Synopses & Reviews
A startling look at the deepest, darkest secrets that terrorists pray youll never know
For decades, experts from the most powerful governments and prestigious universities around the world have told us that suicide bombers are psychologically normal men and women driven by a single-minded purpose: self-sacrifice. As it turns out, this claim originated with the terrorist leaders themselves, who insisted that they would never recruit mentally unstable people to carry out suicide attacks. As these strikes have become both increasingly common and increasingly deadly, no one has challenged this conventional wisdom. These are fearless ideological warriors, we're told, who have the same resolve and commitment to their beliefs as our own Navy SEALs, because they're willing to die for the sake of their cause.
In The Myth of Martyrdom, Adam Lankford argues that these so-called experts have it all wrong. The truth is that most suicide terrorists are like any other suicidal person—longing to escape from unbearable pain, be it depression, anxiety, marital strife, or professional failure. Their “martyrdom” is essentially a cover for an underlying death wish. Drawing on an array of primary sources, including suicide notes, love letters, diary entries, and martyrdom videos, Lankford reveals the important parallels that exist between suicide bombers, airplane hijackers, cult members, and rampage shooters. The result is an astonishing account of rage and shame that will transform the way we think of terrorism forever.
We cant hope to stop these deadly attacks, Lankford argues, until we understand whats really behind them. This timely and provocative book flips a decades-old argument on its head—and has huge implications for our future.
For decades, experts have maintained that suicide terrorists are the psychological equivalent of Americas Navy SEALS—men and women so fully committed to their cause that they cease to fear death. In The Myth of Martyrdom, Lankford corrects this misconception, arguing that these mysterious people are driven to suicide by the same factors as any civilian: depression, anxiety, marital strife, or professional failure. He takes readers on a journey through the minds of suicide bombers, airplane hijackers, 'lone wolf' terrorists, cult members, school shooters, kamikaze pilots, and more. The result is an astonishing exploration of fear, failure, guilt, shame, and rage, told through case studies, suicide notes, love letters, diary entries, and martyrdom videos. Lankford believes that it is only by exploring these heretofore unacknowledged secrets of suicide terrorists that we will ever be able to stop them, and he outlines the first steps our government and military must take toward accomplishing that seemingly impossible goal.
About the Author
Adam Lankford is a Criminal Justice professor at The University of Alabama. His research has been featured by media outlets such as Foreign Policy, The Daily Beast, CNN, NPR, The Atlantic, and The Boston Globe. From 2003 to 2008, Lankford helped coordinate anti-terrorism efforts in conjunction with the US State Departments Anti-Terrorism Assistance program. Lankford has written for The Huffington Post, Foreign Policy, and many peer-reviewed journals, and is the author of Human Killing Machines. He lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.