Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bank robbers rarely use suicide bombers. Forgers don’t declare war on capitalism, democracy, and modernity. Kidnappers rarely behead their victims without asking for a ransom. And when they do ask for ransoms, only rarely do they demand infidels submit to the will of Allah instead of asking for unmarked bills.

These incandescently obvious observations illuminate, in a small way, the resplendent stupidity of the notion that we should treat members of al Qaeda like run-of-the-mill criminals.

Al Qaeda’s business plan is to make money and kill people in order to impose a global caliphate of Islamic rule. The Mafia’s business plan is to make money in order to ... make money. Murder is, as Tony Soprano might say, the cost of doing business. Murder for al Qaeda is the business (and if you die in the process, you get to spend eternity at an Islamic Bada-Bing Club).

Of course, al Qaeda’s aims are also political. Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, one of the founders of the jihadist movement that became al Qaeda, put it this way (I’m quoting from Lawrence Wright’s definitive history, The Looming Tower): “We shall continue the Jihad no matter how long the way, until the last breath and the last beat of the pulse — or until we see the Islamic state established.” And remember, Azzam was humble in his aspiration. He wasn’t after the global caliphate sought by many Islamists. He merely wanted the entire Middle East, the former southern republics of the Soviet Union, Bosnia, the Philippines, Kashmir, central Asia, Somalia, Eritrea, and Spain.

Whether you call them terrorists, Mujahideen, or a radical faction of Up With People, the simple fact is that what commonly goes by the label “Islamic terrorism” is not a merely a criminal enterprise. The profit motive didn’t bring down the World Trade Center.

I know this is obvious to many. But it clearly isn’t obvious to everyone.
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