Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Book Review - Washington Times

The Washington Times
December 5, 2004

Making terrorists, financing terror
By Joshua Sinai

Terrorism is driven by underground financial networks, regional upheavals, charismatic leaders and extremist religious beliefs. Four books that take on these subjects are worth noting.
In Blood From Stones: The Secret Financial Network of Terror (Broadway Books, $24.95; 225 pages, veteran investigative reporter Douglas Farah uncovers the shadowy world of financial dealings and networks that make it possible for terrorist groups such as al Qaeda to fund and sustain their complex and expensive operations.
This world stretches from the war-torn West African nation of Sierra Leone, where rough diamonds are mined and shadowy figures, such as terrorist middlemen, pay cash to rebel warlords for the raw diamonds, to the gold markets of the United Arab Emirates and the secretive diamond trading center in Antwerp, Belgium, where huge profits are garnered from their sale.
In addition to profiting from the illicit diamond trade, terrorists generate income from sympathetic communities in Europe and the United States through charity front organizations that siphon off millions of dollars and then use hawala money changers to transfer the funds overseas to the terrorist groups.
The book is richly informed by the author's extensive travels to the regions where such funding networks operate and his access to investigatory and court documents. As the author argues, the pivotal role that the worldwide underground financial networks play in fueling terrorism is one of the primary battlegrounds that must be won to deprive terrorism of its financial lifeblood.
•••
Hassan Abbas, a former officer in Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's anti-corruption police force and visiting fellow at Harvard University's Law School, has written a highly informative account of his country's radical Islamic groups in Pakistan's Drift Into Extremism: Allah, the Army, and America's War on Terror (M.E. Sharpe, $69.95, 276 pages).
The book examines the rise of religious extremism in Pakistan and its close connections to the leadership and policies of the country's military and security establishments, who dominate that country's political system. Drawing on the author's intimate knowledge of, and interviews with, Pakistani military and intelligence officials, the book contains new historical materials on important events that presaged the rise of extremism in Pakistan.
These include the failed military coup by Islamic fundamentalists in 1993-94, the symbiotic relationship between the country's national security establishment and extremist religious elements who gave birth to the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan, and the way in which General Musharraf handled the volatile situation in his country after the September 11 attacks.
The last chapters discuss al Qaeda and the militant jihadi groups in Pakistan, whose fierce radicalism has taken such a toll on Pakistani society and whose founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, had originally envisioned as living in a more secular state.
The book's final chapter recounts behind-the-scenes American dealings with Pakistan after September 11, when Secretary of State Colin Powell succeeded in reversing Pakistan's previous support for the Taliban. The author concludes that Pakistan's domestic and regional predicament can be improved only if it succeeds in making peace with India on Kashmir and reducing the role of the military in politics.
•••
In Osama: The Making of a Terrorist (Knopf, $26.95, 352 pages), Jonathan Randal, a journalist who has extensively covered the Middle East, attempts to uncover the factors that drove a deeply religious Saudi multi-millionaire to become, from the wilds of the Afghan/Pakistani border, the world's most charismatic, preeminent and yet elusive terrorist leader and chief threat to the United States, its allies, and Middle Eastern rulers.
To Mr. Randal, Osama bin Laden epitomizes the conflict between Islam and the West, resulting in an estrangement not only from the West, but especially the country of his birth, the petro-monarchy in Saudi Arabia, which he considers corrupt and morally bankrupt.
Unlike Osama's terrorist leader predecessors, however, this independently wealthy entrepreneur is termed by Mr. Randal an "Islamic Goldfinger," who combines the twin roles of president of Jihad Incorporated and a money dispensing foundation. This enabled him to build a worldwide network of adherents willing to follow and implement his deeply held "grievances [which] cleverly combined fact and fancy." Despite such entrepreneurial skills, however, Mr. Randal criticizes Osama as a "Muslim Samson" who "brought the temple down on his Taliban hosts" as American forces overthrew them in Afghanistan in retaliation for September 11.
The book is not only about bin Laden but the environments that produce the Jihadists who are so ready to give up their lives for the cause. Mr. Randal analyzes how such adherents turn to martyrdom operations as a means of reinventing themselves to overcome their own failures in life, while drifting further and further into religious fanaticism.
This is one of the best accounts of bin Laden, al Qaeda and the broader jihadi movement, showing how Islamic terrorism has evolved and proliferated since the 1980s to become today's first order magnitude national security threat to so many nations around the world.
•••
In Investigating Religious Terrorism and Ritualistic Crimes (CRC Press,$69.95, 453 pages), Dawn Perlmutter, Director of the Pennsylvania-based Institute for the Research of Organized and Ritual Violence, provides a highly authoritative and informative analysis of religiously-inspired terrorism.
The author's distinction between homicide and suicide bombers is one of the best that this reviewer has ever read: "Homicide bomber is inaccurate and diminishes the seriousness of the group's religious beliefs and the seriousness of the threat. Suicide bomber implies a true believer, someone who will deliberately die for the cause, and who is much more dangerous (martyr)."
Religious terrorism is not confined to Islamic fundamentalists, however, but includes millennial groups with apocalyptic beliefs, White Supremacists, and militant sects who have branched off from traditional religions, such as Christianity or Judaism.
To support and advance their extremist religious faith, religious terrorist groups also engage in criminal activities, such as hate crimes, tax evasion, weapons violations, vandalism, arson, robbery, torture/coercion, mass murder/mass suicide, homicide, and terrorism. The book also discusses occult and ritualistic crimes, and provides techniques to assist students, scholars, and especially crime scene investigators, to understand, identify, profile and solve such religiously-inspired crimes.

