Understanding the Strategic Logic behind Suicide Terrorism

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  1. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    This thread is about discussing suicide terrorism including car bombs/truck bombs e.t.c in a scholarly way and highlight empirical research done on understanding it. Well known experts in this area reiterate that religious justification/motivation is not the primary motivation; and that secular concerns like foreign policy and legitimate political/HR grievances do play a major role. Most of us would already agree to this but would probbaly like to know in more detail about it.

    Most articles might be from the American perspective but can be used to learn from it and possibly apply it in the South Asian perspective.

    The New York Times > Blowing Up an Assumption

    Published: May 18, 2005

    MANY Americans are mystified by the recent rise in the number and the audacity of suicide attacks in Iraq. The lull in violence after January's successful elections seemed to suggest that the march of democracy was trampling the threat of terrorism. But as electoral politics is taking root, the Iraqi insurgency and suicide terrorism are actually gaining momentum. In the past two weeks, suicide attackers have killed more than 420 Iraqis working with the United States and its allies. There were 20 such incidents in 2003, nearly 50 in 2004, and they are on pace to set a new record this year.

    To make sense of this apparent contradiction, one has to understand the strategic logic of suicide terrorism. Since Muslim terrorists professing religious motives have perpetrated many of the attacks, it might seem obvious that Islamic fundamentalism is the central cause, and thus the wholesale transformation of Muslim societies into secular democracies, even at the barrel of a gun, is the obvious solution. However, the presumed connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism is misleading, and it may spur American policies that are likely to worsen the situation.

    Over the past two years, I have compiled a database of every suicide bombing and attack around the globe from 1980 through 2003 - 315 in all. This includes every episode in which at least one terrorist killed himself or herself while trying to kill others, but excludes attacks authorized by a national government (like those by North Korean agents against South Korea). The data show that there is far less of a connection between suicide terrorism and religious fundamentalism than most people think.

    The leading instigator of suicide attacks is the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, a Marxist-Leninist group whose members are from Hindu families but who are adamantly opposed to religion. This group committed 76 of the 315 incidents, more than Hamas (54) or Islamic Jihad (27). Even among Muslims, secular groups like the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Al Aksa Martyr Brigades account for more than a third of suicide attacks.

    What nearly all suicide terrorist attacks actually have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland. Religion is often used as a tool by terrorist organizations in recruiting and in seeking aid from abroad, but is rarely the root cause.

    Three general patterns in the data support these conclusions. First, nearly all suicide terrorist attacks - 301 of the 315 in the period I studied - took place as part of organized political or military campaigns. Second, democracies are uniquely vulnerable to suicide terrorists; America, France, India, Israel, Russia, Sri Lanka and Turkey have been the targets of almost every suicide attack of the past two decades. Third, suicide terrorist campaigns are directed toward a strategic objective: from Lebanon to Israel to Sri Lanka to Kashmir to Chechnya, the sponsors of every campaign - 18 organizations in all - are seeking to establish or maintain political self-determination.

    Before Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982, there was no Hezbollah suicide terrorist campaign against Israel; indeed, Hezbollah came into existence only after this event. Before the Sri Lankan military began moving into the Tamil homelands of the island in 1987, the Tamil Tigers did not use suicide attacks. Before the huge increase in Jewish settlers on the West Bank in the 1980's, Palestinian groups did not use suicide terrorism.

    And, true to form, there had never been a documented suicide attack in Iraq until after the American invasion in 2003. Much is made of the fact that we aren't sure who the Iraqi suicide attackers are. This is not unusual in the early years of a suicide terrorist campaign. Hezbollah published most of the biographies and last testaments of its "martyrs" only after it abandoned the suicide-attack strategy in 1986, a pattern adopted by the Tamil Tigers as well.

    At the moment, our best information indicates that the attackers in Iraq are Sunni Iraqis and foreign fighters, principally from Saudi Arabia. If so, this would mean that the two main sources of suicide terrorists in Iraq are from the Arab countries deemed most vulnerable to transformation by the presence of American combat troops. This is fully consistent with what we now know about the strategic logic of suicide terrorism.

    Some have wondered if the rise of suicide terrorism in Iraq is really such a bad thing for American security. Is it not better to have these killers far away in Iraq rather than here in the United States? Alas, history shows otherwise. The presence of tens of thousands of American combat forces on the Arabian Peninsula after 1990 enabled Al Qaeda to recruit suicide terrorists, who in turn attacked Americans in the region (the African embassy bombings in 1998 and the attack on the destroyer Cole in 2000). The presence of nearly 150,000 American combat troops in Iraq since 2003 can only give suicide terrorism a boost, and the longer this suicide terrorist campaign continues the greater the risk of new attacks in the United States.

    Understanding that suicide terrorism is mainly a response to foreign occupation rather than a product of Islamic fundamentalism has important implications for how the United States and its allies should conduct the war on terrorism. Spreading democracy across the Persian Gulf is not likely to be a panacea so long as foreign combat troops remain on the Arabian Peninsula. If not for the world's interest in Persian Gulf oil, the obvious solution might well be simply to abandon the region altogether. Isolationism, however, is not possible; America needs a new strategy that pursues our vital interest in oil but does not stimulate the rise of a new generation of suicide terrorists.

    BEYOND recognizing the limits of military action and stepping up domestic security efforts, Americans would do well to recall the virtues of our traditional policy of "offshore balancing" in the Persian Gulf. During the 1970's and 1980's, the United States managed its interests there without stationing any combat soldiers on the ground, but keeping our forces close enough - either on ships or in bases near the region - to deploy in huge numbers if an emergency. This worked splendidly to defeat Iraq's aggression against Kuwait in 1990.

    THE Bush administration rightly intends to start turning over the responsibility for Iraq's security to the new government and systematically withdrawing American troops. But large numbers of these soldiers should not simply be sent to Iraq's neighbors, where they will continue to enrage many in the Arab world. Keeping the peace from a discreet distance seems a better way to secure our interests in the world's key oil-producing region without provoking more terrorism.
     
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  3. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    The American Conservative -- The Logic of Suicide Terrorism
    July 18, 2005 Issue

    Last month, Scott McConnell caught up with Associate Professor Robert Pape of the University of Chicago, whose book on suicide terrorism, Dying to Win, is beginning to receive wide notice. Pape has found that the most common American perceptions about who the terrorists are and what motivates them are off by a wide margin. In his office is the world’s largest database of information about suicide terrorists, rows and rows of manila folders containing articles and biographical snippets in dozens of languages compiled by Pape and teams of graduate students, a trove of data that has been sorted and analyzed and which underscores the great need for reappraising the Bush administration’s current strategy. Below are excerpts from a conversation with the man who knows more about suicide terrorists than any other American.

    The American Conservative: Your new book, Dying to Win, has a subtitle: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism. Can you just tell us generally on what the book is based, what kind of research went into it, and what your findings were?

    Robert Pape: Over the past two years, I have collected the first complete database of every suicide-terrorist attack around the world from 1980 to early 2004. This research is conducted not only in English but also in native-language sources—Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, and Tamil, and others—so that we can gather information not only from newspapers but also from products from the terrorist community. The terrorists are often quite proud of what they do in their local communities, and they produce albums and all kinds of other information that can be very helpful to understand suicide-terrorist attacks.

    This wealth of information creates a new picture about what is motivating suicide terrorism. Islamic fundamentalism is not as closely associated with suicide terrorism as many people think. The world leader in suicide terrorism is a group that you may not be familiar with: the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.

    This is a Marxist group, a completely secular group that draws from the Hindu families of the Tamil regions of the country. They invented the famous suicide vest for their suicide assassination of Rajiv Ghandi in May 1991. The Palestinians got the idea of the suicide vest from the Tamil Tigers.

    TAC: So if Islamic fundamentalism is not necessarily a key variable behind these groups, what is?

    RP: The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank, every major suicide-terrorist campaign—over 95 percent of all the incidents—has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw.

    TAC: That would seem to run contrary to a view that one heard during the American election campaign, put forth by people who favor Bush’s policy. That is, we need to fight the terrorists over there, so we don’t have to fight them here.

    RP: Since suicide terrorism is mainly a response to foreign occupation and not Islamic fundamentalism, the use of heavy military force to transform Muslim societies over there, if you would, is only likely to increase the number of suicide terrorists coming at us.

    Since 1990, the United States has stationed tens of thousands of ground troops on the Arabian Peninsula, and that is the main mobilization appeal of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. People who make the argument that it is a good thing to have them attacking us over there are missing that suicide terrorism is not a supply-limited phenomenon where there are just a few hundred around the world willing to do it because they are religious fanatics. It is a demand-driven phenomenon. That is, it is driven by the presence of foreign forces on the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. The operation in Iraq has stimulated suicide terrorism and has given suicide terrorism a new lease on life.

    TAC: If we were to back up a little bit before the invasion of Iraq to what happened before 9/11, what was the nature of the agitprop that Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda were putting out to attract people?

    RP: Osama bin Laden’s speeches and sermons run 40 and 50 pages long. They begin by calling tremendous attention to the presence of tens of thousands of American combat forces on the Arabian Peninsula.

    In 1996, he went on to say that there was a grand plan by the United States—that the Americans were going to use combat forces to conquer Iraq, break it into three pieces, give a piece of it to Israel so that Israel could enlarge its country, and then do the same thing to Saudi Arabia. As you can see, we are fulfilling his prediction, which is of tremendous help in his mobilization appeals.

    TAC: The fact that we had troops stationed on the Arabian Peninsula was not a very live issue in American debate at all. How many Saudis and other people in the Gulf were conscious of it?

    RP: We would like to think that if we could keep a low profile with our troops that it would be okay to station them in foreign countries. The truth is, we did keep a fairly low profile. We did try to keep them away from Saudi society in general, but the key issue with American troops is their actual combat power. Tens of thousands of American combat troops, married with air power, is a tremendously powerful tool.

    Now, of course, today we have 150,000 troops on the Arabian Peninsula, and we are more in control of the Arabian Peninsula than ever before.

    TAC: If you were to break down causal factors, how much weight would you put on a cultural rejection of the West and how much weight on the presence of American troops on Muslim territory?

    RP: The evidence shows that the presence of American troops is clearly the pivotal factor driving suicide terrorism.

    If Islamic fundamentalism were the pivotal factor, then we should see some of the largest Islamic fundamentalist countries in the world, like Iran, which has 70 million people—three times the population of Iraq and three times the population of Saudi Arabia—with some of the most active groups in suicide terrorism against the United States. However, there has never been an al-Qaeda suicide terrorist from Iran, and we have no evidence that there are any suicide terrorists in Iraq from Iran.

    Sudan is a country of 21 million people. Its government is extremely Islamic fundamentalist. The ideology of Sudan was so congenial to Osama bin Laden that he spent three years in Sudan in the 1990s. Yet there has never been an al-Qaeda suicide terrorist from Sudan.

    I have the first complete set of data on every al-Qaeda suicide terrorist from 1995 to early 2004, and they are not from some of the largest Islamic fundamentalist countries in the world. Two thirds are from the countries where the United States has stationed heavy combat troops since 1990.

    Another point in this regard is Iraq itself. Before our invasion, Iraq never had a suicide-terrorist attack in its history. Never. Since our invasion, suicide terrorism has been escalating rapidly with 20 attacks in 2003, 48 in 2004, and over 50 in just the first five months of 2005. Every year that the United States has stationed 150,000 combat troops in Iraq, suicide terrorism has doubled.

    TAC: So your assessment is that there are more suicide terrorists or potential suicide terrorists today than there were in March 2003?

    RP: I have collected demographic data from around the world on the 462 suicide terrorists since 1980 who completed the mission, actually killed themselves. This information tells us that most are walk-in volunteers. Very few are criminals. Few are actually longtime members of a terrorist group. For most suicide terrorists, their first experience with violence is their very own suicide-terrorist attack.

