Dzhokhar Anzorovich "Jahar" Tsarnaev: IEI?
Rolling Stone magazine (August 1, 2013); p. 52 (“Jahar’s World” by Janet Reitman): There are a number of indications that the troubles in the Tsarnaev family went deeper than normal adjustment to American life. Anzor [Jahar’s/Dzhokhar’s father], who suffered from chronic arthritis, headaches and stomach pain, had an erratic temperament—a residual, he’d say, of the abuse he’d suffered in Kyrgyzstan—and struck one neighbor on Norfolk Street as a “miserable guy,” who’d bark at his neighbors over parking spaces and even grab the snow shovels out of their hands when he felt they weren’t shoveling the walk properly.
p. 49: After Russia invaded Chechnya in 1999, setting off the second of the decade’s bloody wars, Anzor was fired from his job as part of a large-scale purge of Chechens from the ranks of the Kyrgyz government. The Tsarnaevs then fled to Zubeidat’s [Jahar’s mother’s] native Dagestan, but war followed close behind. In the spring of 2002, Anzor, Zubeidat and Jahar, then eight, arrived in America on a tourist visa and quickly applied for political asylum. The three older children, Ailina, Bella and Tamerlan, stayed behind with relatives.
During their first month in America, Jahar and his parents lived in the Boston-area home of Dr. Khassan Baiev, a Chechen physician and friend of Anzor’s sister, who recalled Anzor speaking of discrimination in Kyrgyzstan that “went as far as beatings.” This abuse would be the premise of the Tsarnaevs’ claim for asylum, which they were granted a year later. In July 2003, the rest of the family joined them in Cambridge, where they’d moved into a small, three-bedroom apartment at 410 Norfolk St.; a weathered building with peeling paint on a block that otherwise screams gentrification.
- p. 46:
He was a charming kid with a bright future. But no one saw the pain he was hiding or the monster he would become. By Janet Reitman
pp. 48-50: [On] that hazy afternoon of April 15th, 2013 . . . two pressure-cooker bombs exploded near the marathon finish line on Boylston Street, killing three people, including an eight-year-old boy. Close to 300 more were injured by flying shrapnel, with many losing a leg, or an arm, or an eye; a scene of unbelievable carnage that conjured up images of Baghdad, Kabul or Tel Aviv.
An uneasy panic settled over Boston when it was revealed that the Tsarnaev brothers were not, as many assumed, connected to a terrorist group, but young men seemingly affiliated with no one but themselves. Russian émigrés, they had lived in America for a decade — and in Cambridge, a city so progressive it had its own “peace commission” to promote social justice and diversity. Tamerlan, known to his American friends as “Tim,” was a talented boxer who’d once aspired to represent the United States in the Olympics. His little brother, Jahar, had earned a scholarship to the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and was thinking about becoming an engineer, or a nurse, or maybe a dentist — his focus changed all the time. They were Muslim, yes, but they were also American—especially Jahar, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen on September 11th, 2012.
Since the bombing, friends and acquaintances of the Tsarnaevs, as well as the FBI and other law-enforcement officials, have tried to piece together a narrative of the brothers, most of which was focused on Tamerlan, whom we now know was on multiple U.S. and Russian watch lists prior to 2013, though neither the FBI nor the CIA could find a reason to investigate him further. Jahar, however, was on no one’s watch list. To the contrary, after several months of interviews with friends, teachers and coaches still reeling from the shock, what emerges is a portrait of a boy who glided through life, showing virtually no signs of anger, let alone radical political ideology or any kind of deeply felt religious beliefs.
At his arraignment at a federal courthouse in Boston on July 10th, Jahar smiled, yawned, slouched in his chair and generally seemed not to fully grasp the seriousness of the situation, while pleading innocent to all charges. At times he seemed almost to smirk — which wasn’t a “smirk,” those who know him say. “He just seemed like the old Jahar, thinking, ‘What the fuck’s going on here?’” says Payack, who was at the courthouse that day.
It had been the coach who’d helped Jahar come up with his nickname, replacing the nearly impossible-to-decipher Dzhokhar with a simpler and cooler-sounding rendering. “If he had a hint of radical thoughts, then why would he change the spelling of his name so that more Americans in school could pronounce it?” asks one longtime friend, echoing many others. “I can’t feel that my friend, the Jahar I knew, is a terrorist,” adds another. “That Jahar isn’t, to me.”
“Listen,” says Payack, “there are kids we don’t catch who just fall through the cracks, but this guy was seamless, like a billiard ball. No cracks at all.” And yet a deeply fractured boy lay under that facade; a witness to all of his family’s attempts at a better life as well as to their deep bitterness when those efforts failed and their dreams proved unattainable. As each small disappointment wore on his family, ultimately ripping them apart, it also furthered Jahar’s own disintegration — a series of quiet yet powerful body punches. No one saw a thing. “I knew this kid, and he was a good kid,” Payack says, sadly. “And, apparently, he’s also a monster.”
Though Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was raised largely in America, his roots are in the restive North Caucasus, a region that has known centuries of political turmoil. Born on July 22nd, 1993, he spent the first seven years of his life in the mountainous Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan, where his father, Anzor, had grown up in exile. Anzor is from Chechnya, the most vilified of the former Soviet republics, whose people have been waging a near-continuous war since the 18th century against Russian rule. Dzhokhar’s mother, Zubeidat, is an Avar, the predominantly Muslim ethnic group of Chechnya’s eastern neighbor, Dagestan, which has been fighting its own struggle for independence against the Russians since the late 1700s. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Chechen nationalists declared their independence, which resulted in two brutal wars where the Russian army slaughtered tens of thousands of Chechens and leveled its capital city, Grozny. By 1999, the violence had spread throughout the region, including Dagestan.
Though Islam is the dominant religion of the North Caucasus, religion played virtually no role in the life of Anzor Tsarnaev, a tough, wiry man who’d grown up during Soviet times, when religious worship in Kyrgyzstan was mostly underground. In Dagestan, where Islam had somewhat stronger footing, many women wear hijabs; Zubeidat, though, wore her dark hair like Pat Benatar. The couple met while Anzor was studying law and were married on October 20th, 1986. The next day, their first child, Tamerlan, was born. Three more children would follow, all of them born in Kyrgyzstan, where Anzor secured a job as an investigator in the prosecutor’s office in the nation’s capital, Bishkek.
It was a prestigious position, especially for a Chechen, but Anzor had larger ambitions. He hoped to take his family to America, where his brother, Ruslan, an attorney, was building an upper-middle-class life. After Russia invaded Chechnya in 1999, setting off the second of the decade’s bloody wars, Anzor was fired from his job as part of a large-scale purge of Chechens from the ranks of the Kyrgyz government. The Tsarnaevs then fled to Zubeidat’s native Dagestan, but war followed close behind. In the spring of 2002, Anzor, Zubeidat and Jahar, then eight, arrived in America on a tourist visa and quickly applied for political asylum. The three older children, Ailina, Bella and Tamerlan, stayed behind with relatives.
During their first month in America, Jahar and his parents lived in the Boston-area home of Dr. Khassan Baiev, a Chechen physician and friend of Anzor’s sister, who recalled Anzor speaking of discrimination in Kyrgyzstan that “went as far as beatings.” This abuse would be the premise of the Tsarnaevs’ claim for asylum, which they were granted a year later. In July 2003, the rest of the family joined them in Cambridge, where they’d moved into a small, three-bedroom apartment at 410 Norfolk St.; a weathered building with peeling paint on a block that otherwise screams gentrification.
There are just a handful of Chechen families in the Boston area, and the Tsarnaevs seemed a welcome addition. “They had wonderful children,” recalls Anna Nikeava, a Chechen who befriended the Tsarnaevs shortly after they arrived. “They were very soft, like cuddly kittens, all four kids, always hugging and kissing each other.” And the parents, too, seemed to adore each other, even while Anzor, who spoke broken English, worked as a mechanic, making just $10 an hour. For the first year, the Tsarnaevs received public assistance. But they never seemed to struggle, Anna says. “They were very much in love and enjoying life. They were fun.”
Chechen families are very traditional — Anna, a warm and talkative woman in her late forties, tells me that in her country, “Ladies don’t wear pants, you have to wear a skirt,” and marrying outside the culture is taboo. The Tsarnaevs were atypical in that regard. Zubeidat was a “very open, modern lady” with a taste for stylish jeans, high heels and short skirts. “She had the tattooed eyebrows, permanent makeup, very glamorous,” says Anna. “And her children were always dressed up nicely too.”
Zubeidat adored her children, particularly Tamerlan, a tall, muscular boy she compared to Hercules. Jahar, on the other hand, was the baby, his mother’s “dwog,” or “heart.” “He looked like an angel,” says Anna, and was called “Jo-Jo” or “Ho.”
“He was always like, ‘Mommy, Mommy, yes, Mommy’—even if his mom was yelling at him,” says Anna’s son Baudy Mazaev, who is a year and a half younger than Jahar. “He was just, like, this nice, calm, compliant, pillow-soft kid. My mom would always say, ‘Why can’t you talk to me the way Dzhokhar talks to his mother?”
pp. 50-57: [Jahar was a] diligent student, [and] was nominated to the National Honor Society in his sophomore year, which was also when he joined the wrestling team. “He was one of those kids who’s just a natural,” says Payack, his coach, who recalls Jahar as a supportive teammate who endured grueling workouts and runs without a single complaint. In his junior year, the team made him a captain. By then, everyone knew him as ‘Jahar,’ which his teammates would scream at matches to ensure the refs would never mispronounce his name.
“I could never quite get his name — Dokar? Jokar?” says Larry Aaronson, a retired Rindge history teacher (Jahar, he says, eventually told him to call him “Joe”). Aaronson, a longtime friend of the late historian Howard Zinn, also lives on Norfolk Street, down the block from the Tsarnaevs’ home. “I asked him once where he was from, and he said Chechnya. And I’m like, ‘Chechnya? Are you shitting me?’” says Aaronson. “I said, ‘My God, how did you cope with all that stress?’ And he said, ‘Larry, that’s how come we came to America, and how lucky that we came to Cambridge, of all places!’ He just embraced the city, the school and the whole culture — he gratefully took advantage of it. And that’s what endeared me to him: This was the quintessential kid from the war zone, who made total use of everything we offer so that he could remake his life. And he was gorgeous,” he adds.
