Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Real Hijackers

Earlier this year the British writer Gerald Seymour constructed an exceptionally good novel, The Unknown Soldier, around the premise that the men who are drawn into the embrace of al Qaeda are not at all who we think they are. We believe, as one of his characters puts it, that they are "brainwashed," when in fact "Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants . . . have refined a skill in identifying young men of varying social backgrounds and economic advantage who are prepared to make supreme sacrifices for a cause." They are not necessarily loners but are attracted to "the excitement of being a part of that select fugitive family," they have strong "personal self-esteem," they seek "adventure and purpose."

Now, in Perfect Soldiers, Terry McDermott provides the hard facts behind the fictional picture that Seymour so persuasively draws...

Clearly written in good, plain English, Perfect Soldiers is a group portrait of ordinary men who were driven to do a surpassingly evil thing...

Having discovered a cause for which they were ready -- indeed, often eager -- to sacrifice their own lives, these young jihadists followed orders as precisely and dutifully as the most assiduously trained U.S. Marine.

- From Yardley's review of Perfect Soldiers: The Hijackers: Who They Were, Why They Did It

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