Your typical suicide bomber
Academics at West Point have analyzed captured documents which provide an in-depth glimpse into the origins and personnel management of 'foreign fighters' bound for Iraq.
The records are "one of the deepest reservoirs of information we've ever obtained of the network going into Iraq," according to a U.S. official closely familiar with intelligence on the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq. ... Al-Qaeda has a track record of good documentation, he said, adding that "Osama bin Laden was a businessman before he was a terrorist."
Among the more interesting findings are that ninety percent of all suicide bombers were 'foreign fighters'. The great majority had entered Iraq via Syria, "a greater proportion than previously believed", altering their point of entry as Anbar became more difficult to cross. The captured records also went a long way toward de-mythologizing the Jihadi phenomenon. One analyst said, "I think we made a mistake in assuming that al-Qaeda, because it's a terrorist organization, doesn't need to organize itself the way other large organizations do. They have a human resources problem; they have to manage people." Many of those human resource management tools would be familiar to anyone. Al-Qaeda had employment contracts, it provided 3 weeks of vacation each year and additional pay for married members.
And it turns out that most combat Jihadis didn't spring up spontaneously, radicalized and outraged by the "idea" of Israel or some television broadcast about Iraq. They came from ground long tilled and fertilized by extremism. "The West Point center's analysis notes that the home towns and regions listed by many fighters correlate with areas of high insurgent activity in the Arab world. More than half the Libyans came from in or around the coastal cities of Darnah and Benghazi. Both are long associated with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which in November officially affiliated itself with the global al-Qaeda network headed by Osama bin Laden." This suggests a vital synergy between the effects of Jihadi propaganda and the efforts of extremist agitators. The suicide bomber, it's not surprising to learn, is the end product of long preparation and cultivation.
Perhaps one reason why the West has proved so helpless in the face of threats like al-Qaeda is that it is culturally unable to resist, or even to condemn, extremist Islamic agitation in its pre-militant phase. By fighting only those who have crossed the sharp legal border between religious hate-mongering (which is tolerated as a multicultural right) and actual belligerency it is permanently restricted to chipping away at the tip of the iceberg, while nine-tenths of it is allowed to grow unchecked beneath the surface.
The West Point analysis points out that many of the problems which beset Iraq have their origins elsewhere; in so-called allied countries and even within communities in the West. Iraq became a dumping ground, a mere outlet for the hate that is daily generated by radicalism in the Middle East, North Africa and in the West. A foreign suicide bomber is man who by definition was ready to explode before he even got to Iraq. The country itself provided him with a graveyard, but the process which gave him birth is still in full swing.
This strange article from the Times Online illustrates -- in a different way -- how aspiring to suicide can become normal, even in rural Wales. Once you change expectations, people conform to them. Natasha Randall, aged 17, "was the latest in at least seven apparent copycat suicides in Bridgend, South Wales, that have alarmed parents, health authorities and police, who believe that they may be prompted by messages on social networking websites such as Bebo."
David Gunnell, Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Bristol, said that research had shown a connection between reports of suicide in the media and copycat deaths, and it was likely that discussions of suicide on websites would have a similar effect. He said: “Young people are more likely to see and read items concerning suicide on the internet than they are in newspapers. ...
South Wales Police fear that the reason could be simpler. One officer said: “They may think it’s cool to have a memorial website. It may even be a way of achieving prestige among their peer group.”
The macabre attraction of a "memorial website" would be instantly familiar to the Islamic suicide bomber, whose last act before going on a mission is often to record a commemorative video of himself, all decked out in attack paraphernalia, the better to achieve fame among his peers. Places like Iraq only supply the cemetaries for those who have been long on their way.