Brian Sullivan

"On the road to heaven the highway to hell," Stephen Shanabrook
The motivations may vary, but the psychology that enabled young men at Gallipoli to jump out of the trenches into the Turkish machine gun fire, or teenage British bomber crews to fly knowing they were unlikely to survive five missions, is no different to that which enables a well educated Saudi to hijack a plane and crash it into the World trade centre, or members of a cult committing suicide in the belief that a space ship from outer space is waiting to collect them.

In 2006, a combined study based on information from British and American intelligence agencies, into the backgrounds of suicide bombers, found that without exemption they were motivated by grievances about foreign occupation or control in their own country, or a country to which they felt connected eg the World Trade Centre bombers were almost all Saudis incensed by the permanent American bases created in Saudi Arabia after the first Gulf war. This study also found that many suicide bombers have been atheists.

Governments of civilian populations targeted by suicide bombers try to explain the behaviour as somehow different from what they consider to be acceptable “collateral damage” done to an enemy’s civilians by their own armies. If you can dismiss the attacks “as being done by fanatics” it stops people asking the obvious question: “Why do these people (suicide bombers) see us as their enemy?”

This is the question that must be addressed if we are going to effectively deal with terrorism long term, particularly as multicultural policies combined with separate schooling is breeding a dangerous combination of suspicion and exclusion. If young second and third generation migrant youth are encouraged to remain segregated in the “stopped clock” cultures of their parents and grand parents, their anger and frustration at their alienation makes them vulnerable for recruitment into organisations only too willing to mobilise those feelings into a role that provides an unambiguous identity, makes them feel important,and valued by a “higher authority”.

What was particularly interesting about the recent research into terrorism was that even though the attacks may have occurred in foreign countries, the motivation was the perceived injustices of foreign powers operating in their own country. They were not random or meaningless attacks by mad men. (At the moment the biggest perceived grievance appears to centre on the occupation of the Palestinian Territories by Israel, funded by America and supported unconditionally by Australia and Britain).

Psychologically, terrorists are no different to other people. Like other people they feel outrage when they perceive a situation as unjust or unfair, like others they seek certainty, purpose and meaning in their lives. The extremes to which they are prepared to go are no different in degree to that of a soldier or a fundamentalist Christian prepared to kill an abortionist.

We must understand and accept this if we are to ask the right questions to get the right answers to this disturbing problem.
- Psychologist Louise Samways "Dangerous Persuaders".

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