IPS Blog

Mexicans Romanticizing Drug Kingpins Reflects Lack of Confidence in the Rule of Law

"Narco Saint" Jesús Malverde.

“Narco Saint” Jesús Malverde.

The anniversary of Malcolm X’s birthday this past weekend found me revisiting some of his speeches and shorter works, and remembering the more noteworthy quotes taken from his writings and public pronouncements. One of the more plainly stated dangers Malcolm warned against, in a speech delivered at the Audubon Ballroom, shortly before he was killed, concerned the media. “If you’re not careful,” he said, “the newspapers will have you hating the people being oppressed, and loving the people doing the oppressing.”

As if on cue, CNN.com ran an unfortunate meditation on Friday by Ruben Navarette, on responsibility for drug violence in Mexico, that illustrates precisely this point. Despite tens of thousands of deaths, myriad human rights abuse claims and billions of dollars of dubious investment, Navarette concludes—not implausibly, it should be said—that on the question of whether the government is winning its war against the Mexican drug cartels, the jury is still out. But Navarrette isn’t interested in weighing the pros and cons Mexico’s iron fist approach to the country’s drug cartels. He’s looking to assign guilt.

“Many Mexicans wrongly put the blame for those deaths entirely on the shoulders of Mexcian President Felipe Calderon,” Navarrette argues. “Calderon is a convenient target because he has made it his personal mission to destroy Mexico’s drug syndicates…The cartel’s customers are mainly Americans, who consume more than their share of illegal drugs.” Given this last, oddly-wrought observation, you might expect Navarrette to turn his critical gaze northward, but no. “As for blame, Mexicans should at least dole it out correctly…the Mexican people also bear a responsibility—for empowering the drug lords.”

For Navarrette, the hearts and minds of ordinary people are decidedly in the wrong place.

For decades, Mexicans have romanticized the drug trafficking industry in film, music and other aspects of popular culture. There are many “corridos” (Mexican ballads) that tell the story of the rise-from-nothing fellow who becomes the head of a powerful syndicate relying on his wits and strength…. There are even so-called drug saints that some Mexicans pray to — inspired by Robin Hood-like figures who are seen as protectors of the poor against the government. Of course, the Catholic Church doesn’t recognize these saints, but this fact hasn’t made them any less popular. One of the most popular of the “narco saints” is Jesús Malverde, named after a bandit, who legend has it, was killed by authorities in the early 1900s. Known as the “generous bandit” or the “angel of the poor,” Malverde is a folk hero to some in the Mexican state of Sinaloa.

Leaving aside for the moment the fact that glorification of bad guys is a universal phenomenon, and one particularly embraced in the United States, the fact that Navarette scolds ordinary Mexicans for not celebrating a government that has put them at a distinct disadvantage over the better part of a century—and that increasingly puts them at risk—reveals remarkable bad faith at best. At worst, it suggests an impoverished sense of a sovereign’s responsibility to its people.

In this, Navarrette has it exactly backwards. “Recently,” he bemoans, “Mexican actress Kate del Castillo…tweeted that she has more faith in Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman than she does in government.” Unfortunate, sure. But understandable? Absolutely. Del Castillo’s tweet represents not the actress’ failings, but Calderon’s and the country’s security services. Where the government has manifestly failed, illicit actors have filled the void. Cops are crooked because they’re paid less than minimum wage. Low-level drug runners turn to trafficking not because it’s a natural preference, but because it’s a viable job in an otherwise bleak employment landscape. The loyalty citizens profess to this violent syndicate or that have nothing to do with actual support, and everything to do with survival in an uncertain social terrain where law enforcement is often a perpetrator.

To his credit, Navarrette hints his understanding that “police in Mexico are thought to be corrupt or corruptible.” So it’s strange, then, that he slaps ordinary Mexicans on the wrist with the demand that they “stop writing poems and songs that honor drug traffickers and instead start praising the Mexican law enforcement officers bravely trying to bring these outlaws to justice.” And despite the fact that the military “is accused of being heavy-handed with civilians and violating the rights of Mexican citizens,” and that blame for it all “should go to Calderon,” these same citizens ought to, from Navarrette’s vantage point, “support their government and stand by their president in fighting a battle that needed to be fought.” Sound familiar?