    There is no evidence there were any suicide-terrorist organizations lying in wait in Iraq before our invasion. What is happening is that the suicide terrorists have been produced by the invasion.

    TAC: Do we know who is committing suicide terrorism in Iraq? Are they primarily Iraqis or walk-ins from other countries in the region?

    RP: Our best information at the moment is that the Iraqi suicide terrorists are coming from two groups—Iraqi Sunnis and Saudis—the two populations most vulnerable to transformation by the presence of large American combat troops on the Arabian Peninsula. This is perfectly consistent with the strategic logic of suicide terrorism.

    TAC: Does al-Qaeda have the capacity to launch attacks on the United States, or are they too tied down in Iraq? Or have they made a strategic decision not to attack the United States, and if so, why?

    RP: Al-Qaeda appears to have made a deliberate decision not to attack the United States in the short term. We know this not only from the pattern of their attacks but because we have an actual al-Qaeda planning document found by Norwegian intelligence. The document says that al-Qaeda should not try to attack the continent of the United States in the short term but instead should focus its energies on hitting America’s allies in order to try to split the coalition.

    What the document then goes on to do is analyze whether they should hit Britain, Poland, or Spain. It concludes that they should hit Spain just before the March 2004 elections because, and I am quoting almost verbatim: Spain could not withstand two, maximum three, blows before withdrawing from the coalition, and then others would fall like dominoes.

    That is exactly what happened. Six months after the document was produced, al-Qaeda attacked Spain in Madrid. That caused Spain to withdraw from the coalition. Others have followed. So al-Qaeda certainly has demonstrated the capacity to attack and in fact they have done over 15 suicide-terrorist attacks since 2002, more than all the years before 9/11 combined. Al-Qaeda is not weaker now. Al-Qaeda is stronger.

    TAC: What would constitute a victory in the War on Terror or at least an improvement in the American situation?

    RP: For us, victory means not sacrificing any of our vital interests while also not having Americans vulnerable to suicide-terrorist attacks. In the case of the Persian Gulf, that means we should pursue a strategy that secures our interest in oil but does not encourage the rise of a new generation of suicide terrorists.

    In the 1970s and the 1980s, the United States secured its interest in oil without stationing a single combat soldier on the Arabian Peninsula. Instead, we formed an alliance with Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which we can now do again. We relied on numerous aircraft carriers off the coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and naval air power now is more effective not less. We also built numerous military bases so that we could move large numbers of ground forces to the region quickly if a crisis emerged.

    That strategy, called “offshore balancing,” worked splendidly against Saddam Hussein in 1990 and is again our best strategy to secure our interest in oil while preventing the rise of more suicide terrorists.

    TAC: Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders also talked about the “Crusaders-Zionist alliance,” and I wonder if that, even if we weren’t in Iraq, would not foster suicide terrorism. Even if the policy had helped bring about a Palestinian state, I don’t think that would appease the more hardcore opponents of Israel.

    RP: I not only study the patterns of where suicide terrorism has occurred but also where it hasn’t occurred. Not every foreign occupation has produced suicide terrorism. Why do some and not others? Here is where religion matters, but not quite in the way most people think. In virtually every instance where an occupation has produced a suicide-terrorist campaign, there has been a religious difference between the occupier and the occupied community. That is true not only in places such as Lebanon and in Iraq today but also in Sri Lanka, where it is the Sinhala Buddhists who are having a dispute with the Hindu Tamils.

    When there is a religious difference between the occupier and the occupied, that enables terrorist leaders to demonize the occupier in especially vicious ways. Now, that still requires the occupier to be there. Absent the presence of foreign troops, Osama bin Laden could make his arguments but there wouldn’t be much reality behind them. The reason that it is so difficult for us to dispute those arguments is because we really do have tens of thousands of combat soldiers sitting on the Arabian Peninsula.

    TAC: Has the next generation of anti-American suicide terrorists already been created? Is it too late to wind this down, even assuming your analysis is correct and we could de-occupy Iraq?

    RP: Many people worry that once a large number of suicide terrorists have acted that it is impossible to wind it down. The history of the last 20 years, however, shows the opposite. Once the occupying forces withdraw from the homeland territory of the terrorists, they often stop—and often on a dime.

    In Lebanon, for instance, there were 41 suicide-terrorist attacks from 1982 to 1986, and after the U.S. withdrew its forces, France withdrew its forces, and then Israel withdrew to just that six-mile buffer zone of Lebanon, they virtually ceased. They didn’t completely stop, but there was no campaign of suicide terrorism. Once Israel withdrew from the vast bulk of Lebanese territory, the suicide terrorists did not follow Israel to Tel Aviv.

    This is also the pattern of the second Intifada with the Palestinians. As Israel is at least promising to withdraw from Palestinian-controlled territory (in addition to some other factors), there has been a decline of that ferocious suicide-terrorist campaign. This is just more evidence that withdrawal of military forces really does diminish the ability of the terrorist leaders to recruit more suicide terrorists.

    That doesn’t mean that the existing suicide terrorists will not want to keep going. I am not saying that Osama bin Laden would turn over a new leaf and suddenly vote for George Bush. There will be a tiny number of people who are still committed to the cause, but the real issue is not whether Osama bin Laden exists. It is whether anybody listens to him. That is what needs to come to an end for Americans to be safe from suicide terrorism.

    TAC: There have been many kinds of non-Islamic suicide terrorists, but have there been Christian suicide terrorists?

    RP: Not from Christian groups per se, but in Lebanon in the 1980s, of those suicide attackers, only eight were Islamic fundamentalists. Twenty-seven were Communists and Socialists. Three were Christians.

    TAC: Has the IRA used suicide terrorism?

    RP: The IRA did not. There were IRA members willing to commit suicide—the famous hunger strike was in 1981. What is missing in the IRA case is not the willingness to commit suicide, to kill themselves, but the lack of a suicide-terrorist attack where they try to kill others.

    If you look at the pattern of violence in the IRA, almost all of the killing is front-loaded to the 1970s and then trails off rather dramatically as you get through the mid-1980s through the 1990s. There is a good reason for that, which is that the British government, starting in the mid-1980s, began to make numerous concessions to the IRA on the basis of its ordinary violence. In fact, there were secret negotiations in the 1980s, which then led to public negotiations, which then led to the Good Friday Accords. If you look at the pattern of the IRA, this is a case where they actually got virtually everything that they wanted through ordinary violence.

    The purpose of a suicide-terrorist attack is not to die. It is the kill, to inflict the maximum number of casualties on the target society in order to compel that target society to put pressure on its government to change policy. If the government is already changing policy, then the whole point of suicide terrorism, at least the way it has been used for the last 25 years, doesn’t come up.

    TAC: Are you aware of any different strategic decision made by al-Qaeda to change from attacking American troops or ships stationed at or near the Gulf to attacking American civilians in the United States?

    RP: I wish I could say yes because that would then make the people reading this a lot more comfortable.

    The fact is not only in the case of al-Qaeda, but in suicide-terrorist campaigns in general, we don’t see much evidence that suicide-terrorist groups adhere to a norm of attacking military targets in some circumstances and civilians in others.

    In fact, we often see that suicide-terrorist groups routinely attack both civilian and military targets, and often the military targets are off-duty policemen who are unsuspecting. They are not really prepared for battle.

    The reasons for the target selection of suicide terrorists appear to be much more based on operational rather than normative criteria. They appear to be looking for the targets where they can maximize the number of casualties.

    In the case of the West Bank, for instance, there is a pattern where Hamas and Islamic Jihad use ordinary guerrilla attacks, not suicide attacks, mainly to attack settlers. They use suicide attacks to penetrate into Israel proper. Over 75 percent of all the suicide attacks in the second Intifada were against Israel proper and only 25 percent on the West Bank itself.

    TAC: What do you think the chances are of a weapon of mass destruction being used in an American city?

    RP: I think it depends not exclusively, but heavily, on how long our combat forces remain in the Persian Gulf. The central motive for anti-American terrorism, suicide terrorism, and catastrophic terrorism is response to foreign occupation, the presence of our troops. The longer our forces stay on the ground in the Arabian Peninsula, the greater the risk of the next 9/11, whether that is a suicide attack, a nuclear attack, or a biological attack.
     
  4. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Asia Times Online :: PART 1: The poor man's air force

    On a warm September day in 1920 in New York, a few months after the arrest of his comrades Sacco and Vanzetti, a vengeful Italian anarchist named Mario Buda parked his horse-drawn wagon near the corner of Wall and Broad streets, directly across from J P Morgan Company. He nonchalantly climbed down and disappeared, unnoticed, into the lunchtime crowd.

    A few blocks away, a startled postal worker found strange leaflets warning: "Free the political prisoners or it will be sure death for all of you!" They were signed: "American anarchist fighters". The
    bells of nearby Trinity Church began to toll at noon. When they stopped, the wagon - packed with dynamite and iron slugs - exploded in a fireball of shrapnel.

    "The horse and wagon were blown to bits," wrote Paul Avrich, the celebrated historian of US anarchism who uncovered the true story. "Glass showered down from office windows, and awnings 12 stories above the street burst into flames. People fled in terror as a great cloud of dust enveloped the area. In Morgan's offices, Thomas Joyce of the securities department fell dead on his desk amid a rubble of plaster and walls. Outside, scores of bodies littered the streets."

    Buda was undoubtedly disappointed when he learned that J P Morgan was not among the 40 dead and more than 200 wounded - the great robber baron was away in Scotland at his hunting lodge. Nonetheless, a poor immigrant with some stolen dynamite, a pile of scrap metal and an old horse had managed to bring unprecedented terror to the inner sanctum of US capitalism.

    His Wall Street bomb was the culmination of a half-century of anarchist fantasies about avenging angels made of dynamite; but it was also an invention, like Charles Babbage's difference engine, far ahead of the imagination of its time. Only after the barbarism of strategic bombing had become commonplace, and when air forces routinely pursued insurgents into the labyrinths of poor cities, would the truly radical potential of Buda's "infernal machine" be fully realized.

    Buda's wagon was, in essence, the prototype car bomb: the first use of an inconspicuous vehicle, anonymous in almost any urban setting, to transport large quantities of high explosive into precise range of a high-value target. It was not replicated, as far as I have been able to determine, until January 12, 1947, when the Stern Gang drove a truckload of explosives into a British police station in Haifa, Palestine, killing four and injuring 140. The Stern Gang (a pro-fascist splinter group led by Avraham Stern that broke away from the right-wing Zionist paramilitary Irgun) would soon use truck and car bombs to kill Palestinians as well: a creative atrocity immediately reciprocated by British deserters fighting on the side of Palestinian nationalists.

    Vehicle bombs thereafter were used sporadically - producing notable massacres in Saigon (1952), Algiers (1962) and Palermo (1963) - but the gates of hell were only truly opened in 1972, when the Provisional Irish Republican Army accidentally, so the legend goes, improvised the first ammonium nitrate-fuel oil (ANFO) car bomb. These new-generation bombs, requiring only ordinary industrial ingredients and synthetic fertilizer, were cheap to fabricate and astonishingly powerful: they elevated urban terrorism from the artisanal to the industrial level, and made possible sustained blitzes against entire city centers as well as the complete destruction of ferro-concrete skyscrapers and residential blocks.

    The car bomb, in other words, suddenly became a semi-strategic weapon that, under certain circumstances, was comparable to air power in its ability to knock out critical urban nodes and headquarters as well as terrorize the populations of entire cities. Indeed, the suicide truck bombs that devastated the US Embassy and Marine Corps barracks in Beirut in 1983 prevailed - at least in a geopolitical sense - over the combined firepower of the fighter-bombers and battleships of the US 6th Fleet and forced the administration of president Ronald Reagan to retreat from Lebanon.