Jahar’s friends were a diverse group of kids from both the wealthier and poorer sections of Cambridge; black, white, Jewish, Catholic, Puerto Rican, Bangladeshi, Cape Verdean. They were, as one Cambridge parent told me, “the good kids” — debate champs, varsity athletes, student-government types, a few brainiacs who’d go off to elite New England colleges. A diligent student, Jahar talked about attending Brandeis or Tufts, recalls a friend I’ll call Sam, one of a tight-knit group of friends, who, using pseudonyms, agreed to speak exclusively to ROLLING STONE. “He was one of the realest dudes I’ve ever met in my life,” says Sam, who spent nearly every day with Jahar during their teens, shooting hoops or partying at a spot on the Charles River known as the “Riv.” No matter what, “he was the first person I’d call if I needed a ride or a favor. He’d just go, ‘I got you, dog’—even if you called him totally wasted at, like, two or three in the morning.”
“He was just superchill,” says another friend, Will, who recalls one New Year’s Eve when Jahar packed eight or nine people — including one in the trunk — into his green Honda Civic. Of course, he adds, the police pulled them over, but Jahar was unfazed. “Even if somebody caught him drinking,” says his buddy Jackson, “he was the calm, collected kid who always knew how to talk to police.”
He had morals, they all agree. “He never picked on anybody,” says Sam, adding that much like his brother, Jahar was a great boxer. “He was better at boxing than wrestling — he was a beast.” But while he could probably knock out anyone he wanted, he never did. “He wasn’t violent, though — that’s the crazy thing. He was never violent,” says Sam.
“He was smooth as fuck,” says his friend Alyssa, who is a year younger than Jahar. Girls went a little crazy over him—though to Jahar’s credit, his friends say, even when he had crushes, he never exploited them. “He’d always be like, ‘Chill, chill, let’s just hang out,’” says Sam, recalling Jahar’s almost physical aversion to any kind of attention. “He was just really humble — that’s the best way to describe him.”
Cara, a vivacious, pretty blonde whom some believe Jahar had a secret crush on, insists they were just friends. “He was so sweet. He was too sweet, you know?” she says sadly. The two had driver’s ed together, which led to lots of time getting high and hanging out. Jahar, she says, had a talent for moving between social groups and always seemed able to empathize with just about anyone’s problems. “He is a golden person, really just a genuine good guy who was cool with everyone,” she says. “It’s hard to really explain Jahar. He was a Cambridge kid.”
Cambridge kids, the group agrees, have a fairly nonchalant attitude about things that might make other people a little uptight. A few years ago, for instance, one of their mutual friends decided to convert to Islam, which some, like Cara, thought was really cool, and others, like Jackson, met with a shrug. “But that’s the kind of high school we went to,” Jackson says. “It’s the type of thing where someone could say, ‘I converted to Islam,’ and you’re like, ‘OK, cool.’” And in fact, a number of kids they knew did convert, he adds. “It was kind of like a thing for a while.”
Jahar never denied he was a Muslim, though he sometimes played it down. He fasted during Ramadan, which included giving up pot — an immense act of self-control, his friends say. “But the most religious thing he ever said was, ‘Don’t take God’s name in vain,’” says Alyssa, who is Jewish. “Yeah,” says Jackson, “he might have been religious, but it was the type of thing where unless he told you, you wouldn’t know.”
A few years ago, one Rindge wrestler, another Muslim, attended an informal lunchtime high school prayer group, where he spotted Jahar. “I didn’t know he was Muslim until I saw him at that Friday prayer group,” he says. “It wasn’t something we ever talked about.”
His friend Theo, who also wrestled with Jahar, thinks somewhat differently. “I actually think he had a real reverence for Islam,” he says. There was one occasion in particular, a few years ago, when Jahar became visibly uncomfortable when James, the friend who’d converted, began speaking casually about the faith. “He didn’t get mad, but he kind of shut him down,” Theo recalls. “And it showed me that he took his religion really seriously. It wasn’t conditional with him.”
Yet he “never raised any red flags,” says one of his history teachers, who, like many, requested anonymity, given the sensitivity of the case. Her class, a perennial favorite among Rindge students, fosters heated debates about contemporary political issues like globalization and the crises in the Middle East, but Jahar, she says, never gave her any sense of his personal politics, “even when he was asked to weigh in.” Alyssa, who loved the class, agrees: “One of the questions we looked at was ‘What is terrorism? How do we define it culturally as Americans? What is the motivation for it — can we ever justify it?’ And I can say that Jahar never expressed to us that he was pro-terrorism at all, ever.”
Except for once.
“He kind of did, one time to me, express that he thought acts of terrorism were justified,” says Will. It was around their junior year; the boys had been eating at a neighborhood joint called Izzy’s and talking about religion. With certain friends — Will and Sam among them — Jahar opened up about Islam, confiding his hatred of people whose “ignorance” equated Islam with terrorism, defending it as a religion of peace and describing jihad as a personal struggle, nothing more. This time, says Will, “I remember telling him I thought certain aspects of religion were harmful, and I brought up the 9/11 attacks.”
At which point Jahar, Will says, told him he didn’t want to talk about it anymore. Will asked why. “He said, ‘Well, you’re not going to like my view.’ So I pressed him on it, and he said he felt some of those acts were justified because of what the U.S. does in other countries, and that they do it so frequently, dropping bombs all the time.”
To be fair, Will and others note, Jahar’s perspective on U.S. foreign policy wasn’t all that dissimilar from a lot of other people they knew. “In terms of politics, I’d say he’s just as anti-American as the next guy in Cambridge,” says Theo. Even so, Will decided not to push it. “I was like, ‘Wow, this dude actually supports that? I can’t have this conversation anymore.’”
They never brought it up again.
In retrospect, Jahar’s comment about 9/11 could be seen in the context of what criminal profilers call “leakage”: a tiny crack in an otherwise carefully crafted facade that, if recognized — it’s often not — provides a key into the person’s interior world. “On cases where I’ve interviewed these types of people, the key is looking past their exterior and getting access to that interior, which is very hard,” says Tom Neer, a retired agent from the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit and now a senior associate with the Soufan Group, which advises the government on counterterrorism. “Most people have a public persona as well as a private persona, but for many people, there’s a secret side, too. And the secret side is something that they labor really hard to protect.”
There were many things about Jahar that his friends and teachers didn’t know—something not altogether unusual for immigrant children, who can live highly bifurcated lives, toggling back and forth between their ethnic and American selves. “I never saw the parents, and didn’t even know he had a brother,” says Payack, who wondered why Jahar never had his family rooting for him on the sidelines, as his teammates did. “If you’re a big brother and you love your little brother, why don’t you come and watch him in sports?”
Theo wondered, too. “I asked him about that once, and he told me that he’d boxed when he was younger, and he’d never lost a boxing match, so he didn’t want his dad to see him lose.” It sounded plausible: Jahar had an innate ability as a wrestler, but he never put in the time to be truly great. “It wasn’t really on his list,” says Theo. On the other hand, losing didn’t seem to bother him, either. “Other kids, when they lose they get angry—they think the ref made a bad call, and maybe they’ll throw a chair. Or they’ll cry, or sulk in a corner,” says Payack. Jahar would simply walk off the mat with a shrug. “He’d just kind of have this face like, ‘Oh, well, I tried.’”
On Senior Night, the last home match of the season, every Rindge senior wrestler is asked to bring a parent or relative to walk them onto the gym floor to receive a flower and have their picture taken. Jahar brought no one. “We had one of the coaches walk him out to get his flower,” says Payack. This, too, didn’t seem to bother Jahar—and even if it did, he never mentioned it. “With our friends, you don’t need to confide in them to be close to them,” says Jackson.
Jahar’s family seemed to exist in a wholly separate sphere from the rest of his life. Jackson, who lived nearby, would occasionally see Anzor working on cars; several others knew of Jahar’s sisters from their older siblings. And there were always stories about Tamerlan, who’d been a two-time Golden Gloves champion. But almost nobody met Tamerlan in person, and virtually no one from school ever went to the Tsarnaevs’ house. “I mean never—not once,” says Jackson. One friend of Jahar’s older sister Bella would say that the apartment at 410 Norfo “had a vibe that outsiders weren’t too common.”
There are a number of indications that the troubles in the Tsarnaev family went deeper than normal adjustment to American life. Anzor, who suffered from chronic arthritis, headaches and stomach pain, had an erratic temperament—a residual, he’d say, of the abuse he’d suffered in Kyrgyzstan—and struck one neighbor on Norfolk Street as a “miserable guy,” who’d bark at his neighbors over parking spaces and even grab the snow shovels out of their hands when he felt they weren’t shoveling the walk properly. Despite his demeanor, he was an intensely hard worker. “I remember his hands,” says Baudy. “He’d be working on cars in the Boston cold, no gloves, and he’d have these thick bumps on his knuckles from the arthritis. But he loved it. He saw his role as putting food on the table.”
Zubeidat, an enterprising woman, worked as a home-health aide, then switched to cosmetology, giving facials at a local salon and later opening a business in her home. “She never wanted to commit,” says Baudy, who liked Jahar’s mother but saw her as a typical striver. “She was trying to get rich faster—like, ‘Oh, this is taking too long. We’ll try something else.’”
But the money never came. By 2009, Anzor’s health was deteriorating, and that August, the Tsarnaevs, who hadn’t been on public assistance for the past five years, began receiving benefits again, in the form of food stamps and cash payouts. This inability to fully support his family may have contributed to what some who knew them refer to as Anzor’s essential “weakness” as a father, deferring to Zubeidat, who could be highly controlling.
A doting mother, “she’d never take any advice about her kids,” says Anna. “She thought they were the smartest, the most beautiful children in the world”—Tamerlan most of all. “He was the biggest deal in the family. In a way, he was like the father. Whatever he said, they had to do.”
Tamerlan’s experience in Cambridge was far less happy than Jahar’s. Already a teenager when he arrived in America, Tamerlan spoke with a thick Russian accent, and though he enrolled in the English as a Second Language program at Rindge, he never quite assimilated. He had a unibrow, and found it hard to talk to girls. One former classmate recalls that prior to their senior prom, a few of Tamerlan’s friends tried to find him a date. “He wasn’t even around,” she says, “it was just his friends asking girls to go with him.” But everyone said no, and he attended the prom alone.
