How to convince Jihadists to abandon suicide bombing – UPDATED

Updated Below

Ashraf Khan writes for Associated Press:

Ghulam Muhammad Mohtarem, the top security official in Sindh province where Karachi is located, […] said it was the nuts and bolts and steel balls packed around the explosives that had made the bombing so deadly. He said it was impossible to prevent more such attacks.

Is this true? Is it impossible to prevent Jihadists from becoming human bombs? Or are there ways to do it that are too pointed for those with the power to prevent such attacks?

In the Phillipine Insurgency of the early 20th century, the Americans, in a campaign that has been mostly forgotten and was never widely known by Americans, pacified the Moros. They faced a problem similar to the suicidal human bomb tactic so popular with today’s Jihadists.

The most unnerving form of Moro resistance was the juramentado, or suicide attack. A juramentado attacker would seek to reach paradise by slaying as many nonbelievers as possible before being killed himself. Such attacks were not common, but they occurred often enough to keep the Americans on edge.

Captain J. A. Tiffany described a juramentado attack. This may lend a more tangible understanding of the tactic.

“The camp itself was a large rectangle, completely enclosed with wire. The line of company tents were about ten feet inside the wire on each side. Inside the line of tents were the saddle racks and the picket lines of horses. The fence was seven feet high, with ten wires, making the strands about eight inches apart. Every twenty feet along the top of the fence, was a Dietz lantern with reflector to light up the high grass outside for several yards. The firing trench just inside was. banked up and ready for business. In a few seconds after an alarm by the sentries, the men could be out of their tents and ready to meet an attack. We felt secure.

“At sundown, with Captain Purington, I inspected the defenses. We agreed that the men could sleep in perfect security with four sentries posted. No Moro could get through that fence alive. Even if they made a quick mass attack, our men would split them on bayonets while they were entangled in the wire.

“I was about ready to roll in that night when I went outside the tent and sniffed the wind like a horse when a bear is in the bush. Lieutenant Crites and myself were quartered in a tent at the opposite end of the camp from our company. Something was not right. I felt it, but could see nothing. The sentries were alert on four sides. I said nothing to Crites about my uneasy feeling. Perhaps it was that I had been used to being near my men at night. In the jungles and in Lanao we Constabulary officers had been in the habit of bunking down alongside our soldiers and non-coms. Here, in an American army camp, we had army traditions to uphold.

“It was in the night that I came out of a deep sleep feeling that a shot had awakened me. Then there were two shots and a cry: ‘MOROS . . . MOROS.’ Then a whole barrage of shots. I reached for my riot gun. It was gone! So was Lieutenant Crites.

“Snatching my .45 from beneath my pillow, I tore aside the mosquito-net canopy and ran out of the tent. Dark figures were coming up to the fence on the run. The firing was general.

“Realizing that in my white B. V. D.’s I might be mistaken for a Moro, I jumped back into the tent for my khaki shirt, pulling it on as I ran down the company street. Eight juramentados broke from cover and charged the camp. The ten second’s delay in recovering my shirt saved my life, for I would have been confronted by six of them with nothing but my .45.

“With drawn pistol I was running down the street to my command. My path lay between the picket line of cavalry horses and the row of tents. A dim figure was running just ahead of me. I supposed it was a soldier on his way to the firing trench. The night was so dark I kept butting into the saddle racks. A big cavalryman charged out of a tent just ahead of me with a riot gun. He poked the gun within a foot of the running figure ahead of me and blasted. The man swerved and stumbled on. ‘My God,’ I wanted to shout, ‘stop shooting at our own men.’ Then I brought up suddenly. Powder smoke filled my nostrils and I was looking down the barrel of that same riot gun. The big soldier was about to let go again. Some kind of a squealing voice came out of me: ‘Hey . . . it’s me . . . it’s me’… I would never have recognized it as my voice. I ran on; there was no time for palaver. My boys were firing rapidly . . . standing up. That puzzled me. I could see the flashes. And then I heard the familiar clang of a steel blade on a gun barrel as one of my men parried a barong. The Moros were through the fence! My men were hand to hand! I saw Crites as I heard the boom of the riot gun. In the red light a Moro was charging in with barong uplifted. Crites dropped him in mid-air.

“Then all firing ceased as the men went at it in a furious bayonet to barong duel that was a fight to the finish. At the nearest cavalry tent a white soldier rolled out under the wall, rifle in hand. Before he could stand up a Moro was upon him. Another soldier crawled out and the Moro leaped to him. My Corporal Batiokan ran up to crush the Moro’s skull with a rifle butt. Blood was squirting from two great gashes in the cavalrymen’s back. Soldiers came running to carry away the wounded man. Their uniforms were red with blood.

