Sunday, May 15, 2005

# Posted 7:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT MOTIVATES THE TERRORISTS INSURGENTS? This morning's WaPo has a front page story about the overwhelming Saudi presence among suicide bombers in Iraq. Now, it isn't exactly surprising that the nation that gave us Osama bin Laden as well as most of the September 11th hijackers is also providing the manpower for the slaughter of Iraqi civilians. But this article does stand out for taking a closer look at the evidence available for a Saudi presence, much of it consisting of radical Islamist websites.

One of the things I found striking about the article was its opening paragraphs:
Before Hadi bin Mubarak Qahtani exploded himself into an anonymous fireball, he was young and interested only in "fooling around."

Like many Saudis, he was said to have experienced a religious awakening after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and dedicated himself to Allah, inspired by "the holy attack that demolished the foolish infidel Americans and caused many young men to awaken from their deep sleep," according to a posting on a jihadist Web site.
Notice that the apparent motive for Qahtani's suicide assault was not the invasion of Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq or any other act of American aggression. Rather, it was the spectacularly brutal assault on American territory on September 11th.

Perhaps the WaPo's correspondent was trying to hint at this observation in a very subtle manner. Or perhaps not. Regardless, what matters is this telling bit of evidence that American weakness rather than American power is what motivates the foreign fighters in Iraq.

In contrast, I would argue that it is American power (and Shi'ite power) that motivates the local resistance. The men who once ruled Iraq were thrown out of power and now want to take it back. That is what the insurgency is about, although the insurgents seem terribly afraid to admit it.

One point that the WaPo article makes very clearly is that the suicide bombers in Iraq fit a sociological profile that isn't all that surprising:
In a paper published in March, Reuven Paz, an Israeli expert on terrorism, analyzed the lists of jihadi dead. He found 154 Arabs killed over the previous six months in Iraq, 61 percent of them from Saudi Arabia...Many of the bombers were married, well educated and in their late twenties, according to postings...

Paz said his list -- assembled from monitoring a dozen Islamic extremist Web forums -- now had more than 200 names. "Many are students or from wealthy families -- the same sociological characteristics as the Sept. 11 hijackers," he said.
So in casy any of our friends on the left are still clinging to the "root causes" hypothesis, i.e. that poverty and desperation are the primary motives for terrorism, they can forget about it. If there is such a thing as a root cause, it is the misguided belief that Islam sanctions the murder of innocents.

With regard to the reliability of the evidence from which such conclusions are drawn, I found the following anecdote to be telling:
Evan F. Kohlmann, a researcher who monitors Islamic extremist Web sites, has compiled a list of more than 235 names of Iraqi dead gleaned from the Internet since last summer, with more than 50 percent on his tally from Saudi Arabia...

Some of the Web postings also include phone numbers so fellow Islamists can call a dead fighter's family and congratulate them. Kohlmann called several of the numbers. "I have lists and lists of foreign fighters, and it's no joke. Their sons went and blew themselves up in Iraq," he said.
Those must be some pretty interesting conversations that Kohlmann has when he calls up the bombers' families.

On a tangentially related note, I wonder if any of the suicide bombers blog on a regular basis during the months before they become martyrs. That would be one heckuva publicity gimmick (not that I want to give the bad guys any good ideas, but I'm sure they could've come up with this one on their own.)

What I can say for sure is that there is at least one bad guy out there who thinks that blogging is a good way to keep in touch with his fans...
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