Navarrette, in an op-ed piece days earlier describing his participation in a debate on the issue, “drew a parallel between the drug war and the war on terror. Nobody wants to fight these battles, but they have to be fought.” Navarrette noted that “If the United States lets its guard down, Islamic radicals will strike again and kill more Americans. Likewise, if Mexican President Felipe Calderon surrenders to the drug cartels, there will only be more bloodshed.” This last sentence is key. By continuing to perpetrate the false choice facing governments of either killing everyone involved in the drug trade or surrendering to them, Navarrette and others shunt aside a third way of solving the trafficking crisis—one that depressurizes the market and increases state capacity for the provision of public goods, the combination of which would surely undermine the social and economic foundations upon which the cartels thrive. It certainly wouldn’t be a solution without its problems. But then again, it sure beats what we have now—one that leaves tens of thousands dead, tens of thousands more without rights, millions addicted to narcotics without any hope for treatment, a government hobbled by its own lack of legitimate authority, and a crew of cartel bosses so rich they regularly make Forbes Magazine’s annual list of the world’s most wealthy people.

Fukushima Team Under Constant Pressure to Protect Interests of Nuclear Power

Japanese Parliamentarian Kuniko Tanioka.

Japanese Parliamentarian Kuniko Tanioka.

Japanese Parliamentarian Kuniko Tanioka is not a rebel. Her assessment of Japanese policy after the Fukushima nuclear accident may not be popular with the Japanese government or nuclear industry, but she is a representative of a team formed within the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) to deal with the countless issues that have arisen since 3/11. The DPJ, the current ruling party, and the only party other than the Liberal Democratic Party to hold the Diet in more than 50 years, is part of a coalition government. It is subject to great pressure from the United States, Tanioka explained in a recent presentation at Institute for Policy Studies, and in charge of a system woefully unprepared to handle crises like the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

According to Tanioka, there is no legislative structure in place to deal with the long-term effects of a nuclear disaster of this scale, and Tanioka’s team works to provide reports and information, and draft bills into the Diet in order to cope with all of the lingering problems and human security issues stemming from last March. This is the first time the Diet has had a probing commission for this type of disaster, and the DPJ team is under constant internal and external pressure to downplay the situation and protect the interests of nuclear power.

The last of the operational reactors in Japan closed earlier this month, but some government officials are already pushing to restart several reactors in northern Japan, claiming that without them there will be electricity shortages. Of course, asserts Tanioka, the industry is pressuring the government because it doesn’t want Japan to prove that it can make it without reactors. This is not the main consideration, however, says Tanioka. The safety of the people and the environment should be first, and the conditions to restart must be stringent, including new standards that go beyond the engineering of the reactors, that include filtered vents, safe buildings for plant workers in case of accidents, and detailed evacuation plans for surrounding areas.

Tanioka’s talk comes on the heels of a Japanese delegation to the UN asking for international assistance with the radiation that continues to emanate from Fukushima. In reactors 1 through 3, the radiation is still too high for anyone to enter, and if there were further malfunctions, there is little hope for stabilization. She cited the need for more U.S. support, and noted that the only voices speaking to the Obama administration are industry representatives.

The U.S. and Japanese nuclear industries are inseparable, as many U.S. providers are owned by Japanese firms. Until the shutdown of Tomari on May 5, Japan was one of the largest consumers of nuclear energy in the world. If Japan were to become totally nuclear-free, this would be a massive hit to the global nuclear industry.

Tanioka wants Americans to understand several issues. First, there is a need for greater transparency and a wider scope for medical research into the effects of radiation. Even with all of the time since Chernobyl, this data is not forthcoming – blocked by a handful of experts who hold all the cards. A wider exchange of data within the academic world would support the expansion of preventative treatments for radiation exposure, and more effective supplements and procedures for those who have already been exposed.

More importantly, both the Japanese national government in Tokyo and the Fukushima prefectural government, along with TEPCO and a host of industry scientists, insist that radiation levels near the Fukushima Daiichi plant are safe for humans. Tanioka disagrees, and spoke of the devastating effects of nuclear accidents on citizens. Life in the affected areas has entirely lost any sense of normalcy. There have been more than 200,000 evacuees, and for them, and for those who have stayed, their lives are disrupted on a scale that is difficult to comprehend. Even simple joys, such as gardening in their now radioactive soil, are gone – the result of shoddy regulation in an industry focused only on profits, and an unhealthy dependence on this dangerous energy source.

Erin Chandler is an intern at Foreign Policy in Focus.

Democracy Now! Debate: Should NATO Exist?