    Hezbollah's ruthless and brilliant use of car bombs in Lebanon in the 1980s to counter the advanced military technology of the United States, France and Israel soon emboldened a dozen other groups to bring their insurgencies and jihads home to the metropolis. Some of the new-generation car-bombers were graduates of terrorism schools set up by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), with Saudi financing, in the mid-1980s to train mujahideen to terrorize the Russians then occupying Kabul. Between 1992 and 1998, 16 major vehicle-bomb attacks in 13 different cities killed 1,050 people and wounded nearly 12,000.

    More important from a geopolitical standpoint, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Gama'a al-Islamiyya inflicted billions of dollars of damage on the two leading control centers of the world economy - the City of London (1992, 1993 and 1996) and Lower Manhattan (1993) - and forced a reorganization of the global reinsurance industry.

    In the new millennium, 85 years after that first massacre on Wall Street, car bombs have become almost as generically global as iPods and AIDS, cratering the streets of cities from Bogota to Bali. Suicide truck bombs, once the distinctive signature of Hezbollah, have been franchised to Sri Lanka, Chechnya/Russia, Turkey, Egypt, Kuwait and Indonesia.

    On any graph of urban terrorism, the curve representing car bombs is rising steeply, almost exponentially. US-occupied Iraq, of course, is a relentless inferno, with more than 9,000 casualties - mainly civilian - attributed to vehicle bombs in the two-year period between July 2003 and June 2005. Since then, the frequency of car-bomb attacks has dramatically increased: 140 per month last autumn, and 13 in Baghdad this New Year's Day alone. If roadside bombs or IEDs (improvised explosive devices) are the most effective device against US armored vehicles, car bombs are the weapon of choice for slaughtering Shi'ite civilians in front of mosques and markets and instigating an apocalyptic sectarian war.

    Under siege from weapons indistinguishable from ordinary traffic, the apparatuses of administration and finance are retreating inside "rings of steel" and "green zones", but the larger challenge of the car bomb seems intractable. Stolen nukes, sarin gas and anthrax may be the "sum of our fears", but the car bomb is the quotidian workhorse of urban terrorism. Before considering its genealogy, however, it may be helpful to summarize those characteristics that make Buda's wagon such a formidable and undoubtedly permanent source of urban insecurity.

    First, vehicle bombs are stealth weapons of surprising power and destructive efficiency. Trucks, vans or even sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) can easily transport the equivalent of several conventional 1,000-pound (453-kilogram) bombs to the doorstep of a prime target. Moreover, their destructive power is still evolving, thanks to the constant tinkering of ingenious bomb-makers. We have yet to face the full horror of truck-trailer-sized explosions with a lethal blast range of 200 meters or of dirty bombs sheathed in enough nuclear waste to render mid-Manhattan radioactive for generations.

    Second, they are extraordinarily cheap: 40 or 50 people can be massacred with a stolen car and maybe US$400 of fertilizer and bootlegged electronics. Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, bragged that his most expensive outlay was in long-distance phone calls. The explosive itself (one-half ton of urea) cost $3,615 plus the $59 per day rental for a 3-meter-long Ryder van. In contrast, the cruise missiles that have become the classic US riposte to overseas terrorist attacks cost $1.1 million each.

    Third, car bombings are operationally simple to organize. Although some still refuse to believe that Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols didn't have secret assistance from a government or dark entity, two men in the proverbial phone booth - a security guard and a farmer - successfully planned and executed the horrendous Oklahoma City bombing with instructional books and information acquired from the gun-show circuit.

    Fourth, like even the "smartest" of aerial bombs, car bombs are inherently indiscriminate: "collateral damage" is virtually inevitable. If the logic of an attack is to slaughter innocents and sow panic in the widest circle, to operate a "strategy of tension", or just demoralize a society, car bombs are ideal. But they are equally effective at destroying the moral credibility of a cause and alienating its mass base of support, as both the IRA and the ETA (Euskadi ta Askatasuna, or Basque Fatherland and Liberty) separatist movement in Spain have independently discovered. The car bomb is an inherently fascist weapon.

    Fifth, car bombs are highly anonymous and leave minimal forensic evidence. Buda quietly went home to Italy, leaving William Burns, J Edgar Hoover and the Bureau of Investigation (later to be renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI) to make fools of themselves as they chased one false lead after another for a decade. Most of Buda's descendants have also escaped identification and arrest. Anonymity, in addition, greatly recommends car bombs to those who like to disguise their handiwork, including the CIA, the Israeli Mossad, the Syrian General Security Directorate (GSD), the Iranian Pasdaran and the ISI - all of whom have caused unspeakable carnage with such devices.

    Preliminary detonations (1948-63)

    "Reds' time bombs rip Saigon center"
    - New York Times headline (January 10, 1952)

    Members of the Stern Gang were ardent students of violence, self-declared Jewish admirers of Benito Mussolini, who steeped themselves in the terrorist traditions of the pre-1917 Russian Socialist-Revolutionary Party, the IMRO (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization) and the Italian Blackshirts. As the most extreme wing of the Zionist movement in Palestine - "fascists" to the Haganah (Jewish paramilitary in Palestine 1920-48) and "terrorists" to the British - they were morally and tactically unfettered by considerations of diplomacy or world opinion. They had a fierce and well-deserved reputation for the originality of their operations and the unexpectedness of their attacks.

    On January 12, 1947, as part of their campaign to prevent any compromise between mainstream Zionism and the British Labour government, they exploded a powerful truck bomb in the central police station in Haifa, resulting in 144 casualties. Three months later, they repeated the tactic in Tel Aviv, blowing up the Sarona police barracks (five dead) with a stolen postal truck filled with dynamite.

    In December 1947, after the United Nations vote to partition Palestine, full-scale fighting broke out between Jewish and Arab communities from Haifa to Gaza. The Stern Gang, which rejected anything less than the restoration of a biblical Israel, now gave the truck bomb its debut as a weapon of mass terror. On January 4, 1948, two men in Arab dress drove a truck ostensibly loaded with oranges into the center of Jaffa and parked it next to the New Seray building, which housed the Palestinian municipal government as well as a soup-kitchen for poor children. They coolly lingered for coffee at a nearby cafe before leaving a few minutes ahead of the detonation.

    "A thunderous explosion," wrote Adam LeBor in his history of Jaffa, "then shook the city. Broken glass and shattered masonry blew out across Clock Tower Square. The New Seray's center and side walls collapsed in a pile of rubble and twisted beams. Only the neo-classical facade survived. After a moment of silence, the screams began, 26 were killed, hundreds injured. Most were civilians, including many children eating at the charity kitchen."

    The bomb missed the local Palestinian leadership, who had moved to another building, but the atrocity was highly successful in terrifying residents and setting the stage for their eventual flight.

    It also provoked the Palestinians to cruel repayment in kind. The Arab High Committee had its own secret weapon - blond-haired British deserters, fighting on the side of the Palestinians.

    Nine days after the Jaffa bombing, some of these deserters, led by Eddie Brown, a former police corporal whose brother had been murdered by the Irgun, commandeered a postal delivery truck that they packed with explosives and detonated in the center of Haifa's Jewish quarter, injuring 50 people. Two weeks later, Brown, driving a stolen car and followed by a five-ton truck driven by a Palestinian in a police uniform, successfully passed through British and Haganah checkpoints and entered Jerusalem's New City. The driver parked in front of the Palestine Post, lit the fuse, and then escaped with Brown in his car. The newspaper headquarters was devastated, with one dead and 20 wounded.

    According to a chronicler of the episode, Abdel Kader el-Husseini, the military leader of the Arab Higher Committee, was so impressed by the success of these operations - inadvertently inspired by the Stern Gang - that he authorized an ambitious sequel employing six British deserters. "This time three trucks were used, escorted by a stolen British armored car with a young blond man in police uniform standing in the turret." Again, the convoy easily passed through checkpoints and drove to the Atlantic Hotel on Ben Yehuda Street. A curious night watchman was murdered when he confronted the gang, who then drove off in the armored car after setting charges in the three trucks. The explosion was huge and the toll accordingly grim: 46 dead and 130 wounded.

    The window of opportunity for such attacks - the possibility of passing from one zone to another - was rapidly closing as Palestinians and Jews braced for all-out warfare, but a final attack prefigured the car bomb's brilliant future as a tool of assassination.

    On March 11, the official limousine of the US consul-general, flying the Stars and Stripes and driven by the usual chauffeur, was admitted to the courtyard of the heavily guarded Jewish Agency compound. The driver, a Christian Palestinian named Abu Yussef, hoped to kill Zionist leader David Ben Gurion, but the limousine was moved just before it exploded; nonetheless, 13 officials of the Jewish Foundation Fund died and 40 were injured.

    This brief but furious exchange of car bombs between Arabs and Jews would enter the collective memory of their conflict, but would not be resumed on a large scale until Israel and its Phalangist (members of the Lebanese military organization Phalanges Libanaises) allies began to terrorize West Beirut with bombings in 1981: a provocation that would awaken a Shi'ite sleeping dragon.

    Meanwhile, the real sequel was played out in Saigon: a series of car and motorcycle bomb atrocities in 1952-53 that Graham Greene incorporated into the plot of his novel The Quiet American, and which he portrayed as secretly orchestrated by his CIA operative Alden Pyle, who conspires to substitute a pro-American party for both the Vietminh (Ho Chi Minh's League for the Independence of Vietnam, upon which the actual bombings will be blamed) and the French (who are unable to guarantee public safety).

    The real-life Quiet American was the counter-insurgency expert Colonel Edward Lansdale (fresh from victories against peasant communists in the Philippines), and the real leader of the "Third Force" was his protege, General Trinh Minh The, of the Cao Dai religious sect. There is no doubt, wrote The's biographer, that the general "instigated many terrorist outrages in Saigon, using clockwork plastic charges loaded into vehicles, or hidden inside bicycle frames with charges. Notably, the Li An Minh [The's army] blew up cars in front of the Opera House in Saigon in 1952. These 'time-bombs' were reportedly made of 50-kilogram ordnance, used by the French Air Force, unexploded and collected by the Li An Minh."

    Lansdale was dispatched to Saigon by Allen Dulles of the CIA some months after the opera atrocity (hideously immortalized in a Life magazine photographer's image of the upright corpse of a rickshaw driver with both legs blown off), which was officially blamed on Ho Chi Minh. Although Lansdale was well aware of The's authorship of these sophisticated attacks (the explosives were hidden in false compartments next to car fuel tanks), he nonetheless championed the Cao Dai warlord as a patriot in the mold of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. After either French agents or Vietminh cadres assassinated The, Lansdale eulogized him to a journalist as "a good man. He was moderate, he was a pretty good general, he was on our side, and he cost $25,000."

    Whether by emulation or reinvention, car bombs showed up next in another war-torn French colony - Algiers during the last days of the pieds noirs or French colonial settlers. Some of the embittered French officers in Saigon in 1952-53 would also become cadres of the Organization de l'Arme Secrete (OAS), led by General Raoul Salan.

    In April 1961, after the failure of its uprising against French president Charles de Gaulle, who was prepared to negotiate a settlement with the Algerian rebels, the OAS turned to terrorism - a veritable festival de plastique - with all the formidable experience of its veteran paratroopers and legionnaires. Its declared enemies included de Gaulle, French security forces, communists, peace activists (including philosopher and activist Jean-Paul Sartre) and especially Algerian civilians. The most deadly of their car bombs killed 62 Muslim stevedores lining up for work at the docks in Algiers in May 1962, but succeeded only in bolstering the Algerian resolve to drive all the pieds noirs into the sea.

