FOX News show Happening Now interviewed Dr. Speckhard at 11:45 today (April 23, 2013). Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School. Among her accomplishments is a book entitled "Talking to Terrorists: Understanding the Psycho-Social Motivations of Militant Jihadi Terrorists, Mass Hostage Takers, Suicide Bombers, and Martyrs.”
She was one of the few “experts” I’ve seen interviewed by media folks that appeared credible.
Of special note was her recounting of an interview of one of the Boston Marathon bomber’s kindergarten teachers. Dr Speckhard said she listened to the interview in Russian and gleaned some relevant information.
The teacher stated that Tamerlan reacted abnormally to sudden noises, fire crackers, and the like. From this information and other statements Dr Speckhard concluded that Tamerlan was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
This is particularly relevant not just because it provides insight into Tamerlan’s mental state but because it also provides insight into the mental state of his younger brother.
One of the correlations discovered among US soldiers serving in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is that PTSD correlates highly with childhood trauma – especially child abuse. Thus it is highly likely that Tamerlan experienced child abuse. This would be abuse within his family.
An abusing family environment is especially injurious when a child also experiences other trauma outside the family such as extreme poverty, racial or cultural discrimination, or war. Certainly Tamerlan’s family experienced both war and ethnic discrimination. Interviews with Tamerlan’s aunt reveled intense emotional scaring caused by their treatment as ethnic outsiders in both Russia and in Dagestan. Dagestan apparently treats ethnic Chechens poorly.
Another fact, well known by psychologists, is that if one child is abused within a family it is likely that other children are also abused – especially a child of the same gender. Therefore, Dzokhar Tamerlan, the younger brother, is likely to have also experienced abuse.
Now we have both the basis for the vulnerability of both men to radicalization and also a basis for a strong link between them.
The above traumas are in addition to ethnic Chechen Muslim religious practices which may be viewed by Christian cultured Westerners as child abuse in itself.
In the midst of this mental turmoil, the family moved to the United States.
Even well educated Muslims find the United States an assault in many ways: culturally, religiously, ethnically, morally, and sensually. The diversity in peoples and cultures, especially of Boston and the Universities, provides little social consistency through which to engage their new country emotionally. These factors are likely to add to the men’s mental vulnerabilities.
Tamerlan‘s Mosque taught a version of his religion apparently more broadly accepting of different cultures. To someone who held cultural beliefs close as a defense against earlier trauma, the Mosque could have been a stressor rather than a refuge.
Tamerlan, older, with more trauma history and with less flexibility would have been the first to seek refuge in alternatives. There are rumors of drugs. There was a failed marriage. And finally, there was Jihad.
Pulling his younger, also vulnerable, brother into this final refuge for the hopeless seems almost inevitable.