Thank God for the Sydney Morning Herald's opinion editor I say. He/she knows exactly what the Herald's (dwindling) readership really wants. Namely, stirring tales of derring-do, with catchy titles such as Fanging out with vipers, or I put my head in the croc's mouth and survived... the halitosis!, or Care for a swim in shark-infested waters? Why not?
Which is why, I guess, Anne Speckhard's opinion piece, Inside the homes, heads and hearts of terrorists is both frightening and fascinating, was selected for inclusion in the opinion pages of yesterday's Herald:
"Have you wondered what it would be like to talk to a terrorist? It's hard to imagine just being in the same vicinity of one, let alone staying at their houses, eating with them and having hour-long discussions. Over the past decade, I have been researching the psychology of terrorists and extremists, their supporters, close family members and associates... One of the most common questions people are intrigued to know is: what is it like to talk to a terrorist? It's both frightening and fascinating... The truth is they started out as ordinary people just like you and me... I wanted to understand what takes normal people to put themselves on the terrorist trajectory... I overcame my fear via my fascination with their descriptions of the experiences that drove them into terrorism. In conflict zones such as Chechnya, Palestine and Iraq, many of the traumatic experiences they described were heartbreaking and I could understand (but never endorse) how they were drawn to groups that promised them the possibility of revenge and empowered them after they felt totally overwhelmed by the violence of another... When talking to the terrorists... it was always really useful to go as far as possible into the actual context of their lives... I understood that terrorists view themselves as part of a movement and as soldiers for their cause. They don't see their actions as any more wrong than our soldiers judge their killing in combat was wrong. Of course, there is a huge difference and there is never any justification for terrorism of any type; there is no cause anywhere in the world that justifies targeting and terrorising innocent civilians on its behalf."
Well, I don't know about you, but after reading that I was impressed. What a brave woman is this Anne Speckhard - sorry, Dr Anne Speckhard. I mean, it's a miracle she wasn't eaten alive!
So just who is this Wonder Woman?
According to the Herald bio, she's a professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University. But not just any old professor - she's an "adjunct associate" professor. Not just a pretty face, eh?
In fact, so impressed was I that I checked out her website and now I'm just itching to get my hands on her latest book: Talking to Terrorists: Understanding the Psycho-Social Motivations of Militants, Jihadi Terrorists, Mass Hostage Takers, Suicide Bombers & 'Martyrs'.
I swear, not since Aaron Klein's Schmoozing with Terrorists: From Hollywood to the Holy Land, Jihadis Reveal their Global Plans - to a Jew! have I been this excited! And when I'm through with that, the very next on my to-read list will have to be Dr Speckhard's Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy Seal's Journey to Coming Out Transgender.
But back to Talking to Terrorists. Just look at the reviews assembled on her website. All 5-star and all by the right people.
A mere sample:
"The embarrassing truth about Terrorism Studies is that most writers on the subject have never met a terrorist. Dr Anne Speckhard is an exception... Nobody has gotten closer to the 'heart of darkness'." - Alex P. Schmid, Director, Terrorism Research Initiative
"She has succeeded in delving into the terrorist mind." - Joe Charlaff, Journalist, Israel
"Anne goes alone and without security into the lion's den to interview her subjects who most often have blood on their hands." - Peter S. Probst, Former Assistant for Terrorism Intelligence, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations & Low Intensity Conflict (OASD/SO/LIC), Former Special Assistant for Concept Development - Office of Special Planning - Office of the Secretary of Defense and Former CIA Officer (Directorate of Operations and Directorate of Intelligence)
"Invaluable to those in the field of terrorism studies, as well as to the general public." - Yoram Schweitzer, Director of the Low Intensity Warfare & Terrorism Project and Senior Research Fellow at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies
"As advisor to Detainee Task Force 134, I watched Anne in action at Camp Cropper, the world's largest detention center. Her empathy, smile, Belgian chocolates, and paper tissues for the occasional tears worked to enlist the cooperation of even the most hard-hearted and unrepentant killers." - Rohan Gunaratna, Author, Inside al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror
Be still, my beating heart. I think I'm in love...