One of the greatest living US writers has praised terrorists as "very brave people" and used drug culture slang to describe the "amazing high" suicide bombers must feel before blowing themselves up.It's not often that bald commentary makes its way into a straight news story, but even The Australian couldn't refrain from speaking the obvious :
Kurt Vonnegut, author of the 1969 anti-war classic Slaughterhouse Five, made the provocative remarks during an interview in New York for his new book, Man Without a Country, a collection of writings critical of US President George W. Bush.
Vonnegut, 83, has been a strong opponent of Mr Bush and the US-led war in Iraq, but until now has stopped short of defending terrorism.
But in discussing his views with The Weekend Australian, Vonnegut said it was "sweet and honourable" to die for what you believe in, and rejected the idea that terrorists were motivated by twisted religious beliefs.
"They are dying for their own self-respect," he said. "It's a terrible thing to deprive someone of their self-respect. It's like your culture is nothing, your race is nothing, you're nothing."
Asked if he thought of terrorists as soldiers, Vonnegut, a decorated World War II veteran, said: "I regard them as very brave people, yes."
He equated the actions of suicide bombers with US president Harry Truman's 1945 decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
On the Iraq war, he said: "What George Bush and his gang did not realise was that people fight back."
Vonnegut suggested suicide bombers must feel an "amazing high". He said: "You would know death is going to be painless, so the anticipation - it must be an amazing high."
But since Mr Bush was elected, Vonnegut's criticisms of US policy have become more and more impassioned.
In 2002, he was widely criticised for saying there was too much talk about the 9/11 attacks and not enough about "the crooks on Wall Street and in big corporations", whose conduct had been more destructive.
The following year he wrote that the US was hated around the world "because our corporations have been the principal deliverers and imposers of new technologies and economic schemes that have wrecked the self-respect, the cultures of men, women and children in so many other societies".
But Vonnegut's latest comments are likely to make many people wonder if old age has finally caught up with a grand old man of American letters.Ya Think?
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