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The Myth of Martyrdom: What Really Drives Suicide Bombers, School Shooters, and Other Self-Destructive Killers


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For decades, experts have maintained that suicide terrorists are the psychological equivalent of America’s 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.

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