Counter-Terrorism: Why Cash Matters

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April 10, 2006: Since September 11, 2001, counter-terror operations have increased enormously. During the rush to shut down Islamic terrorists, wherever they could be found, several non-Islamic terrorist support networks were discovered. These were operating among immigrant populations in Europe and North America.

It was known that Islamic terrorists had solicited money from Moslem migrants, living in West Europe and North America, to support terrorist operations. These Moslems provided money, sanctuary and manpower. The money was actually the most dangerous form of support, because all terrorist attacks are powered by cash. No, the terrorists aren't well paid, but they are paid. Expenses have to be covered. This includes things like travel, false documents, food and lodging, weapons and bribes to officials. Many Moslems do not approve of terrorism, so charity organizations were established, and collected money to help the poor folks back in the old country. Depending on the charity, some, or all, of the money went to supporting terrorist activities.

While chasing down dirty money, fake charities and terrorists buying goods and services in the criminal underground, investigators kept bumping into the Tamil Tigers (known as the LTTE). These are a separatist group from Sri Lanka. The "Tigers" are among the bloodiest and most ruthless terrorists of the 20th century. They basically invented the modern suicide bomber, and kill their own for the slightest infraction or lack of discipline. The LTTE wants to partition Sri Lanka, so that the 20 percent of the population that is Tamil, will have the northeast and eastern portions of the island as a separate country. The native Sinhalese are opposed to having their island partitioned.

The Tamils are an ethnic group native to southern India. Over the last two centuries, many migrated to the island of Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon), which is just off the coast of the Tamil homeland in southern India. The Sinhalese (the native Sri Lankans) and Tamils never integrated into a single nationality. And after World War II, and Sri Lanka's independence from Britain, the tensions got worse and worse. In the 1980s, the violence got so bad, that many Tamils fled Sri Lanka. But instead of going back to India, they were allowed to migrate to Canada (where about 250,000 live), the United States (150,000), Britain (110,000), and Europe ( 150,000).

These Tamils did well in their new homes, and the LTTE promptly showed up, demanding "donations" to support the civil war back in Sri Lanka. With over half a million expatriates, all working hard and living frugally, the LTTE found that it could raise up to several million dollars a month. Even a bad month yielded a million dollars, that went to buy weapons, keep the PR operation going and support as many as 20,000 armed LTTE fighters. The LTTE troops didn't require much to keep going, as many were kidnapped teenagers who had been brainwashed, or simply bullied, into their dangerous jobs. There are 3.2 million Tamils back in Sri Lanka, and these are also forced to make contributions. But the living standards are much lower in Sri Lanka. The best area for fund raising is Canada, where there is a large Tamil populations, and the LTTE was not officially considered a terrorist organization (and banned from soliciting funds) until very recently.

The LTTE basically holds hostage family members of expatriates. The overseas Tamils often come back to visit, but only if they have paid all their "LTTE taxes." If they don't return, their kin are in danger if the expatriates are not sufficiently generous to the cause. Canada recently declared the LTTE a terrorist organization, and made fund raising for them illegal. This came after years of complaints about LTTE terrorism, and use of strong-arm methods to get Canadian Tamils to contribute. The LTTE managed to stave off the terrorist designation for so long because the Tamil community voted heavily for the Liberal party, which was recently voted out of power. The LTTE dominated Tamil community pushed all of the Liberal party's guilt buttons to great effect. This is a favorite tactic with other terrorist organizations. Islamic terrorists often get away, literally, with murder by claiming they are victims of Western imperialism and that the terrorism is a legitimate response. Many Western politicians and special interest groups go along with this, to the great benefit of terrorist fund raising among expatriate populations.

While the Tamil fund raising racket is the best organized, those that support Islamic terrorism do very well. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) terrorists also depended heavily on money raised among Irish-Americans in the United States. The war on terror investigations have made it much more clear that this type of fund raising is extensive, and a critical factor for terrorist organizations. Take away the money, and you still have angry people, including many willing kill for the cause, and risk their lives doing it. But without the money, you are left mainly with smoke, not fire. The Soviet Union was well aware of this, and funded many terrorist organizations, keeping them going and causing much death, destruction and unease in the target populations. When the Soviet Union disappeared, so did a lot of active terrorists.

With the end of the Cold War, terrorist organizations lost their major source of cash, Russia, and lesser suppliers from the West (like the CIA, which funded anti-communist terrorists). Thus expatriates became critical for many terrorists. In addition, there were more traditional sources, like the people the terrorists were ostensibly fighting for. In this case, "revolutionary taxes" were imposed on both the victim populations, and businesses that wished to operate, unmolested, in the area. Islamic terrorism also got an unintended boost from lavish Saudi Arabian support for Islamic missionary activities. Since these missionaries were promoting a particularly conservative and aggressive form of Islam, it was easy for Islamic terrorists to slip right in. But the immense oil wealth in the Persian Gulf also created hundreds of Islamic conservative millionaires. These men were willing to fund Islamic terrorists, and some still do. This despite Saudi efforts to crack down on this sort of thing, and the growing unpopularity of Islamic terrorism (because of al Qaeda attacks against Saudis).

In the long run, the accountants and financial detectives who clamped down on terrorist fund raising will be seen as a major factor in winning the war on terror.

 


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