How To Produce Suicide Bombers, and How To Cease Production

Professor Robert Pape is a social scientist at the University of Chicago and has been analyzing the motivations of people (generally people on the “other side”) for a few decades. He avoids falling into the trap of stereotypes, avoiding taboo, and saying things that people like to hear. Rather than relying on quotes from holy books, political speeches or other fuzzy sources to understand why things happen, he’s collected hard data on some two thousand terrorist attacks and attempted to understand it from that perspective.

He’s instructed Air Force Officers at the School of Advanced Airpower Studies, he’s provided intelligence to various Federal Intelligence agencies that they did not previously have, and he runs the Project on Security and Terrorism, including its publicly accessible database of terrorist attacks.

Below is the video of a presentation he gave at Duke University a few months ago – it is fascinating stuff, and the conclusions are far from what you would expect. His theory offers a model that includes predictability, meaning that as we watch future current events we should be able to test his theory by applying the model and using it to predict if large numbers of suicide bombers will or will not be produced by a conflict.

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

How To Produce Suicide Bombers, and How To Cease Production

Comic-o-Matic – Easily Generate Quick 3-panel Comics

UPDATE: I made a website to support and encourage the use of Comic-O-Matic. Check it out, and participate!

Original Post Follows:

Nina Paley is the amazing artist behind the film Sita Sings the Blues that you are encouraged to watch or download for free. Pairing some of her artwork with some clever coding by Margo Burns, and we have the Comic-O-Matic, a phenomenally easy to use toy (or tool, depending on your perspective) that allows for the quick and easy generation of 3-panel 2-character comics.

Here is my first comic created using the Comic-O-Matic, a very simple response to the recent idiotic rioting in the otherwise fine and proud city of Vancouver.

(Click for full size)
Cat says with sad face: Boston won! This is Bullshit! Alien says with stubborn face: Ya, it kind of sucks. So close. =( Cat says with sneaky happy face: What can we do about it? Alien says with happy cheerful face: Lets destroy Boston! That'll show those yank fuckers. Cat says with eyebrow raised: Dude, I don't have that kind of gas money. Alien says with crazy eyes and a smile: Fine, Vancouver it is!

I do hope those injured recover fully, and that the criminals are captured and see justice.

That is both a plug for an artist I enjoy, and all I have to say about the tragic events in Vancouver last night.

Comic-o-Matic – Easily Generate Quick 3-panel Comics

An Offer and Invitation From Libyan Rebellion

EDIT on April 2: April Fools 🙂

I made this ridiculous image to go with the prank, but decided not to use it yesterday because it would have introduced a plot hole into my elaborate scheme.

Me, sitting on a bench. Baseball cap backwards, aviators on, smoking a cigarette. I have an M-14 rifle in my hands, and am wearing a bou-bou over camouflage and a rambo-style bandoleer. I look completely ridiculous.

Original post continues…

April 1, 2011

Apparently, some of the right people have been reading my blog. Three days ago, I got an e-mail from Khalifa Hifter who took command of the Rebel Army in Libya last week. Hifter was a senior military officer in the Libyan Army under Gaddafi and led Libyan forces against Chad in the war they fought in the 1980s.

He agreed with most of my assessments of the problems facing Rebel forces, and with most of my solutions. Our back-and-forth discussion since that first e-mail from him is the reason I haven’t blogged in a few days. My blog is about a month old, and I appreciate the support that you folks have given me, but I may continue to be missing from the blogosphere for some time. Noting both the content of this blog and my experience as a Sergeant of Marines, Hifter has invited me to join his staff as a junior advisor, with the task of helping to forge a corps of non-commissioned officers among the Rebels, and as an advisor on how to maintain positive American public opinion towards the Rebellion. Given how well educated many of the Libyan rebels are, I do not think the language barrier will be insurmountable.

A ticket has been purchased for me, from San Francisco to Rome, departing this Monday. I believe I will be met there and given enough money to make my way to southern Italy and then to Benghazi – I’ll be taking the same route using the same methods that Libyan illegal immigrants use to get to Italy, except in reverse. Wish me luck, and thank you again for your support since I started this blog. Without that support, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity to make a real difference in the world.

