Friday, August 05, 2005

The Mind of the Terrorist

It was interesting to watch last night the first of two programmes on Channel 4 entitled "The Cult of the Suicide Bomber". I did not realise, for example, that the first suicide bomber used the weapon against a tank in the Iran-Iraq War. According to the programme, it was the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran who first used a sort of perversion of Islamic history to make suicide bombing seem like a good and honourable thing to do. The most frightening aspect of the piece was the clear impression of how revered these "martyrs" are in the communities from which they come. Even years after their death their "sacrifice" is celebrated not just by virtual worship of small photographs by their families, but also by display of huge posters in strategic locations. Terrorist organisations even use videos of suicide bombers in action to recruit new volunteers!

Until very recently suicide bombing was something that we could regard in this country as a frightening phenomenon that afflicted exotic foreign destinations. I think there is still some doubt as to whether the 7/7 Bombers knew that they would blow themselves up, but if they did I think I'm right in saying that these are the first examples in a Western country of home-grown suicide bombers. I very much fear that they will not be the last, and my immediate reaction to hearing the news was surprise that it hadn't happened before now.

One of my problems with outrages such as this is that we don't know for certain (a) what organisation was behind it, and (b) what exactly they want us to do in response. As far as I know Al Queda has been somewhat vague as to whether they were responsible. It's easy to assume that the perpetrators want British troops out of Iraq, and the establishment of a Palestinian homeland. However, even if we could pull both of these out of the hat, how do we know that doing so would appease these cowardly monsters? Abductions in the Middle East are abhorrent, but at least only one person is directly affected, and we generally know who is holding them and what their demands are.

One thing is certain: it is very difficult to defend yourself against an enemy who is prepared to blow himself up, who is absolutely convinced that his God is behind him, and who thinks that his death will guarantee him a place in Paradise. This is especially true if he knows that his family and the rest of his community will remember him as a hero.