Thursday 14 July 2005

The Myth of the Suicide Bomber

by "impatient"

Liberty Forum poster "impatient" presented compelling arguments on this thread that the suicide bomber is a myth and cannot exist in reality. "Impatient" refuted professor Robert Pape's research on the subject. I have only weaved his comments together and added section headings, an epilogue and a few comments between square brackets.

Introduction (Cheap trick alert!)

I set aside my impatience to read this article [The Logic of Suicide Terrorism - It’s the occupation, not the fundamentalism] start to finish. Beginning with the title we are told that there is logic behind suicide bombings. But what the title gives the subtitle takes away by giving us only two things to consider: occupation or fundamentalism, while the logic is assumed and thereby substantiated.

The professor amplifies our vague notions of what we have come to know as suicide bombers by describing the tonnage of materials he has collected for his book. We do not ask such an assiduous researcher how he came by all the material; quite obviously some foreign agency has an archive they happily made available to him.

After reading the article the main idea that we come away with is that suicide bombers are real, very real indeed. Though we were promised a revelation of the logic, these questions remain:

If the purpose of a suicide-terrorist attack is not to die, but to kill and to inflict the maximum number of casualties on the target society, why do they die?

If the purpose of the suicide bomber is to end the occupation of his country, why is the suicide tactic not as old as war and territorial occupation itself?

If the purpose of the suicide bomber is to end the occupation of his country and to inflict the maximum number of casualties on the target society why are the targets so disparate and scattered, without a clear relation to the occupation?

Why are suicide bombings publicized before any proof is brought by investigation?

For me these questions underline the illogical nature of suicide bombings. I believe to find logic you have to see the suicide bomber as a fabrication of the Zionists for their own purposes:

To demonize Islam

To make Muslims look stupid, fanatical, and murderous.

To create worldwide terrorism that they can claim has nothing to do with Israel, but everything to do with Islam.

To attack those who think themselves to be allies, but are not, e.g. America, Spain, Britain.

To shift the blame for any bombing Zionists perpetrate onto the Muslims, simply by calling it a suicide bombing.

To control public opinion in favor of Israel as the most grieved victim of terrorism.

To justify apartheid in Israel.

To justify war in the Middle East with the spoils of war accruing to themselves, while the costs are borne by their “allies”.

So it's not the fundamentalism, it's not the occupation, it's not suicide, it's not a guerilla tactic, it's the timeless strategy of the Jews working to advantage themselves on their journey toward dominion.

Israel Uses Myth as Cover to Attack "Allies"

[Israel uses the suicide bomber myth as a cover] to attack those who think themselves to be allies, but are not, e.g. America, Spain, Britain.

In 1983 Israel invaded and occupied Lebanon. The US and France had peacekeeping forces in place near the Beirut airport. The US had a naval presence off the coast. Early one Sunday morning, simultaneously, both the French and American Marine barracks were bombed. The story was that a truck had come at high speed through a gate and exploded, killing hundreds of Marines. As the two bombings were simultaneous one wonders why so little is said about the French barracks especially if we are to think there were simultaneous “truck bombs”; it would have been a neat trick.

Suicide was not mentioned in the original reports, in 1983, but in the twentieth anniversary reports the bombing of the US Marine barracks was said to have been done by a “suicide bomber”, and elsewhere the words “terrorist suicide bombing” were used. So by 2003 a simple bombing had become a suicide bombing. I think that change is significant.

Using Professor Pape’s logic of suicide terrorism applied to the situation in Lebanon we should wonder why the occupying Israeli force was not targeted rather than the French and Americans who were on the periphery as peacekeepers. Just because a target is handy does not make it strategically worthwhile. If the planning was so tight that simultaneous truck bombs could hit these two marginal targets, why not use that expertise and tonnage to hit the one perfect target?

