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Mafiosos, terrorists, and all that jazz

By Carol Devine-Molin
web posted September 29, 2003

"Islamism is a business," he (a Saudi lawyer) explains to me with a big smile. "I don't say that because it's my job, or because I see proof of it in my office ten times a day, but because it's a fact. People hide behind Islamism. They use it like a screen saying 'Allah Akbar! Allah Akbar!' But we know that here. We see the deals and the movements behind the curtain…And I can tell you that most of them couldn't care less about Allah. They enter Islamism because it's nothing other than a source of power and wealth, especially in Pakistan". This is a superb excerpt from Christopher Hitchens' recent article, "Inside the Islamic Mafia", which reviews Bernard-Henri Lévy's book, Who Killed Danny Pearl?

Essentially, the culture of radical Islam is equated with that of a crime syndicate. And I'm certainly like-minded, as I've always espoused that thuggery is the constant, whether we're talking about terror groups, dictatorships, or organized crime (Mafioso groups and drug cartels, for example).Terrormeisters such as Yassir Arafat, (the late) Abu Nadal, or Osama bin Laden and his top henchmen, are gangster chiefs that are, or have been, engaged in narco-terrorism, terrorist hits (murder), kidnapping, extortion, etc., all for the purpose of accruing power, wealth, and furthering their goals.

The top dogs of these terror groups don't kill themselves -- they let some other poor indoctrinated saps "martyr" themselves in service of the cause. That's not to say that some terror elites, especially Osama bin Laden, don't believe in radical Islam, which is a cult-mentality. In fact, many do. However, bin Laden is an ascetic as opposed to many al-Qaeda and other terror bigwigs that have lived the good life.

The crucial elements that set Islamic terror groups apart from other forms of thuggery are: a) terrormeisters operate under the veneer of Islamic religiosity, b) they are willing and able to create kamikaze warriors, and c) they have declared war on all "infidel" nations with America and Israel at the top of the hit list. Generating martyrs that are poised to die for their crazed beliefs certainly makes terror groups the most dangerous of thugs.

The primary dynamic of thuggery is simple -- a relatively small group of people have a stake in a corrupt system that benefits them and furthers their cause, and which is accomplished on the backs of the masses that are victimized and abused in some manner. There is a misconception that top gangsters flourish solely by intimidation and brutal tactics. However, that is only part of the equation.

Even brutal, psychopathic dictators, such as Saddam Hussein, had their "pals", their partners in crime, which helped maintain and enforce an unscrupulous system. And they were therefore treated quite well. Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist Party members are a case in point. These minor thugs had no problems beating down the great unwashed masses in Iraq. The cronies of the chief thug developed a sense of entitlement, and were willing to protect their meal ticket. Today, some of these former Ba'athist members still strike out against American forces that have undermined their way of life. They were furiously opposed to relinquishing the perks and the rewards of Saddam's system.

Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.

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