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Talking to Terrorists: Understanding the Psycho-Social Motivations of Militant Jihadi Terrorists, Mass Hostage Takers, Suicide Bombers & Martyrs to Combat Terrorism in Prison & Community Rehabilitation

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This is an account of traveling through the West Bank and Gaza, into the prisons of Iraq, down the alleyways of the Casablanca slums, to Chechnya, into the radicalized neighborhoods of Belgium, the UK, France and the Netherlands, of sitting with the hostages of Beslan and Nord Ost, and of talking to terrorists. Dr. Speckhard gives us the inside story of what puts vulnerabl This is an account of traveling through the West Bank and Gaza, into the prisons of Iraq, down the alleyways of the Casablanca slums, to Chechnya, into the radicalized neighborhoods of Belgium, the UK, France and the Netherlands, of sitting with the hostages of Beslan and Nord Ost, and of talking to terrorists. Dr. Speckhard gives us the inside story of what puts vulnerable individuals on the terrorist trajectory and what might take them back off of it. With more than four hundred interviews with terrorists and their friends, family members and hostages, Dr. Speckhard is one of the few experts to have such a breadth of experience. She visited, and even stayed overnight, in the intimate spaces of terrorists' homes, interviewed them in their stark prison cells, or met them in the streets of their cities and villages. Dr. Speckhard gives us a rare glimpse of terrorists within their own contexts. From the mouths of terrorists, their family members, comrades-and even their hostages, we learn of the manipulation of human weakness that can lead to violent acts. Through careful research of culture and religion and a genuine desire to understand the factors that motivate individuals to embrace terrorism, Dr. Speckhard deftly defines the lethal cocktail that leads to the creation of a terrorist. An internationally recognized expert on the psychological aspects of terrorism and an expert in the area of posttraumatic stress disorder, Dr. Speckhard's research also produces a knowledge of how to disengage, deradicalize, rehabilitate, and reverse the trajectory of a terrorist. Dr. Speckhard's studies spanning over a decade provide us with a deeper understanding of one of the most dangerous and violent phenomena of our times.


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This is an account of traveling through the West Bank and Gaza, into the prisons of Iraq, down the alleyways of the Casablanca slums, to Chechnya, into the radicalized neighborhoods of Belgium, the UK, France and the Netherlands, of sitting with the hostages of Beslan and Nord Ost, and of talking to terrorists. Dr. Speckhard gives us the inside story of what puts vulnerabl This is an account of traveling through the West Bank and Gaza, into the prisons of Iraq, down the alleyways of the Casablanca slums, to Chechnya, into the radicalized neighborhoods of Belgium, the UK, France and the Netherlands, of sitting with the hostages of Beslan and Nord Ost, and of talking to terrorists. Dr. Speckhard gives us the inside story of what puts vulnerable individuals on the terrorist trajectory and what might take them back off of it. With more than four hundred interviews with terrorists and their friends, family members and hostages, Dr. Speckhard is one of the few experts to have such a breadth of experience. She visited, and even stayed overnight, in the intimate spaces of terrorists' homes, interviewed them in their stark prison cells, or met them in the streets of their cities and villages. Dr. Speckhard gives us a rare glimpse of terrorists within their own contexts. From the mouths of terrorists, their family members, comrades-and even their hostages, we learn of the manipulation of human weakness that can lead to violent acts. Through careful research of culture and religion and a genuine desire to understand the factors that motivate individuals to embrace terrorism, Dr. Speckhard deftly defines the lethal cocktail that leads to the creation of a terrorist. An internationally recognized expert on the psychological aspects of terrorism and an expert in the area of posttraumatic stress disorder, Dr. Speckhard's research also produces a knowledge of how to disengage, deradicalize, rehabilitate, and reverse the trajectory of a terrorist. Dr. Speckhard's studies spanning over a decade provide us with a deeper understanding of one of the most dangerous and violent phenomena of our times.

30 review for Talking to Terrorists: Understanding the Psycho-Social Motivations of Militant Jihadi Terrorists, Mass Hostage Takers, Suicide Bombers & Martyrs to Combat Terrorism in Prison & Community Rehabilitation