The Israelis had prior knowledge of a truck being outfitted to carry a very large bomb but did not warn the Americans.(déjà vu) This was reported by Mossad operative, Victor Ostrovsky in his book By Way of Deception. The odd thing about this story is not that the Israelis neglected to warn the Americans, but that they could even imagine that the Americans would be the target rather than themselves. Why would they think that? The Israelis use the deception of admitting some knowledge as a way of deflecting suspicion away from themselves as perpetrators. In this case the admission of prior knowledge reveals more than disregard, it reveals an inconsistency that makes me believe they were the bombers.

The Fairy Tale Blocks Serious Questions

The moment people stop believing in the suicide bomber fairy tale, the sooner they'll start to ask some serious questions.

Remember how we all used to believe the holocaust tales? There are all those pictures, all that testimony, all those books written, all those memorials built. It is in textbooks and encyclopedias. It is taught in school.

Can't we handle the possiblity that the "Islamic fundamentalist, suicide bomber" may also be a lie? We should look at everything with the same skepticism we developed in dealing with the holocaust myth, especially those things that come from the same source.

Europe is Israel's Real Target, Islam Not the Enemy

It is the modus operandi of the Jews to stand aside while their enemies fight one another. It is well known that the Jews consider Muslims their enemy, but most white people in the world do not see themselves as the enemy of the Jews, when in fact they are. Why are we in Iraq? Is that really our battle?

A comparison can be made of WW I and II in which Europe was invited to self-destruct. Where were the Jews in those fights that benefited them beyond all others? Why is it that the Jewish banking interests fund both sides of a conflict? They come out of these terrible wars richer and more powerful while the power of the white world was diminished.

After the Russian Revolution and WW I, Jewish/Communism was triumphant and ready to conquer Europe. All of Europe had been weakened by WW I. The threat of Communism called for an alliance of Europe against the onslaught. It was not to be because Jewish influence on Churchill and Roosevelt made impossible the only sensible alliance of all Europe against Stalin.

Now the white world is being told that our enemy is Islam. Watch out.

The Intifada is Real and Justified, Not to Confuse with the Suicide Bomber Fable

Of course the Palestinian resistance is real and thoroughly justified. It is the fabricated "suicide bomber" that I seek to discredit. The myth is used to make the Palestinians and Muslims look stupid and effete. It is also the method by which they are set up as patsies for every act of terrorism Israel chooses. The forty foot security wall replete with guard towers was justified by the myth of the “suicide bomber”. Don’t confuse this cheap fable with the true courage of real people.

Treason and the Myth

[Mariner asked:] "Since the U.S. Intel people known [sic] use this - IF the Israeli's masterminded the bombing of the Marine Barracks - they know and are engaged in Treason by not making it known."

A fine example of such treason is the case of the USS Liberty. Knowledge went beyond Intelligence all the way to LBJ who gave the order for the rescuers to turn back.

It is Very Hard and Rare to Overcome Survival Instinct and Commit Suicide

[MrSpock:] The suicide bomber as a fabrication of the Zionists? How? Who dies?

Muslims, and sacrificial others. Part of what makes the "suicide bomber" preposterous is that no important Jewish target has ever been hit.

Suicide is absolutely unnatural; it is an aberration in creatures whose instinct is to survive. It is not easy to override that instinct. It is so contrary to instinct that stories of suicide for a cause are few and always make us marvel: the samurai who falls on his sword as penance for a loss in battle, the kamikaze pilot who knows he goes to certain death, the Roman who prefers death by his own hand to the humiliation of being killed by his enemies. There have been Christian and Buddhist martyrs who use suicide as a demonstration of belief and/or protest. All these are distinct from the unwilling martyrdom of dying in conflict.

The fact that suicide for a cause is so exceptional in our history is one thing that makes me question the burgeoning phenomenon of the “Muslim suicide bomber”. The Japanese Kamikaze pilot is understandable as a cultural phenomenon with roots in the concept of the samurai, but again, this is so exceptional that we look in awe on those whose sense of duty is so strong. Can we find a similar antecedent for this peculiar type of martyrdom among Muslims in these last fourteen centuries, keeping in mind the difference between dying in battle and an intentional suicide? I don't think so.

