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This page profiles how terror of one kind begets terror of another kind in never ending cycles. Our aggressive self-centered behaviors expressed by our Authoritarian Personalities feed on themselves. This is a natural consequence of our nature (genetic) / nurture (rearing) background. When we can, we lord it over others in imperialistic fashion. When we are humiliated by taxation without representation or by having our resources co-opted by others, we fight back militarily or with terror a last resort. America seems to have forgotten its own response to humiliation. There are better ways to fight terror.

And so it is that the "haves" want more, the "have-nots" fight back in never ending cycle, at least in history to date. As one group forges far enough ahead to exert advantage, others are humiliated. This fundamental process created a history of conquest upon conquest. In our times, that cycle appears in stark relief with Zionism in Palestine and America in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are three broad types of terrorist activity, each is extremist in nature. One is secular; another is religious while the third is state sponsored. The first two want to redress civil, political, religious or economic wrongs. The third may be genocidal when extreme or merely imperial in more common expression. The imperial motive underlying the third is often simple dominance and is both counter point and counter part to the first two. Imperialism gives rise to rebellion, 1776 for example. While these types differ in motivational source, type of execution, and degree, they are similar in character, and each is Authoritarian.

Religious terror has most often been the primary mode since the beginning of recorded histories of terrorism. A Jewish sect, the zealots, was notable during the first century, CE. They murdered by stabbing in public whomever they considered apostates or betrayers. This was long before monotheism became generally adopted in the West. Modern religious terror is a response to Modernization and Imperialism; the latter, in effect, being state terrorism exemplified in our day by Zionism.

The underlying concept in this discussion is that, except for scale, there is no difference in motives driving private party intimidation and murder, group terrorism, and tribal or inter-nation war. Our unbridled genetic heritage supplies motive. Historical and geographic differences, no matter how small, provide some groups with advantages over other others.

A second underlying concept is that of the rare events, the rare Authoritarians for whom dominance is the only thing that matters. They are the extreme wings of the distribution also known as opsycho-sociopaths, whether right or left politically, monotheist or atheist, loner or organizer. These are the people who can hijack the hearts and minds of family, colleagues, institutions, religious or political movements and nations. When such people lack character, threats, intimidation, violence, and murder become their modus operandi whether they are small-time criminals or genocidal maniacs. Extremists in religion, the Fundamentalists, give religion in and of itself a bad flavor. Just this is happening today in the war on terror -- ON BOTH SIDES. Bin Laden has his counterparts in the Buchanans and Falwells. But none of the montheisms is beyond reproach.

Pope Urban II. in 1095 CE, personally promoted a Holy Crusade in fulfillment of a solemn vow: to deliver the Holy Places from Mohammedan tyranny. Volumes of history followed nearly two centuries of carnage complete with social, political and religious issues as underlying causes. These Crusades were also a Catholic response to a growing Islamic empire.

Quoting from the Catholic Encyclopedia:
    "The idea of the crusade corresponds to a political conception which was realized in Christendom only from the eleventh to the fifteenth century; this supposes a union of all peoples and sovereigns under the direction of the popes. All crusades were announced by preaching. After pronouncing a solemn vow, each warrior received a cross from the hands of the pope or his legates, and was thenceforth considered a soldier of the Church. Crusaders were also granted indulgences and temporal privileges, such as exemption from civil jurisdiction, inviolability of persons or lands, etc. Of all these wars undertaken in the name of Christendom, the most important were the Eastern Crusades..."

Meanwhile, the Assassins operated in the Middle East during the 11th and 12th Centuries. They became known as "The Holy Killers Of Islam."

Later, the Thugs of India, 17th? - 19th Centuries, refined the arts of ritual killing where their primary motive was booty; for that reason they were not arch-typical terrorists. Yet their methods and motivational structures were the same. Each group was all too prominent for too many generations.

