Friday, February 01, 2002

"'You asked me once,' said O'Brien, 'what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.'....

"'The worst thing in the world,' said O'Brien, 'varies from individual to individual. It may be burial alive, or death by fire, or by drowning, or by impalement, or fifty other deaths. There are cases where it is some quite trivial thing, not even fatal.'"

-- Orwell, 1984

In the Weekly Standard, Victorino Matus makes an interesting observation about the interrogation of Pakistani terrorist suspect (later convicted) Hakim Abdul Murad in the Philippines in 1995. Apparently, the man withstood incredibly brutal physical torture, but broke completely when threatened with being turned over to....the Mossad.

Now I don't know much about the Mossad's interrogation techniques (nor, I'm sure, did Murad); in fact, I doubt that they do much interrogating at all--questioning Palestinian suspects, for example, is primarily the job of Israel's internal security service, the Shin Bet. But the idea that the Mossad is such a feared organization among Islamist terrorists raises an interesting question about the psychology of terrorism: is the irrational, violent hatred displayed by terrorists the flip-side of an irrational, paralyzing fear? If so, what is it, exactly, about Israel that Hakim Abdul Murad and his colleagues fear so much? And can it be exploited in the effort to defeat them?

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