During the horrifying siege of the Taj Mahal Hotel, the Islamic terrorists sexually humiliated and mutilated the guests before shooting them dead. Why? Frontpage has assembled a distinguished panel to discuss this question with us today. Our guests are:
Dr. Joanie Lachkar, a licensed Marriage and Family therapist in private practice in Brentwood and Tarzana, California, who teaches psychoanalysis and is the author of How to Talk to a Narcissist (2007), The Many Faces of Abuse: Treating the Emotional Abuse of High -Functioning Women (1998), and The Narcissistic/Borderline Couple: A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Marital Treatment (1992). Dr. Lachkar speaks nationally and recently presented, "The Psychopathology of Terrorism" at the International Psychohistorical Association. She is an affiliate member of the Southern California Psychoanalytic Institute, an adjunct professor at Mount Saint Mary's College, a psychohistorian, and is on the editorial board of the Journal of Emotional Abuse.
Dr. David Gutmann, emeritus professor of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago.
Dr. Phyllis Chesler, an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at City University of New York , a psychotherapist, and the author of thirteen books including, Women and Madness, The New Anti-Semitism, and The Death of Feminism in which she describes how Islamic gender apartheid has been penetrating the West. She has written about her captivity in Afghanistan for Frontpage Magazine. She has a blogsite and may be reached through her website: phyllis-chesler.com.
Dr. Nancy Kobrin, a psycho-analyst, Arabist, and counter-terrorism expert.
FP: Dr. Joanie Lachkar, Dr. David Gutmann, Dr. Phyllis Chesler and Dr. Nancy Kobrin, welcome to Frontpage Symposium.
Dr. Gutmann, let’s begin with you.
How do you see this sexual humiliation and mutilation that the Islamic terrorists perpetrated at Mumbai? This is a repetitive pattern when it comes to Islamic violence against infidels. How does one interpret this pathology?
Gutmann: The torture, mutilation and murders documented recently in Mumbai are certainly not limited to Kashmiri Jihadists. During the Israeli War of Independence Jewish fighters, including female soldiers captured by Arab irregulars, were routinely tortured and mutilated in the most obscene ways (by contrast, water-boarding would have furnished a pleasant interlude), and IDF officers warned their troops against being taken alive.
I cannot know what passions motivated the Mumbai torturers, but given that they are Islamists, and given that their savage practices matched those of the Palestinian Muslim guerrillas, we may assume that they shared the Palestinian’s sadism, as well as the psychology underlying that perversion.
The Palestinians, along with the majority of Arab males, belong to what has been called a “Shame” culture, in that they are quick to feel humiliated, and equally quick to defend against the sense of insult - usually by gross denial of their shameful condition, by projection of the humiliated condition onto others, or by massive retaliation against the insulting party. Thus, the Palestinians, who ran away from inferior Jewish forces during the Independence War, and who have never recovered from the shame of that self-imposed defeat, have vigorously exercised all of these contra-humiliation tactics: By claiming that they were forced out of their homes by superior Jewish forces, they deny that they ran away; by mutilating the bodies of their Jewish captives, the Palestinians metaphorically rob them of their manhood; and by launching suicide attacks against Jews they retaliate massively against the Israeli conqueror.
The Koran does not call for the torture and mutilation of captives, and so Islam per se cannot be held directly responsible for the Mumbai horrors; but Islam does sponsor, more than any other religion, the Shame cultures which in their turn sanction these terrible rituals. Again, I am assuming that, like the Palestinians, the Mumbai Jihadists are members of a shame culture, and that we can understand their actions from that perspective.
Psychologically speaking, torture and mutilation followed by murder as practiced most recently in Mumbai are the most complex of the shame-dispelling procedures, in that they expunge shame at the cost of incurring guilt: Even the most hardened terrorist will likely feel some qualms of guilt as he mutilates the body of a still living young woman. But for the members of a Shame culture, the feeling of humiliation is the most traumatic, and heavy prices are willingly paid to be rid of it. The aim of torture is to reveal the cowardice and femininity of the foe, and in so doing to export the torturer’s hidden shames onto the enemy, while co-opting his store of courage and hardihood – the masculinity – that he has given up, screamed away, under the knife. The enemy’s terror, castration and invaginated wounds confirm the torturer’s successful projection of his own covert and shameful womanliness and/or homosexuality: “Clearly, he and not me, is actually the woman.” In the murder which – as in Mumbai - follows this projection, the Jihadist kills off the qualities that he despises, now conveniently discovered in the person of the other: “This coward deserves nothing but death.”
