2013-04-26

Terrorism Facts, #2: Motivations and Goals,1980 to 2001 . . .

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by Neil Godfrey

Robert Pape
Robert Pape

What were terrorists doing before they discovered the USA, UK, Europe, Bali?

These tables are for a particular type of terrorist attack, the suicide bombing, from 1980 to 2001, from Robert Pape’s article, “The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism”, American Political Science Review, Vol. 97, No. 3, 2003 (pp. 343-361). The same tables no doubt appear in his book Dying to Win but I don’t have my copy of that with me. Screen Shot 2013-04-25 at 11.08.45 AM

Screen Shot 2013-04-25 at 11.09.01 AM

Since 2001 . . .

Given this data up to 2001, the following quotations from terrorists themselves since then may be of relevance. They are taken from Glenn Greenwald’s latest article:

Those caveats to the side, the reports about what motivated the Boston suspects are entirely unsurprising and, by now, quite familiar:

“The two suspects in the Boston bombing that killed three and injured more than 260 were motivated by the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, officials told the Washington Post.”Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, ‘the 19-year-old suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, has told interrogators that the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan motivated him and his brother to carry out the attack,’ the Post writes, citing ‘US officials familiar with the interviews.'”

In the last several years, there have been four other serious attempted or successful attacks on US soil by Muslims, and in every case, they emphatically all say the same thing: that they were motivated by the continuous, horrific violence brought by the US and its allies to the Muslim world – violence which routinely kills and oppresses innocent men, women and children:

Attempted “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab upon pleading guilty:

“I had an agreement with at least one person to attack the United States in retaliation for US support of Israel and in retaliation of the killing of innocent and civilian Muslim populations in Palestine, especially in the blockade of Gaza, and in retaliation for the killing of innocent and civilian Muslim populations in Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan and beyond, most of them women, children, and noncombatants.”

Attempted Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, the first Pakistani-American involved in such a plot, upon pleading guilty:

“If the United States does not get out of Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries controlled by Muslims, he said, ‘we will be attacking US’, adding that Americans ‘only care about their people, but they don’t care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die’ . . . .”As soon as he was taken into custody May 3 at John F. Kennedy International Airport, onboard a flight to Dubai, the Pakistani-born Shahzad told agents that he was motivated by opposition to US policy in the Muslim world, officials said.”

When he was asked by the federal judge presiding over his case how he could possibly have been willing to detonate bombs that would kill innocent children, he replied:

“Well, the drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq, they don’t see children, they don’t see anybody. They kill women, children, they kill everybody. It’s a war, and in war, they kill people. They’re killing all Muslims. . . .”I am part of the answer to the US terrorizing the Muslim nations and the Muslim people. And, on behalf of that, I’m avenging the attack. Living in the United States, Americans only care about their own people, but they don’t care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die.”

Emails and other communications obtained by the US document how Shahzad transformed from law-abiding, middle-class naturalized American into someone who felt compelled to engage in violence as a result of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, drone attacks, Israeli violence against Palestinians and Muslims generally, Guantanamo and torture, at one point asking a friend: “Can you tell me a way to save the oppressed? And a way to fight back when rockets are fired at us and Muslim blood flows?”

Attempted NYC subway bomber Najibullah Zazi, the first Afghan-American involved in such a plot, upon pleading guilty:

“Your Honor, during the spring and summer of 2008, I conspired with others to travel to Afghanistan to join the Taliban and fight against the U.S. military and its allies. . . . During the training, Al Qaeda leaders asked us to return to the United States and conduct martyrdom operation. We agreed to this plan. I did so because of my feelings about what the United States was doing in Afghanistan.”

Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan:

“Part of his disenchantment was his deep and public opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a stance shared by some medical colleagues but shaped for him by a growing religious fervor. The strands of religion and antiwar sentiment seemed to weave together in a PowerPoint presentation he made at Walter Reed in June 2007. . . . For a master’s program in public health, Major Hasan gave another presentation to his environmental health class titled ‘Why The War on Terror is a War on Islam.'”

Meanwhile, the American-Yemeni preacher accused (with no due process) of inspiring both Abdulmutallab and Hasan – Anwar al-Awalaki – was once considered such a moderate American Muslim imam that the Pentagon included him in post-9/11 events and the Washington Post invited him to write a column on Islam. But, by all accounts, he became increasingly radicalized in anti-American sentiment by the attack on Iraq and continuous killing of innocent Muslims by the US, including in Yemen.

And, of course, Osama bin Laden, when justifying violence against Americans, cited US military bases in Saudi Arabia, US support for Israeli aggression against its neighbors, and the 1990s US sanctions regime that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, while Iranians who took over the US embassy in 1979 cited decades of brutal tyranny from the US-implanted-and-enabled Shah.

And no, for the sake of those who equate motive for a crime with justification or excuse for a crime, none of this is justification or excuse. But we have to be stupid if we try to fight crime without taking into account its root causes.

