Monday, May 09, 2005

On Al Qaeda in 2004 and Eckankar in 1979: the believers and the cynics

VOA News - US Forces Arrest Key Insurgents in Iraq

A US Colonel reports that captured insurgents are often quite cooperative:
Colonel Chase reports that the mid- and higher-level insurgent leaders are more likely to provide information than lower-level insurgents, who, he says, are often more ideologically committed than their leaders. 'These are not ten-feet-tall dedicated, die-hard terrorists for the most part, particularly the higher in the level,' he said. 'Certainly, the low level (insurgents) appear to be people that are dedicated to a cause, but the mid- and high-level (insurgents) are very quick to turn on each other.'
Ordinarily I'd write this off as good basic propaganda practice. Except, it reminds of me of something from a past life.

As a college student who looked remarkably naive and even younger than his young years, I was often approached by a variety of cult recruiters, from Eckankar to the Moonies to the Scientologists. For some reason I enjoyed attending cult meetings (I had no money, so my hobbies had to be inexpensive) and I'd routinely accept if I had the time -- excepting remote compounds where one might have a long hard walk home.

What I discovered was that the initiates and lower level staffers were genuine true believers. Unsurprisingly they were often wounded and troubled. Above them, however, were a revolting set of cynics who, I suspect, enjoyed the perks of power. To most adults these rotters were quite unconvincing, but they knew how to manipulate the vulnerable. They were also good at spotting ringers like me, and making sure we weren't invited to the "next level".

I can believe that a terrorist/insurgent organization might have quite a bit in common with those cults. Troubled, lost souls to blow themselves up -- true believers all. Above them, the most vile of cowards.

Which is to say, maybe Colonel Chase is telling the truth after all.

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