Unfortunately, diagnosing the aggravated Shame syndrome will not lead to a cure. The Jihadists, whether in Mumbai or Palestine, can only be killed or jailed.
Chesler: Hello everyone, I am honored to join you.
First, we have no specific details about the torture or sexualized mutilation in Mumbai. The only article that addressed this, but only briefly, is the Mumbai Mirror. The photograph is not clear nor does the reporter, Santosh Mishra, give us any specific data. In the past month, only one Indian doctor was quoted, over and over again, saying that what he saw was "horrifying" and that he's never seen anything like it. For example:
“Doctors working in a hospital where all the bodies, including that of the terrorists, were taken said they had not seen anything like this in their lives.
Asked what was different about the victims of the incident, another doctor said: "It was very strange. I have seen so many dead bodies in my life, and was yet traumatised. A bomb blast victim's body might have been torn apart and could be a very disturbing sight. But the bodies of the victims in this attack bore such signs about the kind of violence of urban warfare that I am still unable to put my thoughts to words," he said.”
The other doctor, who had also conducted the post-mortem of the victims, said: "Of all the bodies, the Israeli victims bore the maximum torture marks. It was clear that they were killed on the 26th itself. It was obvious that they were tied up and tortured before they were killed. It was so bad that I do not want to go over the details even in my head again," he said.”
This refusal, or perhaps inability, (of the physicians, police, counter-terrorism officials, family members--possibly the media), to provide us with full forensic details is understandable but frustrating but it also functions as another kind of terrorism. We are free to imagine "the worst" -- but not based on an actual forensic report with specific details.
I wonder if it is wise to engage in psycho-analytic elaborate deep psycho-analytic depth based on what we know in general about Arab, Muslim, male, and terrorist culture which runs the gamut from how they themselves are reared from infancy coupled with the ways in which sexual repression and indoctrination into terrorism jointly operate in terms of torture.
We have just learned two more things in terms of Mumbai and Al-Qaeda. First, that Jews were the highest-priority target in Mumbai. And, that Al-Qaeda has been using child pornography and pedophile sites to safely communicate with each other.
Therefore, based on this recent and additional information, I agree with Dr. Gutmann that central Asia has become Arabized and "Palestinianized." This means that the tribal/collective mentality which engages in the "unspoken" forms of sexualized child abuse (this includes the anal rape of both male and female children), can and does lead to adult paranoia, imagined "slights," savage scapegoating, the practice of human sacrifice and in the need for perpetual revenge to cleanse the real and imagined "shame."
But, these are behaviors that Arabs and Muslims engage in towards their own families and peoples. We need to understand how such normatively pathological groups then "cleanse" themselves of dishonor differently by attacking infidel groups, especially infidel women.
I think Dr. Gutmann's discussion of the Jew as "woman" is very good as is his understanding that the infidel must first be "feminized," by means of torture in order for the terrorist's shame to be "cleansed." I am sure that Dr. Kobrin will have quite a lot to say about this.
One last point: Some of this terrible behavior is not only confined to the Arabian Peninsula or to modern-era terrorism. I would bet that the Afghans taught Bin Laden a thing or two in Afghanistan. For example: an Afghan acquaintance recently related the following story to me:
Back in the 1940s, a close friend of his father's left Kabul for Kandahar. He set up shop as a mullah. He may have been teaching some local women to read or lending books to those who could already do so. One night, his door flies open, and, without a word, three Pushtun men knife him to death in front of his wife and three children, cut his body up into very small pieces, load them into two burlap bags and disappear into the night. His widow flees with her children and seeks asylum and justice in Kabul. Here is what the chief of police told her: He said that yes, he could send some men. The fighting would be close and fierce, he would have to lose some men in order to capture even one of the three murderers. But, he pointed out, were that to happen, the widow's days would be numbered, as would the days of her three children. They would be dead in days. He advised her to "let it go." And she did.
