I heard today I was getting mocked by Rush Limbaugh for referring to the signs of PTSD in Tamerlan Tsaraev that his kindergarten teacher referenced in a Russian language newscast… Well Rush you need to wake up and start thinking about how these things happen, because they aren’t going away.
Terrorist groups, their ideologies and the degrees of social support for terrorism that individuals find on the Internet and in various parts of the world (Dagestan potentially) all play upon the individual vulnerabilities of potential recruits turning them into evil actors.
Some don’t want to hear about the vulnerabilities of terrorists retrospectively, feeling it extends sympathy for them, but if we don’t empathetically try to get into their heads and begin to understand the reasons why they could ever buy onto a terrorist ideology we will never defeat terrorism.
And in the case of Tamerlan’s PTSD it could make him sympathetic to the terrorist narrative of Muslims under attack and also make it easy for him to dissociate from any normal emotions about doing violence to those he lived among and had decided are his enemies.
Regarding the ritualized murders he may be linked to, it would be much like what happened to Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands an evil act carried out by Mohammed Bouyeri, a second generation immigrant also vulnerable for other reasons to turning to a militant jihadi ideology.
Only careful study including retrospective analysis of the cases we encounter will allow us to come up with thoughtful solutions that can actually work to defeat terrorism. Mock away Rush, some of us are spending decades of our lives journeying into war torn areas and taking the risks necessary for such study.
Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. is Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry in the Georgetown University Medical School and author of Talking to Terrorists: Understanding the Psycho-Social Motivations of Militant Jihadi Terrorists, Mass Hostage Takers, Suicide Bombers & “Martyrs” In the last decade she interviewed over four hundred terrorists, suicide bombers, terrorist supporters, family members, close associates and hostages. She also conducted psychological autopsies with a Chechen colleague on over half of the 112 Chechen suicide bombers investigating what put them on the terrorist trajectory and what motivated them to explode themselves.