“When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When you’re a military alliance, every problem looks like it requires a military solution,” argued Phyllis Bennis, an author and fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies on Tuesday’s edition of Democracy Now!. She debated Stan Sloan, a former CIA Europe security expert. Here’s the video:

Phyllis Bennis on Democracy Now! screenshot

While the big news coming out of Chicago’s NATO summit was the agreement to hand over control to Afghan forces in 2013, Phyllis made sure to point out opposition to NATO is expressed in larger numbers around the word.

Arrest of Mexican General for Cartel Connections May Be Purely Political

I noted recently that two Mexican generals had been arrested by state authorities on suspicion of links to drug traffickers. Late last night, the government took a third general into custody, and the arrests might not stop there. According to the New York Times, “local news reports suggested that the corruption investigation was continuing and could net other key figures in the drug war…the accusations against the third general…include that he ignored a tip by American drug agents about an imminent airplane delivery of a drug cartel’s cocaine in December 2007.”

Alejandro Hope, a private security analyst and a former Mexican government intelligence official interviewed by the Times underscored a point I made earlier. “There has been worry that the more you use the military the more corruption there will be, so one purpose of this could be to send a message.” Says Robert Bonner, who has been unambiguous in his support of Mexican President Felipe Calderón, “This is what Mexico needs to do. It needs to identify the corrupt officials and put them behind bars. I am encouraged because they are not trying to sweep this under the rug.”

But there’s another, less noble, possibility that could be animating this week’s action. As the Times notes, “It remained unclear why the men were detained this week for acts that transpired a few years ago,” but one of the generals arrested “had recently appeared at a security forum put on by a nonprofit group with ties to the Institutional Revolutionary Party, whose candidate for president, Enrique Peña Nieto, is leading by a wide margin in polls ahead of the July 1 election. Mr. Peña Nieto said the generals had played no role in his campaign, though General Ángeles served in Washington in the early 1990s under a former ambassador, Jorge Montaño, who is the party’s foreign affairs adviser and has met with policy makers and analysts in recent weeks in Washington.”

Supporting MEK a Lose-Lose Proposition for Israel

At the Daily Beast’s Open Zion blog, Trita Parsi questioned the wisdom of Israel organizing MEK’s (Mujahedin-e Khalq) murderous attacks on Iranian scientists.

First, any attempt by Israel to hold the higher moral ground and point fingers at the regime in Tehran will be lost if Israel itself is entangled with violent terrorist groups that kill indiscriminatingly. … Second, if Israel teams up with an organization described by the US State Department as “fundamentally undemocratic” and “not a viable alternative to the current government of Iran,” the argument that peace in the region would be achieved if only the other states in the region were as democratic as Israel will become even more unconvincing.

And finally, this will likely undermine Israel’s ability to rebuild ties with the Iranian people down the road. The MEK has the dubious honor of being the only entity more disliked by the Iranian people than the Iranian regime itself.

One of Israel’s main beefs with Iran is that it’s been a state sponsor of terrorism. But, by collaborating with MEK inside Iran, Israel becomes just another kettle calling a plot back. Why would Israel jeopardize its cherished state-sponsor-of-terrorism card? Perhaps because it thinks it can be of help in the process of removing the perception of MEK as a terrorist group. Parsi explains.

All of this has fueled suspicions in DC that the current multi-million dollar lobbying campaign by the MEK to get off of the State Department’s terror list is bankrolled by Israeli sources.

Obviously, that does nothing to make MEK’s actions or Israel’s support of them go away. Unfortunately, if you can handle one last cliché, that horse has left the barn.

The Nonsense Zone

The Institute for Policy Studies is honored to join the long list of respected individuals and organizations that Bill O’Reilly has attacked on his Fox News show. During the opening segment of his May 22 tirade, O’Reilly attacked us for serving as the Occupy movement’s “headquarters.” He even implied that some central figure is making decisions about what color Occupy “agitators” should wear. These are hilarious claims about a movement that defiantly makes decisions through the direct participation of all of its members, rather than in a top-down process. And that would include fashion choices.


We don’t know how O’Reilly and his colleagues cooked up their theories. They didn’t bother to contact us before staging this attack. But IPS is nevertheless grateful for this opportunity to showcase our proud history of public scholarship on inequality, peace, justice, and the environment.

We have worked on the issue of inequality for two decades. We host one of the leading web sites for facts, figures and analysis, www.inequality.org. Our annual Executive Excess report, now in its 18th year, garners major mainstream media coverage on the growing gap between CEO and worker pay. Recently, IPS was invited to give testimony on this research to the Senate Budget Committee. IPS is also doing a great deal of research on the transition away from a speculative Wall Street economy to a green and demilitarized Main Street economy.