After graduating in 2006, he enrolled at Bunker Hill Community College to study accounting, but attended for just three semesters before dropping out. A talented pianist and composer, he harbored a desire to become a musician, but his ultimate dream was to become an Olympic boxer, after which he’d turn pro. This was also his father’s dream — a champion boxer himself back in Russia, Anzor reportedly pushed Tamerlan extremely hard, riding behind him on his bicycle while his son jogged to the local boxing gym. And Tamerlan did very well under his father’s tutelage, rising in the ranks of New England fighters. One of the best in his weight class, Tamerlan once told a fighter to “practice punching a tree at home” if he wanted to be truly great. But his arrogance undermined his ambitions. In 2010, a rival trainer, claiming Tamerlan had broken boxing etiquette by taunting his fighter before a match, lodged a complaint with the national boxing authority that Tamerlan should be disqualified from nationwide competition as he was not an American citizen. The authorities, coincidentally, were just in the process of changing their policy to ban all non-U.S. citizens from competing for a national title.
This dashed any Olympic hopes, as Tamerlan was not yet eligible to become a U.S. citizen. His uncle Ruslan had urged him to join the Army. It would give him structure, he said, and help him perfect his English. “I told him the best way to start your way in a new country — give something,” Ruslan says. But Tamerlan laughed, his uncle recalls, for suggesting he kill “our brother Muslims.”
Tamerlan had discovered religion, a passion that had begun in 2009. In interviews, Zubeidat has suggested it was her idea, a way to encourage Tamerlan, who spent his off-hours partying with his friends at local clubs, to become more serious. “I told Tamerlan that we are Muslim, and we are not practicing our religion, and how can we call ourselves Muslims?” she said. But Anna suspects there was something else factoring into the situation. Once, Anna recalls, Zubeidat hinted that something might be wrong. “Tamerlan told me he feels like there’s two people living in him,” she confided in her friend. “It’s weird, right?”
Anna, who wondered if Tamerlan might be developing a mental illness, suggested Zubeidat take him to a “doctor” (“If I said ‘psychiatrist,’ she’d just flip,” she says), but Zubeidat seems to have believed that Islam would help calm Tamerlan’s demons. Mother and son began reading the Koran—encouraged, Zubeidat said, by a friend of Tamerlan’s named Mikhail Allakhverdov, or “Misha,” a thirtysomething Armenian convert to Islam whom family members believe Tamerlan met at a Boston-area mosque. Allakhverdov has denied any association with the attack. “I wasn’t his teacher,” he told the New York Review of Books. “If I had been his teacher, I would have made sure he never did anything like this.” But family members have said Allakhverdov had a big influence on Tamerlan, coming to the house and often staying late into the night, talking with Tamerlan about Islam and the Koran. Uncle Ruslan would later tell The Daily Mail that Allakhverdov would “give one-on-one sermons to Tamerlan over the kitchen table, during which he claimed he could talk to demons and perform exorcisms.”
Zubeidat was pleased. “Don’t interrupt them,” she told her husband one evening when Anzor questioned why Allakhverdov was still there around midnight. “Misha is teaching him to be good and nice.”
Before long, Tamerlan had quit drinking and smoking pot, and started to pray five times a day, even taking his prayer rug to the boxing gym. At home, he spent long hours on the Internet reading Islamic websites, as well as U.S. conspiracy sites, like Alex Jones’ InfoWars. He told a photographer he met that he didn’t understand Americans and complained about a lack of values. He stopped listening to music. “It is not supported by Islam,” Tamerlan said. “Misha says it’s not really good to create or listen to music.” Then, in 2011, he decided to quit boxing, claiming it was not permitted for a Muslim to hit another man.
Zubeidat, too, had become increasingly religious—something that would get in the way of her marriage as well as her job at an upscale Belmont salon, where she broke for daily prayers and refused to work on male clients. She was ultimately fired, after which she turned her living room into a minisalon. One of her former clients recalls her wearing “a head wrap” in the house, and a hijab whenever she went outside. “She started to refuse to see boys who’d gone through puberty,” recalls the client. “A religious figure had told her it was sacrilegious.”
. . . . It was during this period that Jahar told his friend Will that he felt terrorism could be justified, a sentiment that Tamerlan apparently shared. Whether or not Jahar truly agreed with his brother, their relationship was one where he couldn’t really question him. In Chechen families, Baudy says, “Your big brother is not quite God, but more than a normal brother.” When they were kids, Baudy recalls, Tamerlan used to turn off the TV and make them do pushups. Now he urged them to study the Koran.
“Jahar found it kind of a nuisance,” says Baudy, and tried to shrug it off as best as he could. But he couldn’t do much. “You’re not going to get mad at your elders or tell them to stop doing something, especially if it’s about being more religious.” During one visit a few years ago, Baudy recalls, Tamerlan interrupted them on the computer to say that if they were going to be surfing the Internet, they should focus on their faith. He gave them a book—Islam 101—and instructed them to read. He gave the same book to James, the high school convert who, as a new Muslim, was one of the very few of Jahar’s friends who came to the house. Tamerlan also taught James how to pray. “I guess they’d sit there for hours,” says Sam, who would hear about it afterward. Sam couldn’t figure it out. “It was crazy because back a few years ago, Timmy was so like us, a regular dude, boxing, going to school, hanging out, partying all the time. But then he changed and became anti-fun.”
By 2011, all remnants of “Timmy” seemed to be gone. When his close friend and sparring partner Brendan Mess began dating a nonpracticing Muslim, Tamerlan criticized Mess’ girlfriend for her lack of modesty. And he also reportedly criticized Mess for his “lifestyle”—he was a local pot dealer. On September 11th, 2011—the 10th anniversary of 9/11—Mess and two of his friends were killed in a grisly triple murder that remains unsolved. Since the bombing, authorities have been vigorously investigating the crime, convinced that Tamerlan had something to do with it . . .
“All I know is Jahar was really wary of coming home high because of how his brother would react. He’d get really angry,” says Will. “He was a really intense dude.”
“And if you weren’t Muslim, he was even more intense,” says Sam, who notes that he never met Tamerlan in person, though he heard stories about him all the time from Jahar. “I was fascinated—this dude’s, like, six-three, he’s a boxer—I wanted to meet him,” says Sam. “But Jahar was like, ‘No, you don’t want to meet him.’”
Jahar rarely spoke to his friends about his sisters, Ailina and Bella, who, just a few years older than he, kept to themselves but also had their own struggles. Attractive, dark-haired girls who were “very Americanized,” as friends recall, they worshipped Tamerlan, whom one sister would later refer to as her “hero”—but they were also subject to his role as family policeman. When Bella was a junior in high school, her father, hearing that she’d been seen in the company of an American boy, pulled her out of school and dispatched Tamerlan to beat the boy up. Friends later spotted Bella wearing a hijab; not long afterward, she disappeared from Cambridge entirely. Some time later, Ailina would similarly vanish. Both girls were reportedly set up in arranged marriages.
Anna Nikeava was unaware the girls had even left Boston, and suspects the parents never talked about it for fear of being judged. “Underneath it all, they were a screwed-up family,” she says. “They weren’t Chechen”—they had not come from Chechnya, as she and others had—“and I don’t think the other families accepted them as Chechens. They could not define themselves or where they belonged. And poor Jahar was the silent survivor of all that dysfunction,” she says. “He never said a word. But inside, he was very hurt, his world was crushed by what was going on with his family. He just learned not to show it.”
Anzor, who’d been at first baffled, and later “depressed,” by his wife’s and son’s religiosity, moved back to Russia in 2011, and that summer was granted a divorce. Zubeidat was later arrested for attempting to shoplift $1,600 worth of clothes from a Lord & Taylor. Rather than face prosecution, she skipped bail and also returned to Russia, where she ultimately reconciled with her ex-husband. Jahar’s sisters, both of whom seemed to have escaped their early marriages, were living in New Jersey and hadn’t seen their family in some time.
And Tamerlan was now married, too. His new wife, Katherine Russell, was a Protestant from a well-off family in Rhode Island. After high school, she’d toyed with joining the Peace Corps but instead settled on college at Boston’s Suffolk University. She’d met Tamerlan at a club during her freshman year, in 2007, and found him “tall and handsome and having some measure of worldliness,” one friend would recall. But as their relationship progressed, Katherine’s college roommates began to worry that Tamerlan was “controlling” and “manipulative.” They became increasingly concerned when he demanded that she cover herself and convert to Islam.
Though Katherine has never spoken to the press, what is known is that she did convert to Islam, adopting the name “Karima,” and soon got pregnant and dropped out of college. In June 2010, she and Tamerlan were married; not long afterward, she gave birth to their daughter, Zahira. Around this time, both her friends and family say, she “pulled away.” She was seen in Boston, shopping at Whole Foods, cloaked and wearing a hijab. She rarely spoke around her husband, and when alone, recalls one neighbor, she spoke slowly with an accent. “I didn’t even know she was an American,” he says.
Jahar, meanwhile, was preparing for college. He had won a $2,500 city scholarship, which is awarded each year to about 40 to 50 Cambridge students; he ended up being accepted at a number of schools, including Northeastern University and UMass Amherst. But UMass Dartmouth offered him a scholarship. “He didn’t want to force his parents to pay a lot of money for school,” says Sam, who recalls that Jahar never even bothered to apply to his fantasy schools, Brandeis and Tufts, due to their price tags. A number of his friends would go off to some of the country’s better private colleges, “but [Jahar] rolled with the punches. He put into his head, ‘I can’t go to school for mad dough, so I’m just going to go wherever gives me the best deal.’ Because, I mean, what’s the point of going to a school that’s going to cost $30,000 a year — for what? Pointless.” His other friends agree.
A middling school an hour and a half south of Boston, UMass Dartmouth had one distinguishing feature—it’s utter lack of character. “It’s beige,” says Jackson. “It’s, like, the most depressing campus I’ve ever seen.” Annual costs are about $22,000.
Jahar arrived in the fall of 2011 and almost immediately wanted to go home. North Dartmouth, where the university is based, is a working-class community with virtually nothing to boast of except for a rather sad mall and a striking number of fast-food joints. It has a diverse student population, but their level of curiosity seemed to fall far below his friends’ from Rindge. “Using my high-school essays for my english class #itsthateasy,” Jahar tweeted in November 2011. “You know what i like to do? answer my own questions cuz no one else can.”