    The next destination for the car bomb was Palermo, Sicily. Angelo La Barbera, the Mafia capo of Palermo-Center, undoubtedly paid careful attention to the Algerian bombings and may even have borrowed some OAS expertise when he launched his devastating attack on his Mafia rival, "Little Bird" Greco, in February 1963. Greco's bastion was the town of Ciaculli outside Palermo where he was protected by an army of henchmen. La Barbera surmounted this obstacle with the aid of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

    "This dainty four-door family saloon," wrote John ****ie in his history of the Cosa Nostra, "was one of the symbols of Italy's economic miracle - 'svelte, practical, comfortable, safe and convenient', as the adverts proclaimed." The first explosive-packed Giulietta destroyed Greco's house; the second, a few weeks later, killed one of his key allies. Greco's gunmen retaliated, wounding La Barbera in Milan in May; in response, La Barbera's ambitious lieutenants Pietro Torreta and Tommaso Buscetta (later to become the most famous of all Mafia pentiti) unleashed more deadly Giuliettas.

    On June 30, 1963, "the umpteenth Giulietta stuffed with TNT" was left in one of the tangerine groves that surround Ciaculli. A tank of butane with a fuse was clearly visible in the back seat. A Giulietta had already exploded that morning in a nearby town, killing two people, so the carabinieri (military police) were cautious and summoned army engineers for assistance.

    "Two hours later two bomb disposal experts arrived, cut the fuse and pronounced the vehicle safe to approach. But when Lieutenant Mario Malausa made to inspect the contents of the boot [luggage compartment], he detonated the huge quantity of TNT it contained. He and six other men were blown to pieces by an explosion that scorched and stripped the tangerine trees for hundreds of meters around." (The site is today marked by one of the several monuments to bomb victims in the Palermo region.)

    Before this "first Mafia war" ended in 1964, the Sicilian population had learned to tremble at the very sight of a Giulietta, and car bombings had become a permanent part of the Mafia repertoire. They were employed again during an even bloodier second Mafia war, or matanza, in 1981-83, then turned against the Italian public in the early 1990s after the conviction of Cosa Nostra leaders in a series of sensational "maxi-trials". The most notorious of these blind-rage car bombings - presumably organized by "Tractor" Provenzano and his notorious Corleonese gang - was the explosion in May 1993 that damaged the world-famous Uffizi Gallery in the heart of Florence and killed five pedestrians, injuring 40 others.

    The black stuff
    "We could feel the rattle where we stood. Then we knew we were on to something, and it took off from there."
    - IRA veteran talking about the first ANFO car bomb

    The first-generation car bombs - Jaffa-Jerusalem, Saigon, Algiers and Palermo - were deadly enough (with a maximum yield usually equal to several hundred pounds of TNT), but required access to stolen industrial or military explosives. Journeymen bomb-makers, however, were aware of a home-made alternative - notoriously dangerous to concoct, but offering almost unlimited vistas of destruction at a low cost.

    Ammonium nitrate is a universally available synthetic fertilizer and industrial ingredient with extraordinary explosive properties, as witnessed by such accidental cataclysms as an explosion at a chemical plant in Oppau, Germany, in 1921 - the shock waves were felt 250 kilometers away, and only a vast crater remained where the plant had been - and a Texas City disaster in 1947 (600 dead and 90% of the town structurally damaged). Ammonium nitrate is sold in half-ton quantities affordable by even the most cash-strapped terrorist, but the process of mixing it with fuel oil to create an ANFO explosive is more than a little tricky, as the Provisional IRA found out in late 1971.

    "The car bomb was [re]discovered entirely by accident," explained journalist Ed Maloney in his The Secret History of the IRA, "but its deployment by the Belfast IRA was not. The chain of events began in late December 1971 when the IRA's quartermaster general, Jack McCabe, was fatally injured in an explosion caused when an experimental, fertilizer-based home-made mix known as the 'black stuff' exploded as he was blending it with a shovel in his garage on the northern outskirts of Dublin. [Provisionals' general headquarters] GHQ warned that the mix was too dangerous to handle, but Belfast had already received a consignment, and someone had the idea of disposing of it by dumping it in a car with a fuse and a timer and leaving it somewhere in downtown Belfast." The resulting explosion made a big impression upon the Belfast leadership.

    The "black stuff" - which the IRA soon learned how to handle safely - freed the underground army from supply-side constraints: the car bomb enhanced destructive capacity yet reduced the likelihood of volunteers being arrested or accidentally blown up. The ANFO-car bomb combination, in other words, was an unexpected military revolution, but one fraught with the potential for political and moral disaster. "The sheer size of the devices," emphasized Moloney, "greatly increased the risk of civilian deaths in careless or bungled operations."

    The IRA Army Council led by Sean MacStiofain, however, found the new weapon's awesome capabilities too seductive to worry about ways in which its grisly consequences might backfire. Indeed, car bombs reinforced the illusion, shared by most of the top leadership in 1972, that the IRA was one final military offensive away from victory over the English government.

    Accordingly, in March 1972, two car bombs were sent into Belfast city center, followed by garbled phone warnings that led police inadvertently to evacuate people in the direction of one of the explosions: five civilians were killed along with two members of the security forces. Despite the public outcry as well as the immediate traffic closure of the Royal Avenue shopping precinct, the Belfast Brigade's enthusiasm for the new weapon remained undiminished and the leadership plotted a huge attack designed to bring normal commercial life in Northern Ireland to an abrupt halt. MacStiofain boasted of an offensive of "the utmost ferocity and ruthlessness" that would wreck the "colonial infrastructure".

    On Friday, July 21, IRA volunteers left 20 car bombs or concealed charges on the periphery of the now-gated city center, with detonations timed to follow one another at approximately five-minute intervals. The first car bomb exploded in front of the Ulster Bank in north Belfast and blew both legs off a Catholic passer-by; successive explosions damaged two railroad stations, the Ulster bus depot on Oxford Street, various railway junctions, and a mixed Catholic-Protestant residential area on Cavehill Road.

    "At the height of the bombing, the center of Belfast resembled a city under artillery fire; clouds of suffocating smoke enveloped buildings as one explosion followed another, almost drowning out the hysterical screams of panicked shoppers." A series of telephoned IRA warnings just created more chaos, as civilians fled from one explosion only to be driven back by another. Seven civilians and two soldiers were killed and more than 130 people were seriously wounded.

    Although not an economic knockout punch, "Bloody Friday" was the beginning of a "no business as usual" bombing campaign that quickly inflicted significant damage on the Northern Ireland economy, particularly its ability to attract private and foreign investment. The terror of that day also compelled authorities to tighten their anti-car-bomb "ring of steel" around the Belfast city center, making it the prototype for other fortified enclaves and future "green zones". In the tradition of their ancestors, the Fenians, who had originated dynamite terrorism in the 1870s, Irish Republicans had again added new pages to the textbook of urban guerrilla warfare. Foreign aficionados, particularly in the Middle East, undoubtedly paid close attention to the twin innovations of the ANFO car bomb and its employment in a protracted bombing campaign against an entire urban-regional economy.

    What was less well understood outside of Ireland, however, was the seriousness of the wound that the IRA's car bombs inflicted on the Republican movement itself. Bloody Friday destroyed much of the IRA's heroic-underdog popular image, produced deep revulsion among ordinary Catholics, and gave the British government an unexpected reprieve from the worldwide condemnation it had earned for the Blood Sunday massacre in Derry and internment without trial.

    Moreover, it gave the British army the perfect pretext to launch massive Operation Motorman: 13,000 troops led by Centurion tanks entered the "no go" areas of Derry and Belfast and reclaimed control of the streets from the Republican movement. The same day, a bloody, bungled car-bomb attack on the village of Claudy in County Londonderry killed eight people. (Protestant Loyalist paramilitary groups - who never bothered with warnings and deliberately targeted civilians on the other side - would claim Bloody Friday and Claudy as sanctions for their triple car-bomb attack on Dublin during afternoon rush hour on May 17, 1974, which left 33 dead, the highest one-day toll in the course of the "Troubles".)

    The Belfast debacle led to a major turnover in IRA leadership, but failed to dispel their almost cargo-cult-like belief in the capacity of car bombs to turn the tide of battle. Forced on to the defensive by Motorman and the backlash to Bloody Friday, they decided to strike at the very heart of British power instead.

    The Belfast Brigade planned to send 10 car bombs to London via the Dublin-Liverpool ferry using fresh volunteers with clean records, including two young sisters, Marion and Dolours Price. Snags arose and only four cars arrived in London; one of these was detonated in front of the Old Bailey, another in the center of Whitehall, close to the prime minister's house at No 10 Downing Street. One hundred and eighty Londoners were injured and one was killed.

    Although the eight IRA bombers were quickly caught, they were acclaimed in the West Belfast ghettoes, and the operation became a template for future provisional bombing campaigns in London, culminating in the huge explosions that shattered the City of London and unnerved the world insurance industry in 1992 and 1993.

    Hell's Kitchen (the 1980s)
    "We are soldiers of God and we crave death. We are ready to turn Lebanon into another Vietnam."
    - Hezbollah communique

    Never in history has a single city been the battlefield for so many contesting ideologies, sectarian allegiances, local vendettas or foreign conspiracies and interventions as Beirut in the early 1980s. Belfast's triangular conflicts - three armed camps (Republican, Loyalist and British) and their splinter groups - seemed straightforward compared with the fractal, Russian-doll-like complexity of Lebanon's civil wars (Shi'ite versus Palestinian, for example) within civil wars (Maronite versus Muslim and Druze) within regional conflicts (Israel versus Syria) and surrogate wars (Iran versus the United States) within, ultimately, the Cold War.

    In the autumn of 1971, for example, there were 58 different armed groups in West Beirut alone. With so many people trying to kill one another for so many different reasons, Beirut became to the technology of urban violence what a tropical rainforest is to the evolution of plants.

    Car bombs began regularly to terrorize Muslim West Beirut in the autumn of 1981, apparently as part of an Israeli strategy to evict the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from Lebanon. The Israeli secret service, the Mossad, had previously employed car bombs in Beirut to assassinate Palestinian leaders (novelist Ghassan Kanfani in July 1972, for example), so no one was especially surprised when evidence emerged that Israel was sponsoring the carnage. According to Middle East scholar Rashid Khalidi, "A sequence of public confessions by captured drivers made clear these [car bombings] were being utilized by the Israelis and their Phalangist allies to increase the pressure on the PLO to leave."

    Journalist Robert Fisk was in Beirut when an "enormous [car] bomb blew a 45-foot [15-meter] crater in the road and brought down an entire block of apartments. The building collapsed like a concertina, crushing more than 50 of its occupants to death, most of them Shi'a refugees from southern Lebanon." Several of the car bombers were captured and confessed that the bombs had been rigged by the Shin Bet, the Israeli equivalent of the FBI or the British Special Branch.

    But if such atrocities were designed to drive a wedge of terror between the PLO and Lebanese Muslims, they had the inadvertent result (as did the Israeli air force's later cluster-bombing of civilian neighborhoods) of turning the Shi'ites from informal Israeli allies into shrewd and resolute enemies.

    The new face of Shi'ite militancy was Hezbollah, formed in mid-1982 out of an amalgamation of Islamic Amal with other pro-Khomeini groups. Trained and advised by the Iranian Pasdaran in the Bekaa Valley, Hezbollah was both an indigenous resistance movement with deep roots in the Shi'ite slums of southern Beirut and, at the same time, the long arm of Iran's theocratic revolution. Although some experts espouse alternative theories, Islamic Amal/Hezbollah is usually seen as the author, with Iranian and Syrian assistance, of the devastating attacks on US and French forces in Beirut during 1983.

    Hezbollah's diabolic innovation was to marry the IRA's ANFO car bombs to the kamikaze - using suicide drivers to crash truckloads of explosives into the lobbies of embassies and barracks in Beirut, and later into Israeli checkpoints and patrols in southern Lebanon.

