If CIA or FBI profiles me based on the keywords from my google searches in the last week or so, they can ‘suspect’ me for technically anything. Of course, if they show up at my house, I will show them that all my google searches were mere attempts to understand the lexicon from “Terror Incorporated”, a completely different way of looking at what some of us might call terrorism, written by Loretta Napoleoni. Thanks to the TED video that inspired me to take up this book. Napoleoni is an accomplished economist and expert on terrorism with several academic and professional stars on her shoulder. She is also credited for being the first to estimate the size of global terror.
The fundamental premise of the book is that terror is business. Terror is a $1.5 trillion economy. Religion is merely a recruitment tool. The better you generally are at topics like World War II, Vietnam War, Cold War and world geography, the easier it is going to be for you to comprehend this book. In the first few sections, she familiarizes you with the ideas of state-sponsored terrorism, privatization of terror, shadow economies, trend of war-by-proxies, financial colonization, religious colonization, influence of oil interests etc… She explains what it takes to build an economy parallel to, if not much greater than the mainstream economy. She explains how countries become the breeding ground of terror. She explains the role of covert ops, crime, narcotics, drug trafficking, smuggling, kidnapping in financing the institutions engaged in terror. The minutia of the information she provides is unbelievable. Even assuming a sizeable portion of this is reference data, assembling them and making inferences out of it is a Himalayan task. How no country is spared and no leader is spared from the phenomenon called terror is beyond comprehension. She discusses the transition of aQ* (see below) from an operational / management role to a visionary / venture capitalist role. She talks about the things America overlooked. The things America failed to stop. The things America caused. How the American system (financial, border security etc..) is extremely porous and failing to stop the bad boys, even in the post-911 era.
Infact, my view of who is good and who is bad has totally changed. This is because every country has had a role to play, not so much because of their fantasy for terror, but their political ambitions and alignment (Saudi Arabia), wealth of natural resources (especially the ones suitable for smuggling, like Sierra Leone), non-functional governments (like Somalia), connectivity (access to sea ports) and in some cases, just because a trade or smuggling route cut past their country.
At the end of this book, I don’t think we will still be able to draw conclusions on good/bad, but gives a much larger perspective to terror, than what the average media wants you to know.
If you are an average citizen, a good Samaritan of the world — you probably are somebody who knows the people responsible for terror as bad boys and the governments and cops as good people. You watch TVs and read newspapers and get angry everywhere you see something about bad boys. You are used to seeing things white and black. This book, though certainly not the first, made me realize there are about 100 shades of grey between the good and bad. However informed you (think you) are, when you are done with this book, you will be less naïve, perhaps moved up 10 notches on the shades of grey (towards the black, of course)
I had once been to Dubai for pleasure and visited a relative of mine. As cosmopolitan as Dubai was, the restrictive nature of their religion intrigued me and I went on to ask him, “How do these people really manage to comply with all these rules? Isnt the religion too restricting?” And almost immediately, he responded, “It is the poor that comply with and that have to comply with all the rules, the rich and the royals bend the rules to their conveniences”. I couldn’t help remembering this when I read a particular section in the book which talks about the practice of zakat, which is a religion-mandated alm (akin to tax) deducted from every single bank transaction. The intention is for this money to serve the needy. But in reality all this money is channeled to finance terror outfits. Wasn’t my cousin only too correct?
This book is a must-read, though I wish she did not take 350 pages to explain this.
*aQ: Name of one of the leading terror organizations. You can guess it. I have avoided using the name here, because I would rather my blog does not show up when somebody does a search for AQ or ObL.
1) Throughout the review, I have used the word terror, as opposed to terrorism. This is mostly to preserve Loretta’s precision
2) This book was also my first experience using Kindle, the app (not Kindle, the device). I plan on writing about it separately.