How discover the agent’s motive and whether he desired death itself when he formed his resolve, or had some other purpose? Intent is too intimate a thing to be more than approximately interpreted by another. It even escapes self-observation. How often we mistake the true reasons for our acts! We constantly explain acts due to petty feelings or blind routine by generous passions or lofty considerations.
The 1992 war in the Balkans was different from any war that we have fought here in America in that it was what you could call a commuter war. Soldiers fought on the battlefield all week and then went home on the weekends to decompress and spend time with their families. What I am about to describe happened on both the Croatian and the Serbian side. The fighters came home with their gear — uniforms, AK-47s, and even hand grenades. A few of these men — the stress of the combat still shaking their bones — called their families into the living room. They sat everyone down, took out the hand grenade on their belt, pulled, the pin, and dropped it in the middle of the floor, killing most if not everyone. After a few such incidents, the respective governments began making their troops leave their weapons behind before they went home.
I’m not going to attempt to ascribe a motive here. Homicidal ideation — as well as suicide — is sometimes associated with PTSD and other mental disorders. There is no question here that it was a horrible war with men committing atrocities and simply carrying out the grim task of murdering the enemy — many of whom had been their neighbors just a few weeks before — every day. The soldiers described here had access to a unique means to kill. That’s all one can say.