What Is Wrong With People?

This is just a sad and disgusting tale:

The recording was a suicide message, posted online on Sunday by an Islamist militia aligned with Al Qaeda. The voice was said to be that of Abdisalan Hussein Ali, 22, who was born in Somalia but spent his formative years in Minneapolis.

His life appeared to have come full circle here on Saturday, when he is said to have blown himself up in an attack on African Union troops in Mogadishu. He would be the third American known to become a suicide bomber for Somalia’s Shabab rebels.

The Shabab said that Mr. Ali was one of two suicide bombers in the attack, which the militant group said killed scores of peacekeepers. The African Union has confirmed that it suffered casualties, but has not disclosed the number.

***

Mr. Ali was known by the F.B.I. to be one of an estimated 30 Americans who have joined the Shabab, at least 20 of whom came from the Somali community in Minneapolis.

He had been an ambitious pre-med student at the University of Minnesota, hoping for an internship at the Mayo Clinic, before he disappeared in 2008. The audio recording, in which the speaker exhorts Westerners to join the fight, appears to reflect those qualities.

“Don’t just sit around, you know, and be, you know, a couch potato and just like, just chill all day,” the voice on the recording says. “Today jihad is what is most important. It’s not important that you become a doctor, or some sort of engineer.”

I don’t “get” religion in the first place, but I really don’t get why people would buy into any religious message that encourages blowing yourself up.

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95 replies
  1. 1
    Loneoak says:

    There’s a lot of things 22-year-old men do that I don’t understand. I think that has as much to do with it as religion.

  2. 2
    Kola Noscopy says:

    Lots of American soldiers went to Afghanistan and Iraq to kill other people, just like this dude went to Africa. They just didn’t plan to do so while killing themselves in the process.

    I don’t know…seems this chap’s method may be more forthright and less cowardly.

  3. 3
    Brachiator says:

    I don’t “get” religion in the first place, but I really don’t get why people would buy into any religious message that encourages blowing yourself up.

    It’s not just about religion. It’s about politics.

    And it’s not just that you blow yourself up. It is that you take your enemies with you.

  4. 4
    gnomedad says:

    My take is that it’s ultimately a response to existential angst. Extremism pushes away doubt. Some people would rather end their lives than live with doubt. The willingness to do evil for your cause is paradoxically “proof” of how important the cause must be.

  5. 5
    kindness says:

    While the Flying Spagetti Monster has some unusual religious decrees, fundamentalists in the other relgions (I’m talkin’ about you Christianity) are even more crazy & depraved.

    FSM Akbar!

  6. 6
    Davis X. Machina says:

    Escape from freedom. Erich Fromm had a go at this in the 1940’s.

  7. 7
    Brachiator says:

    @Kola Noscopy:

    I don’t know…seems this dude’s method may be less cowardly.

    Bullshit. It’s not that he strapped a bomb on and announced that he was coming to kill people.

  8. 8
    Violet says:

    Kamikaze pilots didn’t do it just because of religion. There are lots of reasons for suicide attacks. I’d think having a sense of belonging to a group and being a hero in that group would be part of it.

  9. 9
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Brachiator:

    Announcing it in advance spoils the surprise.

    I’m only half joking here.

  10. 10
    ned says:

    @Kola Noscopy:
    Personally, I prefer pumpkin at this time of the year, but cherry or apple will do just as well. Why do you ask?

  11. 11
    techno says:

    When I was 22, I was just furious about a lot of things—the Vietnam War, the liberal cowards who supported it, my f**king university that helped design the Phoenix Program, the show trial of the Chicago 7, etc. So I don’t have any problems understanding why this young Somali engaged in a suicide bombing.

    And no, I do NOT believe that this had much of anything to do with religion.

  12. 12
    Campionrules says:

    I notice how it’s never the leaders of these groups that decide to go find their 72 virgins.

    But that’s always been the case since the beginning of mankind. Find the impressionable ones and play to their weaknesses and pride. Then boom!

    Too bad though, if radical islamic terrorists were all so dedicated the entire movement could darwin itself out of existence.

  13. 13
    attica says:

    What I find particularly canny — and cruel — is that it’s never the leaders who strap on the bombs. It’s always some eager acolyte. That’s some fine manipulation going on.

  14. 14
    catclub says:

    OT: Charlie Pierce _En Fuego_ beating up on George Will.
    Subject: Mitt Romney is not enough of a man’s man for George ‘Pink Bowtie’ Will.

  15. 15
    John Weiss says:

    @Brachiator: Don’t – please! – feed the troll!

