A Ticking Bomber

There is no simple answer to the causes of terrorism. But three books offer insight into the complexities of man and his motivation to kill. These explanations come not from academic tomes, nor expositions by the burgeoning cottage industry of ter

Issue: Sept-Oct 2008

Dan Fesperman, The Amateur Spy (New York: Knopf, 2008), 384 pp., $24.95.

Yasmina Khadra, The Attack (New York: Anchor, 2007), 272 pp., $13.95.

Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (New York: Harcourt, 2007), 208 pp., $14.00.


ON THE evening of June 29, 2007, two men parked two Mercedes-Benzes on the streets of central London, near a popular nightclub. They were loaded with gas canisters. The one closest to the nightclub was set to go off first, causing revelers to rush outside, when the other would explode, ratcheting up the death toll. They failed to ignite.

Less than forty-eight hours later, a green Jeep Cherokee loaded with similar canisters rammed through the glass-plate window of the arrivals hall at Glasgow International Airport and burst into flames. The driver and passenger were the same men who had left the cars in London.

These men were doctors. Men who vow to save lives. Who swear to do no harm. To heal the sick. To revere life. If doctors had become terrorists, was no one immune to the hatred and disillusionment that breeds such destruction? Conventional thinking about terrorism was set on its axis-that it was because of poverty, unemployment, alienated young men; that it was the product of religious zealotry, fueled by radical imams in the madrassas of Pakistan, the pesantras of Indonesia.

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