Fire–Detecting the “Undetectable” in Liquid Explosives

As I post, Kenya’s main airport, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is a blaze. We don’t know if it is an act of terrorism but as an expert on Somali culture, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Furthermore, it has been reported that one of the main reasons for the shut down of U.S. Embassies has been the terror that terrorists have created an undetectable liquid explosive — “bomb technology works by dipping clothes into liquid explosive and letting it dry. . .” as reported in the pages here of the Times of Israel.

Immolation or fire is key to explosives.

While necessity is generally the mother of invention, this time it takes on a nefarious twist of Hatred, Aggression and Rage. “Their hatred for us is so out of bounds the drive and passion become nearly unstoppable,” quoting my colleague, Joan Jutta Lachkar, Ph.D.

This new late summer edition to the terrorist’s clothing wardrobe involves clothes dipped in a liquid explosive. Think: a reversal of flame retardant material for children’s clothing — what was developed in the U.S. to protect children from having their pajamas catch fire and G-d forbid, kill innocent children in the 1970s has been turned on its head. The liquid explosive has an obvious tactical advantage, since it is hard for security to identify and intercept it.

Yet what is the psychological meaning of this new terrorist behavior? What else are the terrorists communicating to us nonverbally?

What are these terrorists communicating to us about themselves that even they are NOT aware of? What is the significance of their unconscious dissociated behavior? And why might it be important for the lay public to understand? Listen closely and look:

First fire signifies unconscious rage but in an autistic-like manner as if they themselves do not understand what burning means and what it translates into because they send others to be immolated not themselves, these engineers of jihad. It is also very schizoid behavior.

Second, clothing is a second “skin” for us. Clothing acts as an envelope for the human body after skin. Skin is a porous barrier for the entire body, taking in from the environment but also keeping out — titrating the interaction with what is outside one’s self. Terrorists are terrified of people as in intimacy.

Yet terrorists have “velcro” personalities. They want to stick to you because they lack psychological infrastructure. They need to hate you and bond through violence in order to momentarily stabilize their fragile personalities. They have no boundaries.This reveals a major problem in their personality development. They have a split similar to what Hervey Cleckley described years ago for serial killers in his Mask of Sanity. They may look sort of normal but they are not normal. They speak to us through a kind of pantomime, in this case — via this “new” invention of liquid explosive saturated clothing and its fire and immolation.

Like patients on a psychotic ward who sit stiffly in a chair, shivering and mute, they can not tell us in so many words that they are emotionally freezing to death. Instead they become an iceberg and communicate nonverbally. These terrorists can not contemplate the origins of their own rage nor why they are the way they are. Instead they force us to participate in their high drama. They send their own suicide bombers to literally become the rage by bursting into flames but it is never enough as they must take out innocent others.

I have written about this bizarre unconscious pantomime in my book, The Banality of Suicide Terrorism (Potomac, 2010) in which I explore the importance of decoding the nonverbal behavior read functionally with the verbal messages and ideologies. (BTW my book is due out in Hebrew in two weeks for those who might want a quicker read in all platforms, hard copy to digital.)

Terrorists have fundamentally a developmental problem in conjunction with genetics and neurobiology which have been further complicated by early child rearing practices in shame honor cultures in which the female is devalued. It becomes a treacherous vicious cycle because the devalued female makes the brain of the future terrorist in utero plus during the first years of life in which the brain quadruples in size. The developmental problem linked to violence has a lot to do with early maternal attachment. Maternal attachment includes the development of the psychological birth of the infant along with a psychological envelope for the body and feeling safe. The cutaneous stimulation function of skin is extremely important. These terrorists fail to develop empathy which is something that also occurs during these earliest years. (Currently there is a debate beginning to arise that terrorists have empathy but their switch to turn it on in the brain is broken. It is not within the scope of this blog to deal with this issue nor the inkling of its potential for being a minimizing Politically Correct excuse for such aberrant behavior.)

To quote Kathy Seifert, PhD forensic psychologist author of How Children Become Violent, “when Attachment Bonds are disrupted, it can interfere with:
Skill Development
Interpersonal Relatedness
Self Concept
Self Management
Theory of Mind
Emotional Regulation
Development of Pro-social values
Brain Development
Family Cohesiveness and relationships to others”

Returning to the wardrobe of liquid explosive dipped clothes, it reminded me too of the fence which Israel built to keep out suicide bombers. A line in the sand was drawn literally to communicate nonverbally to the terrorists in their own unconscious language that since they have no boundaries (no functional “envelope”), a barrier had to be created for them, set down in concrete. Suicide bombings dropped drastically.

Alas, we know that the fence is only a temporary solution. A more genuine solution demands that the public be educated to the unconscious psychological meaning of terrorist behavior in order to demand extensive change to child rearing practices at the international level. Granted, it is a tall order but the intervention must factor in maternal attachment as silly as it may sound to many. Only then will we be more effective in detecting such “alleged” innovation in advance before it becomes reality. Until then we will just keep reinventing the wheel at tremendous cost. As the Nairobi’s airport burns, no casualties have been reported as yet. I hope it remains that way.

About the Author
Dr Nancy Hartevelt Kobrin is a fellow at The American Center for Democracy and a psychoanalyst with a PhD in AljamĂ­a (Old Spanish in Arabic script). She is author of 'The Banality of Suicide Terrorism,' also in Hebrew; Penetrating the Terrorist Psyche and The Maternal Drama of the Chechen Jihadi.