  16. 16

    When you figure out why this guy would do that, explain it to his parents. I’m sure they are wondering, too.

    They probably moved to this country in order to find a safe place to raise a family. They probably hoped he would grow old here and give them grandchildren.

  17. 17
    Chris says:

    @Violet:

    Kamikaze pilots didn’t do it just because of religion. There are lots of reasons for suicide attacks. I’d think having a sense of belonging to a group and being a hero in that group would be part of it.

    This.

    Prior to the Iraq war, the overwhelming share of the world’s suicide bombings were carried out by a Tamil nationalist group in Sri Lanka, I believe. This stuff is only religious insofar as religion is one of several things you can use for a tribal marker.

  18. 18
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Brachiator: Kola’s just jealous. Someone promised him 72 virgins if he blew up on this blog. He keeps trying, but so far, nothing.

  19. 19
    Samara Morgan says:

    most westerners are clueless about Islam.

    How do i know this? Because otherwise we wouldnt be so fucked right now.
    islamic terrorism is a RESPONSE to western interventionism. Want to stop it?
    stop trying to terraform islamic culture into a variant of western culture.
    the guy was motivated by religious nationalism.
    just like the teabaggers are in this country.
    only the teabaggers want to expulse/disenfranchise their fellow american citizens and not repulse invader/occupier missionary crusaders.
    sorry if that hurts your fee fees, but that is how they see our “armed social workers”– as missionaries with guns.

  20. 20
    Violet says:

    @Campionrules:
    Speaking of the 72 virgins, it’s kind of telling that the reward is 72 virgins. That kind of reward is much more of a fantasy for an 18-22 year old male than it would be for, say, a 65 year old man or most women.

    If the reward in heaven was having a good night’s sleep, or maid service and a foot rub, they might find a wider demographic was interested. But the reward in heaven fits the types of people who would be most likely to do it anyway.

  21. 21
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Campionrules:

    I didn’t see George W. Bush or Dick Cheney looking for their virgins, either.

  22. 22
    Samara Morgan says:

    and do you know why we have to stop meddling in their culture?
    because we cant afford to create any more islamic terrorists.
    Read this and get back to me.

    Why Is This Cargo Container Emitting So Much Radiation?

  23. 23
    Judas Escargot says:

    @catclub:

    “Throw the ball, George!”

  24. 24
    THE says:

    I have had a theory for a while that it was a response to the technological superiority of the West. If you have nothing to compete with the increasing accuracy and deadliness of modern precision guided weapons, etc, then one way you can still outclass the precision is by using a human guidance system for the bomb.

    Of course there is also the psychological shock of the willingness to die. The same feeling we get when monks in Tibet self-immolate. It is demoralizing to confront an enemy with this degree of commitment and fanaticism.

    Many cultures have used suicide attacks, the Muslims were among the earlier ones, going back to the Hashishim, the original Assassins. But also the Japanese Kamikaze, the Tamil Tigers as mentioned above.

    Personally I think it is a tactic that is rapidly approaching its use-before date, because of the growing power of robotics. Of course any robot can be programmed to be a suicide bomber.

  25. 25
    srv says:

    Maybe the African Union should operate some drones over Minnesota.

  26. 26
    Samara Morgan says:

    The point of that link, because many wont even click, is some jihadi casually tossed a cesium rod out of a food sanitizer or a medical device into a container full of Saudi scrap copper.
    it took the Italians a year to unpack the box.

    probably a trial run for a dirty bomb or conventional explosive device.
    think about the crash to the economy if they got that off.

  27. 27
    Brachiator says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    islamic terrorism is a RESPONSE to western interventionism. Want to stop it?

    Of course, some believe that Islam is alien to Africa and should be rooted out. Just saying.

    And suicide bombers were an integral part of the Tamil struggle, which didn’t have much to do with western interventionism.

    And is India (various outrages in Mumbai and elsewhere) now magically part of the West?

  28. 28
    lacp says:

    I mean, like, c’mon, y’know, dude, that lame med school shit is like totally fail. I’m gonna be gettin’ all jihadi ‘n shit, and it’s gonna be like, y’know, totally EPIC ‘n shit, whatevs.

  29. 29
    Hill Dweller says:

    @catclub: I wanted a cigarette after reading it(and I don’t smoke).

  30. 30
    harlana says:

    We’re not talking about American values and attitudes about war, we’re talking about a culture of martyrdom, here. The Bushies, they just never got that and no one could have predicted . . .