An Offer and Invitation From Libyan Rebellion

Rebels Approaching Hometown of Gaddafi

In recent days, with the assistance of NATO and Arab League air-strikes, Rebel forces have regained momentum and now control more ground than prior to the implementation of the No-Fly Zone. Specifically, Brega, Ras Lanuf, and Bin Jawad have been re-captured by the Rebels in recent days.

Click for full size and best resolution available.
2011 Libyan Civil War as of March 27. From west to east, along the Mediterranean coast: Government forces control all cities up until Misrata, which is under siege by Government forces. Moving east, Sirt is in Government hands. Everything east of Sirt is in Rebel hands.

I still believe this would have been entirely possible without the No Fly Zone as it was implemented, but I suppose we will have to accept it as history and hope for the best moving forward.

You will note that if the Rebels continue to advance, the next city along the coastal highway is Sirt (also spelled Srit and Sirte – same city, different Arabic transliteration). This is the birthplace of Gaddafi, and Gaddafi has treated his former hometown quite well. Because of this, I believe the citizens of that particular city will, for the most part, prove very loyal to Gaddafi. Combine that with the lack of control Rebel commanders have over their troops, and the general lack of discipline in the Rebel army, and you potentially have the recipe for war-crimes by Rebel forces against the citizens of Sirt. Instead of a “Liberation” of Sirt, we may instead see something that more closely resembles a sack of the city and purging of its populace. As before, this is one of those things I hope I am wrong about. This situation wouldn’t exist if Rebel commanders had managed to create an atmosphere of discipline and obedience among Rebel troops, but that didn’t happen.

The best hope we can have to prevent such inhumanity towards man is for journalists to risk their lives and be there with the Rebels as they advance into the city. People are less likely to commit such crimes if there is a camera looking over their shoulder.

Another concern is this, a BM-21 Multiple Rocket Launcher, and things like it which are now in Rebel hands. Note the Pre-Gaddafi Flag of Libya and the “17” on the door, indicating February 17.

Image of a BM-21 Multiple Rocket Launcher flying a Pre-Gaddafi flag and with the number 17 written on the driver-side door. It looks like a large truck, but in the back are 4 rows of 10 9-foot tubes mounted at an angle.

(Image Credit: Al Jazeera)

If the people of Sirt do indeed prove loyal to Gaddafi, and attempt to defend their city by force, the Rebels will likely be using these indirect fire weapons on the city. These are not accurate precision weapons, they are area weapons. Ideally, that “area” would be an enemy troop concentration, were indiscriminate fire doesn’t kill any innocents. If that area is Sirt, however, then innocents will unfortunately die. Weapons systems like this do have sighting systems, and trained troops can indeed deliver fairly precise fire with them – possibly reducing the impact area to the size of a city block. It is unknown if indirect fire weapons such as this have been placed in the hands of Libyan Army veterans who have had that training; It is more likely that many are in the hands of untrained Rebels that are eager to use a new toy. These weapons will be fired, and the rockets or shells will land wherever they please – troop positions, schools, marketplaces, apartment buildings, etc.

Indiscriminate shelling will not encourage Sirt to capitulate the way a few bombs or shells landing in Paris has historically forced the surrender of all of France. In the case of Sirt, it will harden the population, and plant seeds of hate that may fester for some time to come. If anyone participating in the armed Rebellion is reading this, please heed my advice and either use your indirect fire weapons as direct fire weapons or do not use them at all. That means bringing the weapon system close enough to point the system directly at the target and fire, instead of lobbing shells and rockets up into the air and hoping they don’t land on a family home.

Here, I used my artistic skills to generate this beautiful diagram. Click for higher resolution.
Very crappy drawing depicting a weapon being fired into the air from 10km away contrasted with that same weapon being fired directly at the target from 300 meters away. The 300 meter option is noted as being less likely to miss and will kill fewer innocent people.

Rebels Approaching Hometown of Gaddafi

No Fly Zone, One Week Later

It’s been about a week since NATO implemented a no-fly zone over Libya, with the approval of the UN security council and at the request of the Arab League.