My point: Tribes are savage and atavistic in how they treat their "own." We need more specific forensic information about the torture and sexual mutilation in Bombay/Mumbai in order to psycho-analyze the tragic crime scene.
Kobrin: I want to thank FrontPage and you, Jamie, for intuitively picking up on the need to discussion the imagery of terrorism via the subject of mutilation. The mass media over-focuses on “the talk” of the terrorists and not their “walk.” The media doesn’t question “how they [perpetrators] perform tasks and take action” (p. 66) to borrow Dan Korem’s analogy (cf. his excellent book The Rage of the Random Actor).
This is not to say that the mass media doesn’t get off on the gruesome imagery – they just don’t bother or attempt to understand its symbolic communication. Perhaps because it is too terrorizing so that the media forms an identification with the aggressor. The media hypes the sadomasochism. Hence the media engages in mass mediated passive terrorism. There must be a way that the media can be held accountable for this. I don’t know but Korem rightly notes that the media acts as an accelerant for the perpetrators. (p. 75)
Yes, it is very frustrating not to have access to the forensics and that is crucial. My hope though is that with this unique symposium those who are working in the forensics of terrorism will be willing to explore this symbolic communication, a kind of pantomime that these terrorists unwittingly reveal to us through this horrific mutilation and the making of body parts. It is the result of a shame honor environment as Phyllis and David rightly note. Troubling too is that there is a Palestinization of violence. The ummah is a fused regressed group which engages in passive terrorism by not setting limits with their terrorists and engage in abusive child-rearing practices. Halim Barakat wrote that the Arab family is a miniature of Arab society.
In shame honor families the symbiotic tie to the mother is suffocating. Sudhir Kakar, a Delhi psychoanalyst, writes about large extended families which remind me of Palestinian families: “. . .the frequent comings and goings of other adults in an extended family can also make children clutch to their own parents, especially the mother with marked intensity as they seek to establish intimacy, enduring and trusting relationship in their inner representational worlds – to establish object constancy. . .” The Color of Violence: Cultural Identities, Religion, and Conflict, p. 93.
Their rage is against their internal mothers, which they project out and into their unwitting victims. The body parts are a symbolic representation of an unintegrated picture of their mothers – part objects of her body left over from very early childhood. They feel persecuted by her because they are not permitted to separate and they are treated as objects by their mothers because of the female’s devalued status. Oddly mutilation is their attempt to seek intimacy.
The mutilation takes us deeper into their internal disturbed lives. To go there we need the brilliant work of Abby Stein, a professor of criminology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who devotes a section of her book Prologue to Violence: Child Abuse, Dissociation and Crime, on the mutilation of objects pgs. 54-55. We can speculate by drawing on FBI profiling for serial killers that they have some kind of a sexual perversion. Mutilation expresses rage that can not be satiated by murder.
You might wonder – well these poor Jewish people did to deserve such a brutal death. Indeed the victims of the Mumbai Massacre did nothing wrong but in the eyes of the terrorists and because it is their projection – “. . ..essentially safe figures [i.e. the victims] can radiate menace while ostensibly posing no real threat to psychic integrity.”
Since Stein says it better than I can, I quote at length and pass the baton on to my esteemed colleagues in this symposium for further comment:
“Guilt forms but, instead of leading to mourning and concern, it leads to an even greater feeling of persecution. As regret grows, the victim seems to be rebuking the criminal, especially the partially perceived eyes that transmit blame and musts be existed. The threatening symbol [i.e. the mother] is concretized so that it seems agentic; only obliteration will suffice. Through mutilation, or other kinds of overkill, any chance that the abuser will revive is eliminated; the imagined persecutor is somehow deader than dead. Mutilation is the ultimate evidence of partialization; the victim is cut up to match the internal picture that the offender has of him: a tongue that scolds, hands that pinion and pilfer, feet that abandon, eyes that see all or naught.” P. 55
Lachkar: I would like to start by asking the panel: why don't terrorists just kill their captives? Why do they need to mutilate or cut off their heads? Most photos were too gruesome for Western broadcast to view, but the Arab world had them displayed throughout.
