The Reading Room

Confessions of a Terrorist

Review of Confessions of a Terrorist by Richard Jackson…

confRichard Jackson’s 2013 debut novel struck me as a particularly significant reminder of the underlying problems which are conveniently labelled as Muslim extremism. In the wake of the horrendous act of murder in Nice last week in which the world’s media rushed to link to ISIS, Jackson offers an insight into the mindset of a terrorist and their reasons for radicalisation. Whilst the reasons behind the attack in Nice remain unclear it would be foolish to presume it was fuelled by religious conviction alone, if at all. Radicalisation in itself cannot take root without a prior sense of discrimination, betrayal and hatred towards those who are perceived to be the ‘real terrorists’.

Jackson’s book is a clever one, he pitches a British intelligence officer against a well-educated terrorist in a single room. Two men, two chairs and a table. The book is presented as a transcription by MI5 along with some, in my opinion, slightly annoying ‘pencil edits’. These notes by a fellow officer are not particularly relevant and appear amateurish in comparison with the main dialogue which is excellent.

Whilst anyone with an interest in geopolitics will be aware of the main thrust of the Israel-Palestine issue in particular, Jackson throws in some noteworthy reminders of atrocities committed on both sides of the ‘war on terrorism’ citing Vietnam, the IRA, the CIA funding of the conflicts in South America under Reagan, the death squads in Iraq to compliance in torture. It’s all there, laid out in front of us by two opposing sides justifying their actions.

Jackson’s day job is in the field of intelligence and terrorism. Now based in New Zealand he has previously held the position of Professor of International Politics at Aberystwyth University in Wales before his current position as Deputy Director of The National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago. His grip on the subject is clear, the book is compelling and thought-provoking. Whatever one’s personal politics, Jackson makes it clear that there have been truly dreadful wrong doings by state and terrorist alike and the inference that skin colour defines a tragedy from a statistic runs through the heart of the book. The recent bombing and murder of two hundred civilians in Baghdad three years after the release of his book proves that nothing has changed. Until the West treat atrocities such as this in the same way as those on mainland Europe then that sense of discrimination will never fade.

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