14 Comments

  • 2013-04-26 08:49:44 UTC - 08:49 | Permalink

    More Jihadi spin from a fake atheist who is really a lying Jihadi scumbag.

    • RoHa
      2013-04-26 10:49:07 UTC - 10:49 | Permalink

      Noel, you have been outed! You are really an Al Qaa’ida Muslim terrorist. Did you know that?

  • RoHa
    2013-04-26 10:46:29 UTC - 10:46 | Permalink

    Being older and grumpier than most, I can recall half of the twentieth century, so when I hear or see the word “terrorist”, the first thing I think of is the Mau Mau. Then I think of EOKA, the Viet Cong, the FNL, the MNLA and the IRA. All these were (justifiably) branded terrorists at one time or another. Then I get historical (i.e., before I was old enough to read the newspapers) and think of the Stern Gang and Palmach.

    These form my basic concept of terrorism, and of these only the FNL has an Islamic connection.

    • proudfootz
      2013-04-27 01:01:34 UTC - 01:01 | Permalink

      Yes, Israel was founded by terrorists and honored several terrorists by making them Prime Ministers – so I guess we are to conclude that Judaism leads to terrorism just like Islam and Christianity does.

      • Pierrot
        2013-05-01 01:58:00 UTC - 01:58 | Permalink

        I kind of agree with your last sentence except that I might add the words “freedom fighters or” before your word “terrorism.”

        Clearly you’re no fan of Israel. Whence the animus? For every argument you make against Israel, the same or a similar argument can be argued against its enemies. There are territorial conflicts all over the globe which we hardly concern ourselves with.

        The founders of Australia and the USA were likely seen as terrorists by the aboriginal peoples they chased off the land and exterminated. Likely some of those terrorists were chosen to lead these countries.

        That everyone does it doesn’t guide us in how to pick a side. That’s the defect of my approach.

  • 2013-04-26 23:44:53 UTC - 23:44 | Permalink

    “And no, for the sake of those who equate motive for a crime with justification or excuse for a crime, none of this is justification or excuse. But we have to be stupid if we try to fight crime without taking into account its root causes.”

    Are saying these “root causes” are secular?

    • 2013-04-27 00:32:33 UTC - 00:32 | Permalink

      I’m saying we need to investigate the root causes and accept the evidence as we do for any criminal activity. Many of the public don’t need to do that. They even become outraged when someone points to research that demonstrates the nature of the evidence. Of course, there is nothing in this post that would give anyone the faintest hint as to what the motives of suicide bombing carried out by people of various religions and no religion could possibly be.

      • 2013-04-27 00:54:59 UTC - 00:54 | Permalink

        Let’s take your first example, Neil.

        ”Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, ‘the 19-year-old suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, has told interrogators that the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan motivated him and his brother to carry out the attack,’ the Post writes, citing ‘US officials familiar with the interviews.’”

        The Boston bombers were from Chechnya, a country, which IIRC, was occupied by Russia not America, and, while I am no expert in geography, does not have within its borders either Iraq nor Afghanistan. What do these Muslim boys have in common with Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan? A love for tournament chess? A subscription to “Guns and Gardens?

        Glenn Greenwald does just as fine as job making the case for the other side with his first example when he quotes another Muslim terrorist:

        ” It’s a war, and in war, they kill people. They’re killing all Muslims”

        A Muslim terrorist admits he was deliberately killing innocent children because a Muslim in a different country than the the one he lives in was suffered some ill. And Glenn Greenwald, with this highlighted example, would have us believe that Islamic terrorism is about occupation, not religion?!?

        A Muslim terrorist admits he was deliberately killing innocent children in his country because a Muslim in a different country than the the one he lives in was suffered some ill. And Glenn Greenwald, with this highlighted example, would have us believe that Islamic terrorism is about occupation, not religion?

        Is this really how one makes the case that the Boston bombers were not motivated by Islam?

        • 2013-04-27 09:38:07 UTC - 09:38 | Permalink

          Good questions. These facts do appear confusing so it’s worth digging into what’s going on here. Find out what the terrorists themselves are saying and what scholarly research demonstrates.

          But at the same time it is not good logic to assume that “Islam” is the motivating factor (as opposed to the legitimization) when

          — all the reputable polling demonstrates that Islam does not prompt most of its adherents to sympathize with terrorism;

          — the terrorists are just as willing to kill fellow Muslims.

          The answer is found in the clear explanations of the terrorists and terrorist supporters and organizers themselves. They DO feel a personal identity with all Muslim nations. Just look at the way many fundamentalist Christians identify with Zionist Jews of Israel.

          They see them as extended family. When the see their brother-nations being threatened, occupied, ruled by oppressive dictatorships kept in power by Western interests, they do identity with the humiliation and anger of those dominated. Many Europeans and Americans likewise feel a personal indignation over the treatment of Palestinians — not because of any religious identity but because of a common humanity, hence they see it as a human justice cause — and have joined the International Solidarity Movement to travel to the West Bank and help Palestinians peacefully cope with the daily obstacles and humiliation of occupation. Some have been killed by the IDF for their efforts.