To expand on Kobrin's theme about symbolic communication, I agree that the rage toward the "internal mother" becomes a symbolic enactment of projected rage via mutilation fantasies .e.g, strewn/severed/mutilated body parts as we just witnessed in Mumbai. I would like to refer to this process as the "unmentalized experience." Terrorists are enacting some kind of unconscious fantasy by translocating their rage, their anger, their shame (Aar), their humiliation, their envy and states of deprivation onto others. According to Melanie Klein, it is an unconscious defense mechanism which allows the "projector" to rid the psyche of its unwanted parts by projecting them externally, hence the "external enemy."
The goal of the projector is to make the "projectee" feel the pain they feel. This is what I have referred to in many of my earlier articles as a collective group unconscious fantasy. In psychoanalytic terms this is known as projective identification, a most useful concept with patients who exhibit primitive defenses, but also helpful in understanding horrific crimes and torturous acts committed on innocent victims by terrorist militant organizations. I believe the answer lies in this concept and is applicable to such groups as Hamas who share similar characteristics. To state this more bluntly: I collectively diagnose them as having a severe malignant borderline personality disorder.
It all comes down to victimization. Using innocent women and children as human shields is a good example. Muslims have learned the art of how to evoke world sympathy. "Look what the bad Americans and Israeli's have done to us. They have destroyed our mosques and schools." The LA Times has even been coerced to referring to them as "Courageous Victims (1/8/08, p1). Al Jazeera uses such phrases as "war crimes" and Palestinian Holocaust." This resorts back to the primitive mind because Arabs have been brainwashed through dogmatic verses paralyzing the capacity to think.
Victimization is the outcome of projective identification that which strips the psyche of all rational thought, the capacity to think, action without critical thinking (Taqlid). "So I will cut off the Rabbi's head so he won't be able think, (the Talmudic mind), and cut off his penis so he won't make more babies (envy as the replacement for thought). "Now you can go to hell and show the devil how you have sinned (Israeli analyst Ronit Brautbar, personal communication). One could say there is a clash of logic, "Inshallah" (the will of Allah), and the other by reason. This can explain why Islam holds a double standard. "You can't make fun of Mohammad but we can make buffoons out of your Rabbis (not only make fun of but mutilate them.)"
According to Klein, all children have murderous and mutilation fantasies, the difference is that as the child evolves the child learns the difference between the fantasy and the act itself. In other words, it is one thing to fantasize about cutting up mother's breast or daddy's penis (as did her children do in play therapy with dolls), but it is another thing to actually do it. I believe O.J. Simpson is a good example of this. I believe this is what is meant by "primitive defenses" or the primitive mind.
This brings our attention to the whole enigma that Islam is allegedly a religion of peace. Why would the terrorists sexually humiliate the guests before killing them? An example of this lies in the concept of peace. Islam has become a political ideology more than a religion. What most people don't realize is that what peace may mean to a Westerner or an Israeli has a different meaning to a Muslim. Peace in the generic terms means "peace." To an Arab it means "honor" (sharaf). Honor means to save face which ultimately leads to revenge and retaliation at any cost.
I completely agree with Guttman's analysis as he associates these savage acts to Palestinian shame and perversion which lurks behind an entire "shame culture," or what Chesler aptly refers to as "cleansing." What I might like to add to the mix is how perversion is inextricably linked to sadism and erotic voyeurism. Robert Stoller (1975) in Hostility of Sex explains how the voyeur derives pleasure through hostility, revenge and being in complete control.
They know how to play the shame/blame game. The Muslim ego never admits to defeat, even if they lose they pretend they won or else blame the Americans or the West. To preserve the group's identity away from shame the preservation of self becomes a more pervasive force than life itself. In sum, terrorism is designed not only to brutalize their victims but also to threaten our freedom, our democracy and our safety. Thus we have beheadings and mutilated genitals.
Gutmann: My co-contributors have added much to our understanding of the motivations driving the Mumbai (and other) Islamic terrorists. But as has been pointed out, there is a limit to what even the most sensitive clinicians can infer from data that lacks forensic detail and personal information.
So I will switch my focus from questions of motive, to questions of prevention.