    The United States and France became targets of Hezbollah and its Syrian and Iranian patrons after the multinational force in Beirut, which supposedly had landed to allow the safe evacuation of the PLO from that city, evolved into the informal and then open ally of the Maronite government in its civil war against the Muslim-Druze majority.

    The first retaliation against Reagan's policy occurred on April 18, 1983, when a pickup truck carrying 900kg of ANFO explosives suddenly swerved across traffic into the driveway of the oceanfront US Embassy in Beirut. The driver gunned the truck past a startled guard and crashed through the lobby door.

    "Even by Beirut standards," wrote former CIA agent Robert Baer, "it was an enormous blast, shattering windows. The USS Guadalcanal, anchored five miles off the coast, shuddered from the tremors. At ground zero, the center of the seven-story embassy lifted up hundreds of feet into the air, remained suspended for what seemed an eternity, and then collapsed in a cloud of dust, people, splintered furniture, and paper."

    Whether as a result of superb intelligence or sheer luck, the bombing coincided with a visit to the embassy of Robert Ames, the CIA's national intelligence officer for the Near East. It killed him ("his hand was found floating a mile offshore, the wedding ring still on his finger") and all six members of the Beirut CIA station. "Never before had the CIA lost so many officers in a single attack. It was a tragedy from which the agency would never recover." It also left the Americans blind in Beirut, forcing them to scrounge for intelligence scraps from the French Embassy or the British listening station offshore on Cyprus. (A year later, Hezbollah completed its massacre of the CIA in Beirut when it kidnapped and executed the replacement station chief, William Buckley.) As a result, the agency never foresaw the coming of the mother of all vehicle-bomb attacks.

    Over the protests of Colonel Timothy Gerahty, the commander of the US marines onshore in Beirut, Reagan's national security adviser, Robert McFarlane, ordered the 6th Fleet in September to open fire on Druze militia that were storming Lebanese Army Forces positions in the hills above Beirut - bringing the United States into the conflict brazenly on the side of the reactionary Amin Gemayel government. A month later, a five-ton Mercedes dump truck hurled past sandbagged marine sentries and smashed through a guardhouse into the ground floor of the "Beirut Hilton", the US military barracks in a former PLO headquarters next to the international airport. The truck's payload was an amazing 5,400 kilograms of high explosives. "It is said to have been the largest non-nuclear blast ever [deliberately] detonated on the face of the Earth.

    "The force of the explosion," continued Eric Hammel in his history of the marine landing force, "initially lifted the entire four-story structure, shearing the bases of the concrete support columns, each measuring 15 feet [4.5 meters] in circumference and reinforced by numerous one-and-three-quarter-inch [45-millimeter] steel rods. The airborne building then fell in upon itself. A massive shock wave and ball of flaming gas was hurled in all directions." The marine (and navy) death toll of 241 was the corps's highest single-day loss since Iwo Jima in 1945.

    Meanwhile, another Hezbollah kamikaze had crashed his explosive-laden van into the French barracks in West Beirut, toppling the eight-story structure, killing 58 soldiers. If the airport bomb repaid the Americans for saving Gemayel, this second explosion was probably a response to the French decision to supply Saddam Hussein with Super-Etendard jets and Exocet missiles to attack Iran.

    The hazy distinction between local Shi'ite grievances and the interests of Tehran was blurred further when two members of Hezbollah joined with 18 Iraqi Shi'ites to truck-bomb the US Embassy in Kuwait in mid-December. The French Embassy, the control tower at the airport, the main oil refinery and an expatriate residential compound were also targeted in what was clearly a stern warning to Iran's enemies.

    After another truck bombing against the French in Beirut as well as deadly attacks on US Marine Corps outposts, the multinational force began to withdraw from Lebanon in February 1984. It was Reagan's most stunning geopolitical defeat. In the impolite phrase of Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, "Essentially we turned tail and ran and left Lebanon." US power in Lebanon, added Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, was neutralized by "just 12,000 pounds of dynamite and a stolen truck".

    Mike Davis is the author most recently of The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu (The New Press) and Planet of Slums (Verso). He lives in San Diego.
     
  5. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Asia Times Online ::Car bombs with wings - PART 2

    Gunboat diplomacy had been defeated by car bombs in Lebanon, but the Ronald Reagan administration and, above all, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director William Casey were left thirsting for revenge against Hezbollah.

    "Finally in 1985", according to the Washington Post's Bob Woodward in Veil, his book on Casey's career, "he worked out with the Saudis a plan to use a car bomb to kill [Hezbollah leader] Sheikh [Muhammad Husayn] Fadlallah who they determined was one of the people behind, not only the Marine [Corps] barracks [suicide truck bomb], but was involved in the taking of American hostages in Beirut ... It was Casey on his own, saying, 'I'm going to solve the big problem by essentially getting tougher or as tough as the terrorists in using their weapon - the car bomb'."

    The CIA's own operatives, however, proved incapable of carrying out the bombing, so Casey sub-contracted the operation to Lebanese agents led by a former British SAS (Special Air Service) officer and financed by Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz. In March 1984, a large car bomb was detonated about 45 meters (50 yards) from Fadlallah's house in Bir El-Abed, a crowded Shi'ite neighborhood in southern Beirut.

    The sheikh wasn't harmed, but 80 innocent neighbors and passersby were killed and 200 wounded. Fadlallah immediately had a huge "Made In USA" banner hung across the shattered street, while Hezbollah returned tit for tat in September when a suicide truck driver managed to break through the supposedly impregnable perimeter defenses of the new US Embassy in eastern (Christian) Beirut, killing 23 employees and visitors.

    Despite the Fadlallah fiasco, Casey remained an enthusiast for using urban terrorism to advance American goals, especially against the Soviets and their allies in Afghanistan. A year after the Bir El-Abed massacre, Casey won Reagan's approval for NSDD-166 (national security decision directive), a secret directive that, according to Steve Coll in Ghost Wars, inaugurated a "new era of direct infusions of advanced US military technology into Afghanistan, intensified training of Islamist guerrillas in explosives and sabotage techniques and targeted attacks on Soviet military officers".

    US special forces experts would now provide high-tech explosives and teach state-of-the-art sabotage techniques, including the fabrication of ANFO (ammonium nitrate-fuel oil) car bombs, to Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (or ISI) officers under the command of Brigadier Mohammed Yousaf. These officers, in turn, would tutor thousands of Afghan and foreign mujahideen, including the future cadre of al-Qaeda, in scores of training camps financed by the Saudis.

    "Under ISI direction," Coll wrote, "the mujahideen received training and malleable explosives to mount car-bomb and even camel-bomb attacks in Soviet-occupied cities, usually designed to kill Soviet soldiers and commanders. Casey endorsed these despite the qualms of some CIA career officers."

    Mujahideen car bombers, working with teams of snipers and assassins, not only terrorized uniformed Soviet forces in a series of devastating attacks in Afghanistan but also massacred left-wing intelligentsia in Kabul, the country's capital. "Yousaf and the Afghan car-bombing squads he trained," wrote Coll, "regarded Kabul University professors as fair game," as well as movie theaters and cultural events.

    Although some members of the US National Security Council reportedly denounced the bombings and assassinations as "outright terrorism", Casey was delighted with the results. Meanwhile, "by the late 1980s, the ISI had effectively eliminated all the secular, leftist and royalist political parties that had first formed when Afghan refugees fled communist rule."

    As a result, most of the billions of dollars that the Saudis and Washington pumped into Afghanistan ended up in the hands of radical Islamist groups sponsored by the ISI. They were also the chief recipients of huge quantities of CIA-supplied plastic explosives as well as thousands of advanced E-cell delay detonators.

    It was the greatest technology transfer of terrorist technique in history. There was no need for angry Islamists to take car-bomb extension courses from Hezbollah when they could matriculate in a CIA-supported urban-sabotage graduate program in Pakistan's frontier provinces.

    "Ten years later," Coll observed, "the vast training infrastructure that Yousaf and his colleagues built with the enormous budgets endorsed by NSDD-166 - the specialized camps, the sabotage training manuals, the electronic bomb detonators and so on - would be referred to routinely in America as 'terrorist infrastructure'." Moreover, the alumni of the ISI training camps such as Ramzi Yousef, who plotted the first 1993 World Trade Center attack, or his uncle Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who allegedly designed the second, would soon be applying their expertise on every continent.

    Cities under siege (the 1990s)

    "The hour of dynamite, terror without limit, has arrived." - Peruvian journalist Gustavo Gorritti, 1992

    Twenty-first century hindsight makes it clear that the defeat of the US intervention in Lebanon in 1983-84, followed by the CIA's dirty war in Afghanistan, had wider and more potent geopolitical repercussions than the loss of Saigon in 1975.

    The Vietnam War was, of course, an epic struggle whose imprint on domestic American politics remains profound, but it belonged to the era of the Cold War's bipolar superpower rivalry. Hezbollah's war in Beirut and south Lebanon, on the other hand, prefigured (and even inspired) the "asymmetric" conflicts that characterize the millennium.

    Moreover, unlike peoples' wars on the scale sustained by the NLF (National Liberation Front of South Vietnam) and the North Vietnamese for more than a generation, car-bombing and suicide terrorism are easily franchised and gruesomely applicable in a variety of scenarios.

    Although rural guerrillas survive in rugged redoubts such as Kashmir, the Khyber Pass and the Andes, the center of gravity of global insurgency has moved from the countryside back to the cities and their slum peripheries. In this post-Cold-War urban context, the Hezbollah bombing of the Marine Corps barracks has become the gold standard of terrorism; the September 11 attacks, it can be argued, were only an inevitable scaling-up of the suicide truck bomb to airliners.

    Washington, however, was loath to recognize the new military leverage that powerful vehicle bombs offered its enemies or even to acknowledge their surprising lethality. After the 1983 Beirut bombings, the Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico began an intensive investigation into the physics of truck bombs. Researchers were shocked by what they discovered. In addition to the deadly air blast, truck bombs also produced unexpectedly huge ground waves.

    "The lateral accelerations propagated through the ground from a truck bomb far exceed those produced during the peak magnitude of an earthquake." Indeed, the scientists of Sandia came to the conclusion that even an offsite detonation near a nuclear power plant might "cause enough damage to lead to a deadly release of radiation or even a meltdown". Yet the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 1986 refused to authorize the emplacement of vehicle barriers to protect nuclear-power installations and made no move to alter an obsolete security plan designed to thwart a few terrorists infiltrating on foot.

    Indeed, Washington seemed unwilling to learn any of the obvious lessons of either its Beirut defeat or its secret successes in Afghanistan. The Reagan and Bush administrations appeared to regard the Hezbollah bombings as flukes, not as a powerful new threat that would replicate rapidly in the "blowback" of imperial misadventure and anti-Soviet escapades.

    Although it was inevitable that other insurgent groups would soon try to emulate Hezbollah, American planners - although partially responsible - largely failed to foresee the extraordinary "globalization" of car bombing in the 1990s or the rise of sophisticated new strategies of urban destabilization that went with it.

    Yet by the mid-1990s, more cities were under siege from bomb attacks than at any time since the end of World War II, and urban guerrillas were using car and truck bombs to score direct hits on some of the world's most powerful financial institutions. Each success, moreover, emboldened groups to plan yet more attacks and recruited more groups to launch their own "poor man's air force".

    Beginning in April 1992, for example, the occult Maoists of Sendero Luminoso came down from Peru's altiplano to spread terror throughout the cities of Lima and Callao with increasingly more powerful coche-bombas. "Large supplies of explosives", the magazine Caretas pointed out, are "freely available in a mining nation", and the senderistas were generous in their gifts of dynamite: bombing television stations and various foreign embassies as well as a dozen police stations and military camps.

