A small audience gathered on the top floor of the Hilton Hotel downtown, many of them older gentlemen and women, some of them UAA students. The weekly guest speaker for the Alaska World Affairs Council was introduced, and everyone applauded respectfully as Mia Bloom took her place at the podium for the May 30 meeting.
Bloom opened up with a joke, apologizing for having to speak on this dark issue after such a lovely lunch. She continued on with a few more jibes, and the audience laughed along with her.
It is hard to believe that this woman studies such a serious issue as suicide terrorism. But she does, and Bloom used the next hour and a half to discuss something rarely seen by the American public: an honest, factual and informative look at the mechanics behind suicide terrorism with no political agenda attached.
Bloom is the author of “Dying to Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror,” as well as other publications. She is an assistant professor in the School of International and Public Affairs at the University of Georgia and is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She has a doctorate in political science, a master’s in Arab studies, and a bachelor’s in Russian and Middle East studies. She speaks nine languages, including Arabic.
Bloom began her presentation by making the point that suicide terrorism is not usually the first choice and is performed along with other attacks. She took this moment to stress the terrible conditions these people must be living under both physically and mentally to make a group of people resort to this.
“Suicide bombing isn’t just the lone person who blows things up,” she said, referring to the fact that many people, not one, are behind these attacks in a coordinated event.
Bloom specifically explained that suicide terrorism occurs when other military tactics have failed and when terrorist groups want worldwide attention. A chart showed that suicide terrorism has taken a dramatic rise since the Sept. 11 attack back in and since America launched its campaign to battle terrorism.
“I’m not a big subscriber to the global war on terrorism because it’s like declaring war on a specific tactic,” Bloom said.
The subtle point that the data states is that this “war on terror” is not working so well, and suicide terrorism will probably worsen before anyone sees a reduction in it, Bloom said.
“What terrorism does over time is it mutates and evolves,” Bloom said. She explained that suicide terrorism would probably include more women and children in the years to come, and there was most likely nothing to be done that would decrease the level of suicide terrorism in the immediate future.
Suicide terrorism is most prominent in areas in cities where conditions are at their worst, Bloom said. Places with limited and unpredictable amounts of electricity and open sewage had the most attacks in them, which suggests that a reduction in suicide terrorism relies on improving living standards of the people.
Bloom finished her lecture by listing ways people could stop this rise of suicide terrorism. She believes that the hearts and minds of the people in these countries must be won over first before anything else can be done, she said, and that their lives must be made better so that not as many feel they must resort to such an act.
Bloom said one of the problems with Iraq was that America had failed to win over its people.
“I don’t think the Iraqis can forgive the last five years of mistakes so easily,” she said. “We lost them when we didn’t stop the looting or protect the people out in the streets.”