Willing to Die

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," June 27, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Suicide bombers (search) killed about three dozen Iraqis over the weekend. These terrorists are willing to kill themselves to try to disrupt democracy in Iraq.

TIME magazine goes inside the mind of a terrorist-in-training to learn more about why they do what they do.

Joining us now from TIME magazine is deputy managing editor Steve Koepp.

So, what's the answer?

STEVE KOEPP, DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR, TIME MAGAZINE: Well, the person we talked to is a local. There had been long talk that these were imports, these were zealots coming in from outside.

This is a guy who witnessed attacks in his hometown of Fallujah (search) and was appalled by it and got pretty good with a machine gun and developed a reputation, and just a wiry guy who's very courageous for his cause and then wanted to move up to the next level.

GIBSON: And the next level is a being a suicide bomber?

KOEPP: It's getting on the list. He says there's dozens or scores more like him. They just wait. They don't know what's going to happen, what order they're going to get. At some point, the order comes down, even minutes before.

GIBSON: Is he working for Zarqawi (search)?

KOEPP: Yes, Al Qaeda in Iraq — that's the organization.

GIBSON: OK. So, now, the typical story we hear about these suicide bombers is they get them together in a room with a bunch of other like-minded guys. They work on them. They get them into a fever pitch. They have a limited amount of time to get a vest on them or get them in a car and get them out there before they change their mind. Did you get that sense — that that's the case with this guy?

KOEPP: This guy made it sound more one on one, that there was a mentoring relationship, that not only was he treated that way, but he also mentored someone else, and so that there's more of an intensely spiritual thing, so that there's no doubt in their mind.


GIBSON: Spiritual? What's spiritual?

KOEPP: Well, in a sense of, they study the history. They look at heroes of Islam from time long ago. And they do see themselves as on a crusade to get the Americans out and to kill as many as possible.

GIBSON: So, what is it he plans to do?

KOEPP: Well, he plans to do what he's told to do. And he won't know. And that's part of their own internal security and part of the indoctrination of these guys. They just know they're going to do what they're told. They could be strapped on with explosives to go drive a car. It could be to go into a group of people.


GIBSON: How important is Islam in motivating or keeping these guys motivated?

KOEPP: It's huge. I mean, while the provocation is Americans being there, when they list their priorities, it's always, number one, they're fighting for Islam. So, they've come to just equate Americans being there with an offense against Islam. And they manage to, through a series of purification steps and things like that, basically remove any doubt. That could be part of why there's a waiting game.

GIBSON: Do we have a way to defeat these guys?

KOEPP: Well, we don't go that far. That is the question.

But there's more and more all the time. And one of the most striking things is that it's just not imports. These are Iraqi people. And so there seems to be a growing supply of them.

GIBSON: TIME magazine managing editor Steve Koepp. Steve, thanks very much. Interesting piece in TIME magazine.

KOEPP: Thank you.

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