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My Life Is a Weapon:
A Modern History of Suicide Bombing
Christoph Reuter

Paperback | 2006 | $29.95 | £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691126159
208 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4
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What kind of people are suicide bombers? How do they justify their actions? In this meticulously researched and sensitively written book, journalist Christoph Reuter argues that popular views of these young men and women--as crazed fanatics or brainwashed automatons--fall short of the mark. In many cases these modern-day martyrs are well-educated young adults who turn themselves into human bombs willingly and eagerly--to exact revenge on a more powerful enemy, perceived as both unjust and oppressive. Suicide assassins are determined to make a difference, for once in their lives, no matter what the cost. As Reuter's many interviews with would-be martyrs, their trainers, friends, and relatives reveal, the bombers are motivated more by how they expect to be remembered--as heroic figures--than by religion-infused visions of a blissful life to come.

Reuter, who spent eight years researching the book, moves from the broken survivors of the childrens' suicide brigades in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, to the war-torn Lebanon of Hezbollah, to Israeli-occupied Palestinian land, and to regions as disparate as Sri Lanka, Chechnya, and Kurdistan. He tells a disturbing story of the modern globalization of suicide bombing--orchestrated, as his own investigations have helped to establish, by the shadowy Al Qaeda network and unintentionally enabled by wrong-headed policies of Western governments. In a final, hopeful chapter, Reuter points to today's postrevolutionary, post-Khomeini Iran, where a new social environment renounces the horrific practice in the very place where it was enthusiastically embraced just decades ago.


"We are as yet a long way from fully understanding the various manifestations of suicide terrorism and its motives, but My Life Is a Weapon is an important contribution. Reuter has traveled for years through Arab countries, the Middle East and Central Asia and is able to talk more or less freely to people and read texts usually not accessible to the average foreign correspondent. His account of suicide terrorism is, to the best of my knowledge, the first (of its kind) in any language."--Walter Laqueur, Times Literary Supplement

"Against the violent Manichean rhetoric of the times, and its brute interventionism, Reuter offers a counter-narrative: suicide attacks in Israel-Palestine will stop when Israel withdraws from the Occupied Territories; more generally across the region, the West should keep out."--Jacqueline Rose, London Review of Books

"This is a journalist's history . . . with solid exposition, sharp observations and flashes of insight. . . . For instance, in invading and occupying Iraq, he maintains, the Bush administration is playing into the hands of terrorists like Osama bin Laden, creating exactly the context of humiliation that provides new recruits."--William S. Kowinski, San Francisco Chronicle

"[A] well-researched history of suicide attacks, which touches on the 12th century Assassins but concentrates on today. . . . Suicide attackers can be educated and uneducated; religious and secular; comfortably off and destitute: their link is the decision they make to transform their powerlessness into extraordinary power."--The Economist

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Table of Contents:

The Power of the Powerless, the Powerlessness of the Powerful 1
CHAPTER 1 The Original Assassins: A History of Faith and Power in the Islamic World 19
CHAPTER 2 A Key to Paradise around Their Necks: Iran's Suicide Battalions 33
CHAPTER 3 The Marketing Strategists of Martyrdom: Hezbollah in Lebanon 52
CHAPTER 4 Israel and Palestine: The Culture of Death 79
CHAPTER 5 Suicide or Martyrdom? Modern Islam and the Feud of the Fatwas 115
CHAPTER 6 Bushido Replaces Allahu akbar: The Japanese Kamikaze 130
CHAPTER 7 The Parasites of Anger: Al-Qaeda and the Islamist Internationale 139
CHAPTER 8 Separatist Movements and Female Suicide Bombers: The Cases of Sri Lanka and Kurdistan 155
CHAPTER 9 After Martyrdom: Recent Developments in Iran 167
Notes 181
Index 195

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File created: 7/11/2017

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