Are there any other instances of intentional martyrdom in all our history that have been met with such cruel derision and mockery as the “Muslim suicide bomber” of our time? Doesn’t such a reaction by itself make this case extraordinary?

That suicide for a cause is anti-instinctual, exceedingly rare, and when found, traceable to its cultural antecedents, makes me very skeptical that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of such cases would spring forth quite suddenly in a people, no matter what the provocation.

Professor Pape tries to avoid the question of religion in his article because he wants us to think that the occupation of territory in the Middle East is sufficient to cause this phenomenon. It cannot be. And Gabor would like to make the case for Islam as the sufficient cause of suicide bombing, and that cannot be either, for many of those purported to be suicides are not religious.

As for the Palestinian family whose son or daughter is said to have been a suicide bomber, are they not very much like families everywhere whose children die in battle? They desperately want to see that the death meant something, had some good in it. That is not hard to understand. Also familiar to all are the leaders who praise the dead, speaking of their heroism. It keeps up morale.

Neither of us has access to evidence for or against suicide bombings and cannot hope to prove anything one way or the other. What I have tried to do is look at it historically, psychologically, and rationally. I stand by my assertion that the “Muslim suicide bomber” is a myth. As you said about the Muslims, “They don't deny the suicide bombers, they are trying to explain it.” I am trying to explain it too, it needs a lot of explaining.

The Vulgar 72 Virgin Myth

[Judson:]...They desperately want to see that the death meant something, had some good in it. That is not hard to understand

How many times have you heard an American bring up the idea that suicide bombers are motivated by the thought of 72 virgins waiting for them in heaven? What audacious and gratutitous cruelty, how heartless, how vulgar. Is that what they would like to say to the parents of a son or daughter who has been killed in the struggle against the Zionists? And how much more horrible is it to think that they were not suicides but homicides? They should keep their mouths shut.

The Suicide Bomber Never Really Hurts the Enemy

[grizzle:] no important Jewish target has ever been hit. Kind of like the IRA isn't gunning for the queen and family.

Not quite. Take the example that is in this morning’s news:

A suicide bomber blew himself up among a group of teens near a shopping mall in the seaside city of Netanya on Tuesday, killing himself and two others in the second such attack since a truce was declared five months ago. ...The blast went off shortly before 7 p.m. near the Sharon Mall in Netanya. Police said a preliminary investigation indicated the bomber blew himself up among a group of teenagers crossing a busy intersection.

Unidentified teenagers crossing a street is not an important Jewish target. But this is typical for bombings in Israel. The victims are often not even Israelis, let alone important Israelis. Reports of victims and damage are deliberately vague, merely giving an impression, not facts or pictures. Asian and South American workers, other Palestinians, and what seems to be a favorite target - Russian immigrants are the usual victims.

After thinking carefully about suicide as a tactic and putting yourself in the place of a person contemplating this ultimate sacrifice – how would you choose a target to make your death worthwhile - useful to force an end to the occupation of your country? Would you blow yourself up in a shopping mall toy store, the entrance to a super market, a bus stop, near a hitchhiking post, in a restaurant frequented by foreigners, outside a shopping mall? It may not be possible to get through the security to hit the Knesset while in session, but surely you could come up with something better than a mall toy store.

The pathetic nature of the targets reinforces the idea that Muslims are stupid. But for me it reinforces the doubt that Muslims are suicide bombers.

The Suicide Hijacker--Similar Myth

[grizzle:]Palestinian vs Israeli is not 9/11 or 7/7. I doubt Muslims were involved in the latter two, unless they were the non-religious CIA shill type.

