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Thread: Suicide Bombers in Iraq

  1. #1
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    Default Suicide Bombers in Iraq

    Published earlier this year by USIP, Suicide Bombers in Iraq: The Strategy and Ideology of Martyrdom, should be put on the deployment reading list.

    I'm usually a bit leery when approaching books that have been heavily publicized like this one - with its own website and a USIP "event" held early in July - but it is well worth cover price.
    Table of Contents

    Part I: Insurgents and Their Strategies
    1. Nationalists and Baathists
    2. The Jihadi Salafis
    3. Suicide Terrorism in the Iraqi Insurgency

    Part II: The Alchemy of Martyrdom: Ideology, Theology and Mythology of Suicide Terrorism
    4. The Ideology and Theology of Martyrdom
    5. Martyrdom Mythology in Iraq

    Part III: Martyrs Without Borders: Transnational Networks and Volunteerism in Iraq
    6. Arab Fighters in Iraq
    7. European Muslims in Iraq
    8. Implications for Theory and Policy
    Fully sourced, illustrated with plenty of charts, graphs and network diagrams, along with useful appendices, I found the book to be perhaps the best unclass piece on the subject matter I've read to date.

  2. #2
    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default Hmmm, a few reservations

    Not much of a secret recipe here, it's all open source info. As a matter of fact, we just recently discussed suicide bombers and where they hail from.

    The overwhelming majority of suicide attacks in Iraq have targeted Iraqi security forces and Shia civilians, not coalition forces. The perpetrators appear to be largely non-Iraqi volunteers. Many are from Saudi Arabia, but substantial numbers have come from Europe, Syria, Kuwait, Jordan and North Africa. They are foiling U.S. plans to stabilize the country and turn it into a democratic regime and an ally in a region of religious radicalism, entrenched authoritarianism, and hostile states with nuclear ambitions.
    I heard a story about Hafez and others during an expensive 2005 conference from a MET SO division instructor. We were told to view the various comments from 'paying customers', and "figure it out for yourselves".

    This link kind of found its way into my e-mail later that day.

    And it was "a party." The panelists spent most of their time gathered in front of the stage, before the session actually got rolling, in a party atmosphere of facial expressions and gestures reminiscent of nothing so much as haughty self-righteousness, complete with winks, inside jokes, and self-congratulatory asides slyly delivered across the backs of their hands into a companion's ear.
    Like a SGM herein told me, "check out the guest speakers. Do you know them, heard of them ?"

    Nope !

    So deep is the conviction that the source of conflict lies in grievance rather than a strategic plan for power that these folks can't even draw the proper conclusions from their own findings and insights. Yet they're high-fiving as though they've found the motherload of understanding in the Terror War.

    And not a single person on the panel seemed to notice that it was the first anniversary of Beslan.

  3. #3
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default

    . But none of the panelists seemed to grasp the obvious implication of this observation: that unless the resonance dynamic is broken by some outside intervention extremism will simply mount inexorably, as it has since the seeds of Islamism were planted by the Nazis during the 1940s and were watered and fed by additional infusions from the European Counter-enlightenment, including the ideas of Hegel, Heidegger, and the far more stylish deconstructionists from whom Qutb ripped off so much, without attribution. So given such a pervasive dynamic, why did they not see that an interruption in the feedback resonance was the only way to keep the wave from rising? Well, they weren't looking, that's why.
    On the other hand, Stan, this guy makes some pretty stupid statements like the one above. He obviously never heard of the Mahdi in Sudan or the Wahabis in Saudi Arabia. He completely overlooks the fact that it was the Kaiser's advisors in WWI who urged the use of Jihad to stir up the region against the Brits. As a check on this book, he does not cut it, my friend.

    Best

    Tom

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stan
    .......view the various comments from 'paying customers', and "figure it out for yourselves".....
    That is why I stated that I usually take a hard look at pubs when they are preceded or launched with a bunch of publicity. Often they're no more than tripe put out by the latest parasite to cash in on fast-food publishing on the GWOT. Even reputable providers get caught up in it - RAND has published a a couple of over-hyped damp squibs on terrorism in the past couple of years, and Jane's is guilty of the same. But the "e-mail link" does not address Hafez's book, and only mentions him in passing as a member of the panel being "level headed".

