Imagine what we would learn if one of the 19 suicide bombers who took out the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had lived. In Mumbai, one of the terrorists did live, and his interview in the hospital bed brought up a plethora of feelings for me:
“Where were you supposed to go after today’s incident?”
“Nowhere. We were meant to die.”
How many accomplices were sent with you?
Kasab tried to dodge the question. He was ordered to wage jihad, he said, was blindfolded and put on a boat. Asked if he’d ever done something like this before, he momentarily broke down. “Nowhere, nowhere,” he said. He only did this because Uncle Zaki promised to give his struggling family a large amount of money.
I think about this. Somehow, you are trained to think that your own life is expendable, but that in making your sacrifice, you are leaving your family in a much better financial position. For those who have grown up in the slums, have endured the degradation of not only poverty, but political repression the likes of which we, as Americans have never known, these pie-in-the-sky promises must be tempting.
I'm not excusing the behaviour. But I am trying to understand it. I keep thinking that if we understand it, maybe we can prevent it. If we change the structures that create terrorism, perhaps terrorism will disappear. Years ago, Frantz Fanon warned us that terrorism is the weapon of the poor, but we have failed to heed the warning.
As Motlagh reports, the Mumbai terrorists were expert at combining chaos and panic to create terror:
Handler: The ATS Chief has been killed. Your work is very important. Allah is helping you. The minister should not escape. Try to set the place on fire.
Gunman: We have set fire in four rooms.
Handler: People shall run helter skelter when they see the flames. Keep throwing a grenade every fifteen minutes or so. It will terrorize.
I try to imagine how the people under attack felt. Like hunted animals. Like prey that was being flushed from every safe place they had found to hide. These are images from my worst nightmares, the ones where some madman is after me, and I hide, trying to quiet my terror pantings so that my very breaths do not give me away.
I finish the article. I feel hatred toward those who organized the attacks. Those who stayed on the telephones with the suicide attackers, giving them orders over the phone. Why were these men, so willing to send others in to do their dirty work, why were they not willing to die for Allah?
Is this the way of the world? That everywhere, at all times, old men will tell young men that to die in service to your country/religion/family is the highest honor? It is always a myth. Meaningless. Oh so costly.
The images in my head are blood-stained. The numbers of the people who survived the first attacks only to be taken hostage and then killed methodically. Subject to the terror, for long periods of time, of knowing they were going to die. Cruelty. Sheer cruelty.
I want to understand....