Magazine article USA TODAY

Suicide Bombers as Technological Weapons

Magazine article USA TODAY

Suicide Bombers as Technological Weapons

Article excerpt

The way the U.S. military killed Osama bin Laden sent a message every bit as powerful as the fact that he was killed in the first place, according to the author of a history of suicide bombing. That bin Laden was killed by a team of highly trained soldiers--and not by a drone or bomb--spoiled the grand narrative of brave Muslim fighters versus U.S. technology that bin Laden and Al Qaeda had developed in their war against the U.S.

"Bin Laden had built up this image of himself and Al Qaeda as a morally superior David against the technological Goliath that is the U.S., but bin Laden was killed by people who risked their lives to get to him," points out Jeffrey Lewis, author of The Business of Martyrdom: A History of Suicide Bombing. "The U.S. could have flattened the compound with a bomb, but we took a risk in order to apprehend or kill him--and we made sure that we got the man responsible for the 9/11 attacks, without a lot of other casualties. It sent a message to the Muslim world that we were after justice and not revenge."

Lewis explains how suicide bombers were essential to bin Laden's narrative, because they were supposed to show how Al Qaeda relied on people of faith over technology to gain victory against its enemies. …

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