When security forces in Iraq announce they are stepping up efforts to locate and capture "know suicide bombers" I am afraid, I am very afraid. Its is not that I fear our suburban streets are patrolled by men with exploding beards waiting for an opportune moment before they blow me up. No, it is the security forces that scare me, I mean "known suicide bombers," the first rule of warfare, I leaned in history lessons long ago, is know your enemy. It strikes me that our military have not really got their heads round the basic concept of suicide bombing if they are looking for people with a track record.
Similarly President Bush recently spoke of "cowardly attacks by suicide bombers" in his feeble attempt to bolster support for the war by spreading Fear and Panic among ordinary Americans, most of whom are at least 5000 miles from the nearest known suicide bomber. Suicide is often described as the coward's way out when someone in our western society decides to end it all rather than face up to the mess they have made of everything. That is a rather harsh assessment in a lot of cases, it must often seem to people that life just cannot get any better. It takes something other than cowardice for somebody to stick several kilos of Semtex and a detonator to their body, drive or walk calmly up to the target and hit the trigger.
To a young Arab though, suicide is a very different prospect and suicide bombers can be described as many things, stupid, fanatical, insane etc. But surely not cowardly, and especially not by a man who orders the forces he commands to drop bombs from 30,000 feet on civilian targets in third world countries that have no credible defence systems. The suicide bomber is at least up close and personal and prepared not just to take a calculated risk in order to spread Fear and Panic, they have to face the certainty of joining their victims on the journey to "that unexplored country from in whose bourne no traveller returns," which Shakespeare referred to.
Always a great believer in looking at the big picture I see things rather differently than when they are viewed from the perspective of somebody who seeks political advantage by spreading Fear and Panic. It is a question of understanding the Arab mindset. To them death is not something to be avoided but to be embraced, death offers better prospects than life. Suicide Bombing therefore represents the best available career option. Sign up and you are guaranteed three meals a day and a heroes welcome on your last visit home plus, and get this everybody, twenty - yes twenty (or twenty four, or seventy two depending on who you believe) heavenly virgins waiting for you on the other side.
Compare that with working as a menial for the American company that is ripping off your country's oil or a life of poverty and drudgery as a tomato farmer, both of which carry the certainty of an arranged marriage to a girl whose face you will not see until the ring is on her finger.
No wonder those boys are saying "pass the semtex and tell the virgins to lay in a supply of KY jelly."
The BBC view
The Arab Viewpoint
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