  31. 31
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Violet: this is what i mean about absolute cluelessness.
    the word shahid in arabic doesnt mean martyr. it means witness.
    the context of being a witness in islam means witnessing injustice, and attempting to create justice.
    that is salat, just duty, translated often as “prayer” by occidentalists.
    prayer is just one kind of just duty.

  32. 32
    wonkie says:

    I have a little knowedlge of Minneapolis–probably some oe here is better acquanited withthe city–but, based o my small knowledge, the disappearance o9f youg Somali males into terrorist cults is veiwed by the larger Somali community as a problem and they, too, are groping for an explanation. I have the impression that exposure to extremism in Minneapolis isn’t the problem.

  33. 33
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Brachiator: i SAID islamic terrorism.

    cant you fucking read?

  34. 34
    Martin says:

    Desperation too often leads to suicide
    Desperation plus a motivating message/group can instead lead to suicide bombing/related acts.

    The conditions that lead to suicide bombings are entirely common inside the US. But rather than leading young men to blow themselves up outside some designated target, they join street gangs, drug cartels, the Republican party, etc. Once you become detached from your broader community and society (due to any number of individual factors, plus the wedge actions to demonize certain groups of people) you become susceptible to being indoctrinated by relatively stronger communities such as gangs, cults, religion, etc. Even the military would fill this role today. It’s no mistake that the popularity of militias rises and falls, as do gangs, as do extremist groups, to social conditions.

    Tweak a few variables and we’d have regular suicide bombings in the US as well.

  35. 35
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    islamic terrorism is a RESPONSE to western interventionism. Want to stop it?
    stop trying to terraform islamic culture into a variant of western culture.

    Before you get to settled in on your soap box of self righteousness want to get explain how those African Union soldiers he killed are tools of western imperialism? (here’s a clue, odds are they were blacks)As the Brachiator pointed out in Africa and India the west has nothing to do with the Jihads.

    You want to find the westerner in the wood pile in this story it’s the suicide bomber; he was living fat dumb and happy, came to Allah one day and to make up for his past failings killed himself with a bunch of third world types. That “we all must die to atone for my sins” about as Western privileged as you can get.

  36. 36
    lacp says:

    @wonkie: It must be Keith Ellison’s fault.

    BTW, when did the African Union become part of the West?

  37. 37
    Emma says:

    I am currently reading Aslan’s How to Win a Cosmic War. I recommend the view inside a global jihadist’s mind he provides.

  38. 38
    Samara Morgan says:

    @wonkie: the problem is the intersection of American foreign policy in MENA with the demographic of darkskinned angry young culturally out-group (possibly disenfranchised) american men.
    they are highly permeable to the meme of unjust America.

    its like America is a chick that wont date them.

  39. 39
    celtidragonchick says:

    @Kola Noscopy:

    Lots of American soldiers went to Afghanistan and Iraq to kill other people, just like this dude went to Africa. They just didn’t plan to do so while killing themselves in the process.
    I don’t know…seems this chap’s method may be more forthright and less cowardly.

    Just keep fucking the magical balance faery.

    Your level of fail in that statement is truly heroic.

  40. 40
    WereBear says:

    The process of cultivating a suicide bomber is remarkably similar to the procedures used by abusive partners or cult recruiters who have uncanny skills about targeting, and manipulating, their victims.

    In all cases, the vulnerable give off signals that they are miserable, lost, and searching for meaning in their lives. The predators fuss over them like they’ve never been fussed over before (this is known as “love bombing”) and then commit abrupt withdrawals of this love and attention if the victim resists.

    By alternating intense adoration and the threat of removing it, you wind up with a addled and fragile personality who will do anything to get their “drug” back.

    And they do.

  41. 41
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Enhanced Voting Techniques:

    how those African Union soldiers he killed are tools of western imperialism?

    because they are. they are collaborating with the west. just like the NATO workers in A-stan and Iraqi collaborators and soldiers in Iraq.

  42. 42
    THE says:

    If anyone doubts the growing power of robotics, check this latest video of Petman from Boston Dynamics, the company that brought us Big Dog. The robot does squats, pushups, walks very naturally.

    An earlier version of Petman is here, showing how stable it is.

  43. 43
    Bruce S says:

    “Don’t just sit around, you know, and be, you know, a couch potato and just like, just chill all day,”

    This line coming from a suicide bomber’s last taped message has the fingerprints of the South Park guys all over it. Presumably it’s real, but it’s one of those things that makes the satirists’ jobs so hard these days. (Except for Stewart, who gets by just playing clips of real shit and making funny faces, noises, commentary, etc.)

