that makes sense does it not ? What a religion. Where do all these virgins come from ? They may be in for a big surprise. They may be the virgins. All right, you are on virgin duty this week, better stock up on vasoline. ...traveler

15. ### iceauraValued Senior Member

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The arguments and examples don't wash.

They label the 25,000 detainees off of the streets in Iraq "terrorists" - and then conclude that terrorists are really just like street criminals, usually. Hello?

They use statistical arguments from the body of detainees at Gitmo, when no more than a third of them ever did any terrorizing, Islamic or otherwise.

They argue against religious zealotry explanations by labeling the religious beliefs involved unconventional and immature - well, duh.

They argue against devotion to a cause by pointing to unfamiliarity with ideology, as if a cause and an ideology were inseparable motives.

They accept the labels of "terrorist" as applied by the Saudi government and other such oppressive entities dealing with unrest.

They argue against the ascription of lonely alienation by claiming the "terrorists" tend to follow their "friends" wherever they go.

And so forth.

Now these are not the arguments in the book, they are paraphrases and such, so the book I don't know - but so far, not too impressive. The notion that partisans and revolutionaries and the like want to better their own circumstances I find neither surprising nor enlightening.

16. ### cosmictravelerBe kind to yourself always.Valued Senior Member

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Unfortunately, whatever reasons these idiots have, their treatment will be the same by the people whose task is to protect the west from terrorist attacks, which is mainly to send a Hellfire up their ass.

And then, the leaders in AQ will spin it as if these foot soldiers died for a "noble cause", for the "glory of Allah", etc. when in reality it was for any of the reasons cited in the OP, or maybe something else, like the 72 virgins in heaven, or to restore one's honour (be it a female who was raped, or a male who dishonoured himself in some other way), or some monetary reward for one's family, or whatever, but such that has nothing to do with bin Laden's cause.

Then a lot of people in the west will pick up these messages from the AQ propaganda wing and believe it.

18. ### StrawDogdisseminated primatemaiaValued Senior Member

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This excerpt seems to perfectly illustrate the utter lack of the "Western" mind to comprehend the world view, circumstance and motivations of "Muslims".

Furthermore, the "terrorist" label is attributed in a fickle manner, designating (bar the actual one man show underwear loonies) any persons or movement that opposes the US & Co`s "policies". :m:

25000 Iraqi insurgents are deemed terrorists? What for resisting the US invasion? :m:

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They aren't "one man show". There is a cradle-to-grave (no pun intended) infrastructure of people to direct these "loners".

20. ### spidergoatLiddle' Dick TaterValued Senior Member

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If you really think that, it would be appropriate to fight them using exorcisms. But of course, I'm sure you advocate real weapons rather than God's - much more effective.

21. ### Captain KremmenAll aboard, me Hearties!Valued Senior Member

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Who becomes a terrorist?
This kind of person did:

Bali Bomber with his daughter shortly before execution

What kind of person does this picture show?

Last edited: Jan 12, 2010
22. ### sandyBannedBanned

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That would work but these pukes don't even admit they have a problem. We don't get a chance to "exorcise" them. They're sneaky little demons.

23. ### spidergoatLiddle' Dick TaterValued Senior Member

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Didn't realize it requires the subject's consent.