IPS researchers were very pleased when the Occupy encampments raised awareness of the growing problems with extreme inequality and how war spending fuels the economic crisis. During his broadcast, O’Reilly claimed that the Occupy movement is no longer about inequality. He’s wrong. This movement continues to highlight the great divide between the 1 percent and the 99 percent, and it continues to draw attention to how a casino Wall Street has crashed our economy and corrupted our politics. The Occupy movement has brought these vital issues into dinner conversations across this country.

Starting last fall, IPS conducted workshops on inequality, environmental justice, and ending wars, with Occupy DC. We offered to let them use our space for meetings when the weather was bad or on weekends. Two weeks ago, IPS offered them space in our offices where they are producing an online newspaper called DC Mic Check. SEIU, the dynamic union of janitors and other service workers, has made a contribution to help us cover the costs.

IPS is an independent, nonpartisan, and non-profit organization. For nearly half a century, we have worked with and provided research and analysis to a diverse set of social movements, unions, and others for peace, justice, and the environment. Thank you, Bill O’Reilly, for putting us in the spotlight.

John Cavanagh is the director of the Institute for Policy Studies. www.ips-dc.org

U.S. Professors to Clinton: Respond to Boko Haram with Diplomacy, Development, and Demilitarization

Reposted from Dr. Carl Levan’s homepage.

Nigeria’s National Security Advisor is visiting Washington, D.C. this week, and Secretary Clinton has been under pressure from Republicans in the House of Representatives to formally designate Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).

The US-based academics, however, argue that formally labeling Boko Haram an FTO would “limit American policy options to those least likely to work.” In particular, it would:

  1. Internationalize Boko Haram’s standing and enhance its status among radical organizations elsewhere.
  2. Give disproportionate attention to counter-terrorism in bilateral relations at a time when economic ties are expanding and a robust multi-faceted relationship has emerged.
  3. Undermine Nigeria’s progress on the rule of law in two ways: First, by effectively legitimizing abuses by security services that Human Rights Watch and other organizations have drawn attention to as urgent, ongoing problems. Second, President Goodluck Jonathan is pushing the National Assembly for Martial Law. Historically, such measures have been followed by broader political instability.
  4. Impede humanitarian assistance and possibly independent academic research.

I was one of the letter’s initiators, along with Peter Lewis from SAIS and Jean Herskovits from SUNY – Purchase. I will be giving a brief talk on Boko Haram at a conference sponsored by the Jamestown Foundation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Tuesday, June 19, in Washington, DC.

To see a full version of the letter, with details on each point we made to the Secretary of State, click here (pdf).

India’s Need for Iran’s Oil a Sticking Point for U.S. and Its Sanctions Regime

India's Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna and Hillary Clinton.

India’s Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna and Hillary Clinton.

The drift in Indo-U.S. relations noted by many observers during President Obama’s current term may be reversed if the coming American elections change the setting in Washington. The same may be said of the Indian national elections, which could be held next year (instead of 2014) if the Prime Minister so chooses under India’s electoral system.

In recent days, there have been some interesting developments in the relationship that have caused some optimism in American circles, not entirely matched by Indian commentators. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently returned from a trip to Asia, during which she held talks with India’s Foreign Minister, S.M. Krishna, on May 8th, preparatory to the 3rd U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue to be held in Washington, D.C. on June 13th.

Both parties agreed on the importance of their economic relationship, with Clinton stressing increased trade and investment, and Krishna hoping the relationship “would grow much faster and realize its enormous potential.” There was agreement also on Afghanistan, with Clinton welcoming India’s support for the “people’s efforts to build a more peaceful and prosperous future.” Among other things, India has organized a meeting of potential investors in Afghanistan from the surrounding states, to be held in June.

But beneath the diplomatic rhetoric, Clinton hinted at India’s need to open its markets to American retailers (like Walmart). Krishna in turn urged that more mobility be allowed for their IT and other specialists in the U.S. The Foreign Minister raised with Secretary Clinton India’s concern with American protectionism, a particularly troublesome intimation of which was the restrictive nature of visa applications (challenged by India at the WTO last month) that Indian professionals from the services industry are required to complete, the recent increase in visa fees to $2,000, and the high rejection rate of these applications. Instead of being reassured by the Secretary on this score, he was undoubtedly disappointed to hear that U.S. policy would persist, as would the rise in rejections.