  44. 44
    Lockewasright says:

    I do “get” religion. That’s why I am an atheist.

  45. 45
    Judas Escargot says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    I’m sure those dead victims would really appreciate the language lesson.

  46. 46
    Brachiator says:

    @Martin:

    The conditions that lead to suicide bombings are entirely common inside the US.

    Aside from possibly the nuttiest fringes of the Tea Party, where in the US is there an attempt to carve a theocracy or a separate nation out of part of the country?

    After decades of dealing with this stuff, I do not understand how Americans can ignore the political dimension of suicide bombings, and fall back on easy, and false, psychological or economic explanations.

    The back and forth bombings in Iraq, for example, are part of a de facto civil war.

  47. 47
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Enhanced Voting Techniques: no, he was a muslim.
    the west needs to stop meddling in MENA.
    some of you believe it is pure do-gooder fuckery, but you are naive. its always in americas “interest.”
    the problem is do-gooder fuckery ie missionariism doesnt work on al-Islam.
    Muslims are immune.
    want proof?
    10 years and trillions of american taxpayer dollars later, there are no takers for missionary democracy with freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
    IPOF the number of christian in Iraq has halved.
    Iraq is still 97% muslim, A-stan is still 99% muslim, just like they were 10 years ago.
    an impenetrable stable strategy.

  48. 48
    TheStone says:

    @attica: Right. Because Tommy Franks was in the turret of the lead Abrams over the wire back in ’03.
    That is how things have gone ever since we decided to get together in groups larger than a dozen or so to do our killin.

  49. 49
    TheMightyTrowel says:

    Only slightly OT: if any of you have yet to see Four Lions, watch it. It’s about the blackest black comedy I’ve ever seen in my life: a British Muslim take on the radicalisation of some young British Muslims.

  50. 50
    Roger Moore says:

    @Violet:

    There are lots of reasons for suicide attacks. I’d think having a sense of belonging to a group and being a hero in that group would be part of it.

    My understanding is that being suicidal has a large part to do with it, too. How do you convince people to blow themselves up in the name of religion? Start with people who are already considering killing themselves, and you’re more than half way there.

  51. 51
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Judas Escargot: they might if it stopped Americas intransigent meddling so no more people die.

    Do you think people can be forced to change their religion in the 21st century?

  52. 52
    srv says:

    @lacp:

    BTW, when did the African Union become part of the West?

    http://www.cfr.org/africa/us-a.....com/p13255

    http://panafricannews.blogspot.....union.html

    The Pentagon has been trying to get AFRICOM going for seven or eight years. Patience, weedhopper – it takes time to own a new battleground. Don’t be surprised if it becomes the next war-by-proxy with the Chinese.

  53. 53
    Yutsano says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    because they are.

    Oh well THAT settles it.

    they are collaborating with the west.

    Which is why it’s the African Union, amirite? Totes Western Imperialism right there!

    The vision of the African Union is that of: “An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in global arena.”

    Oh. Wait.

  54. 54
    burnspbesq says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    an impenetrable stable strategy

    The only thing impenetrable around here are your defenses against rational thought.

  55. 55
    soonergrunt says:

    @Brachiator:

    After decades of dealing with this stuff, I do not understand how Americans can ignore the political dimension of suicide bombings, and fall back on easy, and false, psychological or economic explanations.

    It’s a comfortable way to ensure that the other stays the other.
    By limiting the thinking on what may make them more like us than is comfortable, we ensure that A) we feel good about ourselves,
    and B) we don’t learn anything useful,
    The two effects combining to ensure that we do not move forward or find a workable solution to the mess.

  56. 56
    Judas Escargot says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    Bullshit.

    We’re the world power du jour, and therefore the obvious excuse reason for all of Islam’s troubles. Allah forbid that the “leaders” of those countries take responsibility for the well-being of their peoples. Before us it was the USSR, before that it was France, and before that it was the UK. Perhaps recent events will change this, but that’s been the history of the region since they decided that fundamentalism was more important than tolerance and reason.

    Like the Christian evangelicals here, a ‘leave them alone’ policy won’t work. Some mindsets are incapable of minding their own damned business.

  57. 57
  58. 58
    Morzer says:

    I really don’t get why people would buy into any religious message that encourages blowing yourself up

    Didn’t you (and Samara/m_c/Rickette Perry) once belong to a religious organization that wants to blow America up? I refer to the GOP, of course. What was on your mind in those balmy, napalmy days?

  59. 59
    geg6 says:

    @Lockewasright:

    Heh. So true.