I do not believe that Muslims were involved in 9/11, but wasn't the notion of the suicide bomber the direct antecedent of the suicide hijacker? I believe there were no hijackers involved in 9/11. But for all those who buy the hijacker scenario the preparation they have been given to believe that Muslims have no qualms about suicide leads directly to the conclusion that Muslims must be the culprits.

Palestinian vs. Israeli is not 9/11, 7/7, 3/11, USS Cole, Nairobi, Kenya and Tanzania embassy bombings, the shoebomber, Beslan school, suicide bombings in Iraq, etc. If they are not Palestinian vs. Israeli, perhaps the Israeli part of the equation is what should be examined. The Israelis invented and perpetuate this myth, complete with the bombed-out bus tour of Europe and the US. It is not hard for them to come up with these tales, just think for a moment about the absolutely Byzantine concoctions provided by very ordinary Jews as they manufacture their holocaust tales.

Muslims Did Not Use Suicide as a Method in Previous Wars

[MrSpock:] So the person believes that he won't really die, only go "to another place". Isn't that what all religion is all about? Of course it is. Muslims just happened to "activate" this belief in a larger than average percentage.

Islam has been around for 1400 years. Is suicide a religio-cultural tradition? Looking only at history in the last 150 years can you point to suicide as a method of fighting the enemy? The French experience with Muslim terrorists in Algeria had its bombers, but no suicide bombers. The English experience in fighting the Arabs in 1918 in Iraq was fierce, but no suicide bombers. Israel has been fighting the Palestinians since 1948, where are the Muslim suicide bombers in those years between 1948 and 1985? If it were a religious predilection it would not have made a sudden appearance in Israel within the last twenty years. Islam is a worldwide religion, fighting battles in places far from the Palestinian conflict – before 1985 where were the Muslim suicide bombers outside of Israel?

In addition, it is the case that many of the so-called suicide terrorists are not religious. How can a religion induce a person to commit suicide with the promise of honor in heaven if that person is not a believer?

You agreed with my statement “Suicide is absolutely unnatural; it is an aberration in creatures whose instinct is to survive. It is not easy to override that instinct.. But just to add another dimension to our survival instinct, think of what you know about mothers. Is it not the case that protection of her young is primary? It is not difficult for us to imagine a mother who sacrifices herself for her child, we can understand that. But can we imagine a mother of two small children ready to commit suicide for a cause? A mother would not have the inducement of “72 virgins waiting on the other side” as Muslim haters mockingly cite.

Getting involved in a case by case dispute over hundreds, possibly thousands of these reports is not possible for us. I am just not willing to accept at face value the reports of suicide bombers coming out of the Middle East for all the reasons I have discussed. I do not have to present an alternative explanation for every death that has been attributed to a suicide bomber to cast doubt on the stories. It would be akin to disputing the six million figure for the holocaust by examining each of the six million. The story can be undercut in other ways. I have tried to do that.

Embarrassing Reality Check

Robert Pape
Ph.D., Chicago, 1988
Major Areas of Interest:
Selected Publications:
- The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism" in APSR (2003);
- Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War;
- "Explaining Costly International Moral Action: Britain's Sixty-Year Campaign against the Atlantic Slave Trade" (with Chaim Kaufmann) in International Organization (1999).

Robert A. Pape is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago specializing in international security affairs. His publications include Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War (Cornell 1996), "Why Economic Sanctions Do Not Work," International Security (1997), "The Determinants of International Moral Action," International Organization (1999). His commentary on international security policy has appeared in The New York Times, New Republic, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, and Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, as well as on Nightline, ABC News with Peter Jennings, and National Public Radio. Before coming to Chicago in 1999, he taught international relations at Dartmouth College for five years and air power strategy for the USAF's School of Advanced Airpower Studies for three years. He received his Ph. D. from the University of Chicago in 1988 and graduated summa cum laude and Phi Betta Kappa from the University of Pittsburgh in 1982. His current work focuses on the effect of technological change on conflict and cooperation among major powers and the theory and practice of suicide terrorism.

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