As for the historic civil nuclear agreement signed in 2008, which raised so many hopes in both countries, all that could be claimed by the Secretary was discussions by public-private agents (of India and the U.S., respectively) on how “to move forward together.” But the Foreign Minister urged faster progress “towards contractual steps.”

Finally and most significantly, India’s continued import of Iranian oil was discussed. This is, of course, a key issue for the U.S., which believes strongly that Iran is intent on developing nuclear weapons. To deter these plans, it has declared an oil embargo on Iran, and has been imposing harsh sanctions on those who import oil from that country. But while several nations (mostly European as well as Japan) have been exempted, Washington threatens to impose sanctions on India and China after June 28th, two of the biggest importers of Iranian oil. While India agrees, in general, with Washington on the nuclear issue, and did in fact decrease its much-needed oil imports from Iran several times, Clinton was not prepared to say that India’s concessions (which New Delhi perceives as substantial) would be enough to exempt New Delhi from sanctions by the end of June. Indeed, Clinton repeatedly pressed India — not only during the talks with Krishna, but also in several hard-hitting and unyielding public statements — to make further cuts.

The Foreign Minister continued, nevertheless, to acknowledge Iran’s rights as a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and stressed India’s full implementation of all United Nations-mandated sanctions on Iran. He thereby signaled India’s disapproval of what India views as punitive sanctions imposed on Iran by the U.S. and the West in general, which moreover do not adequately take into account India’s urgent need for increasingly expensive fuel imports (with the Rupee weakening sharply) which can be met only partially from alternate sources, due to financial, technical and other reasons. As if to underscore New Delhi’s stance, Indian exporters were holding talks with an Iranian trade delegation in one part of the capital, while Secretary Clinton was meeting with India’s Foreign Affairs Minister in another part.

It remains to be seen if the relationship will indeed be hurt, as Indians have warned, if the U.S. proceeds to impose sanctions on India because of its continued imports of Iranian oil on which the nation is so heavily dependent. Both sides hope that some of the outstanding issues can be resolved at the June 13 “strategic dialogue.” Washington may be more optimistic, given India’s greater flexibility in negotiations (especially compared to China). The pot may have been sweetened the previous week when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is in New Delhi for talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Defense Minister A.K.Antony, when India is expected to sign additional arms deals. On the other hand, New Delhi may surprise Secretary Clinton this time.

Free Trade Agreement Ignores Colombian History of Violence Against Trade Unions

President Obama and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

President Obama and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

On May 15, the United States and its traditionally close ally Colombia took further measures to promote free trade in the region. The negotiations that took place in 2006 under the Bush Administration are finally being implemented, after more than five years of being held up in congress. The Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is designed to lower tariffs, increase competition, and bolster trade mobility in both regions. BBC reports that “the pact means a wide variety of goods, including machinery, raw materials and agricultural products, can be traded without import tariffs needing to be paid.” The United States International Trade Commission in its report, U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement: Potential Economy-wide and Selected Sectoral Effects, touts the benefits of the new agreement, announcing “U.S. exports to Colombia may be higher by approximately $1.1 billion, U.S. imports from Colombia may be higher by $487 million, and U.S. GDP higher by about $2.5 billion, representing an increase of less than 0.05 percent of U.S. GDP.”

Although this may seem like a step in the right direction for trade, the deal has attracted criticism from Democratic congress-members, human rights activists, and Latin America policy experts who have critiqued the policy for not addressing the “record of violence against trade union leaders.” These various parties are all concerned with Colombia’s problematic relationship with trade unions.

Human rights activists and Latin American policy experts have raised concerns over Colombia’s ongoing hostility towards trade union leaders. With almost 3,000 murders of trade unionists since 1986, Colombia is widely regarded as the world’s most dangerous place to be a trade unionist. Impunity for anti-union crimes is widespread and remains a tremendous concern for people who object to the FTA. Human Rights Watch Report 2012 reports that trade union deaths in Colombia are greater than in any other country in the world. According to the National Labor School (ENS), Colombia’s leading NGO monitoring labor rights, 51 trade unionists were murdered in 2008, 47 in 2009, 51 in 2010, and 26 from January to November 15, 2011.

When Colombian vice-president Angelino Garzon was asked by Al-Jazeera about trade unions and worker rights, he rejected claims that Colombia was anti-trade union, stating, “In this country there is no institutional violence against workers. We protect workers and we protect people who own companies. We protect unions and all the workers and the institutions of democracy, and we give people the right to get into the unions and organise collectively.”