If, as has been suggested, Islamic terrorism is a product of an Islamic culture devoted to overcoming the sense of humiliation, then how – short of allowing ourselves to be humiliated by the Jihadists – can we Americans, Jews and Europeans of the Democratic West defeat the extremists without adding to the sense of shame that fuelled the sadistic rage of Mumbai?
Not an easy task: the Islamists hoard their shame: they still remember, bitterly, the crusades, and their loss of Spanish Andalucia to the Catholics in the fifteenth century. Nevertheless, the United States has successfully fought and tamed Shame/Honor societies in the past. The Confederacy, the Germans, the Japanese, the Italians, all paradigm Shame/Honor societies, were all overcome in total wars, and all became either part of our nation, or our trusted Democratic allies. And it now begins to appear that Iraq and perhaps Afghanistan will join their company.
There appears to be a uniquely American approach to war – one combining ruthlessness and mercy - that can lead to such unexpectedly good outcomes. Thus, as with the Germans and Japanese in WWII, we first ruthlessly firebombed and A-bombed their cities, destroyed their air forces, sank their fleets, demanded unconditional surrender, and decapitated their wartime leadership. But then, against all precedents, as victors we did not pilfer their industry, turn their men into slaves or their women into whores. Instead, in peace-time we showed a quality of mercy that could not have been predicted from our practice of total war - the mercy that a humiliated enemy would not expect from a triumphant conqueror. Thus, we sponsored the rise of hitherto suppressed moderate leaders, we helped to rebuild the enemy’s shattered cities; and under the Marshall Plan we encouraged their economies to the point where the Germans and Japanese became, for awhile, our major competitors for world markets.
Perhaps, and more important, we may have changed the cultural bases of Japanese and German self-esteem, away from shame-avoidant systems based on autocratic rule over inferiors and women, to a system in which self-esteem is based on tangible accomplishments in the market-place of goods and ideas.
Unfortunately, in bringing about such benign outcomes, total war is as important as mercy and must precede it. The warriors of a Shame/Honor society must be crushed militarily, before they are ready to appreciate, and to respond to, the healing quality of mercy.
Chesler: I love Kobrin's references and how she uses them. I agree with the concept that "mutilation expresses rage that cannot be satiated by murder" and that it renders the "imagined persecutor" as "deader than dead."
I also very much like what Lakhar says, especially that "Arabs have been brainwashed through dogmatic verses paralyzing the capacity to think." I think we all agree that a "shame and honor" culture means that the "shamed" or "humiliated" children (and brainwashed adults) will perpetually be seeking "honor," over and over again. Gutmann is right to want to switch to prevention.
Alas, it is too late to prevent what is already upon the West in Europe. The Intifada of 2000 has gone global in a frightening, almost "sudden" kind of way. From their perches at the universities and the UN, the Muslim mobs have taken to the streets. Gaza is global. The same kind of Muslim mob that accounts for the intimidation and murder of most other Muslims--is now unleashed in Europe and on North American campuses and political demonstrations.
If Europe does not immediately deport the radical mullahs and their faithful followers they really are doomed. And, if North America allows them entry (via sermons on al-Jazeera, satellite television, poisonous academics) then we too will find ourselves increasingly at risk. There are only 5-8 million Muslims in America as compared to 30-50 million Muslims in Europe. Of course, America should remain a safe haven for Muslim and ex-Muslim dissidents, feminists and secularists but I no longer think we can afford to "tolerate" the intolerant, to "negotiate" with the sadistic death-eaters.
The idea that President Obama has already dispatched George Mitchell -- not to solve the crises in Darfur or Congo--but in Gaza -- fills me with sorrow. We now know that no more than 600, mainly Hamas terrorists, died while fighting in Gaza, and that very few civilians died. We also know that Israel kept Gaza supplied with humanitarian aid--something America and our allies did not do during the bombing of Dresden, Berlin, Hiroshima or Nagasaki.
The Dalai Lama recently admitted that "non-violence" against terrorism is useless and will not work because their minds are "closed." One cannot negotiate with closed minds.
I agree with Gutmann in terms of his analogy to how World War Two was won. The de-programming that has to take place cannot even begin until the West has won the day militarily and economically.