The boy below has pointed out an error of mine. I’ve been spelling the city Misrata, he seems to be indicating that it is spelled Musrata in English. Very well, young man, correction noted and thank you.

Pre-teenage boy holding sign in red that reads Musrata. Behind him, another boy holds a mocking cartoon of Gaddafi.
(Image Credit: Al Jazeera Live)

Another interesting image I’ve come across is this, a Marine Harrier “jump-jet” landing vertically on the USS Kearsarge as it returns from strikes on Libyan Government forces outside of Musrata. This isn’t from the next Transformers movie, I promise you. Click for full size and resolution.

Night vision image of a harrier lowering vertically towards a barely visible flight deck. The flames from the jet engine can be seen pointing down towards the flight deck.
(Image Credit: Al Jazeera Live)

This is that warship, the USS Kearsarge, off the coast of Libya during the day. The ship is nearly identical to its sister ship, the USS Essex, who’s capabilities I described last week.

USS Kearsarge at sea during the day. Flight deck is quite prominent, and harriers are visible on it.
(Image Credit: Al Jazeera Live)

Well, that is enough hardware talk. Wikipedia has extensive documentation of the various assets at work.


It has been about a month since resistance began in Musrata. Government troops laid siege to it after finishing their conquest of Zawiya, and Musrata has been the most brutal operation conducted by Gaddafi’s forces yet. Features of this siege have included systematic leveling of buildings and rampant killing of civilians. As a result of NATO strikes over the last few days, the Siege of Musrata has effectively ended.

The killing, however, has not. NATO aircraft can locate and destroy combat vehicles of Gaddafi’s Army, but individual government marksman cannot be located from the air. By stating that the siege has ended, I am conveying that earnest efforts to capture the city have ended for the moment. Gaddafi’s troops are reported to be killing unarmed people indiscriminately, and people are not being allowed to leave the city. The primary hospital of Musrata has Government marksman on the rooftop, shooting injured people as they approach. For obvious reasons, there isn’t much that NATO Aircraft can do about this – heavy machine gun bullets from aircraft will penetrate the roof of the building, and likely kill or injure people within the hospital.

No Fly Zone, One Week Later

Gaddafi Forgot The Human Shields

From the BBC,

[Gaddafi’s] State television showed some of the bodies, all, apparently, of men, but did not say whether they were civilian or military.

It also showed some of the wounded in hospital – again, all men. One of them expressed his support for the Libyan leader.

Gaddafi’s TV channel would have better served Gaddafi by showing women and children injured by explosions and shrapnel. So why didn’t he show them?

Because they don’t exist, or they exist in very small numbers. Blatant use of human shields would destroy what support Gaddafi has left in Tripoli. There are, no doubt, masses of injured women and children in Tripoli hospitals – but all showing bullet wounds. People in Tripoli injured by bullet wounds, officially, don’t exist. They also cannot be made to look like victims of NATO Airstrikes.

What types of areas are likely only to have only men present, and no women or children? Not Mosques. Not the marketplace. Not the Schools. If you guessed troops and military installations, you would be correct.

Anti Aircraft gun in Tripoli, last night:
Troops manning an anti-aircraft gun in the middle of the night.
(Image Credit: Al Jazeera)

Though the men pictured are legitimate military targets, there is no reason to assume that these individual government troops are bad people. If ordered to force women and children to remain in the vicinity, they may just refuse. Scores of Libyan government soldiers have already been executed for refusing similar orders, and the risk Gaddafi assumes by widespread use of blatant human shields is that Gaddafi may have to execute more troops that are trained in operating AA guns and surface to air missile systems. Clearly, he needs to be more subtle.

Just today, however, one of Gaddafi’s residences was destroyed by NATO attacks. Unfortunately, Gaddafi may have realized his error and populated his various residences and publicly known command and control centers with women and children under the auspices of a “gift to his loyal people” or with offers of “protection & a hot meal”. Gaddafi, of course, isn’t home – he’s in a bunker. Gaddafi now has, however, some women and children with shrapnel and explosion wounds to show to the cameras.