  60. 60
    satby says:

    @Davis X. Machina:

    Escape from freedom. Erich Fromm had a go at this in the 1940’s.

    Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer from the 50s did too.
    Edit: and I made my kids read that to inoculate them from that kind of thinking.

  61. 61
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @Samara Morgan: Of course you also said “cesium” when the Wired piece clearly stated that it was cobalt in the container, and there was an entire paragraph about the differing radiation signatures of cesium and cobalt, as well as the fact that the handlers were more accustomed to seeing cesium and americium than the cobalt contained in the specific container of Saudi scrap.

    So, I’d be a little less quick to stomp you foot and petulantly demand “cant [sic]you fucking read?” of other commentators. Oh, I forgot, you are insufficiently socialized to have the skills to engage in actual polite society. My mistake.

  62. 62
    soonergrunt says:

    @Judas Escargot: Well, the Chinese are looking to become the next players there.
    Maybe they’ll start getting hit.

  63. 63
    Yutsano says:

    @soonergrunt: I find that astounding, especially considering the treatment of the Uighur minority in western China. I think if the fundamentalists want a new bogeyman China is gift-wrapping one for them. And China WILL respond with bullets and bombs.

  64. 64
    srv says:

    From the CFR link above:

    Many of the experts who heralded the command’s creation seem to validate African concerns. Writing in World Defense Review, J. Peter Pham, director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs, calls Africom’s creation “long overdue” in light of U.S. dependence on Africa’s oil, its concern over radical Islamist groups targeting the region, and the continent’s identity as “an arena for intense diplomatic competition with other states with global ambitions, like China.” Others note that Africom will help the United States secure vital sea lanes.

    We are only there for good, and for freedom. Troops, that is, not anyone from Minneapolis.

  65. 65
    TenguPhule says:

    but I really don’t get why people would buy into any religious message that encourages blowing yourself up.

    If you did then you’d be one of them.

    Power and Control. It always comes down to that in the end.

  66. 66
    soonergrunt says:

    @Yutsano: And it’s a mess that will go on for a long, long time because neither the Chinese military nor the Chinese government has the institutional agility to change tactics or operational plans in the face of resistance. They’ll make the Russians look like pikers before it’s over.

  67. 67
    Brachiator says:

    @Judas Escargot:

    We’re the world power du jour, and therefore the obvious excuse reason for all of Islam’s troubles.

    What? There is more to this than the US as the last superpower or world’s policeman.

    The situation in Somalia, even though related to past US/Soviet proxy intervention, is destabilizing Africa. The recent partition of Sudan has little to do with the US as the world power du jour. Much of the entire Arab Spring movement, including Western intervention in Libya, goes far beyond what the US or the West might approve of.

    The ongoing struggles between India and Pakistan have little to do directly with the US, despite efforts of some Islamists to link everything to “the Great Satan America.”

  68. 68
    Yutsano says:

    @soonergrunt: Africa has stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. China and the West want stuff. But China and the West want control of ALL the stuff. Africa being the next proxy battleground is not outside the realm of possibility. But China has been almost exclusively economic in flexing their might there. Once the stuff is gone, they’ll leave. Their military is exclusively serving economic interest. Which if you understand how China’s elite works, is no surprise at all. And Africa may get the short stick there again.

  69. 69
    Roger Moore says:

    @soonergrunt:

    Maybe they’ll start getting hit.

    Outside of Xinjiang, you mean?

  70. 70
    Bruce S says:

    While I’m no fan of “false equivalency,” there’s value in recognizing that how one views this has at least something to do with where you sit. First of all, I don’t think there’s anything more immoral about a suicide bombing, per se as a tactic, than an aerial bombing or artillery or sniping or what have you. There is a somewhat famous incident of two Spanish anarchists loading themselves up with dynamite and blowing up a church that was being used by Falangists as a machine gun nest. They essentially won the battle by becoming human bombs and were considered – justifiably – heroes. So we need more perspective on the what and why than the issue of suicide bombing as a tactic. It’s horrific – but not really more horrific than any other form of bombing including drone attacks. I’m not against every drone attack in every circumstance, but then I probably have to admit that I wouldn’t oppose every suicide bombing in every circumstance. Just to take this issue off of the fainting couch and into the real world of political violence, which we also choose to engage in on a rather large scale. I say that mostly to keep clear about the complexities of war, the inherent immorality and to avoid glib or smug sanitization of ourselves in this horrible mess we’re part of.

  71. 71
    soonergrunt says:

    @Roger Moore: I’ll revise and extend:
    Maybe they’ll start getting hit more.

