Runners-up for top story of the month:
While addiction is usually the root cause of the horrific behaviors of despots and cult leaders, proof is often elusive. Historians, biographers and journalists don’t have a clue; hence, they usually say nothing or, if they do, a comment proving addictive use is buried on page 160 of a book or the 28th paragraph of one article out of a dozen. However, James Traub, in his review in The Wall Street Journal of ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan, tells us what we need to know early on. ISIS “traces its origin” to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a “semi-literate but very charismatic Jordanian thug.” Traub quotes the authors: “his first stint in prison was for drug possession and sexual assault;” he “bootlegged alcohol” and, according to Traub, he may have been a pimp. When he refused allegiance to Osama bin Laden (who I argue here was likely addicted to a variety of drugs) he splintered off to create his own sect of anti-Shiite Islam. Helping achieve this was his “long career of crime [that] had introduced him to a highly differentiated violent underworld.”
Traub provides another clue that much violence in Islam has its roots in substance addiction: “Many of the European ‘lone wolves’ who carry out attacks at home in the name of either ISIS or al Qaeda are, like the young Zarqawi, bored and alienated young men with giant chips on their shoulders who find in Islam a rationale for their violence.” I have long suggested that terms like manic, madman, unchecked emotions, mentally ill and “alienated” really mean “addicted.” That addiction has a crucial role in terrorism is consistent with the idea in the top story above, as well: religion alone doesn’t cause serious misbehaviors. Terrorism usually requires distorted perceptions and impaired judgment manifesting as egomania, caused by the introduction of chemicals—like alcohol and other psychotropic drugs—to the brain.