This Happened: Matthews Asks Why Does Terrorism ‘Always Seem to Involve Bombing?’

All three cable networks dedicated droves of airtime Tuesday evening to the Istanbul terrorist attack and on two occasions, MSNBC’s Hardball host Chris Matthews wondered “how much brains does it take” for someone to become a suicide bomber and why do terror attacks “always seem to involve bombing” instead of something else.

Matthews was speaking to an assembled panel of terrorism experts about five minutes into the program when he cited recent terror attacks ranging from French train in August 2015 to Tuesday’s bombings in Istanbul and appropriately wondered if it means there’s a pattern to the string of Islamic terror attacks. 

From there, however, Matthews blurted out this question: “How much brains does it take to pack yourself up with TNT and go running into a crowd and blowing yourself up? What do you mean, sophistication?”

Risk management analyst Anthony Roman explained to Matthews that most attacks are “coordinated” and “planned,” but Matthews interjected to wonder if suicide was considered “brave” to which Roman responded that he certainly wouldn’t want to do it (but would be in the eyes or radical extremists).

A few minutes later, Matthews introduced an utterly bizarre line of questioning about why terrorists turn to bombs to carry out their heinous acts over any other weapon [emphasis mine]: 

This was a combination, apparently, we don't have all the information on the — at least 28 dead, maybe more. A.P. is reporting many more. At least 100 injured badly, probably....Bombing. What's bombing and terrorism have to do cause it always seems to involve bombing. Is that because it’s one sure way to blow yourself up, certainly, and the suicide bomb strapped to the body seems to be part of this cult of suicide, of martyrdom, if you will, by their standards.

Once again, Roman had to do some serious educating of our aforementioned host about why bombs are the weapon of choice:

[B]ombing can create tremendous collateral damage and the reason they want to get inside the terminal is that the same bomb will commit much more damage inside a terminal because of the enclosed space than it will outside the terminal. So in terms of planning and sophistication, it's required to have surveillance of the location, rehearsals, training with the weapons, training with the bombs, and it does require a level of planning to make these attacks effective.

The relevant portions of the transcript from MSNBC’s Hardball on June 28 can be found below.

MSNBC’s Hardball
June 28, 2016
7:05 p.m. Eastern

CHRIS MATTHEWS: And to try to think about this from the question that the average person watching the show would have. We had the French train in August of 2015. We had Paris, of course November. Last year. Then San Bernardino December of last year. Then Brussels at the airport in March of this year and Orlando, June of this year. Istanbul now, June. Is there any pattern to these? Do they have something to do with geography, opportunity, avenge — vengeance? What do we make of this pattern if there is one, or isn't there one and isn’t that the heart of terrorism? There is no pattern

ANTHONY ROMAN: Well, there is a pattern. The pattern is that they are increasingly sophisticated attacks and they’re happening with greater frequency in the western world and that is it. This is the new reality for us and we are —

MATTHEWS: How much brains does it take to pack yourself up with TNT and go running into a crowd and blowing yourself up? What do you mean, sophistication? 

ROMAN: Well, the attacks are planned. There are surveillances conducted ahead of time. They are thought out. They’re coordinated. Each person participating in the attack has a specific role. In this case, the Turks were quite adept at understanding and analyzing what happened in Brussels and changed their security technique and moved it to the outer perimeter of the building and this saved countless lives. It appears that these terrorists were attempting to penetrate one of those security points by blowing it up, this way allowing a pathway for the others to pass through. So when we are talking sophistication and tactics, that takes a little bit of training, that takes some bravery and this is the new reality. 

MATTHEWS: But it’s suicide. Is suicide brave? 

ROMAN: Well, I wouldn't want to commit suicide. 

MATTHEWS: No, I’m just wondering.

ROMAN: I don't know about you. 

MATTHEWS: I don't want to build these guys up either with brain power or guts.

(....)

7:11 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Anthony, about bombing. This was a combination, apparently, we don't have all the information on the — at least 28 dead, maybe more. A.P. is reporting many more. At least 100 injured badly, probably. Look at that guy. We just watched there. Maybe lost his leg. Bombing. What's bombing and terrorism have to do cause it always seems to involve bombing. Is that because it’s one sure way to blow yourself up, certainly, and the suicide bomb strapped to the body seems to be part of this cult of suicide, of martyrdom, if you will, by their standards. 

ROMAN: Well, they can have multiple switches, as my guest pointed out here, that once they are shot and they’re killed, they can have an automated switch that if it's not held down, the bomb goes off. 

MATTHEWS: A dead man's switch?

ROMAN: That's right, but bombing can create tremendous collateral damage and the reason they want to get inside the terminal is that the same bomb will commit much more damage inside a terminal because of the enclosed space than it will outside the terminal. So in terms of planning and sophistication, it's required to have surveillance of the location, rehearsals, training with the weapons, training with the bombs, and it does require a level of planning to make these attacks effective.


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