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Counter-Terrorism: Something For Someone Else To Die For
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November 30, 2011: In the last decade, police and military organizations battling Islamic terrorism have had the opportunity to interrogate thousands of terrorists, including many who had, or eventually did, renounce the use of Islamic terrorism. Surprisingly, most of these terrorists were not in it primarily because of religion. The main incentive was trying to deal with sexual, financial, career or relationship frustration. Islam has always promised to solve all these problems via martyrdom. After you die in that state of Islamic grace, you are immediately transported to an afterlife where all your desires are taken care of. If you are willing to accept this on faith alone, and feel that this life is wanting, you are good to go.

Better educated Moslems don't believe this martyr solution solves anything, other than to remove one more frustrated individual from the scene. In fact, most of the martyrs are the least educated, and often mentally unbalanced, members of the terrorist organizations. Worse, Islamic terrorists are quick to attack fellow Moslems who oppose them, which accounts for the lack of opposition to these extremists by many Moslems. The Islamic terrorist groups are usually small, with a few dozen followers recruited and led by a few charismatic individuals. Larger groups, like al Qaeda or the Taliban are collections of these smaller terror cells. Discipline is not a major element in these organizations. Preaching, exhortations, threats and more tangible rewards (cash, drugs, sex) keep everyone in line.

While most Islamic terrorists may be frustrated and angry, they are not suicidal. Most of the suicide bombers are selected from among those easiest to persuade to carry out a suicide mission, yet not so addled that they can't perform the simple tasks required. Islamic terror groups that have carried out a lot of suicide attacks tend to have a few people who are very good at handling the borderline personalities of those willing to be bombers.

Israeli terrorism investigators concluded that the chief characteristic of suicide bombers was usually not fanaticism, but deference to authority and public opinion. This explains the Palestinian media campaign to glamorize suicide bombers. Over a decade of this propaganda provides a large supply of potential suicide bombers, and even assists them in contacting terrorist groups to sign up. For terrorists unable to find these impressionable volunteers (who are easy to train and control), there is another pool of recruits. These are the deranged and impulsive. This is why you will occasionally hear about dead suicide bombers who were mental patients, or widows of terrorists. The widows are told, quite accurately, that they faced a dim future and that becoming a martyr for the cause was a good move. In these cases, the cash paid (by terrorist organizations) to the families of suicide bombers helped with the recruiting.

Terrorists consider suicide bombing a very effective weapon. But to make it work they need volunteers who are reliable and able to learn the techniques of getting to the target undetected, and then actually setting off the bomb. You don't hear much about it, but many (in some situations, over a third of) suicide bombers refuse to go through with it. Thus the need for many "handlers" to work closely with the suicide bomber until the final moment. If a suicide bombing campaigns goes on for a while, only killing Moslem civilians, there will be a shortage of competent volunteers. All those dead Moslem civilians gives the attacks a bad reputation. That means fewer successful suicide bombing missions, and more captured (or surrendered) bombers, which results in more suicide bombing cells (and their hard to replace management and technical personnel) are destroyed.

Counter-terrorism organizations have found that propaganda can work both ways. Many of the terrorist cell leaders and technicians (who rarely even consider martyrdom for themselves) are corrupt. These cells constantly lose recruits who find out about this corruption (theft, extortion, lying) and leave. But counter-terror organizations have found that some discreet revelations about this corruption results in more desertions from terrorist groups. This internal corruption is the dirty little secret of Islamic terrorism and the terrorist leaders go to great lengths to keep this stuff out of circulation (murder and lots of denials being the chief tools for this.)

Another truism is that many young men (it's almost always young men) will quit terrorism, or not join in the first place, if they have better economic prospects. The lack of jobs is generally the result of local and regional corruption and a culture that discourages entrepreneurs and education. This is very common in the Islamic world, where religious education is praised above all, and economic success by individuals is suspect. Moslem migrants to the west, especially the U.S., quickly seek useful (you can easily get a good job) education for their kids, and to start their own businesses. But in the meantime there are over a billion Moslems in the world, most of them living in poor, corrupt societies that breed angry, and often suicidal, young men.

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