Violence during the French Revolution gave formal rise to the term "terrorism." In our time, a basic motive for terror is to change the behavior of an adversary. Terror gets a religious flavor because its hijacking extremists openly declare or organize a religion basis for terrorism. Of course, religion is a force that not only can motivate bombers and martyrs but bond members of each party in conflict to their own kind. That feature often leads to mutual distrust between adversaries at best and terrorism at worst. Society imbalances and imperialism provide the spark for ignition and the fuel for sustained action whether by secular extremists or fundamentalists.

What we would now call religious terror was a common pattern for two millennia. As the 19th century drew to a close, the Marxists employed terror in an attempt to erase capitalistic society and make way for socialism as Marx would have it. What was different about these people is that they were anti-religious, extremely well educated, cool, calculating, and precise in their secular methods. Stalin and Hitler polished this form of terror beyond random murder into factual genocide. They, along with Mao, were history's most violent psycho-sociopaths.

Secular terror remained the pattern for most of the 20th century. By 1980, however, the Iran-supported al-Dawa (Shi'as) and the Committee for Safeguarding the Islamic Revolution were identifiably religious in nature. By 1995 the religious type comprised about half of the fifty odd known terrorist groups. Today, religious terror is the primary mode once again. And terror today has increased in severity. Random murders escalated to mass slaughters over the last 15 years.

What is ironic is that violence and monotheism have been so closely coupled throughout history. This feature alone leads one to suspect that terrorism is driven by the Authoritarian Personality type. The coupling of Monotheism and Violence seems beyond reasonable doubt.

Some religious terrorists will tell you they are avenging angels, warriors of God, saviors of humankind. Most agree they are defenders of their homeland, as in Palestine and now Afghanistan and iraq. Their cohorts likewise see them that way.

Timothy McVeigh, a stereotype of the lone modern secular terrorist, provided additional insight. Outwardly, according to Ralph Peters, in his Beyond Terror, people saw a good student in high school, a crack shot in the army, and a decorated veteran of Desert Storm who served with distinction. Inwardly, he was something else.

McVeigh came from a dysfunctional home -- a further feature associated with authoritarianism. As often as not, his mother opted for the party life in the local bar over family. His grandfather was more influential in his life than his father was. His parents divorced, much to his distress.

Internally, he must have been alientated in the extreme, and vengeful, for slights real or imagined by others in his early life. His bombing of an Oklahoma-City Government building was an act by an extremist who claimed to be a defender of the Constitution and a crusader. Even more importantly perhaps, McVeigh saw himself as a warrior avenging the Branch Davidians.

His history shows adjustment problems at home, in society, and with females. He must have felt oppressed by the government. He dropped out of college and failed to qualify for the elite Special Forces of the US Army. McVeigh's responses were basically those of an insecure and paranoid personality. By several reports, he had strict rules for living, was intolerant of deviation, thought in stereotypic -- all or nothing -- fashion. These features are consistent with an Authoritarian Personality .

McVeigh was certainly most comfortable in the regimentation the army provided. After discharge, and without the army discipline, he disintegrated into terror. Had he been physically fit when he came home from Desert Storm, he might well have entered the Special Forces and gone on to serve with further distinction in Afghanistan or Iraq. See Ameer Ali for a similar career crossroad in the life of the terrorist.

Superficially, Muhammed Atta, an Egyptian Muslim, seems to have been quite different, but underneath he exhibited some of McVeigh's personality characteristics. During his student days Atta was attracted to a young lady he met in Allepo, Syria. His travel mate reported Mohammed's response: "He spoke about her back in the hotel. But he said she had a quite different orientation and that the emancipation of the young lady did not fit. He told this with regret." This incident seems to have been the closest approach he ever made to romance. Atta's authoritarian personality not only paralleled that of McVeigh but controlled his destiny.

Further, Atta came from the intelligentsia of Egypt that was steeped in Islamic fundamentalism. His parents' social circle was outraged when Anwar Sadat began opening Egypt to Western thought and influence. Atta was also appalled by the economic gap developing in Egyptian society that favored rich classes.

