Terrorist Rehabilitation: The U.S. Experience in Iraq

By Ami Angell and Rohan Gunaratna; Reviewed by Stephen Sloan

***** Terrorist Rehabilitation: The U.S. Experience in Iraq. By Ami Angell and Rohan Gunaratna. CRC Press,; 454 pages; $69.95.

The fight against terrorism doesn’t only have to be through the use of physical force. Other tools or weapons can consist of economic, diplomatic, and psychological measures. One such tool is counter-radicalization, a process by which authorities attempt to change the minds of those who have been or would be terrorists. It has been used by countries ranging from England to Indonesia. In the United States, the approach is controversial and raises issues of individual rights, among other concerns.

Yet the United States has been deeply involved in such programs aimed at terrorists’ rehabilitation overseas. In their excellent book Terrorist Rehabilitation: The U.S. Experience in Iraq, Ami Angell and Rohan Gun­ar­atna provide a detailed account of a program that covered everything from the complexity of detainee operations to the challenges involved in rehabilitation programs.

The first part of the book deals with issues that those involved in corrections will be familiar with. But the added challenges involved in dealing with individuals from a different culture—with different values and religions—make the demands of running a correction system that is trying to rehabilitate terrorists even more demanding.

The most interesting chapters are those that deal with the rehabilitation process, including the key role of education. But it is chapter nine, “Religious Enlightenment,” and the chapters that follow which address the most difficult problems. How does one approach the complexity of seeking to transform fundamental religious beliefs so that such beliefs do not justify terrorism?

Events have since outpaced this book. While rehabilitation work in Iraq was innovative, it remains challenging, as the authors note, to gauge its precise success. That said, the programs described are interesting, including myriad vocational programs and the use of art therapy to channel the detainees’ creativity in a constructive manner.

Reviewer: Stephen Sloan is a visiting professor in the College of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University, the Laurence J. Chastang Distinguished Professor of Terrorism Studies at the University of Central Florida, and professor emeritus at the University of Oklahoma. He is an advisor to the ASIS Global Terrorism, Political Instability and International Crime Council.



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