“Very often, the victims of terrorism are targeted not because they are threats, but because they are specific “symbols, tools, animals or corrupt beings” that tie into a specific view of the world that the terrorists possess.” -Mark Juergensmeyer
First things first here. I am not a profiling or anti-terrorism Guru and nor do I claim to be one. But I will say this, in my five deployments with the Marine Corps to many “less than favorable places” on this planet, I have learned a thing or two about self-protection and the identification and profiling of shitheads with bad intent. With that being said, I do not want this article to create some kind of “turn your communist neighbor into the government” hysteria, reminiscent of the Cold War era. I have no issues with “practical profiling techniques” as I sit here, on my third cup of coffee, half empty bottle of Jameson, listening to ‘Ziggy Stardust’ on a vinyl record.
Even if you completely altered your lifestyle and took every precaution available, you still have zero control over these types of random and violent attacks. However, what you can do to prepare yourself, is be aware of the circumstances and learn to identify risk factors.
What is a ‘soft target’? Ski’s definition: when an aspiring bomber has identified an event or location that has minimal force protection, provides a substantial number of personnel injured or dead, and will be followed by massive coverage from the media. That is a soft target.
“This country swarms with vile outrageous men that live by rapine and by lawless spoil.” – Christopher Marlowe 1587
Why Terrorists Bomb (Reiterating the basics here)
Using terrorism for political purpose is a common tactic, and as such, there are a number of common elements that are almost universal to all modern terrorist activities. The target victims are not necessarily those who are injured or killed. Rather, the attack may have been carried out to influence a government (or group of governments) to take a certain course of action, or to perhaps terminate or cease a current course of action. Over the last several years, while the total number of bombings has decreased, the number of large or spectacular bomb attacks has actually increased. Terrorists commit bombings for a number of reasons:
- To gain media attention, particularly if the target is highly visible or symbolic.
- It is a cost effective and efficient way to attack a facility.
- They can be accomplished with a small number of personnel.
- There is minimal risk of bombers being detected or apprehended.
- It can be inexpensive in comparison to alternatives like kidnapping or hostage-taking.
- Random bombings make a considerably larger impact on the population because more people fear a bomb attack than being kidnapped or taken hostage.
- Explosives are readily available through purchase, theft or sympathetic supporters. In addition, explosives can even be constructed through the use of legitimately obtained chemicals, fertilizers, and other materials.
10 Basic Steps to not being a Soft Target
- SA- having even the most basic situational awareness of where you are and what is going on around you is priceless. Be observant, not paranoid.
- Listen to the hairs on the back of your neck. If something feels or looks out of place, it probably is.
- First Amendment/Freedom of Speech. If someone in your immediate area is acting “suspicious“, engage them in a friendly conversation.
- Make eye contact. “The eye is the window of the soul, the mouth the door. The intellect, the will, are seen in the eye; the emotions, sensibilities, and affections, in the mouth. The animals look for man’s intentions right into his eyes. Even a rat, when you hunt him and bring him to bay, looks you in the eye.” –Hiram Powers
- Talk less when interacting with strangers; allow them to carry the conversation. Humans are inherently sociable creatures. Adding long pauses with eye contact makes people feel uncomfortable; they naturally will want to fill this space with speech. This speech is often less filtered and tends to divulge more information than they would normally share.
- If someone drops or leaves an item behind, immediately let that individual know > continue to #3.
- When indoors, whether it be restaurants, lobbies or buildings, try to have a spot in the back of the room with your back towards a wall, with a clear view of entry points into that area. Again, not to be paranoid, but rather an attempt to passively establish an over-watch and awareness of your surroundings.
- Take mental notes: clothing, eye color, identifying marks, accent and eye contact (or lack thereof), and other basic body language gestures > see below.
- Always have fast access to a weapon of opportunity e.g. pocket knife, sturdy metal writing pen or key-chain weapon (discrete and legal in most states).
- Mindset > Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet. -Maj. Gen. James Mattis
Observing Basic Negative Body Language Gestures
- Body tense – Stiffness, wrinkled brow, jerky body motion, hands clasped in front or palms down on the table. These can indicate concern with the topic or dealing with the other person.
- Arms folded in front – Creates a barrier; can express resistance to what is being said.
- Hand on face – A hand over one’s mouth is a closed gesture. Leaning on one’s elbow with the chin in the hand can communicate boredom.
- Fidgeting – Moving around a lot, playing with things and drumming fingers are usually a sign of boredom, nervousness or impatience (dependent upon speed and intensity).
- Arms behind head, leaning back – In a well-established relationship this can be a relaxed gesture. In a new relationship, it is often used to express a desire for control or power.
- Yawning – Boredom, confusion. The other person is talking too much or in too much technical detail.
- Impatience – Trying to interrupt what the other person is saying, opening one’s mouth frequently as if to speak.
- Distraction – Eyes flicking about, blank stares, flipping through literature without really reading it, looking at others in the office, looking at the person’s body or clothing.
- Leaning away – Avoiding moving closer, even when something is handed to the person, is strongly negative.
- Negative facial expressions – These include: shaking head, eyes narrowed, scowling or frowning.
Let me make this simple (and please keep in mind that even on my best days, I am hungover and slightly disgruntled at society in general), every human falls into one of two categorizes; lamb or wolf. You eat meat or grass, and you either have eyes positioned in the front of your head, or on the sides. This article is not geared toward the vast majority of grazing lambs. The SOFREP community is at the high-end of the spectrum where informed citizens have a shared sense of responsibility and Patriotism.
I may be way off the mark on this one, but I have a feeling that many readers will find this article very interesting and useful. These days, Al-Qaeda’s operational branch is all but non-existent. The word Al-Qaeda has become more of an aspirational title for the geo-separated, internet savvy, radical Muslims who are looking to associate with something bigger than themselves. The effective operating arm of Al-Qaeda has run its course in history.
The fact is that this type of soft target bombing is going to become the norm here in the United States (as it already has in many other countries around the world). The very nature of our society provides endless opportunities to employ this technique of grassroots terrorism.
As a country, if we attempted to limit or restrict access to the vast abundance of items that can easily be used for bomb making, we would be eroding the basic fundamentals that make our society great (fact).
So If I may steal and modify the Queen’s slogan used during the Nazi bombing campaign on Britain in WWII… Keep Calm, Carry On, Be Aware and Prepared to Act.
Cleared Hot -Ski (Mr. 9mm is the Shepard)
Level Zero Heroes | The Story of U.S. Marine SOF in Bala Murghab, Afghanistan
Dedicated to the loving memory and sacrifice of GySgt. Robert L. Gilbert & SSgt. Patrick R. Dolphin