“He was hating life,” says Sam. “He used to always call and say it’s mad wack and the people were corny.” His one saving grace was that one of his best friends from Rindge had gone to UMass Dartmouth, too — though he would later transfer. “All they would do was sit in the car and get high — it was that boring,” says Sam.
On the weekends, campus would empty out and Jahar came home as often as he could. But home was no longer “home,” as his parents were gone. Many of his closest friends were gone as well. Tamerlan, though, was always around. “Pray,” the older brother told the younger. “You cannot call yourself a Muslim unless you thank Allah five times a day.”
Much of what is known about the two years of Jahar’s life leading up to the bombing comes from random press interviews with students at UMass Dartmouth, none of whom seemed to have been particularly close with Jahar; and from Jahar’s tweets, which, like many 18- or 19-year-olds’, were a mishmash of sophomoric jokes, complaints about his roommate, his perpetual lateness, some rap lyrics, the occasional deep thought (“Find your place and your purpose and make a plan for the future”) and, increasingly, some genuinely revealing statements. He was homesick. He suffered from insomnia. He had repeated zombie dreams. And he missed his dad. “I can see my face in my dad’s pictures as a youngin, he even had a ridiculous amount of hair like me,” he tweeted in June 2012.
Jahar had begun his studies to be an engineer, but by last fall had found the courses too difficult. He switched to biology and, to make money, he dealt pot—one friend from his dorm says he always had big Tupperware containers of weed in his fridge.
As he had at Rindge, Jahar drifted between social groups, though he clung to friends from high school who also attended UMass Dartmouth. But he soon gravitated to a group of Kazakh students, wealthy boys with a taste for excellent pot, which Jahar, who spoke Russian with them, often helped to provide. By his sophomore year, even as he gained U.S. citizenship, he abandoned his American Facebook for the Russian version, Vkontakte, or VK, where he listed his religion as “Islam” and his interests as “career and money.” He joined several Chechnya-related groups and posted Russian-language-joke videos. “He was always joking around, and often his jokes had a sarcastic character,” says Diana Valeeva, a Russian student who befriended Jahar on VK. Jahar also told Diana that he missed his homeland and would happily come for a visit. “But he did not want to return forever,” she says.
Tamerlan’s journey the past two years is far easier to trace. Though no more Chechen than his brother, Tamerlan was also—as his resident green card reminded him—not really an American. Islam, or Tamerlan’s interpretation of it, had become his identity. He devoured books on Chechnya’s separatist struggle, a war that had taken on a notably fundamentalist tone since the late 1990s, thanks to a surge of Muslim fighters from outside of the Caucasus who flocked to Chechnya to wage “holy war” against the Russians. It is not uncommon for young Chechen men to romanticize jihad, and for those who are interested in that kind of thing, there are abundant Chechen jihadist videos online that reinforce this view. They tend to feature Caucasian fighters who, far from the lecturing sheikhs often found in Al Qaeda recruitment videos, look like grizzled Navy SEALs, humping through the woods in camouflage and bandannas. Tamerlan would later post several of these videos on his YouTube page, as well as “The Emergence of Prophecy: The Black Flags from Khorasan,” a central part of Al Qaeda and other jihadist mythology, which depicts fierce, supposedly end-times battles against the infidels across a region that includes parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.
But Brian Glyn Williams, a professor of Islamic studies at UMass Dartmouth and an expert on terrorism and the politics of Chechnya, believes that Tamerlan’s journey—which he calls “jihadification”—was less a young man’s quest to join Al Qaeda than to discover his own identity. “To me, this is classic diasporic reconstruction of identity: ‘I’m a Chechen, and we’re fighting for jihad, and what am I doing? Nothing.’ It’s not unlike the way some Irish-Americans used to link Ireland and the IRA — they’d never been to Northern Ireland in their lives, but you’d go to certain parts of Southie in Boston, and all you see are donation cans for the IRA.”
For Jahar, identity likely played into the mix as well, says Williams, who, though he never met Jahar at UMass Dartmouth, coincidentally corresponded with him during his senior year of high school. One of Williams’ friends taught English at Rindge, and “he told me he had this Chechen kid in his class who wanted to do his research paper on Chechnya, a country he’d never lived in.” Williams agreed to help Jahar. “The thing that struck me was how little he actually knew,” he says. “He didn’t know anything about Chechnya, and he wanted to know everything.”
Whether Jahar gained much from his studies—or even did much of it—is unknown. Tamerlan, having devoured all the books he could find, was preparing to take the next step. In January 2012, he traveled to Dagestan, where he spent six months. Dagestan has been embroiled in a years-long civil war between Muslim guerrillas and the (also Muslim) police, as well as Russian forces. Bombs go off in the streets regularly, and young men, lured by the romance of the fight, often disappear to “go to the forest,” a euphemism for joining the insurgency. Tamerlan, too, seemed to have wanted to join the rebellion, but he was dissuaded from this pursuit by, among others, a distant cousin named Magomed Kartashov, who also happened to be a Dagestani Islamist. Kartashov’s Western cousin, who came to Dagestan dressed in fancy American clothes and bragging of being a champion boxer, had no place in their country’s civil war, he told Tamerlan. It was an internal struggle — he referred to it as “banditry” — and had only resulted in Muslims killing other Muslims. Kartashov urged Tamerlan to embrace nonviolence and forget about Dagestan’s troubles. By early summer, Tamerlan was talking about holy war “in a global context,” one Dagestani Islamist recalls.
In July 2012, Tamerlan returned to Cambridge. He grew a five-inch beard and began to get in vocal debates about the virtues of Islam. He vociferously criticized U.S. policy in the Middle East. Twice over the next six or eight months, he upset services at a local mosque with a denunciation of Thanksgiving, and also, in January 2013, of Martin Luther King Jr.
The boys’ uncle Ruslan hoped that Jahar, away at school, would avoid Tamerlan’s influence. Instead, Jahar began to echo his older brother’s religious fervor. The Prophet Muhammad, he noted on Twitter, was now his role model. “For me to know that I am FREE from HYPOCRISY is more dear to me than the weight of the ENTIRE world in GOLD,” he posted, quoting an early Islamic scholar. He began following Islamic Twitter accounts. “Never underestimate the rebel with a cause,” he declared.
Though it seems as if Jahar had found a mission, his embrace of Islam also may have been driven by something more basic: a need to belong. “Look, he was totally abandoned,” says Payack, who believes that the divorce of his parents and their subsequent move back to Russia was pivotal, as was the loss of the safety net he had at Rindge.
Theo, who goes to college in Vermont and is one of the few of Jahar’s friends to not have any college loans, can’t imagine the stress Jahar must have felt. “He had all of this stuff piled up on his shoulders, as well as college, which he’s having to pay for himself. That’s not easy. All of that just might make you say ‘Fuck it’ and give up and lose faith.
Wick Sloane, an education advocate and a local community-college professor, sees this as a widespread condition among many young immigrants who pass through his classrooms. “All of these kids are grateful to be in the United States. But it’s the usual thing: Is this the land of opportunity or isn’t it? When I look at what they’ve been through, and how they are screwed by federal policies from the moment they turn around, I don’t understand why all of them aren’t angrier. I’m actually kind of surprised it’s taken so long for one of these kids to set off a bomb.”
“A decade in America already,” Jahar tweeted in March 2012. “I want out.” He was looking forward to visiting his parents in Dagestan that summer, but then he learned he wouldn’t receive his U.S. passport in time to make the trip. “#Imsad,” he told his followers. Instead, he spent the summer lifeguarding at a Harvard pool. “I didn’t become a lifeguard to just chill and get paid,” Jahar tweeted. “I do it for the people, saving lives brings me joy.” He was living with Tamerlan and his sister-in-law, who were going through their own troubles. Money was increasingly tight, and the family was on welfare. Tamerlan was now a stay-at-home dad; his wife worked night and day as a home-health aide to support the family.
Tamerlan had joined an increasing number of Cambridge’s young adults who were being priced out due to skyrocketing real-estate prices. “It’s really hard to stay in Cambridge because it’s becoming so exclusive,” says Tamerlan’s former Rindge classmate Luis Vasquez, who is running for a seat on the Cambridge City Council. “We feel like we’re being taken over.”
In August, Jahar, acutely aware of the troubles all around him, commented that $15 billion was spent on the Summer Olympics. “Imagine if that money was used to feed those in need all over the world,” he wrote. “The value of human life ain’t shit nowadays that’s #tragic.” In the fall, he returned to North Dartmouth and college, where, with no Tamerlan to catch him, he picked up his life, partying in his dorm and letting his schoolwork slide . . . .
[On] December , Jahar came home for Christmas break and stayed for several weeks. His friends noticed nothing different about him, except that he was desperately trying to grow a beard—with little success. In early February, he went back to Rindge to work with the wrestling team, where he confided in Theo, who’d also come back to help, that he wished he’d taken wrestling more seriously. He could have been really good had he applied himself a bit more.
At 410 Norfolk St., Tamerlan, once a flashy dresser, had taken to wearing a bathrobe and ratty sweatpants, day after day, while Jahar continued to explore Islam. “I meet the most amazing people,” he tweeted. “My religion is the truth.”
But he also seemed at times to be struggling, suggesting that even his beloved Cambridge had failed him in some way. “Cambridge got some real, genuinely good people, but at the same time this city can be fake as fuck,” he said on January 15th. Also that day: “I don’t argue with fools who say Islam is terrorism it’s not worth a thing, let an idiot remain an idiot.”
According to a transcript from UMass Dartmouth, reviewed by The New York Times, Jahar was failing many of his classes his sophomore year. He was reportedly more than $20,000 in debt to the university. Also weighing on him was the fact that his family’s welfare benefits had been cut in November 2012, and in January, Tamerlan and his wife reportedly lost the Section 8 housing subsidy that had enabled them to afford their apartment, leaving them with the prospect of a move.
Why a person with an extreme or “radical” ideology may decide to commit violence is an inexact science, but experts agree that there must be a cognitive opening of some sort. “A person is angry, and he needs an explanation for that angst,” explains the Soufan Group’s Tom Neer. “Projecting blame is a defense mechanism. Rather than say, ‘I’m lost, I’ve got a problem,’ it’s much easier to find a convenient enemy or scapegoat. The justification comes later — say, U.S. imperialism, or whatever. It’s the explanation that is key.”
For Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the explanation for his anger was all around him. And so, dissuaded from his quest to wage jihad in Dagestan, he apparently turned his gaze upon America, the country that, in his estimation, had caused so much suffering, most of all his own.
In early February, soon after losing his housing subsidy, Tamerlan drove to New Hampshire, where, according to the indictment, he purchased “48 mortars containing approximately eight pounds of low-explosive powder.” Also during this general period, Jahar began downloading Islamic militant tracts to his computer, like the first issue of the Al Qaeda magazine Inspire, which, in an article titled “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom,” offered detailed instructions on how to construct an IED using a pressure cooker, explosive powder from fireworks, and shrapnel, among other readily available ingredients.
Jahar returned home for spring break in March and spent time hanging out with his regular crew. He brought his friend Dias Kadyrbayev home with him, driving Dias’ flashy black BMW with the joke license plate TERRORISTA. He hung out with a few friends and went to the Riv, where they lit off fireworks; he met other friends at a local basketball court, one of his usual haunts. He looked happy and chill, as he always did, and was wearing a new, brown military-style jacket that his friends thought was “swag.” “And that was the last time I saw him,” says Will.
What went on in the apartment at 410 Norfolk during March and early April remains a mystery. “It’s hard to understand how there could be such disassociation in that child,” says Aaronson, who last saw Jahar in January, presumably before the brothers’ plan was set. “They supposedly had an arsenal in that fucking house! In the house! I mean, he could have blown up my whole fucking block, for God’s sakes.”
According to the indictment, the brothers went to a firing range on March 20th, where Jahar rented two 9mm handguns, purchased 200 rounds of ammunition and engaged in target practice with Tamerlan. On April 5th, Tamerlan went online to order electronic components that could be used in making IEDs. Friends of Jahar’s would later tell the FBI that he’d once mentioned he knew how to build bombs. But no one seemed to really take it all that seriously.
“People come into your life to help you, hurt you, love you and leave you and that shapes your character and the person you were meant to be,” Jahar tweeted on March 18th. Two days later: “Evil triumphs when good men do nothing.”
“April 7th: “If you have the knowledge and the inspiration all that’s left is to take action.”
April 11th: “Most of you are conditioned by the media.”
The bombs went off four days later.
On the afternoon of April 18th, Robel Phillipos, a friend of Jahar’s from Cambridge as well as from UMass Dartmouth, was watching the news on campus and talking on the phone with Dias. He told Dias, who was in his car, to turn on the TV when he got home. One of the bombers, he said, looked like Jahar. Like most of their friends, Dias thought it was a coincidence and texted Jahar that he looked like one of the suspects on television. “Lol,” Jahar wrote back, casually. He told his friend not to text him anymore. “I’m about to leave,” he wrote. “If you need something in my room, take it.”
According to the FBI, Robel, Dias and their friend Azamat met at Pine Dale Hall, Jahar’s dorm, where his roommate informed them that he’d left campus several hours earlier. So they hung out in his room for a while, watching a movie. Then they spotted Jahar’s backpack, which the boys noticed had some fireworks inside, emptied of powder. Not sure what to do, they grabbed the bag as well as Jahar’s computer, and went back to Dias and Azamat’s off-campus apartment, where they “started to freak out, because it became clear from a CNN report . . . that Jahar was one of the Boston Marathon bombers,” Robel later told the FBI.
But no one wanted Jahar to get in trouble. Dias and Azamat began speaking to each other in Russian. Finally, Dias turned to Robel and asked in English if he should get rid of the stuff. “Do what you have to do,” Robel said. Then he took a nap.
Dias later confessed that he’d grabbed a big black trash bag, filled it with trash and stuffed the backpack and fireworks in there. Then he threw it in a dumpster; the bag was later retrieved from the municipal dump by the FBI. The computer, too, was eventually recovered. Until recently, its contents were unknown.
The contents of Jahar’s closely guarded psyche, meanwhile, may never be fully understood. Nor, most likely, will his motivations — which is quite common with accused terrorists. “There is no single precipitating event or stressor,” says Neer. “Instead, what you see with most of these people is a gradual process of feeling alienated or listless or not connected. But what they all have in common is a whole constellation of things that aren’t working right.”
A month or so after the bombing, I am sitting on Alyssa’s back deck with a group of Jahar’s friends. It’s a lazy Sunday in May, and the media onslaught has died down a bit; the FBI, though, is still searching for the source of the brothers’ “radicalization,” and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, capitalizing on the situation, has put Tamerlan, dressed in his crisp, white Saturday Night Fever shirt and aviator shades, in the pages of its most recent Inspire. Jahar has a growing and surprisingly brazen fan club — #FreeJahar — and tens of thousands of new Twitter followers, despite the fact that he hasn’t tweeted since before his arrest.
Like so many of his fans, some of Jahar’s friends have latched onto conspiracy theories about the bombing, if only because “there are too many unanswered questions,” says Cara, who points out that the backpack identified by the FBI was not the same color as Jahar’s backpack. There’s also a photo on the Internet of Jahar walking away from the scene, no pack, though if you look closely, you can see the outline of a black strap. “Photoshopped!” the caption reads.
Mostly, though, his friends are trying to move on. “We’re concerned with not having this tied to us for the rest of our lives,” says Alyssa, explaining why she and Sam and Jackson and Cara and Will and James and Theo have insisted I give them pseudonyms. Even as Jahar was on the run, his friends started hearing from the FBI, whose agents shortly descended upon their campuses—sometimes wearing bulletproof vests—looking for insight and phone numbers.
“You’re so intimidated, and you think if you don’t answer their questions, it looks suspicious,” says Jackson, who admits he gave up a number of friends’ phone numbers after being pressed by the FBI.
Sam says he thinks the feds tapped his phone. All of the kids were interviewed alone, without a lawyer. “I didn’t even know I could have a lawyer,” says Jackson. “And they didn’t tell me that anything I said might be used against me, which was unfair, because, I mean, I’m only 19.”
But the worst, they all agree, is Robel, who was interviewed four times by the FBI, and denied he knew anything until, on the fourth interview, he came clean and told them he’d helped remove the backpack and computer from Jahar’s dorm room. Robel is 19 but looks 12, and is unanimously viewed by his friends as the most innocent and sheltered of the group. He is now facing an eight-year prison sentence for lying to a federal officer.
“So you see why we don’t want our names associated,” says Sam. “It’s not that we’re trying to show that we’re not Jahar’s friends. He was a very good friend of mine.”
Jahar is, of course, still alive—though it’s tempting for everyone to refer to him in the past tense, as if he, too, were dead. He will likely go to prison for the rest of his life, which may be his best possible fate, given the other option, which is the death penalty. “I can’t wrap my head around that,” says Cara. “Or any of it.”
Nor can anyone else. For all of their city’s collective angst and community processing and resolutions of being “one Cambridge,” the reality is that none of Jahar’s friends had any idea he was unhappy, and they really didn’t know he had any issues in his family other than, perhaps, his parents’ divorce, which was kind of normal.
“I remember he was upset when his dad left the country,” says Jackson. “I remember he was giving me a ride home and he mentioned it.”
“Now that I think about that, it must have added a lot of pressure having both parents be gone,” says Sam.
“But, I mean, that’s the mystery,” says Jackson. “I don’t really know.”
It’s weird, they all agree.
“His brother must have brainwashed him,” says Sam. “It’s the only explanation.”
Someone mentions one of the surveillance videos of Jahar, which shows him impassively watching as people begin to run in response to the blast. “I mean, that’s just the face I’d always see chilling, talking, smoking,” says Jackson. He wishes Jahar had looked panicked. “At least then I’d be able to say, ‘OK, something happened.’ But . . . nothing.”
That day’s Boston Globe has run a story about the nurses at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital who took care of Jahar those first few days after his capture. They were ambivalent, to say the least, about spending too much time with him, for fear of, well, liking him. One nurse said she had to stop herself from calling him “hon.” The friends find this story disgusting. “People just have blood in their eyes,” says Jackson.
One anecdote that wasn’t in the article but that has been quietly making its way around town, via one of his former nurses, is that Jahar cried for two days straight after he woke up in the hospital. No one in the group has heard this yet, and when I mention it, Alyssa gives an anguished sigh of relief. “That’s good to know,” she says.
“I can definitely see him doing that,” says Sam, gratefully. “I hope he’s crying. I’d definitely hope...”
“I hope he’d wake up and go, ‘What the fuck did I do the last 48 hours?’” says Jackson, who decides, along with the others, that this, the crying detail, sounds like Jahar.
But, then again, no one knows what he was crying about.
front cover: THE BOMBER — How a Popular, Promising Student Was Failed by His Family, Fell Into Radical Islam and Became a Monster
‘Because so much of the world outside the West has for historical reasons fallen behind in the evolution of their childrearing modes, the resulting vast differences between national personality types has recently turned into a global battle of terrorism against liberal Western values. In order to understand this new battle, it would be useful to know what makes a terrorist—what developmental life histories they share that can help us see why they want to kill "American infidels" and themselves—so we can apply our efforts to removing the sources of their violence and preventing terrorism in the future. The roots of current terrorist attacks lie, I believe, not in this or that American foreign policy error but in the extremely abusive families of the terrorists. Children who grow up to be Islamic terrorists are products of a misogynist fundamentalist system that often segregates the family into two separate areas: the men's area and the woman's area, where the children are brought up and which the father rarely visits.  . . . . Families that produce the most terrorists are the most violently misogynist . . . .
Visitors to families throughout fundamentalist Muslim societies report on the "slapping, striking, whipping and thrashing" of children, with constant shaming and humiliation, often being told by their mothers that they are "cowards" if they don't hit others. 
. . . . Children are taught strict obedience to all parental commands, stand when their parents enter the room, kiss their hands, don't laugh "excessively," fear them immensely, and learn that giving in to any of their own needs or desires is horribly sinful. All these childrearing practices are very much like those that were routinely inflicted upon children in the medieval West.
