The Psychological Profile of Al
Qaida by Stephen Morgan
The Psychological Profile of Terrorist Cults
What then is the psychological profile of these elements, which make
the cult cells and networks? Like the camps, they are something of
a rather, messy mélange of neurotics, post-traumatic stress
sufferers (PTSD) and psychopaths. In profiling them we have to remember
that the labels are probabilities and not one single type suits each
particular position within the network. There can be different types
at different levels and also, it is important to note that the features
or symptoms of their disorders often overlap. When it comes to these
types of pathological illnesses there are no Chinese Walls
between the manifestations and behaviours they exhibit. That said
there are certain specific features, which are more likely to occur
for certain terrorist types.
Most of them appear to be veterans of the Afghan war against the
Soviet Union. They are usually also not Afghans, but Saudis, Algerians,
Yemenis or Egyptians. They made up part of the Afghan Arabs
(Afghan people are not Arabs, though Muslim); volunteer fighters who
formed foreign battalions in Afghanistan to fight alongside the mujahideen.
Bin Laden himself left Saudi Arabia at the age of 23 to join the Afghan
resistance. In the first place people like this are brutalized, de-humanized
by the experiences of war.
Many who went in the first place were probably already psychologically
unstable or unwell beforehand and their experiences only perverted
their disorders further. Nearly everyone returns from war damaged
in some way, but those who are healthy and came from loving families
have a better chance of integrating and overcoming the trauma of war.
Many such people did from the 2 World War and Vietnam. But a large
number of people never truly do. Often at the end of the war, their
lives fall apart and they suffer from PTSD, post-traumatic stress
disorder. This terrible illness is carried by tens of thousands of
vets in the US who live lives of horror, reliving the war in dreams
and daily experiences, socked in alcohol or drugs, emotionally volatile
and depressed and feeling hopeless. Many try and succeed in committing
suicide. They continue to fight the war in their minds, never able
to leave the psychological battlefield. Some, though not the all,
are violent and anti-social and many hate and despise the society
and world, which delivered such horror on them.
They are killing machines, which seek objects to mangle and destroy.
Having been in or led battalions in the guerrilla war they are ideal
commanders of underground cells. They are held in highest esteem for
their war record and are feared as killers within their own ranks.
They revel in their new terrorist positions because they can continue
to live, as only they know how, in danger, in secrecy, in adversity,
toying and outwitting the enemy and ambushing unsuspecting victims.
They have the opportunity to relive their war in the streets of New
York, Nairobi, Paris or London. These types must keep going because,
if they stop, they will have to face themselves and their own psychology.
Their PTSD is a sort of violent denial, a way to live through death.
If they stop they are likely to fall apart and self-destruct. In the
end many volunteer to do just that, to destroy themselves and others
at the same time.
War can be an experience of human inversion. You look into the abyss
and, as Nietzsche said, the abyss looks back into you. The terrorist
Lieutenants of Death are the abyss, they have become a human abyss.
As a result of the experiences of the abattoir of Afghanistan, all
natural feelings of affection, trust, positive relations, honesty
and love have been lost in the unfathomable depths of their abysmal
minds. Their PTSD has become a pathological condition of permanent
war psychosis. They are like the Doors song the theres
a killer on the road, his brain is squirming like a toad.
For these elements, the survival instinct common to all of us, has
been warped and inverted into a death instinct. They have vomited
out all positive human relations and exchanged them with all the negative
ones. They have seen people they loved, trusted, respected and relations
they treasured blown apart before their eyes. They cannot bear to
go through such loss again, so they cannot bear to ever have those
feelings again. They fear that love, trust, honesty, relations will
only lead to again to having their faces smeared in entrails, watching
brothers writhing in flames, and cradling boys heads absent of their
brains. Being too much for them to bear or integrate, their damaged
psyche has drawn the conclusion that survival cannot be based on any
positive or genuine relations or feelings whatsoever.
Some also suffer terrible guilt at having survived the war while
their comrades died. Why are they alive? Indeed, why, they may think,
should they have been left in live in such a living psychological
hell? They feel they too should have died for Islam, and this guilt
of being alive, coupled with religious dogmas and justifications,
often empowers them toward terrorist suicide. Ironically, suicide
can actually give them a reason to live. They can make sense of their
continuing survival, until the time has come when they are chosen
to die for Allah.