Joshua Sinai is a Washington-based analyst on terrorism issues.


THE NATION, Lahore, Pakistan
November 6, 2004

Jesters and sceptres
By Amina Jilani

So much for the predictions, analyses, fears, hopes, and, finally, for the elections; can the President-General now get on with actually doing something for the country? Now, Musharraf may be a fine army leader, a leader of men, uniformed, armed, drilled and disciplined. His military orders and commands may never waiver, he stands firm. Not so when running a nation of 160 million, heading a bunch of recalcitrant politicians, and being nice to his friends. In his civil role, he flip-flops as much as does "I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty."

Recommended reading for the General are chapters 8 and 10 in a book recently published in the USA, 'Pakistan's Drift into Extremism', written by Hassan Abbas, a Pakistani government servant for ten years who worked in both Benazir Bhutto's and Musharraf's administrations, now a visiting scholar at Harvard Law School and a Ph.D candidate at Tufts' Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Musharraf could learn a lot about himself and he might consider, if it is at all possible, undergoing a change of mindset in much the same way as he would like to change the mindset of the nation over which he presides.

According to Abbas, Nawaz Sharif was not the first prime minister to consider Musharraf as a safe choice to fill the COAS post. In 1996, a year after he was given command of a corps, it was suggested to Benazir and her husband that they elevate Musharraf as COAS, the argument in his favour being that he was a 'liberal', a professional, and the last man to consider an army takeover. That could have been so under normal circumstances, but not when a takeover situation was thrust upon him. One of the General's first acts, in October 1999, was to set up the National Accountability Bureau in response to the nation's outcry for accountability. His initial team under Lt. General Syed Mohammad Amjad, had no adequate support from men with legal and investigative experience, no backup material based on sound fact and not merely on pure speculation, no proper funding, and most of all, it was constantly subjected to government and institutional interference. Banker cum finance minister Shaukat Aziz recommended blanket protection for all businessmen. The NAB was restrained from probing into the dubious affairs of retired military men (other than Mansurul Haq). Abbas accuses Musharraf of having been "the secret executioner of his own beloved NAB." Amjad asked to be relieved of his duties within a year and NAB's fate was sealed by the appointment of his successor, Lt. General Khalid Maqbool whose military reputation, writes Abbas "was a trifle suspect, as he had honed flattery into a fine art and fainting under pressure a minor profession."

As Maqbool has successfully survived and is still in place lording it over the Punjab, this would seem to be a fair appraisal. The General has flipped and flopped his way down the years, with only one stout and eminently correct stand, that of 9/11. He flipped on his dealings with his own homegrown hardcore religiosos, on the jihadi cross-border factor, on the various objectionable unjust and outmoded laws inflicted upon the people of this country. He flopped on his referendum (bad advice from good friends), the result of his elections has not been exactly a resounding success, he has, for want of imagination or determination, stuck to the tried and failed parliamentary form of government rather than slot us in with reality. His latest flip-flop concerns the tired Kashmir issue. How can one come up with new and fresh options whilst at the same time gluing oneself to the half-century old 'principled stand'? A perfectly decent fellow, most likeable, the General has the luck of Napoleon's favourite marshals. But when it comes to statecraft and governance he is neither conventional nor revolutionary - he dithers somewhere in between. He is an admitted hostage to his friends, many of whom, though incompetent, have been thrust into positions for which they are eminently unfit - and worse, he heeds their incompetent advice. Politics and statesmanship cannot afford the whims of friendship, nor can they be subject to the servile noises and postures of court jesters. The General now has another chance with the re-election of his friend GWB. As remarked the principle jester at the court of Musharraf, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid, with the advent of the newly elected president 'important issues like Kashmir and Palestine will be settled logically.'

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