  72. 72
    sherparick says:

    A true believer is trying to fill up the emptiness in inside. In a sense, it is a refusal, as Paul Fussell would, say to grow up and look at the world as it is.

    “…A core principle in the book is Hoffer’s assertion that mass movements are interchangeable; he notes fanatical Nazis later becoming fanatical Communists, fanatical Communists later becoming fanatical anti-Communists, and Saul, persecutor of Christians, becoming Paul, a fanatical Christian. For the “true believer”, as defined by Hoffer, the substance of the mass movement isn’t so important as that they are part of that movement.”

    Hoffer engaged in a lot of hippie bashing in his later years, which kind made him a darling of the right (hence the Hoover Institution maintains his papers and Tom Bethell, a fanatical Christianist, trumpeted him during the eighties and nineties. But anyone who reads the “The True Believer” realizes its not just Nazis and Communists he taking his shots at. He portrays both Christianity and Islam as very malignant mass movements, responsiblel for the deaths of millions of the innocent.

  73. 73
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @satby: Max Blumenthal’s Republican Gomorrah, on the rise of the Radical Right, has an extended reflection on Eric Hoffer… vy. interesting

  74. 74
    gnomedad says:

    @satby:

    Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer from the 50s did too.
    Edit: and I made my kids read that to inoculate them from that kind of thinking.

    I hope it’s an inoculation. Too bad it’s not a cure. Show it to a teabagger and he’ll figure it explains why liberals refuse to accept that Obama was born in Kenya. Or why climatologists have brainwashed themselves into believing in climate change. They’ve passed the event horizon. I think that’s one source of much-derided “centrists” — liberals are reluctant to stop questioning their beliefs even when the opposition has no interest in so doing. It sucks to have to take a little bit of the poison to beat these guys.

  75. 75
    Bruce S says:

    56 – “Like the Christian evangelicals here, a ‘leave them alone’ policy won’t work. Some mindsets are incapable of minding their own damned business.”

    Let’s be honest that the reason we became entangled in Middle East politics and didn’t “leave them alone” is because they’ve been the source of so much of that oil. The reason we can’t leave the “Christian” Right alone is because they have engaged us aggressively forcing their issues on our own political terrain (as American Muslims have not, incidentally.) Very different sets of circumstance. “Some mindsets incapable of minding their own damned business” would include those of imperial persuasion among our elites. The “rejection of tolerance and reason” in the Middle East is more complex than the teachings of a bunch of Imams and IS connected intrinsically to political dissolution and cynical imperial interventions over decades that the “rational and tolerant” West cannot be glibly absolved of.

  76. 76
    Judas Escargot says:

    @Bruce S:

    As I’ve said before, without oil wealth, radical Islamists would lack the ability to do much damage. And I still expect the influence of those radicals to wane as the oil runs out. Recent events in MENA give me hope for the post-oil future of the region, assuming they can get their economic act together in time.

    And spare me the imperialist brush, I don’t set policy. If I were anointed Absolute Emperor of the US, my “spend whatever it takes to get off the oil within ten years, help our friends into the 21st century, laugh at our enemies while they starve to death” plan would be among my first priorities.

    Very different sets of circumstance.

    Just FYI, I don’t much distinguish between radical Christianity and radical Islam: Islam is essentially a Christian heresy gone awry. If you’re a Fundamentalist XXX, my issue with you is the Fundamentalism, not the XXX per se.

    Just two different fronts in a reactionary war against the Enlightenment. Which needs to be fought in a manner appropriate to the stakes.

  77. 77
    fuzz says:

    I remember reading a study where a lot of Palestinian suicide bombers had exhibited signs of depression before they killed themselves. It was a way to get around the religious/cultural taboo about suicide.

    Another thing is that at least with female suicide bombers that are common in Iraq and Chechnya, it has to do with escaping from a wretched life. Women have little rights even with husbands, without them they have nothing. The woman who blew up the Moscow airport recently, as well as a few Iraqi bombers, were the widows of jihad fighters/insurgents. In Afghanistan women often self immolate as a way of escaping their lives, in other places they go the suicide bomber route, the problems are related.

  78. 78
    Svensker says:

    @harlana:

    We’re not talking about American values and attitudes about war, we’re talking about a culture of martyrdom, here.

    And you know about this “culture of martyrdom” how? Studied in Somalia? An expert on the language and culture? Pray tell, what are you bona fides for this sweeping statement?

