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The Suicide Bombers Among Us

Theodore Dalrymple

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All terrorists, presumably, know the dangers that they run, accepting them as an occupational hazard; given Man's psychological makeup--or at least the psychological makeup of certain young men--these dangers may act as an attraction, not a deterrent. But only a few terrorists use their own deaths as an integral means of terrorizing others. They seem to be a breed apart, with whom the rest of humanity can have little or nothing in common.

Certainly they sow panic more effectively than other terrorists. Those who leave bombs in public places and then depart, despicable as they are, presumably still have attachments to their own lives, and therefore may be open to dissuasion or negotiation. By contrast, no threat (at first sight) might deter someone who is prepared to extinguish himself to advance his cause, and who considers such self-annihilation while killing as many strangers as possible a duty, an honor, and a merit that will win ample rewards in the hereafter. And Britain has suddenly been forced to acknowledge that it has an unknown number of such people in its midst, some of them home-grown.

The mere contemplation of a suicide bomber's state of mind is deeply unsettling, even without considering its practical consequences. I have met a would-be suicide bomber who had not yet had the chance to put his thanatological daydream into practice. What could possibly have produced as embittered a mentality as his--what experience of life, what thoughts, what doctrines? What fathomless depths of self-pity led him to the conclusion that only by killing himself and others could he give a noble and transcendent meaning to his existence?

Read the entire article on the City Journal website (new window will open).

Posted: 13-Nov-05



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