I highly recommend reading Why does terrorism fascinate me? Because of the terror in my past. by Jessica Stern in its entirety.
It's an extremely powerful piece, where this expert on terrorism examines the trauma effect of her rape as a child and how that lead to her being emotionally numb enough to examine terrorism. She has an important moment of self-realization, that her childhood experience is something she must examine and understand, otherwise she will suffer from numbness and disconnectedness to the terror part of terrorism.
She also begins to examine the relationship between childhood trauma and adult violence and terrorism. Her rapist had been abused by a priest as a boy, and his own trauma led to a lifetime of destroying the lives of others.
She links that to potential childhood trauma among extremists and wonders at what young experience terrorists or other violent people may have had that lead to their current existence.
I think it is extremely important to examine the human explanations, and to bravely examine our own lives, much like this author. I think we also greatly underestimate the fact that in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc, we're dealing with people who have led traumatized existences, and therefore they will behave in ways we don't expect. Iraqis have lived through 3 wars in their lifetimes. Afghanistan has lived under war and the Taliban. Poverty does not necessarily mean crime, but extreme poverty can lead to a difficulty in developing healthy emotional responses.
Some choice quotes:
"I wasn't aware that I was afraid. After a series of traumas, one can lose the capacity to feel fear appropriately."
"She (the psychologist) suggested that I might have post-traumatic stress disorder. I did not believe it."
"I felt compelled to answer questions I had spent my professional life asking about terrorists: What happened to the boy who grew up to become my rapist? Was there anything in his life story that might explain, at least in part, why he would want or need to hurt us? What happened to him afterward?"
"Is there a link between possible abuse and alienation and vulnerability to terrorist recruitment? Could terrorism sometimes reflect a kind of perverse post-traumatic evolution?"
A very interesting and powerful article. I recommend reading it. I would like to hear your thoughts.