That being said, I hope my analysis and conjecture are both wrong.

Gaddafi Forgot The Human Shields

“Operation Odyssey Dawn” Commences

In the aftermath of the UN Security Council resolution a few days ago, NATO begans strikes against the regime of Gaddafi in Tripoli.

First, the pretty map that folks seem to like. I got this one from a screenshot of a Pentagon press release, showing the 20 targets that 112 British and US Tomahawk Cruise Missiles targeted. That is the highest quality of that image that I’ve been able to find, and I haven’t modified the red dots indicating cruise missile strikes.

Click for full size and best resolution available.
Map Labeled 2011 Libyan Civial War, as of the commencement of Operation Odyssey Dawn, March 19, 2011. Blurry embedded map from Pentagon labeled Coalation First Strikes. Red Dots indicated to indicate targets of cruise missile strikes. From West to East along the northern coast of Libya: Zawiya has one dot; Tripoli has many; Misrata has many and it is indicated that the city center is still in rebellion; Srit has one dot; Ajdabiya indicated to be in Government hands with Government forces from Benghazi retreating towards it; Benghazi still in Rebel hands. In Sicily, US Naval Air Station Singonella is marked and indicated as having coalition jets from Denmark, Italy, Canada, and the US. In the Sea, Coalition Fleet is indicated to have warships from US, UK, and France.

March 18, 2011

MIG-23 fighter jet, in flames, spiraling towards the ground.

When the UN Resolution was not immediately followed by air strikes, Gaddafi made a last ditch bid to end the Rebellion. Government forces bypassing Ajdabiya immediately assaulted Benghazi, the heart of the rebellion. The Rebels defeated the attacking force, capturing several tanks and at least one surface to air missile system. Unfortunately the rebels also shot down their own MIG-23 by mistake. The victory demonstrates that Rebel forces are determined and capable, but the friendly fire incident demonstrates that Rebel forces are still having problems with command and control. As I predicted, the outskirts of Benghazi suffered significant damage to civilian buildings.

While the Rebels finished pushing Government forces out of the city, a dozen or two French aircraft flew over Benghazi, destroying four Government tanks. It is very doubtful that any Rebel aircraft have synced friend-or-foe systems with NATO, meaning that it is quite possible that Rebel aircraft will be mis-identified as Government aircraft and future friendly fire incidents will occur.

March 19, 2011

Early in the day, the French Air Force began the NATO assault with the destruction of targets in the southwest of Tripoli. This was symbolic, sending a message that Operation Odyssey Dawn was not just an Anglo-American operation.

Once that symbolic message was sent, the British and American Navies commenced operations in earnest with 112 Cruise Missiles being launched at 20 targets in Western Libya as indicated on the map above. The targets are said to have been focused on coastal radar defense systems. The night and early morning will be spent assessing damage done to Libyan air defense assets – coalition aircraft in the night will simply fly overhead and see if any surface to air missiles attempt to lock onto them. There is no estimate of civilian casualties as of yet.

Meanwhile, celebrations continued in Benghazi.
T-72 tank driving down the street in Benghazi, Rebels riding on top waving the pre-Gaddafi flag of Libya
(Image Credit: Al Jazeera)

The United Arab Emirates will be contributing two dozen jets to the mission, and Qatar a half dozen jets. That represents about 1/3 of the total Qatar Air Force.

The African Union has called for an immediate halt to NATO attacks on Libyan government forces, Russia has offered criticism as well.

More Information

The BBC has a good article on the aircraft currently involved. When you see the armaments of aircraft, you will see mention of two air-to-air missiles. The AIM-9 Sidewinder has a range of 10 miles, the AIM-120 AMRAAM has a range of 30 miles. Not all involved aircraft have the AIM-120, a hint that its air superiority capabilities are limited. Bothering to put cannons on a modern jet indicates that the aircraft was designed with air-to-ground in mind.

Al Jazeera has a good article outlining common limits and problems with no-fly zones.

Al Jazeera has more reporters on the ground than anyone else. Here is their constantly updated blog of tonight.

“Operation Odyssey Dawn” Commences