Why Are They Killing
By Patrick J. Buchanan
Who carried out the London massacre, we do not know.
But, as to why they did it, we are already quarreling.
President Bush says that the terrorists are attacking
our civilization. At Fort Bragg, N.C., he explained
again why we are fighting in Iraq, two years after we
overthrew Saddam Hussein. "Iraq is the latest
battlefield in this war," he said, in "a global war on
"Many terrorists who kill ... on the streets of Baghdad
are followers of the same murderous ideology that took
the lives of citizens in New York, Washington and
Pennsylvania. There is only one course of action against
them: to defeat them abroad before they attack us at
Bush was echoed by Sen. John McCain. Those terrorists in
Iraq, McCain told Larry King, "are the same guys who
would be in New York if we don't win." We fight the
terrorists over there so we do not have to fight them
But is this true?
Few Americans have given more thought to the motivation
of suicide-bombers than Robert Pape, author of Dying to
Win: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism. His book is drawn
from an immense database on every suicide-bomb attack
from 1980 to early 2004. Conclusion: The claim that 9-11
and the suicide-bombings in Iraq are done to advance
some jihad by "Islamofascists" against the West is not
only unsubstantiated, it is hollow.
"Islamic fundamentalism is not as closely associated
with suicide terrorism as many people think," Pape tells
The American Conservative in its July 18 issue. Indeed,
the world's leader in suicide terror was the Tamil
Tigers of Sri Lanka. This secular Marxist group
"invented the famous suicide vest for their suicide
assassination of Rajiv Ghandi in May 1991. The
Palestinians got the idea of the vest from the Tamil
But if the aim of suicide bombers is not to advance
Islamism in a war of civilizations, what is its purpose?
"(S)uicide-terrorist attacks are not so much driven by
religion as by a clear strategic objective: to compel
modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the
territory that the terrorists view as their homeland.
From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the
West Bank, every major suicide terrorist campaign – over
95 percent of all incidents – has had as its central
objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw."
The 9-11 terrorists were over here because we were over
there. They are not trying to convert us. They are
killing us to drive us out of their countries.
Before the U.S. invasion, says Pape, "Iraq never had a
suicide attack in its history. Since our invasion,
suicide terrorism has been escalating rapidly, with 20
attacks in 2003, 48 in 2004 and over 50 in just the
first five months of 2005. Every year since the U.S.
invasion, suicide terrorism has doubled. ... Far from
making us safer against terrorism, the operation in Iraq
has stimulated suicide terrorists and has given suicide
terrorism a new lease on life."
Pape is saying that President Bush has got it backward:
The Iraq war is not eradicating terrorism, it is
The good news? "The history of the last 20 years" shows
that once the troops of the occupying democracies
"withdraw from the homeland of the terrorists, they
often stop – and stop on a dime."
Between 1982 and 1986, there were 41 suicide-bomb
attacks on U.S., French, and Israeli targets in Lebanon.
When U.S. and French troops withdrew and Israel pulled
back to a six-mile buffer zone, suicide-bombings
virtually ceased. When the Israelis left Lebanon, the
Lebanese suicide-bombers did not follow them to Tel
"Since suicide terrorism is mainly a response to foreign
occupation and not Islamic fundamentalism," says Pape,
"the use of heavy military force to transform Muslim
societies ... is only likely to increase the number of
suicide terrorists coming at us."
What Pape is saying is that the neocons' "World War IV"
– our invading Islamic countries to overthrow regimes
and convert them into democracies – is suicidal, like
stomping on an anthill so as not to be bitten by ants.
It is the presence of U.S. troops in Islamic lands that
is the progenitor of suicide terrorism.
Bush's cure for terrorism is a cause of the epidemic.
The doctor is spreading the disease. The longer we stay
in Iraq, the greater the number of suicide attacks we
can expect. The sooner we get our troops out, the sooner
terrorism over there and over here will end. So Pape
says the data proves. This is the precise opposite of
what George Bush argues and believes.
July 13, 2005
Patrick J. Buchanan [send
him mail is co-founder and editor of
American Conservative . He is also the author
of seven books, including
Where the Right Went Wrong, and
A Republic Not An Empire.