Cover image for My life is a weapon : a modern history of suicide bombing
My life is a weapon : a modern history of suicide bombing
Reuter, Christoph.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Mein Leben ist eine Waffe. English
Publication Information:
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
viii, 200 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BP190.5.V56 R4813 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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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.

Author Notes

Christoph Reuter is a reporter and international correspondent for the German magazine Stern.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

A book on suicide bombers has the potential to be gripping and revelatory. With such a title as the one above, it's not unreasonable to expect a first-person account of the motivations of a would-be bomber or plenty of material taken from primary-source interviews. Unfortunately, this is not the book it presents itself to be. Instead, Reuter, a reporter for the German magazine Stern, provides a serviceable introduction to the modern history of suicide bombing by Hezbollah, Hamas, the Iranian children's battalions in the Iran-Iraq war and Japanese kamikaze pilots, among others. While the research is good, Reuter tells us nothing that has not already been written about in other books or magazines. He did conduct a handful of interviews with the mothers of suicide bombers. However, these were arranged by the sponsoring terrorist organization, so it's unclear whether the mothers' expressions of pride and happiness over their sons' deaths are their true sentiment or if they are simply reciting group propaganda. Nor does Reuter offer much analysis. Other interviews are with intelligence and law enforcement agents, whose input helps to better understand the logistics of suicide operations but does not shed much light on the psyche of the would-be bombers. Other books by scholars who conducted interviews directly with would-be bombers and terrorist combatants have set a higher standard; examples include Jessica Stern's Terror in the Name of God and Joyce Davis's Martyrs. Though not bad, Reuter's account falls short of the current caliber of such material on the subject. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Power of the Powerless, the Powerlessness of the Powerfulp. 1
Chapter 1 The Original Assassins: A History of Faith and Power in the Islamic Worldp. 19
Chapter 2 A Key to Paradise around Their Necks: Iran's Suicide Battalionsp. 33
Chapter 3 The Marketing Strategists of Martyrdom: Hezbollah in Lebanonp. 52
Chapter 4 Israel and Palestine: The Culture of Deathp. 79
Chapter 5 Suicide or Martyrdom? Modern Islam and the Feud of the Fatwasp. 115
Chapter 6 Bushido Replaces Allahu akbar: The Japanese Kamikazep. 130
Chapter 7 The Parasites of Anger: Al-Qaeda and the Islamist Internationalep. 139
Chapter 8 Separatist Movements and Female Suicide Bombers: The Cases of Sri Lanka and Kurdistanp. 155
Chapter 9 After Martyrdom: Recent Developments in Iranp. 167
Notesp. 181
Indexp. 195