    And even though you simply quote a publicity blurb from the USIP site and not the book itself, I will say that yes, we've discussed much of it on the board before, and, of course, all of it is open-source. I still find it a solid piece. They guy put quite a bit together into one decently constructed volume. For those who aren't SMEs, I recommend it - and for those who already consider themselves knowledgeable on the subject, I still say its a good read. Why do you feel so strongly abouting stating reservations about book that you have not read?
    .....check out the guest speakers. Do you know them, heard of them?
    Although in many cases that is certainly applicable in looking at the source, it is still a general statement, with all the perils that lie therein. And in broader terms, over the years I have found it is dangerous to summarily dismiss someone simply because you haven't heard of him - in working projects on various parts of the world I've run into true subject-matter experts whose names I had never previously run across, even though I've been working in the field for a little while.....

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    That is why I stated that I usually take a hard look at pubs when they are preceded or launched with a bunch of publicity. Often they're no more than tripe put out by the latest parasite to cash in on fast-food publishing on the GWOT. Even reputable providers get caught up in it - RAND has published a a couple of over-hyped damp squibs on terrorism in the past couple of years, and Jane's is guilty of the same. But the "e-mail link" does not address Hafez's book, and only mentions him in passing as a member of the panel being "level headed".

    And even though you simply quote a publicity blurb from the USIP site and not the book itself, I will say that yes, we've discussed much of it on the board before, and, of course, all of it is open-source. I still find it a solid piece. They guy put quite a bit together into one decently constructed volume. For those who aren't SMEs, I recommend it - and for those who already consider themselves knowledgeable on the subject, I still say its a good read. Why do you feel so strongly abouting stating reservations about book that you have not read?

    Although in many cases that is certainly applicable in looking at the source, it is still a general statement, with all the perils that lie therein. And in broader terms, over the years I have found it is dangerous to summarily dismiss someone simply because you haven't heard of him - in working projects on various parts of the world I've run into true subject-matter experts whose names I had never previously run across, even though I've been working in the field for a little while.....
    I won't condense your response, but will comment on the following:
    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    Why do you feel so strongly abouting stating reservations about book that you have not read?
    I quoted what was provided to me, and I think I even stated said.

    I refer to recommendations from members herein regarding endless books and conferences that cost mucho bucks, and rarely solve problems. What I did say was that "I heard a story about Hafez and others". There's little strong language in that sentence, yet alone belief.

    I did not say I read the book, rather quoted a 17-year veteran from an LE Anti-Terroism branch. If however given the choice of believing one or the other, I'll stick with the Brit from MET for now.

    I don't do RAND, nor have I ever quoted them.

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    On the other hand, Stan, this guy makes some pretty stupid statements like the one above. He obviously never heard of the Mahdi in Sudan or the Wahabis in Saudi Arabia. He completely overlooks the fact that it was the Kaiser's advisors in WWI who urged the use of Jihad to stir up the region against the Brits. As a check on this book, he does not cut it, my friend.

    Best

    Tom
    Tom,
    Concur. Some stupid statements and perhaps one-sided. I offer what was forwarded to me with ever so slight comments - a debate if you will. The Brit was responding to one of our students who felt this was significant in the wake of 9/11 and London Tube Bombings. I'll assume (but never really cared to ask) that at least one of them read of heard of the book in question.

    If I recall correctly, we receive nearly 250 offers per year to attend conferences, book reviews, etc, etc, etc. As Jedburgh just posted, not easy to find one that's not financially connected to a scam on the GWOT.

    I will remain skeptical for the time being...but still relatively humble

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stan View Post
    ...If I recall correctly, we receive nearly 250 offers per year to attend conferences, book reviews, etc, etc, etc. As Jedburgh just posted, not easy to find one that's not financially connected to a scam on the GWOT....
    To follow this tangent a bit, in my perception, parasitic feeding off of the GWOT is serious issue. It not only feeds off of the general public with fast-food publishing along the lines that I've mentioned, they also feed off both the government and private sector, exploiting decision makers who should know better. With finite resources under strain we need to take care with our commitments. However, exaggerating and creating threats has become big business. And, what should be to their great shame, many people with real-world experience and genuine expertise compromise their personal integrity in scaremongering along certain lines to ensure continued high fees for their scribblings and speaking engagements. Or they serve for a hefty sum as a front man for organizations with no motives other than profit. Working in the private sector, I have seen our executives scammed by vendors in this market for big bucks too often to be comfortable. But what is criminal is the degree to which some of this affects government decision making and budget decisions that affect national security.

