In one of the most useful articles occasioned by the tenth anniversary of 9/11, at Foreign Policy, Adam Lankford writes that “when it comes to the underlying motives and psychology of the 19 terrorist hijackers, the experts got it wrong.”
There were four terrorists piloting the hijacked airplanes on 9/11. And four sets of personal problems.
Mohamed Atta, who crashed the first plane into the World Trade Center, never wanted to leave his home country in the first place. … Since childhood, Atta had been pressured by his overbearing father to meet absurdly high expectations. … Marwan al-Shehhi, who flew the second plane, told his family that he had been going through a tough time, but could see a light at the end of the tunnel. Hani Hanjour, who crashed into the Pentagon, was described as meek and timid. … ” Ziad Jarrah, who intended to strike the Capitol building but crashed outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, spoke repeatedly of suicide long before the planning of 9/11. … [He] complained to his girlfriend … about being “dissatisfied with his life” and insisted that he didn’t want to leave Earth “in a natural way.”
Research increasingly shows that [suicide terrorists] are motivated far more by personal crises, mental-health problems, and suicidal desires than by ideology or commitment to the cause.
It’s long been known, as Lankford writes, “that terrorist recruiters often exploit the vulnerability of these desperate individuals to further their own ideological goals.” In fact, one can’t help but conclude that these men have suffered childhoods that may have included beating and sexual abuse.
There has been more than 100 years of research on conventional suicide and murder-suicide, and previous scholars have identified many common risk factors and warning signs. It is time for counterterrorism officials to extend these findings to help them increase their precision and narrow their sights. While scanning jihadi websites, criminal databases, and intelligence files, they should stop just looking for radicalized individuals — and start looking for radicalized individuals who match these specific profiles.
Beyond just tagging and cataloguing these individuals lies another frontier: sparing human childred trauma to help them grow up healthy and whole. As Lloyd deMause, dean of psychohistory, writes in the twelfth chapter of his new book, The Origins of War in Child Abuse.
The crucial task of future generations will be to raise loved children who grow up to be peaceful, rather than walking time bombs.
That’s difficult enough to accomplish in the West. Wouldn’t such an initiative require yet more intrusion into Muslim cultures? DeMause explains
Even developing nations such as Palestine have had successes in child abuse prevention classes. … establishing Community Parenting Centers and early home visits for families has been shown to reduce both the amount of child abuse and the crime rates in the cities that provide the centers. … The child abuse prevention programs save so much money by reducing crime and saving some of the huge costs of wars that they have been shown to cost the government nothing.
A first step to gaining acceptance by, say, Muslim nations is by using peace counseling in conflict mediation. DeMause again.
I believe trained psychoanalysts and psychohistorians—particularly those who have done marital therapy and those who have treated delinquent gangs, who have handled the inner fears of people who are often ready to kill each other—should indeed be peace counselors. These counselors could identify the demonic dissociated voices in each group, their “Terrifier” voices,examine the fears, hatreds and scapegoating those voices engender … locate the self-destructive wishes they embody, and finally express remorse for the harm they have done.
Peace counseling should begin at home, however.
The first task of peace counselors would not just be talking to the Islamist terrorists, but talking to and changing the emotional states of U.S. foreign policy officials who are behind the current American practices of killing, torturing, beating, humiliating and shaming “enemies” around the world.
Traumatized members of other cultures helped cause 9/ll. Traumatized members of our own were responsible for the over-response in Iraq and Afghanistan that have left untold more injured and dead.