Steve Coll in The New Yorker:
In a world amply populated with angry young Muslims, it is a question of some interest why a small number choose to become suicide bombers. President Bush addresses the matter in starkly religious language, consigning it to an eternal contest between good and evil. American scholars have begun to attack the problem with scientific method; Robert Pape, of the University of Chicago, for example, recently mustered data to argue that suicide attacks are a rational means by which the weak can humble the strong. To this potpourri of hypotheses can now be added a compelling work by anonymous bureaucrats in Great Britain, under the oddly redundant title “Report of the Official Account of the Bombings in London on 7th July 2005.”
On that summer morning, three young Muslim men blew themselves up on Underground cars, and a fourth immolated himself on a double-decker bus; fifty-two people died, and several hundred suffered injuries. The most striking aspect of the inquiry into the attacks, which was published earlier this month, is the extent to which it plumbs the suicide bombers’ motivations.
The four men depicted in the report are in some respects unfathomable. When Shehzad Tanweer, a talented athlete who was twenty-two years old, bought snacks at a highway convenience store four hours before his death, he haggled over the change. Hasib Hussain, who was eighteen, strode into a McDonald’s just half an hour before he killed himself and thirteen others.