Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

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Why the Suicide Bomb Network Must be Dismantled
There has been much written recently about the inability to halt young suicide bombers because of their willingness to die for their cause. It is one of the greatest difficulties facing forces on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But, as the Times of London points out in graphic detail, the bombers are the end product of network of radicalization that includes the religious teachings of respected imams around the world.

It is true that it is virtually impossible to halt the actual suicide bomber on his mission. But there are vulnerabilities in the network that create these human weapons. These areas can be far more easily attacked than the final product.

As Bob Baer, formerly of the CIA, recently wrote,, there is little defense against these "children of death."

As Baer points out, "this is an ideological battle that will be won, or lost, at the local mosque, at the family dinner table or between friends across the Islamic world. Suicide bombing will be defeated not by a gun or a fancy scanner but by the religious principles of Koran itself."

(I am not sure of the final statement, because these principles are not broadly articulated across the Muslim world, but perhaps they could be.)

There are several noteworthy statements in the piece on suicide bombers, in addition to the chill one gets at the thought of the deliberate recruitment of young men to kill themselves in the belief that they are doing Allah's will and that he will reward them generously. Here are a few that highlight the NETWORK aspect of the phenomenon.

_These were no psychopathic loners from the ghetto, but articulate, middle-class men in their twenties and early thirties who had come from good homes and gone to university. One was a newly married accountant._

_Yet all had reached the chilling conclusion that killing “sinners” would transport them to paradise. None had the slightest inkling that they might be exploited by Al-Qaeda and other battle-hardened groups which will probably use these fresh-faced idealists for no higher purpose than to sustain the most brutal sectarian conflict of our age._

_But Abu Ziad’s is no ordinary business. He takes eager volunteers, inveigles them into Iraq for a fee and delivers them to insurgents who consign them to a bloody death with clinical efficiency._

_His network includes the imams who drum up the volunteers and forgers who create new identities for their journey across the 390-mile border with Iraq._

_Then there are the officials he bribes to turn a blind eye, and insurgent groups ranging from the pan-Arab, fundamentalist Al-Qaeda in Iraq to the Iraqi nationalist 1920 Revolution Brigade, started by former members of Saddam’s armed forces._

Imams that drum up volunteers-a key element. One that is often undertaken by mosques associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, particularly in Europe, and most noticeably in Great Britain.

Forgers almost always operate in networks, with different types of expertise working together. Another choke point.

But there is also evidence we have not learned one of the most basic lessons-radicalization often happens in prison.

_It was in prison that Ahmed first heard about suicide bombing. His interest was stoked by clerics whose fiery sermons the Americans obligingly photocop-ied and distributed without the slightest understanding of their destructive force. Seminars followed on the making of suicide belts, the selection of targets and the timing of attacks._

_By the time Ahmed emerged from jail, he had not only been radicalised but was armed with deadly new skills. Arrested a second time, he tricked his way to freedom by promising to inform on his fellow insurgents. Instead, he presented them with a proposal to carry out the group’s first suicide mission himself._

Any of these chokepoints, from radicalization in mosques to radicalization in prison to cutting off the criminal enterprises that convey the suicide bombers to Iraq, are more efficient that hoping to stop the young person once they are one their way with a vest packed with explosives.

On a personal note, I dealt extensively with child soldiers in West Africa, most who were forcibly recruited, often forced to kill their own parents, then put on drugs that enabled them to carry out unspeakable atrocities.

One woman in Sierra Leone, working with children recovered from the ranks of the rebels said it best: "A child is a child. But whoever led the children astray is responsible and is a monster."
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