Friday, June 13, 2008

No Wars . . . and No Religion Too?

CNN isn't known as a pro-religious, pro "right" organization.


Suicide bombings as military strategy
Expert: Attacks motivated by logic, not religion
By Henry Schuster

Thursday, June 30, 2005 Posted: 1605 GMT (0005 HKT)

Editor's Note: Henry Schuster, a senior producer in CNN's Investigative Unit and author of "Hunting Eric Rudolph," has been covering terrorism for more than a decade. Each week in "Tracking Terror," he reports on people and organizations driving international and domestic terrorism and efforts to combat those.

Women, as well as men, are suicide bombers, including Chechnya's "black widows."

For years, suicide bombings in the Middle East have caused death, destruction and chaos. In turn, they have generated news headlines and analyses that often frame the attacks, like those perpetrated by Palestinians or Iraqi insurgents, as weapons in a holy war.

But Pape, author of the provocative new book "Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism," contends those reports fuel significant misperceptions about the bombers, their motivations and specifically the role religion plays in their actions.

"There is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any one of the world's religions," he says.

Before September 11, Pape's main academic focus was the impact of air power in military conflicts. After the attacks, he shifted his attention to suicide terrorism.

Finding out what motivated these bombers and their groups proved challenging, as he discovered little in the way of comprehensive data. So Pape began building a database and then mined it for details.

After studying 315 suicide attacks from 1981-2004, the University of Chicago political science professor concludes that suicide bombers' actions stem from logical military strategies, not their religion -- and especially not Islam.

While American news-watchers may hear more about Israel and Iraq, Pape calls the Tamil Tigers the leading purveyors of suicide attacks over the last two decades -- until now. An adamantly secular group with Hindu roots, the Tamil Tigers are engaged in a struggle for independence and power with the Sri Lankan government.

So what is the suicide bomber's main rationale? It is that the attacks work, Pape found.

"What nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland."

Which means, in the case of al Qaeda and like-minded groups, getting the United States out of the Arabian Peninsula and Iraq.

How it started
Suicide terrorism -- which Pape defines as attackers killing others and themselves at the same time -- began in Lebanon after the Israelis invaded in the early 1980s. (He does not include Japanese kamikaze pilots from World War II because they operated on behalf of a government.)

Hezbollah, a new group at that time, began recruiting bombers, and almost immediately had spectacular success with devastating attacks on American and French targets.

Two-hundred forty-one American servicemen died in the truck bomb attack on a U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut in 1983, leading to an American withdrawal from Lebanon a few months later.

The Tamil Tigers picked up on Hezbollah's strategy, even training alongside them in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. The Tamil Tigers perfected the suicide belt, notes Pape, using it to kill former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.

Other groups -- including Hamas, the PKK (a Kurdish group in Turkey), Chechen rebels and, of course, al Qaeda -- followed suit, incorporating suicide terrorism in their military strategies.

According to Pape's charts, about half the suicide terrorist campaigns from 1980-2003 achieved some degree of success; the Israelis, for example, withdrew from Lebanon following bombings by Hezbollah.

And with success came a rise in suicide terrorism, even as overall terrorist incidents were declining. It became a key tactic, alongside more conventional attacks, for these groups.

The religion question
September 11, 2001, along with years of suicide attacks in Israel, prompted many to link Islam with suicide bombing -- an assertion that Pape rejects.

Having studied who the attackers were, he points out that Hezbollah's campaigns against U.S. and Israeli forces in Lebanon involved as many suicide bombers who were secular as religious. The same is true for the recent wave of attacks in Israel by Hamas and other groups.

Religion may be the prime motivation for some individual suicide bombers, Pape admits, and some groups may be religiously based, including al Qaeda. But he says that suicide terrorism is used because it works, not because it fits any particular religious ideal.

What nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland.
-- Robert Pape"Suicide terrorist groups are [not] religious cults isolated from the rest of their society," Pape writes in his book. "Rather, suicide terrorist organizations often command broad social support within the national communities from which they recruit, because they are seen as pursuing legitimate nationalist goals, especially liberation from foreign occupation."

Where religion does come into play, he argues, is when the group using suicide bombing points to these foreign occupiers and demonizes them for threatening their local religion. So the United States becomes "Crusaders and Jews" threatening the Arabian Peninsula, according to al Qaeda.

While not everyone in the counterterrorism community has embraced Pape's ideas -- particularly about the lack of a link between Islam and suicide bombing -- his book has gained legitimacy and credibility.

Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was "very impressed and very interested" after reading Pape's book and being briefed by him, according to a Lugar aide.

Suicide bombers in Iraq
What has Pape most worried at the moment is Iraq. That nation will soon overtake Sri Lanka as the site of the highest number of suicide terrorist attacks.

In hindsight -- and he emphasizes hindsight -- he says going into Iraq was bound to create the condition for more suicide bombers, citing a strong national insurgency coupled with the presence of U.S. troops who are seen as occupiers.

And that has allowed for local Iraqi support of suicide bombers, even if many of them seem to come from other countries.

But he contends that the consequences of the Iraq conflict, as it affects suicide terrorism, don't end there.

He points to the history of al Qaeda, which started with suicide attacks against Americans and their allies in other places, then launched the September 11 attacks on U.S. soil.

"The longer the suicide campaign in Iraq goes on, the more at risk we are it will come to our shores," says Pape.