Atta was extremely devout. This feature appeared in Hamburg when he was completing his thesis at the university. He slipped a verse from the Qur'an into his thesis at the last moment: "Say: My prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are [all] for Allah, the Lord of the worlds."

Atta's attitude toward women became more evident during that same period. His mentor's middle-aged assistant, Chrylla Wendt, was assigned to help him correct his German in his thesis. She met with him often and observed him closely. She believes his last chapter went uncorrected because he could not stand their physical closeness [and supervision?] required by the editing process. He achieved the highest possible score from his examiners, but refused to shake the hand of a female examiner wishing to congratulate him. All this was in keeping with Islamic teaching and tradition.

Atta's will and his comment in his thesis make the connection among religion, the authoritarian personality, and religious terrorism exemplary.

McVeigh and Atta epitomize terrorists in general. Far from the social norms, they had trouble relating to the opposite gender and were paranoid in outlook, at least toward the West, yet had real talent. McVeigh was a secular terrorist, Atta was the religious type. Each felt alienated by his own society. Each was an archetype.

Prior to Nazism and Communism, secular terrorism had mostly been by loners or small isolated groups. And they were rare. Hitler and Stalin each committed genocide on unprecedented scales. In family life, Stalin was a good father, as was Ameer Ali.

Ralph Peters makes many of these points and more in his book "Beyond Terror."

Whatever the Prophet Muhammed intended, Islam now encourages violence and terror by reinforcing two factors commonly observed in male terrorists: their Authoritarian Personalities and their relationships with females. Female secular terrorists have been known, but they are quite rare. Virgins in heaven await only male, not female, martyrs. Islam is not alone in that promise; The popes used a similar one to motivate crusaders.

Religion dominated the early history of terrorism. It is now back in great force, and has already left its deadly mark beginning the third millennium. Religious terrorism is executed by loners, groups, networks and governments alike. Some groups may boast supporters in the thousands or even millions. Many today have presence worldwide. Whatever happens to bin Laden, he leaves a legacy: a template for simultaneous mass killing, his trade mark.

Islam requires surrender to Allah. The fundamentalist mullahs "interpret" Allah to the faithful. Secular and national terrorist leaders similarly "interpret enemies" to their followers. These are precisely what the authoritarian personality needs and wants. If they remain unaware of the larger motives, they become complicit in any type of terror activity.

Strictly speaking, Islam, through the Qur'an, Hadith, Sunnah, and Shuria, place women inferior to men and not to be related to as equals. Love is hardly mentioned in those texts, but conditions justifying violence appear persistently. Men are encouraged explicitly to satisfy their sexual urges; at the same time women are reminded their entry to heaven will be governed by their husbands. Islam commands authoritarian relationships among people. That authoritarian personalities arise from an authoritarian culture should come as no surprise. The same is true in America.

Enlightened monothieists can honestly dispute much of the above details and ably defend their faiths. What neither side in terrorism can dispute is the presence of extremists in their midst (and often in the seats of power). If there can be a Reformation anywhere, reducing extremism as a society expression to manageable levels is where it must start.

The rarity of female terrorists may also implicate the male hormone. Or perhaps females are less influenced by extremists. Either way, females are not promised 72 male virgins upon martyrdom.

By preaching that:

  • all nonbelievers are the enemies of Allah and Islam;
  • nonbeliever ways of life are satanic;
  • freedom threatens authority in matters of governance, and
  • that wealth is inherently evil,

fundamentalist mullahs radicalize terrorists. They stroke the paranoid and authoritarian personalities among the suggestible few and this small but extreme fraction takes action. Never mind that paranoia may not be reality, and that the authoritarian personality can only do well what s/he is told to do, it is the terrorist events and effects that count. Fanaticism wrapped in the garb of religion is not at all unique or new to any one monotheism, it has always been so.

