What Makes People Become Suicide Bombers?

What Makes People Become Suicide Bombers?

Most criminals do not expect to die when they commit a crime. If they did there wouldn’t be so many of them. If you are motivated by greed or hunger you want to live after your act in order to enjoy what you got from it. This also applies to most people who commit crimes for personal reasons like perceived insults to one’s honor, or infidelity. Usually the hatred the situation has engendered isn’t enough to warrant suicide. At least you want to live long enough to dance on the other fellow’s grave.

I don’t accept the thesis that suicide bombers are motivated mainly by religion. If a true believer actually believes there is a paradise and he can enter it by blowing himself up, provided he takes out a few infidels too, then that can be an encouraging factor. But I seriously doubt whether there are that many Muslims whose depth of commitment to Islam is enough by itself to bring them to pressing that lethal button. After all, it isn’t the religion itself that urges violence on its followers, it is leaders with radical political and social agendas who use some of the symbolism of Islam to gin up the frenzy their followers need to go ahead and blow themselves up.

So what does supply the intense hatred someone needs to become a suicide bomber? Perhaps I can illustrate it by summarizing a story from the old novel “Flesh of the Wild Ox”. In it, my late father recorded authentic Riffian histories from the period after WWI, when a feisty bunch of tribals in northern Morocco were battling the Spanish aand French armies. Our hero was engaged to be married. His betrothed was at the Thursday market in a nearby town when a Spanish plane bombed it and she was killed. He did not mourn or otherwise carry on, he strapped a few grenades to his belt, sneaked past the Spanish perimeter at night, and blew up a couple of the planes where they were parked. They caught and killed him eventually, of course, as he knew they would, but he went down fighting.

For over two generations the Palestinians have been humiliated and in many cases hunted down and killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers operating within Israeli law or on the edge of it. There are plenty of instances where individual Palestinians have had at least as much reason to feel as intense a hatred as my Riffian example. So it should come as no surprise that the art and practice of suicide bombings effloresced in that troubled land. You reap what you sow and all that.

Now we too are inflicting that kind of mindless, impersonal, random bereavement and suffering on a settled population just trying to get by in unsettled times. I refer, of course, to our highly sanitized concept of “collateral damage” when our mighty war machine, especially our drones, zap a house or a village that might contain leaders of forces arrayed against us. All too often there are innocent bystanders who get killed. Sure, we try to avoid or at least minimize collateral damage, but where do we stand morally if there are even a few innocent victims? If we were a pharmaceutical company whose new drug had killed hundreds of patients, how far would we get by saying “we’re really sorry, but we had to do it to get at the virus…”

I think collateral damage is morally reprehensible but understand the compulsions our military faces in combat situations. The answer is not to grit your teeth and go ahead with the zapping, but to get out from under situations where you face the dilemma in the first place. What price victory, anyhow? If you are defending your own turf and your own people fine, zap away, but if you are fighting a war of choice far from home and the people you are zapping are from a distant culture, there is no moral defense.

There is also no practical defense for our present use of drones in Afghanistan. We kill off the leaders but more spring up in their place. From a Darwinian point of view we are simply providing an environment in which their leadership will improve at forced draft speed. Meanwhile we motivate thousands of others to become suicide bombers.

This is insanity.

Carl Coon

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24 Responses to What Makes People Become Suicide Bombers?

  1. Nesta says:

    Thanks! you helped me on my research paper!!!

  2. jolessa mcmickens says:

    didnt help at all..

  3. D says:

    thanks you helped my research paper too. I think i’m going to write about this

  4. Alyssa says:

    Thank you!! I was drawing blanks all day until I read this now i have an idea of how to start my paper!

  5. summerchick says:

    thank u so much. this helps a lot for my research paper! 🙂

  6. Marsto says:

    Has anyone researched the personal histories of suicide bombers to find out if a person close to them had been injured or killed by an invading army? It would be very interesting to know.

  7. stephen says:

    Thank you!!

  8. Laken says:

    Thank you so much! This really helped with my research paper.

  9. Dee says:

    I hate all of you

  10. usuhusg says:

    its good but needs more reasons

  11. teuyertw45y7rtwy says:

    it sucks quit writing

  12. john doofus says:

    this helped lot thanks

  13. Jay says:

    This only helped get an idea of it, you got off topic a lot and made me skip reading half of it..

  14. Brian says:

    I bet your also the first to cry out about having troops over there! You can’t fight cowards like men when they hid behind their woman and children and use God for the reason to kill. And you logic is flawed when there has been documented stories of brainwashed idiots blowing themselves up because cowards are able to take the brain dead and turn them into suicide bombers. Yes the U.S. has done a lot of horrible things but it’s the top branch of gov who are doing these things yet these cowards (and yes they are cowards) blow up innocent ppl not targets that if your theory on this is right, the anger enough to kill by suicide doesn’t kill the ppl that being said anger. Even in your own story the groom to be attacked and killed the men deserving of his rage. Not innocent woman and children somewhere else. Your theory if anything is only skin deep and needs a lot more understanding of a coward who straps on a bomb filled shrapnel to kill as many as he can before he goes to hell!

    • Carl Coon says:

      I think anyone motivated to suicide bombing would prefer to take out individuals who play a central role in causing whatever it is that tees him or her off. But for better or worse he or she either doesn’t know who they are or, more likely, can’t get at them, so settles for whatever individuals associated with the injustice are at hand.

      It’s unfair but that’s life.

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