Wall Street Journal

Napoleoni comes up with a startling conclusion that the “New Economy of Terror is a fast growing international economic system, with a turnover of about $1.5 trillion, twice the GDP of the United Kingdom.”

(This article is quoted here in it’s entirety for research purposes but is copyright of the Wall Street Journal and of it’s author)

Surveying the World-Wide Terrorism Battleground
By George Melloan
Tuesday, October 7, 2003

A Brussels court seven days ago sentenced a Tunisian-born al Qaeda terrorist to 10 years in jail for plotting a suicide attack on a NATO air base. Eighteen other terrorists were sentenced for other crimes, including passport forgeries linked to the murder by two suicide bombers of anti-Taliban Afghan leader Ahmed Shah Massoud in September 2001. It was a good day for a country not well known for supporting U.S. anti-terror efforts. But Belgium’s bad image in Americahas been earned mainly by its noisy socialist politicians. Belgian law enforcement officers, like their counterparts in many other countries of the world, are mainly serious people who are cooperating with the U.S.-led effort by searching out and jailing would-be attackers.

America’s FBI and CIA deserve credit for organizing and coordinating this effort. Neither agency has a spotless record of willingness to cooperate with investigators in other countries, or with each other for that matter, but they seem to be getting better at it. The war on terrorism is necessarily a global enterprise, because al Qaeda and related networks are themselves global — and if they are to be rolled up, lawmen must overcome their traditional reluctance to share information. Some of that reluctance derives from a need to protect sources, but a great deal of it is just innate and inexcusable secretiveness.

The Journal last week reported the close cooperation between the CIA and the counterintelligence authorities of Thailand in capturing a man widely regarded as the kingpin of Asian terrorism, Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali. He is said to be operational chief for Jemaah Islamiyah, an al Qaeda affiliate operating in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, that is suspected of engineering the horrendous nightclub bombing in Bali last October and the bombing of a Marriott hotel in Jakarta in August. Four Indonesian investigators arrived in Karachi last week to question Hambali’s brother, Rusman Gunawan. He has been arrested along with 16 other “religious students” by Pakistani authorities on suspicion that Gunawan was running a JI branch in Pakistan.

The arrival of the Indonesian cops preceded a visit to Pakistan by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to further chivvy the Pakistanis into stopping the remnants of the Taliban army from taking refuge on Pakistani soil to escape NATO forces in Afghanistan. He told Congress before leaving the U.S. that he didn’t think the rank and file of the Pakistani security forces were backing up the promises of cooperation from President Pervez Musharraf. But a U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan denied claims by some local authorities that the Taliban are making a comeback. “Whenever they manifest themselves in Afghanistan, we kill them,” Col. Rodney Davis told a press conference in Kabul. And on Thursday, Mr. Armitage took positive note of a Pakistani raid that day on a border al Qaeda training camp.

In the U.S., this strange war was most recently manifested in the arrests of Senior Airman Ahmad al-Halabi, a U.S. Air Force translator, and Army Chaplain Capt. Yousef Yee, both in connection with their work at Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Some 660 alleged extremists, most captured in Afghanistan, are being held there. The airman, a native of Syria, is accused of passing information about the captives to Syria.

The above is a rather broad-brush review of how the war on terror is being conducted on many fronts, both by large armies and small groups of investigators. Perhaps it gives some clue to the complex dimensions of this war and to why those American politicians who want instant gratification in Iraq and elsewhere lack even a limited grasp of what is involved.

It is much like fighting the “war on drugs,” where the U.S. has not scored great victories, as it involves poking into thousands of shadowy corners. In fact, the two are related: Since the Cold War days, when the Soviet KGB was putting terrorists and guerrilla armies into the field, terrorists have quite often financed themselves with drug networks.

Indeed, one of the key techniques of terrorism investigators, as with drug agents, is to follow the money. In the case of terrorism, it very often leads back to some innocent-looking sources, such as Islamic charities in the U.S. and Europe. In a new book titled “Modern Jihad,” economist Loretta Napoleoni comes up with the startling conclusion that “the New Economy of Terror is a fast-growing international economic system, with a turnover of about $1.5 trillion, twice the GDP of the United Kingdom.” The so-called “narco- terrorists” in places like Colombia have a huge turnover. The cash-generating activities of terrorist groups include extortion, kidnapping, smuggling and a range of other criminal activities.

Ms. Napoleoni concludes that the best way to fight terror is to “identify its channels of interaction with the economies of the West and progressively sever them — close its avenues into the free market and the world of capitalism.”

Good advice, of course, and it is one route terrorism fighters are pursuing. But it is easier said than done. Another new book, titled “Funding Evil” and written by sometime Journal contributor Rachel Ehrenfeld, notes that the U.S. State Department has identified 69 major terrorist organizations in the world. The U.S Patriot Act, passed in October 2001, among other things granted greater powers for the U.S. government to snoop out the way these groups launder their illicit revenues. The United Nations Security Council adopted resolutions requiring member nations to aid this effort. But Ms. Ehrenfeld writes that by April 2003, only $124 million in assets had been frozen, $88 million overseas, a disappointing result.

No doubt the money trail should be pursued to try to block avenues of financing and freeze the assets of terrorist groups. These efforts certainly lead to a greater understanding of how terrorist groups function and who are their principal leaders. They also can sometimes provide evidence that will send terrorists to jail on ordinary criminal charges.

But in the final analysis, the war on terrorism requires a recognition that it is in fact a war. Protestations of religious or political motive notwithstanding, these groups are, on the whole, criminals. Nothing will serve but to hunt them down and put them out of business.

(Copyright (c) 2003, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)

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