  1. 4 out of 5

    Avolyn Fisher

    I've been feeling extremely torn as to how to properly review this groundbreaking book that truly stands on its own, unparalleled by any other piece of work given Anne's unique background and breadth of experience. I also can't even begin to imagine actually doing the work that she put in to even have the material to write about. That alone makes it seem almost unfair to try and provide a review for this book. As I dug deeper into the book (beyond the first quarter, around the halfway point) I d I've been feeling extremely torn as to how to properly review this groundbreaking book that truly stands on its own, unparalleled by any other piece of work given Anne's unique background and breadth of experience. I also can't even begin to imagine actually doing the work that she put in to even have the material to write about. That alone makes it seem almost unfair to try and provide a review for this book. As I dug deeper into the book (beyond the first quarter, around the halfway point) I did notice some repetition as other reviewers have noted. I'm not sure what process Anne followed to edit and piece her book together, I almost wonder if she just took all of her notes and meshed them together into a book. Not necessarily the worst strategy but that might account for some of the chapters seeming to repeat theories/thoughts already discussed in detail in other chapters. For me the biggest flaws were in her voice as a writer, which feels deeply personal and harsh to say but truly impacted my experience reading this book. Again, as I've already said it almost seems inappropriate to take a critical stance on such a piece, and I have zero experience as a clinical psychologist. But still, I found much of her demeanor and candid comments to be extremely inappropriate. I'm not sure if she felt that some sexual tension would help keep the reader engaged with the idea that 'sex sells,' and I'm not saying she should deny or leave pieces of her experience out but much of her comments are around assumptions she makes about the intentions of others. Few are blatant advances but most of the time she feels the need to comment on the sexual tension in the air. For whatever reason this grew to be rather annoying. On one hand I'm not surprised if she experienced this but it is not why I wanted to read her book and with a book that is 800 pages you really don't need to include those details, there is no need for fluff in a book of this size. In addition, I felt that she was constantly telling us how we should feel about the behavior of others that she was describing. Now to a certain degree, I appreciate her professional commentary and her ability to explain a psychological phenomenon that I may not otherwise pick up on or even know about since I'm not a psychologist. But if someone is acting in an XYZ manner, rather than telling me they're having an XYZ reaction, show me, with an account of their behavior. And she does often provide detailed accounts, but again seems so forceful in telling us how we should feel about her work to the extent of apophenia. She was quick to discredit things she didn't want to believe (such as sexual abuse of young boys from men in middle eastern countries), but then quick to assert her predisposed beliefs on nearly any interaction. However, I would like to think this was more a symptom of how the book was written and perhaps wouldn't have read this way if she had structured the book differently in how she organized observation and theory. I also thought that the book was poorly edited. We've all found typos or grammatical errors in books but this one is littered with them. I can only assume it came down to the fact that she wanted to publish the book at a low cost, and her book is quite massive, or perhaps it came through in how the book was printed (some letters weresmooshed together like that), but it was beyond the acceptable level and really detracted from the book and tainted the overall message. Beyond that, I really enjoyed the insight this book provided. I've spoken with a few friends who served overseas with my now limited perspective thanks to this book and most have been surprised at my understanding of some of the dynamics present in Iraq and Afghanistan leading me to believe that her book could not be that far off from the realities of terrorism overseas. Had Anne perhaps condensed her message by a few hundred pages and put a little more work in the organization and editing of her book, this book would be a gem. However, still very much worth the read and the chapters are short and easy to chew through if you spread it out over a few months.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sophia Marquesa

    The book is informative and well written. Speckhard's interviews are fascinating and they bring to life the moment of each interview. The manner in which Speckhard has conducted her interviews is very interesting. Her soft approach to asking questions to the families of the suicide bombers, and attempted suicide bombers brings to life the pure existence of their being. As she describes in her book, they were not born terrorists, but rather became terrorists based on their violent pasts and traum The book is informative and well written. Speckhard's interviews are fascinating and they bring to life the moment of each interview. The manner in which Speckhard has conducted her interviews is very interesting. Her soft approach to asking questions to the families of the suicide bombers, and attempted suicide bombers brings to life the pure existence of their being. As she describes in her book, they were not born terrorists, but rather became terrorists based on their violent pasts and trauma which they experienced. This is an excellent book into the reality of terrorism, specifically martyrdom.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Xing Chen

    This exceptional book overflows with hard-won insights, accumulated by the author through hundreds of interviews with terrorists and their families, throughout the Middle East and Europe. At 822 pages, it is nothing short of scholarly, yet bitingly relevant to our times. While many other writers and thinkers focus solely on political or religious fanaticism as the source of terrorists’ motives, Speckhard cuts through to the psychological makeup of the individual, detailing their profound persona This exceptional book overflows with hard-won insights, accumulated by the author through hundreds of interviews with terrorists and their families, throughout the Middle East and Europe. At 822 pages, it is nothing short of scholarly, yet bitingly relevant to our times. While many other writers and thinkers focus solely on political or religious fanaticism as the source of terrorists’ motives, Speckhard cuts through to the psychological makeup of the individual, detailing their profound personal experiences and allowing the reader to understand how seemingly ordinary people can be driven to commit extreme acts. Rather than merely vilifying terrorists and treating them as other-worldly monsters whose actions are and forever will remain inexplicable and irrational, she immersed herself in their environment, connected with their culture, and gained a genuine understanding of the evil to which they have repeatedly been exposed. She relived the grief of their families, soaked in the humiliations of being treated with insensitivity and suspicion, and endured dangerous situations and environments, to reveal the defensive mechanisms that emerge when people are abused and trapped. She casts her research net wide, escaping the influence of group-think and steering the reader away from simplistic stereotypes and easy answers. Straight away, through her interviews with Chechen and Palestinian terrorists of both genders, she dismantles the widespread perception that all terrorists are young, Muslim males, who are driven by the promise of virgins in paradise. Common characteristics of terrorists, that emerge time and time again, are: 1) A sensitive personality- exposure to injustice and oppression (e.g. the murder of a loved one) affects them deeply; 2) The compelling need to take action (however misdirected) rather than remain passive; 3) A sense of desperation- their situation is so painful that they think they have no other options, and death becomes an attractive choice- sometimes a welcome escape from hellish reality and psychological suffering. It is crystal-clear that when innocent people are caught up in unending cycles of violence- whether thrust into the role of a young, traumatised soldier or a helpless civilian- they will seek revenge and lash out in fear, anger, and desperation. With the internet, people in geographically distant locations are made aware of the suffering of others, empathise and identify with them (perhaps after experiencing injustices of their own), and decide to join the bloody battle. With her highly honed powers of observation, extensive knowledge, resourcefulness, and sheer determination and guts, Speckhard has turned numerous case studies into irrefutable wisdom- unless we truly understand the motives of terrorists and their perspectives as human beings (the horrifying nature of their acts notwithstanding)- unless we solve the horrendous problems of injustice and oppression of innocent people around the world, we cannot hope to address the problem of modern day terrorism. My only complaint is the author’s tendency to over-apologise for her flashes of compassion for the terrorists and their families, and her seeming need to distance herself from them, after drawing close- perhaps she feared a backlash from haters? Regardless, it is a solid tome which should be studied by anyone who wants to understand terrorist acts.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Titplum