          I don’t understand why some people do not seem able to accept that people can feel an identity with the sufferings of another people of a different nationality, race, religion, geography. I certainly do. There are some news stories of what is happening to people in a place I’ve never visited and speaking a language I couldn’t understand that make me weep with pain. Many others do, too, and it’s what prompts activist movements to try to right wrongs in some way. Catholics who join such movements say they are joining because it is God’s will (and they pray a lot) and nonreligious join because they say it is just “the right thing to do”. They all have their different ways of legitimizing what they do — but it is that same common human sense of identity that is behind it all.

          • Bob Moore
            2013-04-28 11:41:10 UTC - 11:41 | Permalink

            Neil, you suggest that you sometimes weep with pain at the sufferings of certain others, feeling the common human sense of identity. Honestly, I, for joy, weep too that there are folks like you in this world. I have sensed your empathy even in things like your non-belittling responses to bumbling comments I have posted here.

            I’m sure you don’t want to be venerated, but it makes me want to know more about someone like yourself; a voracious reader who skillfully shares what he’s learned, with a dignity in the same league with one like, say, Mark Goodacre—reasonable, gentle, mannerly, polite.

            Your tiny profile photo is just not enough for me since your are someone that holds such a high spot in my daily learning routine (that includes several blog posts with yours being first). For crazy admirers like me, you need a big recent photo. What does your place of abode look like? What’s it like to be in your life from day to day? Who do you have for company? What are your two sons doing? Are you single? How has your relation been with others in your extended family who may still be theists? (in my case, I try not to bring up the discussion with my mother, but I do discuss such things with my brothers).

            You’re a compassionate man like I hope to be considered regarding myself. What does that voice on the other end really look like? What more are you really like?

            • 2013-04-29 07:23:23 UTC - 07:23 | Permalink

              I like to know about others whose works I am reading, too. That’s why I posted as much as I did about my background in the “About Vridar” section. I think anyone who has suffered readily identifies with others who suffer; maybe its a form of vicarious self-pity, but even so, it’s not always a bad thing in the bigger scheme. I think it’s also important to move beyond identifying ourselves with our countries and to see ourselves as much more, as one with all humanity. I respect those who give up their passports to become citizens of the world. (I notice that several who are outright Islamophobes also express a firm belief that other nations should submit to the domination of their white nations and if those Asian or other countries resist it is because of some badness in them. I had thought that sort of imperialist outlook was dying.)

              I’m always on the move with my work, following the contracts and opportunities as they open up, so no fixed abode. It’s not hard for me to find work given my specialist (and high demand) skills and experiences. In the last several years I have lived with my partner in Toowoomba, Queensland; Perth, Western Australia; Singapore; Melbourne, Victoria; and now Darwin, N.T. I’ve had many advantages in studies, experiences, opportunities, and I simply enjoy sharing many of them.

  • anon
    2013-04-27 15:32:47 UTC - 15:32 | Permalink

    “I don’t understand why some people do not seem able to accept that people can feel an identity with the sufferings of another people ”

    People who are trapped in an “us. vs them” construct—need to show that we/us are not like “them”—therefore, if “they” feel sympathy then we/us don’t. The fact that this bombing happened in Boston—an area associated with Irish-Americans is ironic—-because some Irish-Americans (in Boston and New York) supported the IRA —and those terrorists used bombs targeting civilians. (Some of the support was financial—but apparently arms may also have been supplied).

    Also—the premise that it is anger at injustice that prompts people (Human Beings) to action makes the “them” too much like “us”. It also blurs the clear lines between “good” and “bad”. In a comic-book world—the good and bad are clearly different. In the real world hardly anything is black/white. To some people, navigating a world that is not black/white can be scary.

    That is also why the idea of “blowback” is scary. The premise that those who suffer injustice will retaliate—makes America(or xyz) the “bad guy”—and this is uncomfortable to those who stubbornly believe that in the us vs them construct—the “us” is always the good guy.

    Human beings are complex and reducing human motivations and constructs into a comic-book like simplicity does us/humanity a disservice. We have the intellectual and emotional capacity to embrace and navigate a more nuanced, complex, confusing world.

  • Pierrot
    2013-05-01 01:17:48 UTC - 01:17 | Permalink

    How to explain why in a conflict we side with one group of humans over another, religion, nationalism, compassion, justice, malice, terrorism, psycho-social economic factors? Hard in part because these explanatory factors are contradictory. We slide from one explanation modality to another.

    So one person’s Freedom Fighter is another person’s Terrorist is another persons “Loser.” Anyone who launches a terrorist attack inside the USA is threatening/endangering me and mine. No matter how arguably just his cause, I can’t cheer him on no more than I can cheer on a poor person who mugs, robs and will maybe rape or kill me too.

  • Pingback: Terrorism Facts #3: Is Occupation or Religion to Best Predictor? | Vridar

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