  79. 79
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Yutsano:
    It’s because of this that I have misgivings about AFRICOM, whatever polite noises the powers that be in Africa might make. Foreign powers coming over and wanting your stuff, and fighting their wars over it — or worse, making you fight their wars over it — on your soil … if that’s not imperialism, then I don’t know what is. The US hasn’t taken over the sovereignty of other nations like the Brits did with much of Asia and Africa (unless you count conquering about half of Mexico) but it’s been no better than the European powers in this regard, and certainly no better than the Soviet Union.

    I see from the CFR article, in particular the Peter Pham quote that srv bolded, that the reasons for establishing AFRICOM are exactly the same as old-school imperialism: competition for influence with other powers, access to natural resources and export markets, positioning of military forces. I think my misgivings, and they are not mine alone, are well justified.

  80. 80
    Bruce S says:

    “And spare me the imperialist brush, I don’t set policy”

    Nobody said you did. But don’t ignore the actual policies over decades. “Radical Christianity”, in my view, was best typified by Martin Luther King and fundamentalism is as close to “heresy” as one can get from the perspective of Christians such as myself who don’t try to apply theology as though it were a literal explanation of anything that runs counter to the realm of science and reason.

    Fundamentalism is hardly the exclusive property of religious people – although it’s a major problem among religious folks that drives me more than a little nuts. But Marxism, in it’s origins (and it was very much an “Enlightenment” intellectual project) is a very flawed and over-reaching philosophy, but Leninism-Stalinism-Maoism were peculiar refinements steeped in the fundamentalist impulse at it’s worst.

    Nationalisms too often become fundamentalist and hardened into an ideology of superiority.

    Economic theory on the right is essentially fundamentalist rather than rational (as in “based on evidence” rather than simple belief) and pragmatist. Much of the “new atheism” comes off as “fundamentalist” – or at best absurdly reductionist – to anyone who doesn’t have a childish notion of religion.

    I’m kind of tired of folks who are smug about their rejection of religious fundamentalism, but don’t see how the temptation to reduce complexity because it’s so damned bothersome infects so much of human intellectual endeavor.

  81. 81
    Svensker says:

    Also, too, terrorism as well as suicide terrorism is usually political, at least according to Robert Pape .

    The fact that the US and Israel had a deliberate policy of destabilizing the Islamic government of Somalia and then were shocked, shocked when chaos ensued when it fell…and now we’re shocked shocked when young Somalia men get all het up about the injustice of it all…

    I usually don’t agree with Kolon, but why it’s disgusting for a Somalia kid to blow himself up for his idea of “freedom”, but it’s perfectly acceptable to American kids to go to some place they’ve never heard of and blow up other people and maybe themselves at the same time. Well, blowback is a bitch. You don’t get to be an empire without those getting squashed under the imperial boot feeling a wee bit peeved occasionally.

    Take what you want, says God…and pay for it.

    Seems like a lot of folks forget that second part.

  82. 82
    ItAintEazy says:

    From the article:

    One night in 2008, he was wrongly accused of robbing a Subway sandwich shop on campus. Friends said the experience left a mark on him long after the charges were dropped.

    So… yeah. Not that it justifies suicide bombing or anything, but I can see how this can make one feel, you know, alienated.

  83. 83
    Chris says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    The US hasn’t taken over the sovereignty of other nations like the Brits did with much of Asia and Africa (unless you count conquering about half of Mexico) but it’s been no better than the European powers in this regard, and certainly no better than the Soviet Union.

    Well, no one (Israel excepted) actually “takes over the sovereignty of other nations” in formal and colonial style anymore. It’s just not done, and the forms must be observed. America pretended that all those military dictatorships in Latin America were “independent,” same way France did with its friendly dictators in Africa and Russia with Eastern Europe (or, these days, Central Asia). It’s all in the packaging. Objectively, of course all those things were/are empires. That’s how history will record them when they’re far enough in the past that you can talk about them without hurting anyone’s fee-fees.

    @Bruce S:

    This. All of it.

  84. 84
    Samara Morgan says:

    what dont you dimwitted cattle get about this?

    we went THERE. we INVADED we OCCUPIED we MEDDLED. we BLEW SHIT UP.
    we KILLED HUMANS.

    they dont want our fucking whitebread factory farm xian car culture consumer society.
    and they arent gunna take it, no matter how fucking “superior” you think western culture is.
    the ONLY reason its about religion is because IN ISLAM the religion IS the state.

    And please let me remind you that ibn Arabi and Imam Ghazali were formulating Many Worlds theory 400 years before the christians tried to burn Galileo.