    Their campaign eerily recapitulated the car bomb's phylogeny as it progressed from modest detonations to a more powerful attack on the American Embassy, then to Bloody-Friday-type public massacres using 16 vehicles at a time. The climax (and Sendero's chief contribution to the genre) was an attempt to blow up an entire neighborhood of "class enemies": a huge ANFO explosion in the elite Miraflores district on the evening of July 16 that killed 22, wounded 120 and destroyed or damaged 183 homes, 400 businesses and 63 parked cars. The local press described Miraflores as looking "as if an aerial bombardment had flattened the area".

    If one of the virtues of an air force is the ability to reach halfway around the world to surprise enemies in their beds, the car bomb truly grew wings during 1993 as Middle Eastern groups struck at targets in the Western hemisphere for the first time.

    The World Trade Center attack on February 26 was organized by master al-Qaeda bomb-maker Yousef working with a Kuwaiti engineer named Nidal Ayyad and immigrant members of the Egyptian group, Gama'a al-Islamiyya, headed by Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman (whose US visa had reputedly been arranged by the CIA).

    Their extraordinary ambition was to kill tens of thousands of New Yorkers with a powerful lateral blast that would crack the foundations of one WTC tower and topple it on its twin. Yousef's weapon was a Ryder rental van packed with an ingenious upgrade of the classic Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Hezbollah ANFO explosive.

    "The bomb itself", wrote Peter Lange in his history of the bombing, "consisted of four cardboard boxes filled with a slurry of urea nitrate and fuel oil, with waste paper as a binder. The boxes were surrounded by four-foot tanks of compressed hydrogen. They were connected by four 20-foot-long slow-burning fuses of smokeless powder wrapped in fabric. Yousef balanced on his lap four vials of nitroglycerine."

    The conspirators had no difficulty parking the van next to the load-bearing south wall of the north tower, but the massive explosive proved too small - excavating a four-story deep crater in the basement, killing six and injuring 1,000, but failing to bring the tower down. "Our calculations were not very accurate this time," wrote Ayyad in a letter. "However, we promise you that next it would will [sic] be very precise and the Trade Center will be one of our targets."

    Two weeks after the WTC attack, a car bomb almost as powerful exploded in the underground parking garage of the Bombay Stock Exchange, severely damaging the 28-story skyscraper and killing 50 office workers. Twelve other car or motorcycle bombs soon detonated at other prestige targets, killing an additional 207 people and injuring 1,400.

    The bombings were revenge for sectarian riots a few months earlier in which Indian Hindus had killed hundreds of Indian Muslims. The attacks were reputedly organized from Dubai by exiled Bombay underworld king Dawood Ibrahim at the behest of Pakistani intelligence. According to one account, he sent three boats from Dubai to Karachi where they were loaded with military explosives. Indian customs officials were then bribed to look the other way while the "black soup" was smuggled into Bombay.

    Corrupt officials were also rumored to have facilitated the suicide car bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 17, 1993, which killed 30 and injured 242. The next year, a second "martyr", later identified as a 29-year-old Hezbollah militant from southern Lebanon, leveled the seven-story Argentine-Israel Mutual Association, slaughtering 85 and wounding more than 300. Both bombers carefully followed the Beirut template, as did the Islamist militant who drove his car into the central police headquarters in Algiers in January 1995, killing 42 and injuring more than 280.

    But the supreme acolytes of Hezbollah were the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, the only non-Muslim group that has practiced suicide car bombings on a large scale. Indeed, their leader Prabhaakaran "made a strategic decision to adopt the method of suicide attack after observing its lethal effectiveness in the 1983 suicide bombings of the US and French barracks in Beirut".

    Between their first such operation in 1987 and 2000, they were responsible for twice as many suicide attacks of all kinds as Hezbollah and Hamas combined. Although they have integrated car bombs into regular military tactics (for example, using kamikazes in trucks to open attacks on Sri Lankan Army camps), their obsession and "most-prized theater of operation" in their struggle for Tamil independence has been the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, which they first car-bombed in 1987 in a grisly attack on the main bus terminal, burning scores of passengers to death inside crowded buses.

    In January 1996, a Black Tiger - as the suicide elite are called - drove a truck containing 440 pounds of military high explosives into the front of the Central Bank Building, resulting in nearly 1,400 casualties. Twenty months later in October 1997 in a more complex operation, the Tigers attacked the twin towers of the Colombo World Trade Center. They managed to maneuver through barricades and set off a car bomb in front of the center, then battled the police with automatic weapons and grenades.

    The following March, a suicide mini-bus with shrapnel-filled bombs affixed to its sideboards was detonated outside the main train station in the midst of a huge traffic jam. The 38 dead included a dozen children in a school bus.

    The Tamil Tigers are a mass nationalist movement with "liberated territory", a full-scale army and even a tiny navy; moreover, 20,000 Tiger cadres received secret paramilitary training in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu from 1983 to 1987, courtesy of prime minister Indira Gandhi and India's CIA - the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).

    But such sponsorship literally blew up in the face of the Indian Congress Party leadership when Indira's son and successor Rajiv Gandhi was killed by a female Tiger suicide bomber in 1993. Indeed, the all-too-frequent pattern of surrogate terrorism, whether sponsored by the CIA, RAW or the Soviet KGB, has been "return to sender" - most notoriously in the cases of those former CIA "assets", blind cleric Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and Osama bin Laden.

    The Oklahoma City bombing in April 1995 was a different and startling species of blowback, organized by two angry US veterans of the Gulf War rather than by Iraq or any Islamist group. Although conspiracy theorists have made much of a strange coincidence that put Terry Nichols and Yousef near each other in Cebu City in the Philippines in November 1994, the design of the attack seems to have been inspired by Timothy McVeigh's obsession with that devil's cookbook, The Turner Diaries.

    Written in 1978, after Bloody Friday but before Beirut, neo-Nazi William Pierce's novel describes with pornographic relish how white supremacists destroy the FBI headquarters in Washington DC with an ANFO truck bomb, then crash a plane carrying a hijacked nuke into the Pentagon.

    McVeigh carefully followed Pierce's simple recipe in the novel (several tons of ammonium nitrate in a parked truck) rather than Yousef's more complicated WTC formula, although he did substitute nitro racing fuel and diesel oil for ordinary heating oil.

    Nonetheless, the explosion that slaughtered 168 people in the Alfred Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995 was three times more powerful than any of the truck-bomb detonations that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and other federal agencies had been studying at their test range in New Mexico.

    Experts were amazed at the radius of destruction: "Equivalent to 4,100 pounds of dynamite, the blast damaged 312 buildings, cracked glass as far as two miles away and inflicted 80% of its injuries on people outside the building up to a half-mile away." Distant seismographs recorded it as a 6.0 earthquake on the Richter scale.

    But McVeigh's good-ole-boy bomb, with its diabolical demonstration of heartland DIY (a do-it-yourself TV network) ingenuity, was scarcely the last word in destructive power; indeed, it was probably inevitable that the dark Olympics of urban carnage would be won by a home team from the Middle East.

    Although the casualty list (20 dead, 372 wounded) wasn't as long as Oklahoma City's, the huge truck bomb that, in June 1996, alleged Hezbollah militants left outside Dhahran's Khobar Towers - a highrise dormitory used by US Air Force personnel in Saudi Arabia - broke all records in explosive yield, being the equivalent perhaps of 20 1,000-pound (453 kilogram) bombs.

    Moreover, the death toll might have been as large as the Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon in 1993 save for alert air force sentries who began an evacuation shortly before the explosion. Still, the blast (military-grade plastic explosive) left an incredible crater 85-feet wide and 35-feet deep.

    Two years later, on August 7, 1998, al-Qaeda claimed the championship in mass murder when it crashed suicide truck bombs into the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, in a replay of the simultaneous 1993 attacks on the marines and the French in Beirut.

    Located near two of the busiest streets in the city without adequate setback or protective glacis, the Nairobi embassy was especially vulnerable, as ambassador Prudence Bushnell had fruitlessly warned the State Department. In the event, ordinary Kenyans - burned alive in their vehicles, lacerated by flying glass or buried in smoldering debris - were the principal victims of the huge explosion, which killed several hundred and wounded more than 5,000. Another dozen people died and almost 100 were injured in Dar-es-Salaam.

    Sublime indifference to the collateral carnage caused by its devices, including to innocent Muslims, remains a hallmark of operations organized by the al-Qaeda network. Like his forerunners Hermann Goering and Curtis LeMay, bin Laden seems to exult in the sheer statistics of bomb damage - the competitive race to ever greater explosive yields and killing ranges.

    One of the most lucrative of his recent franchises (in addition to air travel, skyscrapers and public transport) has been car-bomb attacks on Western tourists in primarily Muslim countries, although the October 2002 attack on a Bali nightclub (202 dead) and the July 2005 bombing of hotels in Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh (88 dead) almost certainly killed as many local workers as erstwhile "crusaders".

    Form follows fear (the 1990s)
    "The car bomb is the nuclear weapon of guerrilla warfare." - Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer

    A "billion-pound explosion"? One meaning, of course, is the TNT yield of three or four Hiroshima-size atomic weapons (which is to say, only a smidgen of the explosive power of a single H-bomb). Alternately, one billion (British) pounds (US$1.45 billion) is what the IRA cost the City of London in April 1993 when a blue dump-truck containing a ton of ANFO exploded on Bishopsgate Road across from the NatWest Tower in the heart of the world's second major financial center.

    Although one bystander was killed and more than 30 injured by the immense explosion, which also demolished a medieval church and wrecked the Liverpool Street station, the human toll was incidental to the economic damage that was the true goal of the attack.

    Whereas the other truck bomb campaigns of the 1990s - Lima, Bombay, Colombo and so forth - had followed Hezbollah's playbook almost to the letter, the Bishopsgate bomb, which A Secret History of the IRA author Ed Moloney describes as "the most successful military tactic since the start of the troubles", was part of a novel IRA campaign that waged war on financial centers in order to extract British concessions during the difficult peace negotiations that lasted through most of the 1990s.

    Bishopsgate, in fact, was the second and most costly of three blockbuster explosions carried out by the elite (and more or less autonomous) South Armagh IRA under the leadership of the legendary "Slab" Murphy. Almost exactly a year earlier, they had set off a truck bomb at the Baltic Exchange in St Mary Axe that rained a million pounds of glass and debris on surrounding streets, killing three and wounding almost 100 people.

    The damage, although less than Bishopsgate, was still astonishing: about 800 million pounds or more than the approximately 600 million pounds in total damage inflicted over 22 years of bombing in Northern Ireland.

    Then, in 1996, with peace talks stalled and the IRA Army Council in revolt against the latest cease-fire, the South Armagh Brigade smuggled into England a third huge car bomb that they set off in the underground garage of one of the postmodern office buildings near Canary Wharf Tower in the gentrified London Docklands, killing two and causing nearly $150 million dollars in damage. Total damage from the three explosions was at least $3 billion.

    As Jon Coaffee points out in her book on the impact of the bombings, if the IRA like the Tamil Tigers or al-Qaeda had simply wanted to sow terror or bring life in London to a halt, they would have set off the explosions at rush hour on a business day - instead, they "were detonated at a time when the city was virtually deserted" - and/or attacked the heart of the transport infrastructure, as did the Islamist suicide bombers who blew up London buses and subways in July.

    Instead, Murphy and his comrades concentrated on what they perceived to be a financial weak link: the faltering British and European insurance industry. To the horror of their enemies, they were spectacularly successful. "The huge payouts by insurance companies," commented the BBC shortly after Bishopsgate, "contributed to a crisis in the industry, including the near-collapse of the world's leading [re]insurance market, Lloyds of London." German and Japanese investors threatened to boycott the city unless physical security was improved and the government agreed to subsidize insurance costs.