Gimena Sanchez-Garzoli at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) disagrees. “What Colombia has done is change the rhetoric,” she writes. “They don’t attack trade unions, accuse them of being terrorists anymore. They say wonderful things about them. However, what they say and what is actually happening on the ground is completely contradictory.”

Although the majority of Republican congress-members such as John Boehner and Mitch McConnell support the FTA, Democratic Party members Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are finding themselves at odds with the president’s new stance on Latin American trade policy. Both Pelosi and Reid expressed concern that the new FTA would not encourage much-needed domestic job growth and does not address the human rights violations against Colombian trade unionists.

Talking to The Hill, Pelosi “added her skepticism about the number of jobs that could be created by the trade deals…Pelosi called it ‘debatable’ that the trade deals would have created jobs if passed when President George W. Bush pressed Congress to take them up several years ago.” Reid and Pelosi have also been skeptical that the Colombian government has taken effective measures to combat anti-union and anti-democratic labor positions with the country.

In spite of the anti-union activity in Colombia, the Obama administration has decided to push forward with the trade agreement. In a joint speech delivered by Presidents Obama and Santos in Bogota a month before the FTA’s implementation, the Obama administration heralded the “significant progress” that had been made by the Colombian legislature and executive toward more democratic activity, and affirmed that “Colombia will continue to have a strong partner in the United States.” This democratic progress seems minimal if any, according to a study conducted by the Washington Office on Latin America: “Since Presidents Santos and Obama signed an action plan to ensure the protection of labor rights a year ago on April 7, 2011 over 28 trade unionist had been killed, 2 have been disappeared, and there have been more than 500 death threats.”

Melissa Moskowitz is an intern at Foreign Policy in Focus.

For more on the free trade agreement with Colombia, see Michael Busch’s recent Focal Points post, Free-Trade Deal May Prove Greater Obstacle to Colombian Peace Than FARC.

The Book About Terrorism Crying Out to Be Written

I’ve been reading The Hunt for KSM by Terry McDermott and Josh Meyer (Little, Brown, 2012). Valuable and engrossing as this account of how Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was brought to justice — if you call waterboarding justice — it’s also frustrating. While The Hunt for KSM isn’t a biography per se, it provides just enough details of his early life to leave you wishing that the authors had discovered and shared with the reader the wellspring — however poisoned — of his motivation. (Not to discount the legitimacy of some of his beef with the West.)

In other words what, beyond indoctrination and a college experience in the United States that soured him on American culture (in the timeless tradition of U.S. disaffection of influential Islamist theorist Sayyid Qutb) drove a middle-class kid from Pakistan who grew up in Kuwait to become an alleged mass murderer, as well as to personally cut someone’s (Daniel Pearl’s) throat?

Even if Sheikh Mohammed believed he was waging war in the form of jihad, the psychopathy he seemed to have evinced is no different from that of a serial killer in civilian life. Especially if you believe terrorism should be addressed by police, not military action, Sheikh Mohammed was no different from Anders Behring Breivik, except that he seems to have killed even more people.

Much has been written on the deep-seated urges that drive terrorists to pull the trigger or the pin (however electronic these days) on a suicide bomb. Perspectives on Terrorism, the Terrorism Research Initiatives journal, recently published/posted Terrorism Bookshelf: Top 150 Books on Terrorism and Counterterrorism. Among those that address motivation are The Psychology of Terrorism by John Horgan (New York: Routledge, 2005) and The Making of a Terrorist: Recruitment, Training, and Root Causes, edited by James J.F. Forest, editor (Praeger Security International, 2006).

Thus far, though, only one book has been written in English that resembles a biography of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. But, like The Hunt for KSM, it doesn’t seem to plumb the roiling waters of the subject’s mind. What’s really needed is a book about a high-profile terrorist like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed written from the perspective of psychohistory. For those unfamiliar with this provocative offshoot of psychoanalysis, the dean of psychohistory, Lloyd deMause, explains its central tenets in his classic book, The Emotional Life of Nations.

… to show that childrearing evolution is an independent cause of historical change … to show how political, religious and social behavior restage early traumas.

To put it another way, it’s likely that this kind of cause and effect can be shown in many (most?) cases of individuals who perpetrate terrorism. While it may not be possible due to lack of cooperation with figure from his early life, it would be ideal if an enterprising journalist could discover whether the psychopathology of a terrorist like Sheikh Mohammed can be traced back to child abuse, whether violent or sexual or both.

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