  85. 85
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Chris: well no, America tried the Ataturk model in the ME. you know, the Benevolent Strongman?
    But it failed everywhere– Mubarak, the Tyrant Shah, the Saudi Royals, President Saleh, King Abdullah, Uncle Saddam.
    Because there was only one Ataturk, and he broke the mold, and the dudes we propped were corrupt fuckers that oppressed their people and squirreled away billions in swiss banks.

  86. 86
    Samara Morgan says:

    @harlana: “culture of martyrdom”? just visiting from Pam Gellers site, are you?

  87. 87
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Judas Escargot:

    a reactionary war against the Enlightenment.

    no, its the evolutionary struggle between different memetic tribes.
    And Islam is winning.
    In 20 years one out of four humans will be muslim.
    :)

  88. 88
    Samara Morgan says:

    @srv:

    We are only there for good, and for freedom. Troops,

    HAHAHAHA
    the “natives” dont see it that way.
    Afghanis and Iraqis see the US troops as occupiers and invaders, and as missionaries with guns.
    And what about the Iraqi Rape Squad, the Blackwaters mercs, the Afghan Kill Squad
    Did they do “good”? Is droning prayer meetings and wedding parties “good”?
    WTF are we doing there? nation building? counterinsurgency?
    lolol!
    A million Iraqi muslim civilians died. there are 4.5 million Iraqi orphans.
    we didnt do “good”.
    not at all.

  89. 89
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Judas Escargot: /shrug
    its evolutionary theory of games.
    911 was a reaction to operation ajax and various western interventionisms.
    OBL said it was.
    wanna stop islamic terrorism?
    stop trying to force western culture on muslims.
    it cant be done.

  90. 90
    THE says:

    I think the most important thing Westerners need to keep in mind, to calm down hysterical overreaction, is that the vast majority of the victims of suicide assassinations are other Muslims.

    This was certainly also true in the Iraqi civil war that followed the US occupation. Extremist attacks on market places etc. mainly killed Iraqis.

    So I don’t believe the tactic will disappear from the MENA region, even if the Westerners will.

  91. 91
    Judas Escargot says:

    @Bruce S:

    I’m not sure, exactly, what we’re disagreeing about. Except perhaps a few terms.

  92. 92
    Judas Escargot says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    stop trying to force western culture on muslims.
    it cant be done.

    Who here is trying to ‘force Western culture’ on Muslims?

  93. 93
    satyr9us says:

    Kola Noscopy:

    You couldn’t be more full of shit if you were a latrine.

    The fact that the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars have been plagued with bad policy and massive pointless death does not entail that everyone who’s been involved ever wanted to kill anyone. Many participants followed their deployment orders with grave misgivings about the policies chosen by our nation’s elected/appointed leaders. Many believed (however erroneously) they would be able to help the people of those nations overcome oppression. Many non-combat troops served entire rotations without personally firing a single shot. But you hate nuance, don’t you? Which means you have way more in common with suicide bombers than the people you denigrate.

  94. 94
    Samara Morgan says:

    @satyr9us: he can denigrate a stupid, evil and pointless american foreign policy all he wants.
    All you have to do is look at the empirical data.
    10 years, trillions of dollars, 7k dead dead american soljahs, a million dead muslim Iraqi civilans, Iraq is still 97% muslim and A-stan is still 99% muslim, just like they were 10 years ago.
    In A-stan there are 5% more Taliban every year and the talibs are bombing the American embassy in Kabul while we still have 90000 troops there.
    Iraq is planting a boot in our ass in December and the US cant even leave enough troops there to guard the Vatican sized embassy we built.
    And the cost, AMG, the cost.
    all that blood and treasure for FUCKING NOTHING.

    you are another smug asswipe like Cole and Violet and hamletta, oh dear, whatever is wrong with “people”? It must be that bad ol’ religion, Islam. Clutching your pearls and sneering at al-Islam and the 72 virgins trope.
    Those people are not brainwashed by religion….they are fighting an invader occupier that seeks to terraform their culture into something more friendly palatable to US interests.

    they would be able to help the people of those nations overcome oppression.

    how do you help muslims overcome oppression by turning their countries into warzones?
    wallah, the citizens of MENA see the US as The Oppressor, a huge massively overpowered bully that props dictators and monarchs (client oppressors if you like), props Israel and enables Israel to oppress Palestinians and starve muslim children in Gaza.

    what was the mission again?

  95. 95
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Judas Escargot:

    Who here is trying to ‘force Western culture’ on Muslims?

    every. single. one. of you smug asswipes that is evangelizing western culture over islamic culture and smirking over the “culture of martyrdom” and sneering at the 72 virgins trope.

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