As a group, the Islamic nations are losing ground to the rest of the world in almost any way you care to look at it. Their disadvantages are multiple and are particularly acute in the economic, scientific, technical, medicine, and governance arenas. Local despots abound who skim the cream from national treasuries. The backwardness of Islamic societies gives the terrorist mind legitimate complaints, and provides additional motivation to act out against fellow Muslims as readily as against infidels. Many heads of state in the Middle East fear the terrorists more than we do. Yet they seem reluctant to join hands and root out Fundamentalism. History also plays a role; the Kurds, for example, once had a proud region of their ownthey are now divided and spread thinly over Iran, Iraq, and Turkey. Many want their own homeland. In like manner, Jurusalem is claimed by two religions.

Of course fundamentalism cannot be simply rooted out by edict. A world-wide Reformation is needed; the connection between religion and terror is again ascending. It is especially fostered by oil interests while the authoritarian personalities among "believers" are dedicated to violence as the way to peace. Given these conditions, peace will not come soon, between one and four generations may be required.

Basically, the character of monotheism is hierarchy, same as that of an Authoritarian. With their many adherents with similar mind-sets, how could it be otherwise? Impressionable authoritarians need to be told what to do, and the fundamentalists fill their needs. It is not just spellbinding on the part of the fundamentalists, it is also their eager audience waiting to be told what to do. This feature too is mirrored on both sides of this conflict.

Knowing the dynamics of terrorist development provides us with a map of the turf. Yes, poverty is a primary issue. But this in turn is a partly a byproduct of one civilization still largely caught in the 11th century under the thumb of despots or governed by fundamentalist mullahs. It does not help that Islam has been a quasi-superstate of governance for some fourteen-odd countries. Nor does it help that America seems to be oblivious to the ramifications of its imperialism.

In the East, caught by these socio-religious pressures, it is difficult for individuals who naturally have authoritarian personalities, to resist a call for jihad. In the West, authoritarian types are rarely so coerced. They may join the military or law enforcement; they often find other wholesome careers, such as accounting, preaching, artisans, tradespeople, or corporate managers. There is only an occasional Kazinski or McVeigh. But on the national scale, America supports Zionism, buys oil where profits flow not to the people but to the ruling elite, and invades Iraq on false grounds. Taken together, these profile state terrorism in response to terrorism that arose from centuries of imperialism and consequent humiliation.

In high irony, it is not just Islam that instigates terror; it is all of Monotheism, and Islam is second to Judaism in per capita violence as reported on the Internet. This link provides compelling evidence that the three main monotheisms are associated with violence significantly more than are atheism, Buddhist or Confucian philosophy or other Eastern Religions. See Zionism for more on terror in Palestine.

A second irony of equal importance is that Islam is taking the rap when it is their petroleum that is leaking away to the West while the profits go to the despotic rulers of Islamic states. This website is indicting Extremism and Fundamentalism first and foremost -- not religion.


Ousting Saddam Hussein and erasing al Qa'ida will not erase these basic issues. Liberal and moderate Americans and Muslims together can make the news of a millennium by stepping forward together and bringing about a reformation that erases extremism from governance. Moderates must insist also on firm separation of religion and state.

All peoples must confront extremists for what they are. Dialogue is possible with moderates. Only bullets work with extremistswhich are plentiful enough on both sides, especially in Palestine. We must use dialogue as we can, bullets only when we must. We should never be in a hurry, nor should we ever permit military action to substitute for diplomacy. This undertaking is much too huge and difficult to allow the time of year or an election process to govern, or even appear to govern, the timing of any diplomatic or military action. Everyone needs allies. Like the Cold War, this "war" is a job for generations to come. It is unlike any other waged in history.

The West showed greatness in its persistence, firmness, and caution in winning the Cold War. We must find similar patience and insights to regain that greatness in these very perilous times. By chasing rainbows instead of red herrings, America can be
  • first to develop alternate energy sources;
  • first to clip the wings of extremism;
  • first to enforce international law by crushing genocide wherever it occurs;
  • first to eliminate imperalism from the dictionary;
  • first to create a culture where citizens are self actualized with internal Loci of Control.


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