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America's Explosion

The label suicide bomber brings fear, panic and confusion to the western world. Suicide bombers are often used as a favored weapon in the modern political world. The act itself comes with no warning and spreads grand pandemonium. The suicide bomber often strikes military targets, sometimes referred to as hard targets, however prefers civilian targets. These civilian targets are often referred to as soft targets. The terminology for hard and soft targets derives from their vulnerability and accessibility to public access.

Although suicide attacks inflict death and damage, their primary purpose is to generate exposure for the suicide bombers cause. The media, to include the internet publicizes these incidents and further feeds into the suicide bombers aspiration of promoting chaos.

Historically, the majority of suicide bombing acts, with the exception of Northern Ireland, centered in the Middle East. However, the modern political era has brought the realism of the suicide bombers to the western world. American law enforcement has historically been tasked with protecting their citizens from the traditional criminal element; now their true challenge is approaching. America's law enforcement is undeniably tasked with combating the suicide bomber. Unlike other cultures whose law enforcement organizations are tasked with this obligation, America’s law enforcement is vastly different.

Cultural freedoms that Americans have grown accustomed to forbid American law enforcement from utilizing tactics utilized by other cultures in deterring suicide bombers. American law enforcement is charged with maintaining a balance of its citizens' freedoms while maintaining their safety, therefore to ensure citizen safety severe organizational change must occur. In creating an organizational change, it is imperative that quality becomes the founding cornerstone. The belief for creating a quality organization is no broad stroke, but rather a critical analysis of every mechanical part in the organization. Quality implementation in every component of the organization will ensure total quality for the organization.

Properly combating the suicide bomber requires understanding of the psychological motivation that inspires these individual. The history of the suicide bomber stems from the great battle of Karbala. This is the first documented battle in which Husayn ibn Ali ibn Abu Talib promoted martyrism by utilizing suicide tactics to in order to defeat a rival combatant. Although his tactics proved useless in defeating his adversary, he is regarded by the Muslim community as the first martyr.

In modern times, suicide bombers have increased their popularity as martyrs amongst the religious fanatics. With western influences consistently being criticized by Middle Eastern cultures, the effects of suicide bombers are evident. December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 succumbed to terrorist attacks when plastic explosives were detonated in the front of the cabin. Two hundred and seventy people died because of this terrorist act.

October 23, 1982 a Hezbollah driver drove a truck filled with explosives into the United States Marine Core barracks in Beirut killing 241 United States Marines.

On February 26, 1993, a van containing over 1,000 pounds of explosives parked in the parking garage of the World Trade Center. The van exploded and killed six people.

August 7, 1998, United States Interests were again struck by Islamism extreme fundamentalist. The United States Embassy's in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya were struck by a vehicle bomb. America’s soldiers again suffered casualties. A suicide bomber operating a small vessel targeted the USS Cole on October 23, 2000, killing 17 United States Naval personnel.

These suicide attacks on American targets escalated as the United States of America politically aligned itself Israel. September 11, 2001 highlighted the affects of suicide bombers. Nineteen suicide bombers hijacked four commercial airlines filled with passengers. The suicide bombers mission was to effect terror on America by striking the American homeland, and exploiting her weakness. The suicide bombers effectively passed airport security checkpoints, utilized a crude weapon (box cutter) and held approximately 90 people per plane hostage. The bombers relied on the fuel of the airplanes as their suicide vests. The captors systematically struck Americas symbolic targets: the World Trade Center that was struck by two commercial airliners; the Pentagon, struck by one commercial airliner and some speculate that the fourth airplane, which crashed into an open field in Pennsylvania, was destined for Camp David, the White House or the Capital Building. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 resulted in the death of over 5,000 civilians. This was the greatest unified terrorist attack in United States history.

Citizens of the United States of America are no longer under the false perception that their homeland is untouchable; a defense must be mounted. In order to defend against Muslim extremists, it is critical that their genesis, beliefs, motivation and existence be understood. To understand the fanatical Muslim, their driving principals must be understood.