The ascetic results of such punitive upbringings are predictable. When these abused children grow up, they feel that every time they try to self-activate, every time they do something independently for themselves, they will lose the approval of the parents in their heads—mainly their mothers and grandmothers in the women's quarters. When their cities were flooded with oil money and Western popular culture in recent decades, fundamentalist men were first attracted to the new freedoms and pleasures, but soon retreated, feeling they would lose their mommy's approval and be "Bad Boys." Westerners came to represent their own "Bad Boy" self in projection, and had to be killed off, as they felt they themselves deserved, for such unforgivable sins as listening to music, flying kites and enjoying sex.  As one fundamentalist put it, "America is Godless. Western influence here is not a good thing, our people can see CNN, MTV, kissing…"  Another described his motives thusly: "We will destroy American cities piece by piece because your life style is so objectionable to us, your pornographic movies and TV." Many agree with the Iranian Ministry of Culture that all American television programs "are part of an extensive plot to wipe out our religious and sacred values," and for this reason feel they must kill Americans.
. . . . Osama bin Laden himself "while in college frequented flashy nightclubs, casinos and bars [and] was a drinker and womanizer," but soon felt extreme guilt for his sins and began preaching killing Westerners for their freedoms and their sinful enticements of Muslims.  Most of the Taliban leaders, in fact, are wealthy, like bin Laden, have had contact with the West, and were shocked into their terrorist violence by "the personal freedoms and affluence of the average citizen, by the promiscuity, and by the alcohol and drug use of Western youth …only an absolute and unconditional return to the fold of conservative Islamism could protect the Muslim world from the inherent dangers and sins of the West." 
. . . . From childhood, then, Islamist terrorists have been taught to kill the part of themselves—and, by projection, others—that is selfish and wants personal pleasures and freedoms . . . .
Like serial killers—who are also sexually and physically abused as children—terrorists grow up filled with a rage that must be inflicted upon others . . . . If prevention rather than revenge is our goal, rather than pursuing a lengthy military war against terrorists and killing many innocent people while increasing the number of future terrorists, it might be better for the U.S. to back a U.N.-sponsored Marshall Plan for them—one that could include Community Parenting Centers run by local people who could teach more humane childrearing practices—in order to give them the chance to evolve beyond the abusive family system that has produced the terrorism, just as we provided a Marshall Plan for Germans after WWII for the families that had produced Nazism.
1 Soraya Altorki, Women in Saudi Arabia: Ideology and Behavior Among the Elite. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986, p. 30; Mazharul Haq Khari, Purdah and Polygamy: A Study in the Social Pathology of the Muslim Society. Peshawar Cantt., Nashiran-e-Ilm-o-Taraqiyet, 1972, p. 91.
2 Mazharul Haq Khari, Purdah and Polygamy, p. 107.
3 Time, October 22, 2001, p. 56.
4 Jan Goodwin, Price of Honor, p. 64.
5 Yossef Bodansky, Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America. Rocklin: Forum, 1999, p. 3.
6 Ibid, p. 4.
‘Bombing Middle East families and smashing down their doors, killing those inside indiscriminately and slaughtering millions of civilians, are certain ways for the U.S. to invite revenge and become a permanent “enemy” of . . . terrorists. “They throw innocent and guilty alike into overcrowded detention camps that then serve as incubators of anti-American resistance.”  Creating enemies is the stated goal of the U.S. Middle East War; as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice put it, U.S. forces are for killing people, not protecting them: “We don’t need to have the 82nd Airborne escorting kids to kindergarten.”  This attitude is the basis for the U.S. now spending over $700 billion a year on war and only $3 billion on peacekeeping. 
. . . . Psychoanalytically-trained psychologists such as Herbert Kelman and Vamik Volkan have made a start by running “track two diplomacy” groups that have held meetings with private professionals from two threatening nations in unofficial workshops, where participants share the injuries inflicted upon them by the other group and work toward empathy for the suffering and fears the groups have caused each other. 
. . . . The track-two workshops must be expanded by applying the psychohistorical principles of this book to take into consideration our theories of wars being caused by memories of child abuse that have been embedded in group amygdalan fear centers . . . . These counselors could identify the demonic dissociated voices in each group, their “Terrifier” voices,  examine the fears, hatreds and scapegoating those voices engender, undo their war trances, allow group members to express their feelings of being disrespected, locate the self-destructive wishes they embody, and finally express remorse for the harm they have done.
Peace counselors do not, of course, aim at providing full psychoanalytic insight, but hope for reaching the dissociated “time bombs” embedded by early traumas. They can see that they feel they deserved being hurt as children, and are now inflicting the hurts on others.  . . . . Experience in working with patients with multiple personalities would help peace counselors talk to dissociated personalities by asking if they can “talk to the angry part of you separately.”  Nigel Hunt describes techniques of constructing new historical narratives that help overcome war traumas.  . . . . Female peace counselors might be particularly effective in allowing both sides to re-experience in a safe environment their early painful maternal accusations they suffered, when they were told that they were “bad.” Recently, even the American Psychological Association, which traditionally backed all U.S. wars, has begun a Peace Psychology Division that has promoted peacemaking activities. 
TALKING TO TERRORISTS WHO CAN EXPLODE NUCLEAR BOMBS
In the coming decade, not only many more nations but also scores of terrorist groups will be able to steal or buy the uranium or plutonium needed for nuclear bombs.  As the Center for Defense Information president put it: “I wouldn’t be at all surprised if nuclear weapons are used over the next 15 or 20 year by a terrorist group that gets its hands on a Russian or Pakistani nuclear weapon.”  The U.S. State Department now estimates that in addition to the 30,000 nuclear weapons held by the U.S., Russia and 7 other nations, there are an additional 44 nations that have the capacity to build nuclear weapons, and most will do so in the near future.  Even under the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals are still “poised for launch on warning.” Almost none of the existing stockpiles of plutonium and uranium—enough to produce over 250,000 nuclear bombs—have yet been rendered unusable, since the U.S. has cut back their program to assist Russia in safeguarding and dismantling its nuclear stockpiles, leaving 44,000 potential nuclear weapons worth of plutonium vulnerable to theft.  There are currently 40 countries that have stockpiles of highly enriched uranium, and if any of this material is made available to terrorists, making nuclear devices would be relatively easily done, from clear instructions now available on the Internet. It will also be easy to ship the nuclear bombs into the U.S. in some of the millions of unexamined containers that enter seaports daily, arming terrorists like those who have promised to explode nukes that would “kill four million Americans, two million of them children” (al-Qaeda), so that, as India put it when they acquired their nukes, “We are not eunuchs any more. We now have superior potency.” Americans have avoided thinking about how to avoid “nuclear winter” annihilation by terrorist nuclear bombs, going into a dissociated trance state, in the words of George Kennan, “like the victims of some sort of hypnotism, like men in a dream,”  even after the CIA reported recently that al-Qaeda had a ten-kiloton nuclear bomb stolen from Russia in NYC  and some nuclear experts report “a nuclear terrorist attack on America in the decade ahead is more likely than not.” A group of Pakistani terrorists were captured in 2003 in Canada as they practiced a credible mission in which they would fly a plane into a nuclear reactor near Boston, which would have killed hundreds of thousands.  Terrorists regularly refer to the need to create “an American Hiroshima.”  As Tad Daley documents in his book Apocalypse Never, if the world does not soon forge a path to a nuclear weapon-free world there is a good chance a global nuclear holocaust will wipe out all life on earth some time in the next century.  And Nancy Kobrin’s psychoanalytic consulting company conducts seminars for counterterrorists that use the kinds of psychohistorical insights described in this book. 
The first task of peace counselors would not just be talking to the Islamist terrorists, but talking to and changing the emotional states of U.S. foreign policy officials who are behind the current American practices of killing, torturing, beating, humiliating and shaming “enemies” around the world, the aim of which has been described by one U.S. soldier as:
You run in their homes. You go up the stairs and grab the man of the house and rip him out of bed in front of his wife…You destroy his home, leaving it looking like a hurricane hit it. We scare the living Jesus out of them every time we go through every house. [Chris Hedges and Laia Al-Arian, “The Other War.” The Nation, July 30, 2007, p. 14.]
One of the first jobs for peace counselors therefore is to talk to U.S. State Department and Pentagon personnel and discuss why America is currently continuing to expand its global military activities and arms sales and drone assaults on Middle East extremist groups by Barack Obama,  who got elected on an anti-war agenda.  The task of removing all U.S. provocative military activities will of course be a daunting one. Perhaps politicians and diplomats might change their policies if they were required to take courses given at the U.S. Peace Institute taught by peace counselors, which included the principles of uncovering and changing the dissociated child abuse sources of violence described in this book and other writings of psychoanalysts and psychohistorians, so they could stop the military activities that provoke groups around the world to act violently against the U.S. Actually there are currently many organizations that have courses that draw upon both psychology and the social sciences, as in the “Us & Them: Moderating Group Conflict” program and the programs described in Mark Perry’s excellent book Talking to Terrorists: Why America Must Engage With Its Enemies, which describes the valuable “outreach” meetings between U.S. military advisors and Iraqi insurgents—which George W. Bush opposed as “appeasement.”  Obviously the changes in U.S. emotional attitudes toward terrorists must include changes in the media in order to prevent the election of another President like Bush, who began the bombing of Afghanistan with the blunt statement: “When I said no negotiations, I meant no negotiations.” 
Peace counseling sessions have been tried around the world, especially in the Middle East. Programs run by psychiatrists to rehabilitate thousands of terrorists in Saudi Arabia have been rehabilitating al-Qaeda terrorists captured by authorities, treating them with respect, examining the emotional sources of their violence and finding them jobs.  Hundreds of workshops between Jews and Arabs have been held in Israel, targeted at students and adults, and designed to reduce distrust and hostilities between the two sides by reducing their war trances and irrational fears and achieving respect. 
All the techniques of peace counselors for nations at war described earlier in this chapter can be used in talking to terrorists. There is even a recent book by psychohistorian Joan Lachkar entitled How to Talk to a Borderline, plus three articles in The Journal of Psychohistory that show that terrorists are “borderline narcissists” who can be reached by specific therapy techniques designed to reach their “V-spots” (vulnerable spots).  But perhaps the most thorough description of how peace counseling sessions with terrorists could be made to work can be found in Anne Speckhard and Khapta Akhmedova’s article “Talking to Terrorists” in The Journal of Psychohistory. They have for years been psychotherapists to suicide bombers in Palestine, Israel and Chechnya, and have found these individuals had from both their childrearing and their adult experiences suffered
an overwhelming sense of personal trauma—they had personally witnessed death, torture, beating, or incarceration of loved ones or had these experiences themselves [and] entered a trance state in response to triggers of posttraumatic recall of traumatic events occurring over a long duration or during childhood…As they speak about childhood it is clear that it was traumatic for them and they become alternatively dissociatively dazed and emotionally aroused. [Anne Speckhard and Khapta Akhmedova, “Talking to Terrorists.” The Journal of Psychohistory 33(2005): 129, 136.]