Kobrin: I agree with Gutmann in his view wanting to shift us away from mere discussion to that of prevention. Understanding the root causes helps us think more clearly about what needs to be done.
For example, understanding the shame-honor aspect that runs throughout Islamic ideologies and death like fusional imagery dovetailing with tribe and clan cultures, the combination reinforces a concept known in psychoanalytic terms as splitting, i.e. thinking in terms of good and bad, black and white, love and hate thinking -- which promotes hatred and violence because there is no room for areas in between.
With shame and blame comes the inability to think. A closed mind, instilled in early childhood, leads to deprivation, which in turn leads to envy. which then leads to revenge and retaliation at all costs -- even self-sacrifice.
This kind of closed mind has an insatiable reservoir of rage at its core, the likes of which engages in the theme of our symposium – mutilation. This kind of perversion has no boundaries and it profusely bonds and fuses with its victims through mutilation and murder.
Now I will turn to prevention. One way that I have learned well from Lachkar is that when you are in such a hostile environment where the blaming and the threats are non-stop, boundaries maintain safety. Is this not too the ultimate function of war? Establishing a firm boundary. You have to draw a line in the sand and defend it. Hamas still needs to be brought to its knees as well as Hezbollah. The entire culture has to be rebuilt as Gutmann rightly suggests.
Chesler opens the next avenue which must be explored more systematically and that is the media – what to do with it and how should we counter a media that is now identified with the aggressor? What are our options? As Nacos has written, we have mass mediated terrorism. One might refer to this as covert terrorism. Terrorism that is implicit, so most people do not recognize its destructive nature. That is why scapegoating occurs so frequently.
We are now all connected and attached via its imagery. Lachkar points out though that there is a difference between what American news carries concerning images and Arab news channels. It seems that so much more needs to be understood. Indeed some would argue that our attachment to the internet and the media especially during a terrorist attack like Mumbai is addictive in nature and I would argue, expresses a kind of traumatic bonding concerning our mothers. This is the hidden realm of our own terrors, which we share in common with the terrorists. This is how the terrorists speak to us even though we may not know Arabic. They speak in a nonverbal language which I call Desperanto. We get hooked into their terrors as human beings.
As I have said before terrorists don’t have a normative sense of intimacy; their intimacy is violence, blood, mass murder, hysteria of suicide, threats, etc. While this region is foreboding to most, it is key to dismantling the blunt force of terrorism. It is also the "gift of terror" to expand upon the work of Gavin De Becker's Gift of Fear. We have the potential to turn the tables on the terrorists and to call their bluff, even though the work is deadly and serious.
Lachkar: I am very much impressed with Guttman's courage and bravado that although he values our contributors’ psychological insights and motivations, his focus moves the attention to prevention. I agree and appreciate his hard core stance that one must create strong hard-line boundaries or as Chesler reminds us: that even the Dalai Lama admits that "non-violence" against terrorism is useless."
So where do prevention and psychology meet? I believe they go together. Before we "prevent" we must "understand." Kobrin focuses on the early internal mother as a symbolic representation of projected rage via sadism and mutilation fantasies. I expand the notion to the idea that all children have sadistic and mutilation fantasies, and eventually evolve learning the difference between an act of "doing" from an act of "thinking about doing."
Knowing how to play the shame/blame game leads to what I refer to as a collective ego dysfunctionality -- with all the components of victimization, envy and distortions in thinking, judgment and perception, and a media that knows how to manipulate public opinion.
The transparent nature of the Muslim culture must be exposed. For example, when confronted about human rights abuse, the Muslim world often turns it around claiming human rights is a Western concept and not applicable to the Muslim world. How about educating young Muslim potential terrorist recruits, lonely isolated young men who get seduced and enticed into the brotherhood as they are met with warm welcoming embraces, let alone good food, hospitality, music and promises belonging to assuage their isolation and endless feelings of desolation? Finally, I conclude with what I mentioned in our last symposium: we must train and instil worldwide peace counsellors throughout the world, providing education and insights along with cultural events (music, dance, art etc.)
FP: Dr. Joanie Lachkar, Dr. David Gutmann, Dr. Phyllis Chesler and Dr. Nancy Kobrin, thank you for joining Frontpage Symposium.