I did write a book about it…Captive…in novel form but it’s still at the core. Why do people do these horrible things? I was reading today about the gruesome recovery some of the victims of the Boston bombing are enduring.
My introduction to terrorism is all rooted in the IRA and the related bomb scares (and bombs) while I was a child visiting London. My dad is British and we’d stop there en route to his family home in Wales. Bomb scares make a lasting impression on a child and I struggled with the concept.
So, this is what I learned when I did the research (in a nutshell…for the book read Captive).
1. Terrorism is meant to terrorize. Hence it is random and unpredictable. Visual and destructive (think close cameras at the Boston Marathon finish line and nails and such in the bombs…leading to physical harm and lingering injury).
2. The goal is not the act itself but the disproportionate response from those attacked. Terrorists don’t have the means to fight traditionally. They are a smaller and lesser entity. Thus the best they can do is to strike a brutal or panicked response…making their side more compelling or sympathetic and also creating mass panic. A revocation of civil rights, a closing down of a city, people avoiding public places, hysteria and paranoia, a shutting down of parts of the economy…. Any way people change behavior or repression takes hold means the terrorist wins.
3. They don’t have the assets to fight using traditional warfare. Usually terrorists aren’t states or they are lesser states. They need to inflict maximum damage at minimal costs.
4. Terrorist rarely win in the long run.
5. They do lead to lasting change in societies. I can assure you that ditching a backpack in public view is a lot harder in Jerusalem than it is in most American cities, even today.
6. Terrorists are sometime on the moral right side. Assad calls his adversaries terrorists…as he targets hospitals, doctors, children and uses chemical weapons. Definitions can be tricky in this genre.
7. Terrorism is cult-like. There is in depth indoctrination and a way to belong, such as customs, behaviors, groupings and belonging.
8. Terrorist target those who think logically and in rules. Those studying science and math. Like our younger brother terrorist in the Boston bombing. People who think this way are more likely to follow the rules or instruction.
9. Terrorists are bad people and there is no excuse. Terrorists target women, children and civilians. Their intent is to harm and terrorize. The best moral justification they can use is that “no one is innocent” or “the end justifies the means”. Ask Nelson Mandella about that question/justification. Or Martin Luther King JR. Terrorism is an emasculated and frustrated person’s way of showing that they can have power too and hurting those defenseless.
I’m obviously not a supporter of terrorism, regardless of how noble the cause. But it continues…