RANGER AGAINST WAR: Terrorist Catwalk <

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Terrorist Catwalk

--Edgar Ramirez,
as Carlos the Jackal

We have begun to change
Into the worst kind of people

So unkind

Oh apologies? No apologies

--High Life
, Counting Crows

My name is Carlos -- 
you may have heard of me?
--Carlos the Jackal

Screws fall out all the time,

the world is an imperfect place

--The Breakfast Club


Time improves wine and the legends of terrorists.

Sundance presented a three-part miniseries, Carlos, last week. The trailer featured the much handsomer Edgar Ramirez in beret and leather jacket, soaked in a blood-red filter, caption:
"Only one man would hijack the world".

The real Carlos the Jackal was a classic fuck-up who nonetheless has gained mythic status and is being immortalized in a 5 1/2-hour film, as well. A breathy Boston Globe review says the film "
brings real terror to the screen." The average viewer, if he even knows about Carlos, will imagine him as the sexy and iconic ideolog CHE, whose image is printed on the front of T's in Target. The truth is far less ideal.

Carlos was an ideological mercenary moreso than a terrorist as he performed his services for monetary gain. One of his acts was to kill two unarmed French intelligence-type uniformed gendarmes and a former PFLP informant. Not a smart move, and totally counterproductive. Police don't appreciate such activity and it does not pay to alienate an entire national police force.

Carlos failed an assassination attempt in England of an Israeli diplomat as he failed to double tap his target. No professional shooter should make such a mistake.

The most significant operation of his career was the takeover of the OPEC oil ministers in Vienna, 1975.
However, he was later kicked out of the PFLP because he hadn't killed two specific OPEC ministers, in violation of his orders. There was also the matter of claiming to have misplaced some of the funds he was to have disbursed.

There was a suspicion that Venezuelan representatives gave Carlos the details needed to carry out this operation. Ironically, Carlos killed the security guard of the Venezuelan representative to the conference. (A mistake?) His taking of a Saudi Royal family member was also a strange action, as the Saudis supported the Palestinian causes for which Carlos worked.

Another high point was Carlos' RPG attack at Orly Field that was more flash than dash. A professional would have used a Redeye-type missile, which could have blown an aircraft out of the sky. Instead, a few RPG rounds blasted down range in what was something of a joke.

It is 2010 now and Carlos sits in a French prison, where he has been since 1994 and where he shall remain for life. Yet he is being touted in Western culture as a mythical, prototypical terrorist, and this is hype. Carlos did not "hijack the world", and his feats were short of world-shattering.

The key lesson from Carlos should be the networking of terrorist groups and their cross-fertilization. Al-Qaeda fits the mold, as well. We should not be wowed by any one man or group. Their behaviors are archetypal and are firmly set in precedent. Carlos looms large in Carlos's mind, but he should not in ours.

The groups become more lethal as they cross-fertilize and exchange operational lessons. Unlike Carlos, most terror operatives maintain a low-profile and prefer anonymity. Even a terrorist is well-advised to limit and control his level of violence.

In addition to turning the French against him, he also alienated and made enemies within organizations sympathetic to and supporting terrorism. For all of his failures, present terrorist operatives are less dangerous than he as they lack the state sponsorship to finance their operations or provide intelligence and weaponry. Carlos was financed by a large network of national interests opposed to Israel and the West.

Ultimately, his downfall was his hubris. Carlos was no Otto Skorzeny.

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