I was recently rereading the January '06 issue of Scientific American
and came across an article by Michael Shermer, the publisher of Skeptic
. The issue is suicide bombings, and the argument is one of semantics, that "suicide bombings" should more accurately be described as "murdercide", or "suicide by murder".
Police have an expression for people who put themselves into circumstances that force officers to shoot them: "suicide by cop." Following this lingo, suicide bombers commit "suicide by murder," so I propose we call such acts "murdercide": the killing of a human or humans with malice aforethought by means of self-murder Conclusions
...[S]suicide has drawn the attention of scientists, who understand it to be the product of two conditions quite unrelated to murdercide: ineffectiveness and disconnectedness. According to Florida State University psychologist Thomas Joiner, ..."People desire death when two fundamental needs are frustrated to the point of extinction; namely, the need to belong with or connect to others, and the need to feel effective with or to influence others."
...The belief that suicide bombers are poor, uneducated, disaffected or disturbed is contradicted by science. Marc Sageman, a forensic psychiatrist at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, found in a study of 400 Al Qaeda members that three quarters of his sample came from the upper of middle class..."The vast majority-90 percent-came from caring, intact families. Sixty-three percent had gone to college, as compared with the 5-6 percent that's usual for the third world...Far from having no family or job responsibilities, 73 percent were married and the vast majority had children...Three quarters were professionals or semiprofessionals. They are engineers, architects and civil engineers, mostly scientists...and quite surprisingly very few had any background in religion."
Joiner postulates that a necessary condition for suicide is habituation to the fear about the pain involved in the act. How do terrorist organizations infuse this condition in their recruits? One way is through psychological reinforcement...[T]he celebration and commemoration of suicide bombings that began in the 1980s changed a culture into on that idolizes martyrdom and its hero. Today murderciders appear in posters like star athletes.
One method to attenuate murdercide, then, is to target dangerous groups that influence individuals, such as Al Qaeda. Another method, says Princeton University economist Alan B. Krueger, is to increase the civil liberties of the countries that breed terrorist groups. In an analysis of State Department data on terrorism, Krueger discovered that "countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which have spawned relatively many terrorists, are economically well off yet lacking in civil liberties. Poor countries with a tradition of protecting civil liberties are unlikely to spawn suicide terrorists. Evidently, the freedom to assemble and protest peacefully without interference from the government goes a long way to providing an alternative to terrorism."
Let freedom ring.
A few things come to mind after reading this article. First, I support the decision to refer to these terrorists as murderciders. It may be a cumbersome word, but what they do is first and foremost, murder. The scientific backing is also an argument for semantics.
Also, after first reading it, I was struck by the (seemingly) glaring contradiction which is Iraq. When freedom was introduced in Iraq by the collation's' overthrow of the dictator, why did the number of murdercides increase (and continue)? Before the toppling of Saddam, although Iraq was poor nation, it had virtually no civil liberties. So, why were there no suicide bombings against the Iraqi dictatorship? This was my first thought, but it is a neglectful notion. It neglects one vital difference between the two Iraqs; Saddam. Prior to the overthrow of the tyrant, a suicide bomber would not
be revered and admired by fellow citizens. Rather, his family would be tortured and killed. This is a strong disincentive to potential murderciders.
Adding to the number of murdercides in Iraq are the invasion of terrorists from surrounding countries. Do Syria and Iran, for example, fit the profile of 'rich with stifled civil liberties' as posed by Krueger? I would imagine that a large portion of the 400 Al Qaeda terrorists that Sagemen studied would have come from countries like Saudi Arabia and Syria.
I think this was very interesting article
, and I hope that anyone who reads my post will join me in referring to these terrorist acts with the correct term of murdercide.
Understanding the basis for murdercide is one thing. Preventing it is altogether another. The phrase "let freedom ring" certainly is not enough, as is evidenced by the consistent stream of suicide bombers in Iraq. I think that removing the commendation for murderciders is key. "Martyrdom" is somewhat contradictory, since most are not religiously educated, yet they are likely led to believe that carrying out such acts would be. Dispelling this idea is one step. A second may be punishment for the families (perhaps fathers) of murderciders. Knowing that your father may be imprisoned, or your wife and family may be fined and/or sued if you perform murdercide is a strong disinsentive (though in some cases it may be an incentive). While torture and murder helped Saddam keep these acts in check, legal and economic repercussions could help the coalition and the developing Iraqi government diminish these attacks. Lastly, promoting civil liberties throughout the region may prove to be the most effective technique. Something to keep in mind with the current situation with Iran.