    Despite a long history of London bombings by the Irish going back to the Fenians and Queen Victoria, neither Downing Street, nor the City of London police had foreseen this scale of accurately targeted physical and financial damage. (Indeed, Murphy might have been surprised; like the original ANFO bombs, these super-bombs were probably a wee bit of serendipity for the IRA.)

    The city's response was a more sophisticated version of the "ring of steel" (concrete barriers, high iron fences and impregnable gates) that had been built around Belfast's city center after IRA's Bloody Friday. Following Bishopsgate, the financial media clamored for similar protection: "The City should be turned into a medieval-style walled enclave to prevent terrorist attacks."

    What was actually implemented in the city and later in the Docklands was a technologically more advanced network of traffic restrictions and cordons, CCTV cameras, including "24-hour automated number plate recording (ANPR) cameras, linked to police databases", and intensified public and private policing. "In the space of a decade", wrote Coaffee, "the City of London was transformed into the most surveilled space in the UK and perhaps the world with over 1,500 surveillance cameras operating, many of which are linked to the ANPR system."

    Since September 11, 2001, this anti-terrorist surveillance system has been extended throughout London's core in the benign guise of Mayor Ken Livingstone's celebrated "congestion pricing" scheme to liberate the city from gridlock. According to one of Britain's major Sunday papers:

    The Observer has discovered that MI5, Special Branch and the Metropolitan Police began secretly developing the system in the wake of the September 11 attacks. In effect, the controversial charging scheme will create one of the most daunting defense systems protecting a major world city when it goes live a week tomorrow.

    It is understood that the system also utilizes facial recognition software which automatically identifies suspects or known criminals who enter the eight-square-mile zone. Their precise movements will be tracked by camera from the point of entry ... However, civil liberty campaigners yesterday claimed that millions had been misled over the dual function of the scheme, promoted primarily as a means of reducing congestion in central London.

    The addition in 2003 of this new panopticon traffic scan to London's already extensive system of video surveillance ensures that the average citizen is "caught on CCTV cameras 300 times a day". It may make it easier for the police to apprehend non-suicidal terrorists, but it does little to protect the city from well-planned and competently disguised vehicle bomb attacks.

    Prime Minister Tony Blair's "third way" has been a fast lane for the adoption of Orwellian surveillance and the usurpation of civil liberties, but until some miracle technology emerges (and none is in sight) that allows authorities from a distance to "sniff" a molecule or two of explosive in a stream of rush-hour traffic, the car bombers will continue to commute to work.

    The 'king' of Iraq (the 2000s)
    "Insurgents exploded 13 car bombs across Iraq on Sunday, including eight in Baghdad within a three-hour span." - Associated Press news report, January 1

    Car bombs - some 1,293 between 2004 and 2005, according to researchers at the Brookings Institution - have devastated Iraq like no other land in history. The most infamous, driven or left by sectarian jihadis, have targeted Iraqi Shi'ites in front of their homes, mosques, police stations and markets: 125 dead in Hilla (February 28, 2005); 98 in Mussayib (July 16); 114 in Baghdad (September 14); 102 in Blad (September 29); 50 in Abu Sayda (November 19); and so on.

    Some of the devices have been gigantic, like the stolen fuel-truck bomb that devastated Mussayib, but what is most extraordinary has been their sheer frequency - in one 48-hour-period in July at least 15 suicide car bombs exploded in or around Baghdad. The sinister figure supposedly behind the worst of these massacres is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian arch-terrorist who reportedly criticized bin Laden for insufficient zeal in attacking domestic enemies such as the "infidel Shi'ites". Zarqawi, it is claimed, is pursuing an essentially eschatological rather than political goal: a cleansing of enemies without end until the Earth is ruled by a single, righteous caliphate.

    Toward this end, he - or those invoking his name - seems to have access to an almost limitless supply of bomb vehicles (some of them apparently stolen in California and Texas, then shipped to the Middle East) as well as Saudi and other volunteers eager to martyr themselves in flame and molten metal for the sake of taking a few Shi'ite school kids, market venders or foreign "crusaders" with them.

    Indeed, the supply of suicidal madrassa (Islamic school) graduates seems to far exceed what the logic of suicide bombing (as perfected by Hezbollah and the Tamil Tigers) actually demands: many of the explosions in Iraq could just as easily be detonated by remote control. But the car bomb - at least in Zarqawi's relentless vision - is evidently a stairway to heaven as well as the chosen weapon of genocide.

    But Zarqawi did not originate car bomb terrorism along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers; that dark honor belongs to the CIA and its favorite son, Iyad Allawi. As the New York Times revealed in June 2004:

    Iyad Allawi, now the designated prime minister of Iraq, ran an exile organization intent on deposing Saddam Hussein that sent agents into Baghdad in the early 1990s to plant bombs and sabotage government facilities under the direction of the CIA, several former intelligence officials say.

    Dr Allawi's group, the Iraqi National Accord, used car bombs and other explosives devices smuggled into Baghdad from northern Iraq ... One former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was based in the region, Robert Baer, recalled that a bombing during that period "blew up a school bus; schoolchildren were killed".

    According to one of the Times' informants, the bombing campaign, dead school kids and all, "was a test more than anything else, to demonstrate capability". It allowed the CIA to portray the then-exiled Allawi and his suspect group of ex-Ba'athists as a serious opposition to Saddam and an alternative to the coterie (so favored by Washington neo-conservatives) around Ahmad Chalabi. "No one had any problem with sabotage in Baghdad back then," another CIA veteran reflected. "I don't think anyone could have known how things would turn out today."

    Today, of course, car bombs rule Iraq. In a June article entitled, "Why the car bomb is king in Iraq", James Dunnigan warned that it was supplanting the roadside bomb (which "are more frequently discovered, or defeated with electronic devices") as the "most effective weapon" of Sunni insurgents as well as of Zarqawi, and thus "the terrorists are building as many as they can." The recent "explosive growth" in car ownership in Iraq, he added, had made it "easier for the car bombs to just get lost in traffic".

    In this kingdom of the car bomb, the occupiers have withdrawn almost completely into their own forbidden city, the "Green Zone", and their well-fortified and protected military bases. This is not the high-tech City of London with sensors taking the place of snipers, but a totally medievalized enclave surrounded by concrete walls and defended by M1 Abrams tanks and helicopter gunships as well as an exotic corps of corporate mercenaries (including Gurkhas, ex-Rhodesian commandos, former British SAS and amnestied Colombian paramilitaries). Once the Xanadu of the Ba'athist ruling class, the 10-square-kilometer Green Zone, as described by journalist Scott Johnson, is now a surreal theme park of the American way of life:

    Women in shorts and T-shirts jog down broad avenues and the Pizza Inn does a brisk business from the parking lot of the heavily fortified US Embassy. Near the Green Zone Bazaar, Iraqi kids hawk pornographic DVDs to soldiers. Sheikh Fuad Rashid, the US-appointed imam of the local mosque, dresses like a nun, dyes his hair platinum blond and claims that Mary Mother of Jesus appeared to him in a vision [hence the getup]. On any given night, residents can listen to karaoke, play badminton or frequent one of several rowdy bars, including an invitation-only speakeasy run by the CIA.

    Outside the Green Zone, of course, is the "Red Zone", where ordinary Iraqis can be randomly and unexpectedly blown to bits by car bombers or strafed by American helicopters. Not surprisingly, wealthy Iraqis and members of the new government are clamoring for admission to the security of the Green Zone, but US officials told Newsweek last year that "plans to move the Americans out are 'fantasy'."

    Billions have been invested in the Green Zone and a dozen other American enclaves officially known for a period as "enduring camps", and even prominent Iraqis have been left to forage for their own security outside the blast walls of these exclusive bubble Americas.

    A population that has endured Saddam's secret police, United Nations sanctions and American cruise missiles, now steels itself to survive the car bombers who prowl poor neighborhoods looking for grisly martyrdom. For the most selfish reasons, let us hope that Baghdad is not a metaphor for our collective future
     
  6. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    How about the Kamikaze pilots of japnese airforce in ww2.
     
  7. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    US 'misread motivation' of suicide bombers
    Broadcast: 20/07/2005
    Reporter: Kerry O'Brien

    KERRY O'BRIEN: Not everyone accepts the stereotype of suicide bombers recruited by the Al Qaeda network, as religiously-inspired haters of Western values, intent of destroying Western civilisation. One American analyst has conducted a comprehensive study of every act of suicide terrorism over the past 25 years to understand what drives suicide bombers and why suicide terrorism is on the rise around the world. He says it's too simplistic to assume Islamic fundamentalism in the central cause.

    Associate Professor Richard Pape, from the University of Chicago, has produced a book on that study called Dying to Win - The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. And he says America has misread the primary motivation of suicide bombers. I spoke with Robert Pape earlier today.

    Robert Pape, after all of your studies, all of your trawling over hundreds of cases of suicide terrorism over decades, how did you react to the London bombings?

    ROBERT PAPE, SUICIDE TERRORISM EXPERT: The London attacks were part of Al Qaeda's strategic logic, which they have been pursuing with increasing vigour since 9/11. Since 2002 Al Qaeda has carried out over 15 suicide and other terrorist attacks killing nearly 700 people, more than all of the years before 9/11 combined. Although many have hoped that our counter-terrorism efforts would have weakened Al Qaeda by the measure that counts the ability of the group to kill us, Al Qaeda is stronger today than before 9/11.

    KERRY O'BRIEN: You say America and its allies continue to make fundamental errors in the way they read the strategic logic behind Al-Qaeda and associated terrorists. In what way?

    ROBERT PAPE: There's a faulty premise in the current strategy on the war on terrorism. That faulty premise is that suicide terrorism and Al Qaeda suicide terrorism in particular is mainly driven by an evil ideology Islamic fundamentalism independent of other circumstances. However, the facts are that since 1980, suicide terrorist attacks from around the world over half have been secular. What over 95 per cent of suicide attacks around the world [are about] is not religion, but a specific strategic purpose - to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland or prize greatly and this is in fact a centrepiece of Al Qaeda's strategic logic, which is to compel the United States and Western countries to abandon military commitments on the Arabian Peninsula.

    KERRY O'BRIEN: You say that September 11, Bali, Madrid and now the London bombings are not part of an Islamic fundamentalist attack on Western civilisation, Western decadence, yet the kind of hate literature that comes from Islamic extremists say exactly that, an attack on Western civilisation, Western democracy.

    ROBERT PAPE: We have strong evidence to the contrary. The British Home Office just released a four-volume report that they conducted in 2004 - and you can find it on the London Times web site - that four-volume report is about attitudes in the British Muslim community.

    There are 1.6 million Muslims in Britain. The Home Office found that 13 per cent of those Muslims believed that suicide attacks against the West were justified. They further found that the central reason for why those 13 per cent believed those suicide attacks were justified was anger over British military policies on the Arabian Peninsula. The link between anger over American, British and Western military forces stationed on the Arabian Peninsula and Al Qaeda's ability to recruit suicide terrorists to kill us couldn't be tighter.

    KERRY O'BRIEN: So how should America have responded to the September 11 attacks?

    ROBERT PAPE: Afghanistan was absolutely the right thing to do. After all, it's crucial to deny terrorists a sanctuary where they can plan and train for terrorist operations against us. Unfortunately, all of the gains we made against Al Qaeda by going into Afghanistan were lost and we lost even more when we went in to Iraq.

    KERRY O'BRIEN: So how do you explain the strategic logic of the insurgents in Iraq attacking Iraqis as well as Americans?

    ROBERT PAPE: Al-Zarqawi himself has explained this strategic logic in his famous letter to Osama bin Laden in January 2004. In that letter he said that he intended to focus suicide attacks on security organs of the Iraqi Government and Western agents in Iraq, which in fact he has done in the last two years, and he said he was doing that because they were the eyes, ears and hands of the American occupier.