Suicide bombers like most individuals in the criminal element have distinct characteristics. Magnifying these characteristics assists law enforcement in eliminating the suicide bomber. Claude Berrebi, an economist at Princeton University conducted a study of Palestinian and Hamas suicide attackers between the periods of 1980 - 2003. The study reveled that the majority of suicide bombers were well educated and derived from financially secure families. In realty, a fraction of the suicide bombers are economically deprived, however, Eyad El Sarraj, the chair of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program notes a definitive commonality in his study of Palestine suicide bombers. Sarraj states the majority of Palestinian suicide bombers experienced a traumatic childhood event in which they felt powerless. This childhood event is often the catalyst for inspiring the suicide bomber. This inspiration grows in which the suicide bomber accepts the path of self-destruction as a means of glorifying themselves and their cause, thus becoming a martyr. Scott Atran, an anthropologist at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, stated:

If you are in a small cell of suicide terrorists and they are all dying one by one, and you have made this commitment on a videotape saying goodbye to your family and everyone else, the psychological investment is such that it would be almost impossibly humiliating to pullback.

This peer and cultural pressure further commits the suicide bomber to executing their mission.

A candid interview with a confidential source of information employed by the Israeli military highlighted several characteristics portrayed by suicide bombers as they become deployed to achieve their target and detonate themselves. In speaking with this individual, it became apparent that traits exhibited by the suicide bombers are not vastly different from those of the traditional American criminals. Therefore, it is fair to conclude that regardless of cultural differences, human behavior has a commonality. A synopsis of these characteristics is listed below with a brief explanation of the actions portrayed by the suicide bomber.


Constant touching the area of the bomb, body part or bag.
The bomber is under tremendous psychological guilt. This guilt stems from the understanding of what he/she is about to do, therefore wants to re-assure him/herself that the explosives are still intact and not visible to the public.

Package or bag does not match the person.
Suicide bombers often dress inappropriately for their surroundings, overdressed by either wearing a jacket in a warm climate or the wearing of business attire. Bombers will often wear a suit and carry a large bag instead of a brief case that would be the typical compliment of an individual dressed in business attire.

Quickly change travel direction when engaged by law enforcement personnel.
Like most criminals, there desire is not to confront law enforcement, but to avoid contact. Suicide bombers overtly change direction at the presence of law enforcement.

Sweating profusely.
An increased respiratory response due to nervousness creates warmth of the body; consequently, it is the body’s natural reaction to reduce the core temperature, thus causing the individual to perspire.

Constricted pupils of the eye.
Involuntary natural constriction of the pupil due stress.

Increased blinking of the eye.
Natural reaction that is stress induced.

Lack of stability / Smaller strides in walk.
Due to the nervousness of the individual, the muscular structure is tightening thus reduced flexibility in normal activities.

Unusual air is pushed through the lips.
Involuntary relief of pressure. Often observed as an animated breathing.

Use of book or newspaper to appear occupied.
Disguising guilt. Many individuals believe that the "eyes are the windows to the soul." This is evident as many bombers avoid eye contact at all costs.

Now that some behavioral characteristics of a suicide bomber has been established, the question remains on how American law enforcement can combat them. In creating an effective solution, it is imperative that past proven techniques be identified and capitalized. No law enforcement organization compares to the effectiveness of the Israeli law enforcement organization in deterring suicide bombers. Israel law enforcement and citizens, by nature of survival, have achieved a keen understanding and awareness of the suicide bomber. Their tactics, however crude to the western culture, are undoubtedly effective. Israeli law enforcement not only relies heavily on profiling suspected suicide bombers, but also does not hesitate to neutralize the threat by training to shoot the suicide bomber in the head. Furthermore, Israeli laws allow the immediate and indefinite detention of individuals suspected of being involved in terrorist activities.

Israeli law enforcement clearly have greater latitude than that of American law enforcement in detaining or overtly profiling suspected terrorist cells; however this latitude is gained only by the concurrence of the population. The Israeli government takes great strides to educate its public on the effects of a suicide bomber. They continually utilize the media to circulate informative literature depicting traits of a suicide bomber, and extend the information to children in the form of televised cartoons. This effective use of media promotes support from the citizens to its law enforcement. In essence, the entire country of Israel, the citizens, law enforcement and the military, work in concord to combat the threat of suicide bombers. To achieve this harmonious relationship, quality training, open communication, and ascertaining what the community, in essence, the customer wants, is essential. Customer-client relation is a fundamental cornerstone in the creation of a quality organization.