“My own company were giving first aid to wounded men. One of the men was past medical aid. He had been chopped to ribbons, with arms and legs severed and lying apart from his body. Under a dead juramentado I found a loaded riot gun. I pulled it out and dropped into the trench with my men. Things had grown very quiet. I had the riot gun now; I felt safer. Out in the cogon grass I thought I saw something move in the light of the Dietz lanterns. I covered the dark blot and waited. It was a Moro all right. I pulled the trigger and the gun snapped impotently. I fired again with the same result. Then a third shell missed fire and I had a real case of the jitters. Would I continue to snap shells while that fanatic split my head through the wire? Fortunately for me a cavalryman behind me saw me pulling the trigger without result. His Springfield cracked and the Moro went down. The Springfield slug entered the top of his head and continued on through his body. We found him after the fight. He had been knocked down by a bullet in the neck at the first fire of the sentries. Recovering consciousness he had crawled on to be in at the finish. (A Moro juramentado has never been known to change his mind.)

“Seven of the eight juramentados who had made the attack had succeeded in getting through the wire in the face of the fire. One lay dead outside the wire and seven were stretched out in the enclosure when morning came and we made inspection. The hospital was lined with terribly wounded men, slashed with barongs, and we were forced to kill many of the slashed horses who had been in the path of the charging Moros.

“The juramentados who had plunged through the wire in a desperate dive had left skin and clothes on the wire. They were horribly torn from head to foot by the long barbs. They were riddled with bullets, and many had heads bashed in and bayonet stabs. They lay there, with glittering eyeballs and bared black teeth. Their heads were shaven and their eyebrows were a thin line of hair. As we looked into those ghastly, inhuman faces and saw those deadly barongs still clutched in their hands, it was too much–even for a soldier.

“As I reflected that there might be months and months of this–with every night a possibility of night attack from juramentados, it cracked my nerves more than I cared to admit. It was a jittery business, fighting Moros.”

The Americans were able to stop Moros from using the juramentado tactic.

It was Colonel Alexander Rodgers of the 6th Cavalry who accomplished by taking advantage of religious prejudice what the bayonets and Krags had been unable to accomplish. Rodgers inaugurated a system of burying all dead juramentados in a common grave with the carcasses of slaughtered pigs. The Mohammedan religion forbids contact with pork; and this relatively simple device resulted in the withdrawal of juramentados to sections not containing a Rodgers. Other officers took up the principle, adding new refinements to make it additionally unattractive to the Moros. In some sections the Moro juramentado was beheaded after death and the head sewn inside the carcass of a pig. And so the rite of running juramentado, at least semi-religious in character, ceased to be in Sulu. (source)

This answers the question of whether suicide bombing can be stopped. A similar tactic was abandoned by Muslims once already in history. Whether the Pakistanis have the resolve to take this sort of action against Jihadists who are in armed revolt against the legitimate government is not known. Certainly they won’t like it. But I think they may well be ruthless enough to use this or a similar tactic, with the promise to prevent Jihadists from obtaining their desired reward in Heaven by somehow making their corpse ritually unclean.

UPDATE 10/20/07:
As Muslihoon points out in the comments, it seems unlikely that Pakistan will take up this tactic. But there are two things that give me hope. First, Pakistan has a majority that desires democratic rule, that does not want to live in a Taliban-style Sharia-state, and that still respects the rule of law that was left by the British Empire. Second, Benazir Bhutto expressed takfirist thoughts regarding the suicide bombers and their sponsors.

Bhutto: ‘These Cowards Are Not Muslims’
Benazir Bhutto has said the “cowards” who exploded bombs as her convoy passed by in Karachi last night, killing at least 136 people, are not true Muslims.

Two explosions ripped through crowds as she was driven through Pakistan’s biggest city to greet supporters.

At a news conference she said: “The cowardly people who planned the assassination attack on me are not Muslims.

“No Muslim can attack a woman. No Muslim can attack innocent people. I am grateful to Almighty Allah for protecting me.” (Sky News)

Jihadists like Al Qaeda use takfir (or excommunication) to render their opponents legally subject to all sorts of atrocities. Atrocities against non-Muslims are traditional in Pakistan. Payback is a bitch. And in this case, her name for the Pakistani jihadists might be Bhutto.

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4 responses to “How to convince Jihadists to abandon suicide bombing – UPDATED

  1. The monkeys have no tails in Zamboanga.

    The Real Glory depicts a pretty realistic juramentado running amok.

  2. From the brief review in IMDB and a quartet of Gary Cooper films, it sounds good.

    The reliable Henry Hathaway helmed this second cousin to his and Cooper’s The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, with Cooper as an Army doctor assigned to the Philippine Constabulary on Mindanao in 1906. The movie was well-received when it came out; encountered in the shadow of the Iraq War, its tale of U.S. occupiers trying to help the local populace “stand up” against a fanatical and murderous insurgency takes on new fascination. There are some amazing passages–two horrendous murders by bolo knife–and the final battle sequence puts the CGI-riddled action films of the present day to shame. But the most impressive element is Cooper, and we can’t improve on the verdict of that astute film critic Graham Greene: “Mr. Cooper … has never acted better…. Watch him inoculate [Andrea King] against cholera–the casual jab of the needle, and the dressing slapped on while he talks, as though a thousand arms had taught him where to stab and he doesn’t have to think any more.”

  3. We may want to focus on Iraq and Israel rather than Pakistan. For many reasons, Pakistan is a lost case: it will always be a dangerous place.

    But if we can get the suicide terrorists to stop from attacking in Iraq and Israel, it would make a huge difference.

    Good idea, though. I doubt it would ever be used today.

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