If "religion" (notice these terms are never defined) were gone, would wars follow them? David Livingstone Smith, professor of philosophy at the University of New England, and an atheist, has written a book called "The Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War." In it he claims to analyze war as a philosopher and a researcher. He puts in some serious time looking at "war." As an atheist, and an ardent evolutionist (co-founder of the Institute for Cognitive Science and Evolutionary Psychology), what has his hard thinking and long hours of research led him to find?


"War can be approached from many angles. We can consider it from the standpoint of economics, politics, history, ideology, ethics, and various other disciplines. All of these are important, but there is one dimension that underpins them all: the bedrock of human nature." (p. xiii)

"Historically, there have been two broad, sharply polarized views of the relationship between war and human nature. One is that war is human nature in the raw, stripped of the facade of contrived civility behind which we normally hide. In most recent incarnations of this ancient theory, the taste for killing is said to be written in our genes. The other is that war is nothing but a perversion of an essentially kind, compassionate, and sociable human nature and that it is culture, not biology, which make us so dangerous to one another. In fact, both of these images are gross oversimplifications: both are true, and both are false. Human beings are capable of almost unimaginable violence and cruelty toward one another, and there is reason to believe that this dogged aggressiveness is grounded in our genes. But we are also enormously sociable, cooperative creatures with an elemental horror of shedding human blood, and this, too, seems to be embedded in the core of human nature. Strange as it may sound, I believe that war is caused by both of these forces working in tandem; it is a child of ambivalence, a compromise between two opposing sides of human nature." (p. xiv, emphasis original)

"What evidence was that these people [who caused wars or acts of terror or brutal slayings] were insane? There is usually none. The psychologists who painstakingly sifted through the data on the senior Nazi officer brought to justice in the Nuremberg trials found that ‘high-ranking Nazi war criminals … participated in atrocities without having diagnosable impairments that would account for their actions.’ They were ‘ as diverse a group as one might find in our government today, or in the leadership of the PTA.’ If the Nazi leaders were not deranged, what about the rank and file who did Hitler’s dirty work? What about the members of the Einsatzgruppen, the mobile killing units that committed atrocities like the mass killing at Babi Yar, where 33,000 Jews, as well as many gypsies and mental patients, were machine-gunned to death during two crisp autumn days in 1941? Do you think these men must have been psychopaths or Nazi Zealots? If so, you are wrong. There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that they were anything other than ordinary German citizens. ‘The system and rhythm of mass extermination,” observes journalist Heinz Hohne, “were directed by … worthy family men.” The men of the German Reserve Police Battalion 101, a killing squad in Poland who were involved in the shooting of at least 38,000 Jews and the deportation of a further 83,000 to the Treblinka death camp, were ordinary middle-aged family men without either military training or ideological indoctrination. ‘The truth seems to be,’ writes psychologist James Waller, ‘that the most outstanding characteristic of perpetrators of extraordinary evil lies in their normality, not their abnormality.’ Purveyors of violence, terrorists, and merchants of genocidal destruction are, more often than not, people who fit the profile that Primo Levi panted of his Nazi jailers at Auschwitz: ‘average human beings, averagely intelligent, averagely wicked … they had our faces.’ To Hannah Arendt they were ‘terribly and terrifyingly normal.’ They could be your neighbors, parents, or children. They could be you.” (p. 4)

“Wars are purposeful. They are fought for resources, lebensraum, oil, gold, food, and water or peculiarly abstract or imaginary goods like God, honor, race, democracy, and destiny” (p. 7)

“Hobbes thought that antagonism simmers beneath the surface of all human interactions, constantly threatening to erupt into lethal violence, and the problem lay in human equality.” (p.9, ).


Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris et al. would have us believe that once religion is eradicated, we would all be safe. Their teaching is dangerous, then. It draws many into a false sense of security. Thousands of young atheists will spend their time trying to make religion obsolete. But will it work?


"In broad terms the causes that have commonly compelled people to engage in terrorism are grievances borne of political oppression, cultural domination, economic exploitation, ethnic discrimination, and religious persecution. Perceived inequities in the distribution of wealth and political power have led some terrorists to attempt to overthrow democratically elected governments. To achieve a fairer society, they would replace these governments with socialist or communist regimes. Left-wing terrorist groups of the 1960s and 1970s with such aims included Germany’s Baader-Meinhof Gang, Italy’s Red Brigades, and the Weather Underground (see Weathermen) in the United States. Other terrorists have sought to fulfill some mission that they believe to be divinely inspired or millennialist (related to the end of the world). (See Millennium). The Japanese religious cult Aum Shinrikyo, responsible for a nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995 that killed 12 people, falls into this category. Still other terrorists have embraced comparatively more defined and comprehensible goals such as the re-establishment of a national homeland (for example, Basque separatists in Spain) or the unification of a divided nation (Irish nationalists in Northern Ireland)."


There's no reason to think that it will. The problem, a sinful nature, will still remain. War, violence, terror, and suicide bombings would still remain. Thoese with the ethical grounding to speak out against it, ex hypothesi, wouldn't. Atheists are focusing their energies on the wrong place. Too bad that by their rejection of the Savior, their un-atoned sinful ways, they are opting to spend an eternity at war with each other and with God. The peace the atheist strives for is a false peace. It leads to everlasting war. They will not live in the land where the sword has been beaten into a plowshare but in the land where teeth gnash 24/7. Such is the irony of the Godless life . . .

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