That Islamic terrorists want to kill their own “Bad Selves” is shown by the fact that they kill more Islamists than other groups. Al-Qaeda “declared war on the entire Islamic population of Algeria, and a hundred thousand Algerians were savagely murdered.” 
Another psychohistorian, Margret Rueffler, has been extremely successful in applying her psychological training to help groups end their violent animosities through her full-time efforts as Director of the PsychoPolitical Peace Institute. Her Journal of Psychohistory article “Healing a Collective: A PsychoPolitical Action Project” describes therapeutic activities of her project in a Republic of Georgian area that reduced inter-village violence by encouraging all sides to cooperate in such activities as the running of a new hospital and the feeding and clothing of village children. The experience of working together in open forums and sharing their emotions about each other was extraordinarily healing, and led to increases in food production, in small business activities, in common educational facilities, etc. U.N. “safe haven” efforts that create civilian shared protection facilities are other examples of “working together” projects like Rueffler’s. 
Although actual applications of psychohistorical theories to the task of reducing child abuse and wars around the world are few, the principles are clear of how to improve childrearing enough to reduce the internal “time bombs” that are the acting out of early nightmares, “living ghosts.” The shared pathological delusions that are re-enacted in wars and terrorism can be eliminated, in the same manner that psychiatrist James Gilligan eliminated the criminal violence of the inmates of the prison of which he was put in charge, reducing its recidivism rate to zero by educating the inmates and treating them with respect.  Changing the violent emotions of humans around the world will obviously be difficult and will take decades. But history needn’t repeat itself—only early traumas demand repetition. Since U.S. military power around the world is so often provocative, ultimately its hundreds of foreign bases can be abolished, nuclear weapons eliminated, and its endless wars avoided. Because nuclear annihilation in the future will only be the result of continuing the acting-out of childhood nightmares, our task is a crucial one. Self-mastery must replace the mastery of others.  Global suicide must not continue to be our goal. The lessons of this book on how to avoid the ending of our world are achievable.
1 Andrew J. Bacevich, Washington Rules, p. 178.
2 Shannon D. Beebe and Mary Kaldor, The Ultimate Weapon Is No Weapon: Human Security and the New Rules of War and Peace. New York: PublicAffairs, 2010, p. 79.
3 Ibid., p. 131.
4 Herbert C. Kelman, “Social Psychological Contributions to Peacemaking and Peacebuilding in the Middle East.” In Guenther Baechler, Ed., Promoting Peace: The Role of Civilian Conflict Resolution. Berne: Staempfli, 2002; Vamik D. Volkan et al., The Psychodynamics of International Relationships. Vol. II: Unofficial Diplomacy. Lexington: Lexington Books, 1991.
5 Franco Fornari, The Psychoanalysis of War. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1974, pp. xvi, 12.
6 James F. Masterson, The Personality Disorders Through the Lens of Attachment Theory and the Neurobiologic Development of the Self. Phoenix: Zeig, Tucker & Theisen, 2006.
7 Doris Bryant et al., The Family Inside: Working with the Multiple. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1992, p. 195.
8 Nigel C. Hunt, Memory, War and Trauma. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010, pp. 114-126.
9 Aniel J. Christie et al., Peace, Conflict, and Violence: Peace Psychology for the 21st Century. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2001.
10 Graham Allison, Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe. New York: Times Books, 2004.
11 Nicholas D. Kristof, “A Nuclear 9/11.” The New York Times, March 10, 2004, p. A27.
12 Jonathan Schell, The Unconquerable World. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2003, p. 313.
13 Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival, p. 219; Graham Allison, Nuclear Terrorism, p. 147.
14 Jonathan Schell, The Fate of the Earth and The Abolition. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000, p. 148.
15 Graham Allison, Nuclear Terrorism, p. 1.
16 Curt Weldon, Countdown to Terror. Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2005, p. 9.
17 Brian Michael Jenkins, Will Terrorists Go Nuclear? Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2008, p. 30.
18 Tad Daley, Apocalypse Never: Forging the Path to a Nuclear Weapon-Free World. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2010, p. 235.
19 Nancy Hartevelt Kobrin, The Banality of Suicide Terrorism. Washington: Potomac Books, 2010.
20 “A Secret Assault on Terror Widens on Two Continents,” The New York Times, 8/15/10, pp. 1, 10, 11.
21 Tom Engelhardt, The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2010.
22 Stephen D. Fabick, “Us & Them: Reducing the Risk of Terrorism.” In Chris E. Stout, Ed., Psychology of Terrorism, Condensed Edition: Coping with the Continuing Threat. Westport: Praeger, 2004, pp. 105-114. Mark Perry, Talking to Terrorists: Why America Must Engage With Its Enemies. New York: Basic Books, 2010, p. 117.
23 Howard Zinn, A Power Governments Cannot Suppress. San Francisco: City Light Books, 2007, p. 93.
24 NBC, “Evening News,” July 17, 2007.
25 Ifat Maoz, “Dialogue and Social Justice in 47 Workshops of Jews and Arabs in Israel.” In Mari Fitzduff and Chris E. Stout, Eds., The Psychology of Resolving Global Conflicts: From War to Peace. Vol. 2: Group and Social Factors. Westport: Praeger Security International, 2006, pp. 139-146.
26 Joan Lachkar, How to Talk to a Borderline. New York: Routledge, 2010; Joan Lachkar, “The Psychological Make-up of a Suicide Bomber.” The Journal of Psychohistory 29(2002): 349-367; Joan Lachkar, “Terrorism and the Borderline Personality.” The Journal of Psychohistory 33(2006): 311-324; Joan Lachkar, “The Psychopathology of Terrorism: A Cultural V-Spot.” The Journal of Psychohistory 34(2006): 111-128.
27 Geoffrey Wawro, Quicksand: America’s Pursuit of Power in the Middle East. New York: Penguin Press,2010, p. 462
28 Shannon D. Beebe and Mary Kaldor, The Ultimate Weapon Is No Weapon, p. 91.
29 James Gilligan, Preventing Violence (Prospects for Tomorrow). London: Thames & Hudson, 2001
30 Andrew J. Bacevich, Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War, pp. 229-237
"Using her own childhood experiences with an abusive father and mother and analyzing her own struggle to overcome the trauma, [Kobrin] not only sees terrorists as dysfunctional individuals who are caught in a culture that exacerbates rather than ameliorates the pain and provides an ideological cover for the public projection of their rage, frustration and shame. As a psychohistorian, she discusses the organic trajectory of incomplete and distorted personality development: frightened, raging mother who seeks to draw from her male child the strength she does not have but in the process aborts full nerve reticulation and hormonal connectivities, leading to great deficits in the imagination, capacity to articulate in words and rational thoughts what then can only be expressed unconsciously in violent actions."
The Psychopathology and Profiles of Terrorism: A Cultural V-Spot by Joan Lachkar
. . . . A common concern addressing the mental status of terrorists is that they are often highly skilled and educated men. Why then would intelligent, brilliant individuals do such apparently brainless things? This brings us to the discussion of what happens to the ego when it becomes overwhelmed and thus why bright people seem to do or say "stupid things."
The borderline is the person dominated by shame/blame defenses, persecutory and abandonment anxieties, and such primitive defenses as splitting, projection, projective identification, omnipotent denial and magical thinking. Borderline patients often form parasitic bonds to maintain a semblance of relatedness (addictions, abusive relations, suicidal threats, and psychosomatic illness). Because borderlines do not have much of a sense of self, they tend to fuse, collude or go along with their objects. "I'll do anything, just don't leave me!"
Unlike the narcissist, the borderline does not feel entitled, is continually questioning his/her identity, and will do almost anything to prove they exist. The bonding with a painful object often becomes the replacement for an intimate attachment to offset internal deadness. "When I mutilate myself, it hurts, but at least I know I'm alive." For a short while, the borderline will comply, but when threatened or betrayed will suddenly lash out with retaliatory responses (Lachkar, 1992, 1998), and will spend the rest of his or her life getting even with those who have betrayed or abandoned them (in a real or imagined way). As a consequence, the borderline personality has poor impulse control, poor reality testing, impaired judgment, and cannot learn from experience. Borderlines frequently perpetuate the cycle by repeating the same traumatic experience.
THE EGO AND ITS DYSFUNCTIONALITY
Where Inshallah was, ego shall be!
This leads me to a brief discussion of the ego and the role it plays in primitive defenses. When these defenses are operative, the first thing that has to go, it seems, is the ego. Yes, the ego—and with it the capacity to think rationally. The self goes into total fragmentation or "ego default." In trying to understand the mental status of a terrorist, it is now clear that many of them are highly skilled and educated men. But why then would intelligent, highly skilled brilliant men do such apparently brainless things . . . ? Although most clinicians know what the ego is in general terms, it remains a slippery concept. Even well-seasoned mental health professionals lose sight of the importance of the ego's function and of what happens to the power of reasoning when the self lacks the resiliency necessary for processing the data of experience. In short, the Ich or moi is the seat of consciousness, the superior agent responsible for memory, perception, and judgment, reality testing and thinking. In fact, it is the mediating agent that provides entrée to the unconscious. If mediation doesn't happen or fails to happen, then rational thinking goes down the drain, then what? Inshallah. Morrack (2002) refers to the term "the quadrophobic syndrome" (p. 2), as the failure to see that which does not exist.  In the Muslim world this is known as "Inshallah”—“the Will of Allah!"
. . . . The concept of ego-splitting (Klein, 1934), is very well developed in the psychoanalytic literature, whereby one sees things as either all good or all bad. This recalls the terrorist who views the world as either all good or all evil. Allah is good and United States is all bad—the embodiment of Satan and evil. Another salient feature is envy—the desire to destroy that which is most desired or enviable (referred to by Klein as "primitive envy").