    Considering the actual context, I wanted to have better knowledge of the motivations of terrorists, of what can possibly lead them to such extreme actions. This book was a disapointment to me. I couldn't even bring myself to finish it, which doesn't happen often. The author went to multiple troubled places and allow us to have a glimpse of the life of the inhabitants, the grave injustices they face on a daily basis. That is very interesting. But I think that overall, from what I've read, it remai Considering the actual context, I wanted to have better knowledge of the motivations of terrorists, of what can possibly lead them to such extreme actions. This book was a disapointment to me. I couldn't even bring myself to finish it, which doesn't happen often. The author went to multiple troubled places and allow us to have a glimpse of the life of the inhabitants, the grave injustices they face on a daily basis. That is very interesting. But I think that overall, from what I've read, it remains superficial. The interviews are very alike. And at times, the author loses herself in too much "fluff" and repetitions, which somewhat ruined the story for me. Finally, I feel that she sometimes has a condescending tone which I find annoying. So there are good things in this book but in my opinon also many flaws in the storytelling that were really annoying to me and didn't encourage me to keep up reading.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Stewart Cotterill

    This is a fascinating read. It shows the true worth of finding out what motivates people to carry out terrorist acts. No surprises that there is no one common factor. The subject of female suicide bombers in Palestine is immensely interesting. However it is the work that the author did in Iraq and the combined work with "the trio" which in my opinion points the way forward for dealing with terrorists who have been caught. It should be adapted and used in prisons, mosques and all places where ter This is a fascinating read. It shows the true worth of finding out what motivates people to carry out terrorist acts. No surprises that there is no one common factor. The subject of female suicide bombers in Palestine is immensely interesting. However it is the work that the author did in Iraq and the combined work with "the trio" which in my opinion points the way forward for dealing with terrorists who have been caught. It should be adapted and used in prisons, mosques and all places where terrorism could possibly be fostered. Real Islamic scholars challenging the warped views which manipulate would-be jihadis is a wonderful idea. More money for psychologists to deal with the vulnerable is needed urgently.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Halli Casser-Jayne

    In the hands of Dr. Anne Speckhard what could have been a book that droned on and on, "Talking to Terrorists" is at once eminently readable and engaging, informative, fascinating and frightening. Meet Dr. Anne Speckhard on The Halli Casser-Jayne Show Wednesday, Feb. 5, 3 pm ET live or listen to the podcast http://bit.ly/U4EEMd In the hands of Dr. Anne Speckhard what could have been a book that droned on and on, "Talking to Terrorists" is at once eminently readable and engaging, informative, fascinating and frightening. Meet Dr. Anne Speckhard on The Halli Casser-Jayne Show Wednesday, Feb. 5, 3 pm ET live or listen to the podcast http://bit.ly/U4EEMd

  7. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

  8. 4 out of 5

    MAB

  9. 4 out of 5

    Donna Silber

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ken Reidy

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sienna Wilder

  12. 4 out of 5

    Vijay

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sara Gottfredsen

  14. 5 out of 5

    Leah

  15. 4 out of 5

    Morgan Puida

  16. 5 out of 5

    Madrileña Reader

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dan Carroll

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michele Kerr

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bob

  20. 4 out of 5

    Johnson Tran

  21. 4 out of 5

    Miss CA May

  22. 4 out of 5

    Megan H Wilson

  23. 4 out of 5

    brian bresnan

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michael J. Mealer

  25. 5 out of 5

    Michael McCabe

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ida Bennike

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sanchita Guha

  28. 5 out of 5

    J.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rayo

  30. 5 out of 5

    Amelia A. Poole

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