Israel's answer to suicide bombers has historically proven effective, but attempting to transform and incorporate these tactics into American law enforcement will prove challenging. American law enforcement has a morale conflict in shooting an unarmed individual. Shootings are to occur only when imminent threat of life is prevalent. To ask an American police officer to shoot someone only based on characteristic build-ups, or profile, rather than seeing an actual threat would create hesitation. Furthermore, if an officer did shoot a suspected suicide bomber only based on his or her ability to profile and was incorrect in their observations, American citizens would quickly loose faith in law enforcement practices, and possibly fear the police as much as the terrorist themselves. Ironically, this would yield a victory to the terrorist cell by instilling fear to American citizens from their symbolic protectors.

The psychological and political repercussions of an incorrect shooting would be devastating to the American citizens and the law enforcement profession. London, England is a prime example of just this scenario. On July 24, 2005 in London, police shot an unarmed man suspected of being a suicide bomber. This occurred only days after London's suicide-bombing incident. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair had to justify the shooting not only to the citizens of England, but also to all citizens throughout the world. This incident alone highlights the importance of law enforcements obligation to have established policies and training in neutralizing the suicide bomber. In recent news articles Blair defended the shooting of the unarmed suspect and stated that law enforcement must act swiftly when faced with this type of scenario. He also stated, "The only way to deal with this is to shoot to the head."

A careful analysis in the successful fight against the suicide bomber by American law enforcement identifies several issues. In properly identifying the issues, a comprehensive review of law enforcement protocols addressing the suicide bomber is essential. Several law enforcement agencies departmental protocols regarding combating the suicide bomber were reviewed. Departments that were reviewed were the United States Capitol Police, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police and the Los Angeles Sheriffs County Police. The review highlighted one fundamental commonality in dealing with suicide bombers: shoot to the head to eliminate the threat.

The protocols that I reviewed do not address officer training but rather the implementation of neutralizing a suicide bomber with a headshot. This creates severe liability ramifications for the officer and their departments. It is my opinion, based on my experience and training, that the average patrol officer does not have the skill to execute this maneuver. Achieving an effective head shot from 25-30 feet away, coupled with extreme stress, a moving target, concern for the backdrop, meaning civilians that are in the line of fire, requires repetitive practice. Law enforcement agencies as a norm have not implemented the required weapons training to successfully implement their protocols.

Instead they rely on their individual states to set the marksmanship standards. In addition to the lack of weapons training, law enforcement agencies fail to adequately disseminate intelligence regarding suicide bomber trends and threats to their first line of defense - the patrol officer. An effective and consistent intelligence system must be implemented. A continued analysis of law enforcements response to the suicide bomber highlights their deficiency in educating the public as to the traits of a suicide bomber. Rather, the law enforcement community maintains secrecy as to the traits of a suicide bomber. This secrecy eliminates a tremendous intelligence base - the public. Public support unifies law enforcement efforts in detecting and confronting the suicide bomber. An intelligence gathering protocol must be instituted.

Additionally, public education should address the effects of a detonated suicide bomber, the characteristics of a suicide bomber and the psychological effects one will confront once witnessing such an attack. American culture must be alerted to combat the suicide bomber. For this task to occur, broad organizational change must occur, not only the law enforcement arena, but also the educational systems and the media. Undoubtedly, this is a gargantuan task for the American Government and its citizens to accomplish. Creating an organizational plan to effect change would require coordination with every government entity. However, a starting point to this transition must be created. American law enforcement, for no other reason than its obligation to protect, should be its originator. Regardless of the action plan, it is imperative that an immediate course be implemented to battle this new western adversary.

Undoubtedly, this will burden the American taxpayer. Unfortunately, the alternative is to do nothing to combat this imminent threat and prepare for national devastation. American politicians have a choice to make, much like that made of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, regarding the U.S. space shuttle Columbia catastrophe. Prior to this disastrous event, the Morton Thiokol Corporation, the contractor for Columbia's solid-fuel rocket, warned NASA about complications to the shuttle's take off. To answer political agendas, NASA refused to take heed, resulting in a national tragedy. Politicians can progressively create and enforce a national action plan that addresses the suicide bomber or they can ignore law enforcement communities concerns, as they relate to their inability to properly react to a suicide bomber. The effects of a suicide bomber will not only cause widespread pandemonium in America, but will likely have rippling global economic effects. These economics effects may further impede economic development and in retrospect, financially burden the American taxpayer more so, than if they were to implement an action plan.

Awareness, intelligence gathering and planning are the cornerstones for preventing America’s Explosion.