    KERRY O'BRIEN: When you look at the motivation of Osama bin Laden and other extreme fundamentalists, isn't it their ultimate goal to establish their particular brand of fundamentalism right through the Middle East?

    ROBERT PAPE: There's no question that Osama bin Laden himself appears to have goals beyond simply ejecting Western combat forces from the Arabian Peninsula. The real question is whether he would be able to use suicide attack to achieve those goals. We've seen in the case of Lebanon that other suicide terrorist groups, also with such goals, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, which also had the goal to create an Islamic state, and also used suicide terrorist attack to eject foreign combat forces from its territory. What we've seen is once those combat forces left, the terrorist group was not able to continue a suicide terrorist campaign. Once American forces left Lebanon, Hezbollah attackers did not follow us to New York. Once Israeli forces left Lebanon, Hezbollah suicide attackers did not follow Israel into Tel Aviv. Instead, what's happened over time is, Hezbollah has abandoned suicide attack and virtually abandoned terrorism itself and become, since the early 1990s, more or less a mainstream political party. It still has its goal of trying to pursue an Islamic fundamentalist state but it's not using suicide attack or really violence at all to achieve that end.

    KERRY O'BRIEN: So what scope is there for growth in the recruitment of potential suicide terrorists and who are these people being recruited anyway?

    ROBERT PAPE: Suicide terrorists are not mainly depressed, lonely individuals on the margins of society. I've studied 462 suicide terrorists from around the world since 1980. Few fit the standard stereotype of a depressed, lonely individual on the margins of society. Half of those 462 are secular and therefore not religious fanatics.

    In fact, most suicide terrorists are socially integrated, productive members of their community like the London bombers. Most suicide terrorists, and this is true including those in Lebanon and Palestine, are working-class and middle-class like the London bombers. Most suicide terrorists are walk-in volunteers who are not long-time members of the terrorist organisation and, therefore, easy for intelligence services to track for years. Most suicide terrorists join the suicide terrorist group just a few months or even just a few weeks in order to do their very first act of violence - their own suicide terrorist attack.

    For most suicide terrorists, they don't have evidence as the London bombers don't, that they hate Western values or that they hate being immersed in Western society. What we have evidence for time and again across the spectrum is that they are deeply angered by military policies, especially foreign combat troops on territory that they prize and that they believe they have no other means to change those policies.

    KERRY O'BRIEN: Robert Pape, thanks for talking with us.


    ROBERT PAPE: Thank you for having me.
     
  8. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Ok now that I have the articles out of the way, just some of my comments to this.

    Robert Pape's work and most of these articles are around the 2005-2006 period. This is when the Iraq situation was at its worst. The Pakistan situation on the other hand was not as bad. However, as the American armed forces involvement has been tuned down, Sunni militias have been persuaded to join mainstream Iraqi politcs with Saudi Pressure and Iranian pressure on the shia militants, sucide attacks have come down to much lower levels.

    On the other hand we have seen an explosion of suicide attacks in Pakistan. This is a really interesting case as one would say that the American army is not occupying Pakistan. The answer IMO is in the reason why Zarqawi was attacking Iraqi shias, i.e.that they were the eys and ears of the western backed"stooge" government. The same narrative is playing in Pakistan where the govt. and army is considered as a stooge of the west and hence a legitimate target. Andanyone not supporting the TTP or allied groups is considered on the side of the "stooge" government. The Pakistan army hence is seen as an occupying force in these areas.
     
  9. Jeypore

    Jeypore Regular Member

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    Yes, if it is not relating to any Islamist doing the suicide bombing!!!

    And this is what I love about the author, He starts with Terrorism overall, and trying to prove of not being it's religious reference, and yet we have cause and effect of islamic fundamentalism based on Occupation, let me remind you that 911 was cause by an Islamic Fundamentalist, which represent act of war!!!

    And this sentence clearly shows the ignorance of the author, He cannot prove the act of war with these terrorist solely based on OIL..

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/18/opinion/18pape.html?_r=4&oref=slogin&oref=slogin


    God, this is just the first article, Which clearly shows that this thread is full of BullS@@@@!!!
     
  10. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    @Jeypore

    Im surprised at your post as if I remember you usually put some effort into your response and make anintellectual post.

    The thread is about the startegic logic of suicide terrorism as a tactic in a historical perspective. You just saw a part of the article disocnnecting the religious factor as teh MAJOR factor and didn't realise that this isthe only a PART of his ananlysis. He did a full database of all known sucide attacks and probably has more knowledge than you would have and also is a former airforce officer and a founding member of the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism funded by among others the DoD.
    The second author discusses howcarbombs and truck bombs havebecome a poorman's airforceand how effective they have become.

    Atleast read the articles and make a constructive posts rather than rants
     
  11. Jeypore

    Jeypore Regular Member

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    Fair enough!!!

    I will read the article you have posted, but I will disect it!!!

    Just by reading the second article the guy clearly shows the "run a around." His whole objective of suicide bombing is based on and ideology of occupation, so he bases his focus on the Tamils (personal note: The Hezbollah did not correlate there suicide bombings based on Tamils!!! Unless you can prove otherwise with upstanding link). But here is a question to you then, The correlation of Suicide bombing is based on Fighting back to a stronger opponent, Then why use Religion? Especially the word "Jihad".

    And this is the most interesting part, the past suicide bombers or freedom fighters did not have a single word from there religious perspective to motivate themselves to defend against the greater aggressor or occupiers, yet we find a word of "Jihad" that tends to organize into a singularity and to commint towards suicide bombing.

    Now the term "Islamic fundamentalist" is correctly assessed!!!!!
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2010
  12. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    I don't see why you are focusing only on the Tamils, Hezbollah started their first suicide attacks in 1981 the first such attack done by a Muslim organization against Israel when they were occupying Lebanon. LTTE started their attacks only in the late 80s so where did you get the impression that Tamils influenced Hizbullah expect in a very ancillary way like news reports on how a vest wearing suicide bomber got close to Rajiv Gandhi. Otherwise they were using car and truck bombs to devastating affect.

    The problem with the political Islamic ideology (not Islamic fundamentalist as that can have a wide meaning) is well known and I am not denying its role in suicide terrorism, but focusing purely on the suicide aspect, even the most conservative ulema like the Wahabbis in Saudi Arabia have declared suicide bombings to be prohibited even in a "Jihad". And this is not a recent fatwa but something that was declared in the 80s when Hizbolla was doing the same against Israel.

    This is purely about the suicide terrorism strategy and although religion plays a factor, it is not the major factor. Examples include the fact that many bombers happen to be educated people who are not very religious either but have a strong sense of perception that they are living in a occupied land. The suicide bomber has to be convinced that he is doing it for the greater good. Hence the secular PKK Kurdish bombers launch suicide attacks against the Turks. And the Tamils did so against the Sinhalese. Just like the secular PLO initially did against Israel. It was later after that HAMAS took over and started launching suicide attacks well into civilian targets. Later you had the case of Iraq where shias were targeted by AQ there BECAUSE they PERCEIVED that the shias were aiding the occupation of US there along-with religious language to gather support.

    So even though there are clear cut guidelines that Suicide bombings are prohibited from even the most conservative ulema and that killing civilians Muslims or non-Muslims is not allowed, the twisted logic is used to justify the use of a very powerful tactic i.e. suicide terrorism. No matter how disgusting it is as a tactic, there is little doubt about its effectiveness in causing havoc.

    India at present has hardly been subjected to suicide attacks at the scale of Israel, Pakistan, Sri Lanka or Afghanistan. But understanding the strategy in a clinical way helps in better preparing for it.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2010
  13. Jeypore

    Jeypore Regular Member

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    This is the direct quote from your second article, which I might add was in bolded form by you: The Palestinians got the idea of the suicide vest from the Tamil Tigers..

    Anyways my time is up since it is close to 2:00 in the morning here, and I need my beauty sleep, but I will discuss further...

    Thanks...
     
  14. Jeypore

    Jeypore Regular Member

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    So the book "The Ideological Attack" did not play any role in this thinking....

    well you can read further:

    http://www.ict.org.il/Articles/tabid/66/Articlsid/574/currentpage/3/Default.aspx
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2010
  15. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    IF you are talking about suicide bombings not at all. And I don't see what incriminating evidence is in the line you quoted.Please explain if I missed something but he is saying in the quote you mention that to guide muslims about Islam they should be taught about Islam at home and in their education institutons on top of inviting them towards following Islam (i.e. Dawah)

    Since you quoted Bin Baz, here is something more explicity, an audio recording about the permissibility of suicide attacks against Jews. This was back in the 80s and he died about 4-5 years ago. The translation is also given. Like I mentioned, Zawahir and OBL are not Islamic scholars (one a doctor and toher a business man) so when they justify suicide attacks they don't even try to use a religious basis.

    Ofcourse I agree that Bin Baz andthe salafi ulema are conservative(probably the most conservaive among all school of thoughts) i.e. they insist that women should wear burkha(abaya and niqab) and avoid work e.t.c.; but they do not condone suicide attacks and infact declare it prohibited even if done against non-muslims.

     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2015
  16. Jeypore

    Jeypore Regular Member

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    I do not think then we are talking about the same language also because you did not take the time to read the link. Anyways, this guy or the study simplifies your argument about this subject:

     
  17. neo29

    neo29 Senior Member Senior Member

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    Though Hamas and Hezbollah got idea of suicide terrorism from LTTE and it spread around to all Jihadi outfits all over the world, i wonder who and when did they modify it that blowing yourself up will give you jannat with 72 virgins ???
     
  18. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Which occupying forces Japanese Kamikaze pilots were fighting when they themselves were occupying forces in china,korea and most of south east asia.They themselves were the imperial power of WW2.BTW first Kamikaze attack took place at pearl harbour and that was not Japanese land.And sure american were not the imperial/occupying power in WW2.And justifying hitting millitary targets even when it is unprovoked is termed as terrorism.And thats what the pearl harbour attack was all about.
     
  19. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Jeypore,

    the author is an Israeli military officer writing for a mainly Indian audience on Pakistan. Do you really think he is being unbiased by connecting "Wahabbi Islam" with the fanatics in Pakistan like JuD and LeT? He has somethings right but somethings are not correct. Also a lot of information is pre 9/11 which is dated and old.

    The problem with fanatics in Pakistan or even in the arab world is to do with a politco-religious ideology. The idea that an "Islamic state" should be established by force and then sharia should be "imposed" on the people top down. These ideas were promulgated by Syed Qutb and Maududi initially and are known as political Islamists. Then you had the more radical versions like Abdulla Azzam and later Zawahiri and OBL. I might create a separate thread on what is the ideology behind terrorism in the name of Islam on this as it will become off-topic when we are discussing purely around the strategic implications of suicide terrorism.

    In any case, I have explicitly shown you an audio clip of Bin Baz who prohibited suicide attacks against Jews. Nothing can be more clear than that to show how much legitimacy suicide attacks have in even among the most conservative school of thoughts in Islam.

    Here is a website created by Salafis aka Wahabbi which lists pdfs and audio clippings of rulings around extremism from the the Salafi or Wahabbi school of thought point of view.

    http://www.answering-extremism.com/ae/history.aspx
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2010
  20. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    The Pearl Harbour attacks were not Kamikaze but a full bombing run. The jets that were lost by the Japanese were because they were shot down by the Americans. Unlike Kamikaze pilots none of them were planning to launch their plane into the middle of the military base with explosives filled up in their plane.

    The Kamikaze attacks happened at the end of the war when a lot of Japanese islands that had been traditionally under their control had been taken over by the US. The only way they felt they can hit back was these attacks. It was aimed at "preventing" occupation. And as many accounts state, they were very effective in causing a high number of casualties among the Americans.
     
  21. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Kamikaze Squadron was there on pearl haurbour to cause maximum damage after the waves of attacks.To Quote from Wiki.......


     

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