New Internationalist

Modern Jihad - Tracing the Dollars Behind the Terror Networks

February 2004

The widespread phenomenon of Islamist terror groups and suicide bombers that comprise the Modern Jihad is largely a mess of our own making. The anti-Soviet Jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s that was masterminded by the US is still having repercussions today. The subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union brought poverty and a political vacuum which provided a ripe recruiting ground for Islamists as veterans of the Afghan jihad have moved from one conflict to the next.

In parallel, the West’s oil-led foreign policy has stripped people of control over their natural resources, impoverishing them while buoying up deeply undemocratic and unrepresentative regimes. Through its short-term manipulation of Islamist groups the US has created a monster which is now turning on its creator.

In a book that aims to give a dispassionate, economics-led survey of global terror, Napoleoni lays out this and a whole lot more in a densely woven jigsaw rich with detail. One of the chief obstacles to enforcing post-September 11 banking legislation, she notes, is the disincentive arising from the fact that much of the estimated $1.5 trillion (million million) annual economy of terror flows into the US economy. Ultimately nothing but a radical rethink in foreign policy will avoid compounding an already deeply troubling situation. Napoleoni doesn’t mention it, but we now have a twin driver for change – the urgent need to reduce our dependence on oil if we are to have any hope of avoiding dangerous levels of climate change.

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 364 This column was published in the February 2004 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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