PSYCHODYNAMICS AND QUALITATIVE DIFFERENCES
Many researchers have made reference to Middle Eastern and Asian societies as shame cultures (Berton, Lachkar, 1997), as opposed to, say, Germany or France as guilt cultures. These differences are important. But are they natural phenomena or historically-developed and socially-constructed categories? Do differences like these have moral labels attached to them?
In analyzing group-fantasies around acts of terrorism, I am particularly impressed with Robins and Post. In Political Paranoia (1998) they view terrorist acts as perverse ways of connecting to the world. The co-authors maintain that innocent people are fueled by paranoid delusional leaders who latch onto a fragmentary piece of reality to justify their causes—e.g., the enviable or "evil" Westerner. By definition, paranoids have enemies; they do not merely have rivals or adversaries. Enemies are not to be defeated or compromised, but they are to be destroyed. People who are paranoid tend to project their hatred and hostility onto others, and they believe their hallucinations or lies are the truth. Leaders like Hussein, Arafat, Milosevic or Bin Laden, under the guise of religion or nationalist ideology—“the good cause”—act out their most heinous crimes. Thus their grandiose schemes and omnipotent fantasies find a way to project terror into their objects (us). We become paralyzed: not just fearful, but terrorized. After studying such tyrannical leaders such as H*tler, Stalin or Ayatollah Khomeini, researchers have found that projection and paranoia are common denominators. If these madmen are projecting, what is it they are projecting? Shame? Guilt? Envy? Envy and omnipotence are the most salient features, as they create their own magical world, flying high on the wings of some ideal, like Nietzsche's Übermensch or Marx's Proletarian Paradise or Allah's Virginal Heaven.
Since many Arab leaders are a product of very traumatic childhoods with severe deprivation, it is likely that they defend against shame by projecting their shameful "dirty" immoral or "bad boy" parts into their external objects to rid themselves of their internal "badness." In order to accomplish their mission they have to invent or create imaginary enemies to persecute and oppress.
Another dominant feature is shame. Shame is the preoccupation with what others think and has to do with conformity. Those who fail to comply with the groups' ideologies are ousted from the group as "infidels." Shame is persecutory in nature and is associated with isolation and fear of annihilation by the group.
Peter Loewenberg (1987) displays the understanding of group projection in his article, "The Kristallnacht as a Public Degradation in Ritual." He illustrates how the Nazis had to evacuate (defecate) onto the Jews their own dirty parts, making the Jews filthy, infectious, parasites to rid themselves of their bad internal introjects and claiming that Jews were ruining German purity. They were the perfect embodiment of all that went "wrong" in Germany. They were decadent, old, arrogant, and exuded an aura of superiority. The Nazis found them to be the perfect target for their own projected imperfect parts. The same paranoid strain may be applied to the enemies of Islam: the infidels are viewed as dangerous invaders into Arab maternal harmony (the ummah) and anyone who intrudes into this space will pollute, infect and contaminate them. He discussed how Germans tried to prove their superiority by projecting their own depreciated and unwanted "dirty" or anal parts of themselves onto the Jews, treating them as contaminants. Loewnberg attributes the transformation of the cultured intellectual Jews into a "fecal triumphant orgy" (Lachkar 2008b).
This essay supports the position that both parents are responsible for the child's development and ego or self identity. It also holds that the Oedipus complex is universal, and that all children go through similar states of development as described by Western psychologists. Ideally, the mother provides the nurturing and protective capacity while the father helps the child separate and individuate. In the Winnicottian sense, it is the father who provides the "holding environment" and the "transitional space" to help wean the child away from mother to the outer world (Winnicott, 1965). But if the father is emotionally absent, or if the holding environment is damaged or defective, the child's momentum to drive forward during crucial phases of the separation process becomes thwarted.
According to deMause, the roots of terrorism are inextricably linked to childrearing practices, and are a result of an abundance of screaming, neglected, abandoned orphans. He offers a chilling account of life in Islamic fundamentalist societies filled with violence, cruelty, and routine sexual exploitation of children. These are familiar themes in countries that do not stress the importance of healthy child development.
In addition, the proclivity toward borderline organization is greatly increased. It is noteworthy that children raised in neglectful, abusive, traumatic environments grow up with defective bonding relations and stay forever connected to the "Mother of all Pains", forming relational bonds that are destructive and painful (traumatic bonding). This takes us to the heart of the matter. As horrific as the pain is, it is preferable to a black hole (Grotstein, 1990). The emptiness is often experienced by the borderline as a black hole, the epicenter of the conflict—anything that gives them some semblance of belonging is preferable. "At least I know I am alive. I feel excited. I have meaning and purpose to my life. Better to be an addict, a killer, a rapist, a terrorist, than to vanish into the abyss!"
. . . . Allah tends to become the symbolic father surrogate who fills the void/black hole and becomes the replacement for [the biological father].
1 This is also one of the classic definitions of superstition: the ability to feel as though one had experienced or is present in a place or time where historically (or logically) it would be impossible to be
Joan Lachkar and Nancy Kobrin believe that terrorists are borderline personalities, "walking time bombs" from continuous child abuse, with absent fathers, "forever connecting to their 'mother of pain' ", forming relational bonds that are destructive and painful (traumatic bonding). "As horrific as the emotional pain is, it is preferable to a black hole." They say, "At least I know that I am alive. I feel excited. I have meaning and purpose to my life . . .”  Lachkar concludes that Islamic cultures, like borderlines, "are dominated by shame/blame defenses, have defective bonding and dependency needs, are extremely envious, and will retaliate at any cost. They are lacking in impulse control, have poor reality testing, and... suffer from profound fears of abandonment and annihilation, as well as persecutory anxieties.”  Their relationship with their loveless mothers are repeated in their fantasies about Allah: "If I pray five times a day, kill myself, sacrifice my needs/desires, I will be loved by Allah."
. . . . Even the terrorist's choice of exploding themselves has childhood roots, since they restage the explosive sexual assaults they experienced when being raped as children. As one psychiatrist who interviewed many terrorists reported:
We have to study their fantasies to understand these men. The sexual importance is sometimes striking. For some, when a bomb goes off, it is like an orgasm... One fellow told me he felt "liberated" every time he heard a bomb explode. Some others told me they would place a bomb, then sit out on a balcony and listen. When the "boom" came, it was a great relief.
What happens neurobiologically during early child abuse is that the child's pain and fears are implanted in a disassociated state in amygdalan fear networks in their brain. Later in life they hear the voices of their Punishing Parents every time they try to individuate, to experience their own needs and develop their own selves, every time they do something (that would merit or have merited punishment either in childhood or because of the rules of fundamentalist Islam)—(in other words) all forbidden activities. [Later in life they hear the voices of their Punishing Parents every time they try to individuate, to experience their own needs and develop their own selves, every time they do something the parent was (also) punished for as a child and/or punished their own child (for) or unconsciously internalized as meriting punishment — all forbidden activities.]  A child being sexually abused can only conclude that they are "bad" inside—indeed, they are told all the time their own sexual needs are "bad”—and so, what they do is fuse with their Punishing Parents in their own heads (experienced as God) and find others to victimize, to kill . . . .
That abusive childrearing practices have a profound effect on producing suicide terrorists is certain. But in addition the overt violence experienced by children living in a war zone or in depriving refugee camps simply adds to the traumatic distress of their childhoods . . . .
There [are different] kinds of support for parents that have become very successful in vastly reducing child abuse when implemented in American cities. All of these have been regularly reported on in The Journal of Psychohistory. [One] is Robert McFarlane's . . . Community Parenting Center in Boulder, Colorado. Their mission is to "relieve the isolation, reduce the stress of parenting and prevent child abuse and neglect by providing outreach and a place where families can receive support, education and develop a sense of community.”  The Center provides lectures for parents by other parents, play groups for children with puppet shows demonstrating parent-child interactions, postpartum depression assistance, support groups that help with coping with behavioral problems without hitting the child, help for unmarried mothers and immigrants, talks on setting limits for toddlers, and even the free home visits to new mothers by volunteers who give pediatric and psychological help. The Parenting Center is free to all who want to use its resources, and is quite inexpensive to run, especially since it has been shown that for every dollar invested in better parenting by the Center the state saves perhaps a hundred dollars in later costs of social services, hospital costs, and jails. The same welcome results have been shown by centers in other states, such as the Parent Child Center Network in Vermont and the Hawaii Healthy Start Program.
1 Joan Lachkar, "The Psychological Makeup of a Suicide Bomber," The Journal of Psychohistory 29 (2002): 349 – 367; Nancy Kobrin and Yoram Schweitzer, "The Sheik's New Clothes: The Psychoanalytic Roots of Islamic Suicide Terrorism. Forthcoming.
2 Ibid., p. 352.
3 Lloyd deMause, The Emotional Life of Nations. pp. 383 – 4.
4 Robert B. McFarland, "Creating a Community Parenting Center." The Journal of Psychohistory 32(2005): 326.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were refugees from brutal Chechen conflict
With their baseball hats and sauntering gaits, they appeared to friends and neighbors like ordinary American boys. But the Boston bombing suspects were refugees from another world — the blood, rubble and dirty wars of the Russian Caucasus.
The brothers who are alleged to have planted bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday reached the United States in 2002 after their ethnic Chechen family fled the Caucasus. They had been living in the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan and were prevented from resettling in war-racked Chechnya.
In speaking about his boxing career in 2009, Tamerlan told a photographer that in the absence of an independent Chechnya he would rather compete for the United States than for Russia, a hint that past troubles were not forgotten.
Speaking to journalists in Dagestan on Friday, the brothers’ father, Anzor Tsarnaev, said his sons never had any interest in weapons. “I believe my children were set up,” he said.
Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen leader, said in a statement that attempts “to draw a parallel between Chechnya and the Tsarnaevs, if they are guilty, are futile. They grew up in the U.S., and their views and beliefs were formed there. The roots of the evil should be looked for in America.”
When the brothers were young, the family lived in Kyrgyzstan, a former republic of the Soviet Union in Central Asia, home to a small Chechen diaspora. Dzhokhar, the younger brother, was reportedly born there, although his older brother was born in Russia, according to some news reports.
The family lived in Tokmok, a town of about 55,000 people in northern Kyrgyzstan, near the border with Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz National State Security Committee said in a statement Friday. Kyrgyz officials said the family left the country about  years ago for Dagestan, and after a year there immigrated to the United States.