    A member of a risk analysis list-serve I am also a member of posted a good assessment of manipulation of information for profit; I'll repost it here:
    I am not sure what "legitimate" means in this context. Public outrage
    can sometimes be easily manipulated, and this can be exploited by the politically astute. Example: If my agency, in charge of regulating X, is a bit short of money, here is how I can fix that problem.

    1. Fund a few scientists to investigate (or at least write about) the question "Can we be certain that X does not cause dreaded illness Y?"

    2. Get the risk communication program in gear. Issue a PR release saying "Scientists investigate link between X and Y". If this does not bring more funding immediately (to support the studies), take a few public opinion polls among those who have read the first press release, then issue a second one: "Concern grows about potential link between X and Y."

    3. Now, scientists cannot easily prove a negative, but can easily encounter false positives using currently widely practiced epidemiological methods. (To be extra sure of getting a positive answer, one may follow the U.S. FDA and simply assume a positive linear model, Y = kX, then focus on quantifying k. This begs the question of whether X actually causes Y and guarantees a positive "risk estimate" for k for *any* two positive quantities X and Y, such as quantity of chicken eaten and number of cases of illness. It even works on purely random data, e.g., if X and Y are independent random variables.)

    4. Issue another PR statement saying "New risk studies quantify link between X and Y -- more study needed."

    5. Publish news releases and editorial pieces (preferably expressing outrage) in friendly journals, discussing the growing crisis of X (possibly) causing Y. Hold public meetings to discuss perceptions, identify concerns, and share fears about possible risks from X. If possible, have vicitims of Y testify that they know (at least with moral certainty, if not using the artificial ways of knowing favored by scientists and statisticians) that X caused their suffering.

    6. Lobby for more funding to study and/or ban X in order to addres the public's concern and expressed outrage about Y.

    7. Usually, by this time, the makers of X will object. They may point out that there is no shred of evidence that X actually causes Y. This need not be a problem. Handled correctly, it is an opportunity. Publish outraged articles and editorials (e.g., accusing the makers of X of shamelessly profiting from their manufacture of X while innocent people suffer from Y). Vilify them. AIr moving footage of vicitims of Y juxtaposed with the facilities that manufacture X. Get the Union of Concerned Scientists to voice their concerns -- it's what they are there for.

    8. If the makes of X persevere (unlikely) and insist that there is still no evidence that X actually causes Y, then play the trump card: point out that public outrage now requires political action, even if X has not been "shown scentifically" to cause Y. By this time, budget pains should have disappeared. If not, return to step 1 and repeat for additional different X and Y.

    This scenario does not imply that outrage should not be expressed or that it cannot be legitimate. It does suggest that public outrage can sometimes be shaped and manipulated by those with an interest in doing so.

  8. #8
    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default Indeed, well said !

    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    To follow this tangent a bit, in my perception, parasitic feeding off of the GWOT is serious issue. It not only feeds off of the general public with fast-food publishing along the lines that I've mentioned, they also feed off both the government and private sector, exploiting decision makers who should know better. With finite resources under strain we need to take care with our commitments. However, exaggerating and creating threats has become big business. And, what should be to their great shame, many people with real-world experience and genuine expertise compromise their personal integrity in scaremongering along certain lines to ensure continued high fees for their scribblings and speaking engagements. Or they serve for a hefty sum as a front man for organizations with no motives other than profit. Working in the private sector, I have seen our executives scammed by vendors in this market for big bucks too often to be comfortable. But what is criminal is the degree to which some of this affects government decision making and budget decisions that affect national security.

    A member of a risk analysis list-serve I am also a member of posted a good assessment of manipulation of information for profit; I'll repost it here:
    Regretfully, I remain extremely skeptical and the big bucks scenario appears to be an abysmal means of feeding off the war. While it sadly affects government decisons, it eats away at the average American that we need behind us more than ever before.

    Thanks for the post and healthy round of debats !

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