Foreign occupation, not religious fervor, is the primary motivation behind this form of terrorism.
By Robert Pape
There is just one problem with this argument: It's wrong.
Research I and my colleagues conducted at the University of Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism, in which we analyzed each of the more than 2,200 suicide attacks that have taken place throughout the world since 1980, shows that though other factors matter, the primary driver of suicide terrorism is foreign occupation.
In Lebanon, for example, of the 32 successful suicide attackers from 1982 through 1989 whose ideology was identifiable, 22 were communists and socialists with no commitment to religious extremism; five were Christian. Religion served as an auxiliary recruiting tool, but the root cause of the attacks was foreign occupation, and the attacks were designed to coerce the occupying forces—Israel, France and the United States—to withdraw.
Michael Moore takes the recently fired Juan Williams to task for misquoting Faisal Shazad, the Pakistani immigrant who wanted to bomb Times Square. Moore challenges Williams, who has denounced his firing as "political correctness," to report Shazad's motives for the planned bombing. Moore quotes Shazad:
Juan Williams Is Right: Political Correctness About Terrorists Must End!
The terrorists' motives are actually specific and clear. We know this because we've interviewed many of them and know what they think. What they're fighting against is the occupation of Muslim territory: by the United States, Israel, and repressive Muslim regimes.
This American propaganda process is extremely similar to the one employed against Indians. We also demonized them as savages and barbarians who had no concept of culture, religion, or government. People refused to believe that Indians might have an understandable desire to protect their homelands from foreign occupation. To us they were predatory animals with no goals except raping, pillaging, and killing.
In particular, we demonized Indians whenever they attacked "innocent" settlers. We treated these attacks as the equivalent of terrorist bombings. And they were equivalent, in a sense. Indians were not trying to destroy the Euro-Americans' freedom or way of life. They were trying to end the foreign occupation--to force the invaders to leave.
If we had captured and interviewed the Indians who committed "massacres," I wouldn't be surprised if they said the same thing. "The white man takes our land and resources. They kill us with their guns and invisible bullets [disease]. Their god will allow them no rest until they have conquered us. Therefore, we will keep on 'terrorizing' them until they leave our land and people at peace."
For more on the subject, see Inside the Terrorists' Minds and Understanding Islam.