The Terrorist Psyche
Letter to the Editor of
By Tom Johnson, August 15, 2005

To the Editor:

For all the recent probing of the terrorist psyche by the media and various experts, it somehow never occurs to anyone to weigh the possible role of family violence in terrorists' formative years. This omission is especially remarkable with respect to those who grew up in parts of the world known for widespread brutality towards women.

For example, consider how a small boy feels when his mother or sister is denigrated, beaten, or in the worst case, slain in an "honor killing" by his own family. Would cultural conditioning resolve whatever primal rage such acts might provoke, or does that rage only get suppressed? To what extent might murder in the name of Islam be a displacement of long-denied anger over incidents like this?

We already know that violent criminals are often found to have had a traumatic early life. There is little reason to expect less of a correlation among suicide bombers and the like. Without oversimplifying the phenomenon, we must not fail to examine the childhood issues that could in many cases be fueling terrorists' appetite for destruction.

Tom Johnson

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