Trail Of Funds – Getting At The Terror Paymasters
By National Review Online | by Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, ACD Director
Tuesday, September 16th, 2003 @ 3:20AM
We knew that the Saudis were funding bin Laden, that the Pakistanis had helped bin Laden and facilitated al Qaeda’s training camps; that the European community had — and continues to this day — funneled money to Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad; and that Iran and Syria are behind the activities of Hezbollah.
Yet, we did little to stop the flow of money, and this willful blindness was interpreted by the terrorists as weakness, and only encouraged them to pursue their goal of destroying the U.S.
Of course, the actual perpetrators of crimes of such magnitude are merely expendable foot soldiers; the true blame must lie with those who make the terrorist activities possible — the paymasters.
It was then that I resolved to write a book on the financing of terrorism.
A few weeks later, as the only American to speak at an international conference in France on the connection between terrorism and organized crime, I described the horrors I witnessed in Manhattan, and pointed out the similarity of methods in which both terrorists and criminal organizations generate money.
I called on the few hundred academicians, jurists, bankers, law-enforcement officials, and reporters who attended the conference — mostly French — to intensify their efforts to expose and to stop funds from reaching not only al Qaeda, but all terrorists.
The next speaker, a high-ranking French official, began by saying: “I identify with bin Laden and understand his agenda!” He went on to say that, “the U.S. deserve this attack.” In fact, he declared: “the U.S. brought it upon herself with her unjust attitude towards the Palestinians.” But at that time bin Laden had not mentioned the Palestinians; instead, he had called for the killing of all Americans, Jews, and other infidels — including Christians — and for destroying the U.S. economy. Yet, the French official, who might have been expected to be an ally, repeated his statement while the audience encouraged him to go on. When he finished his diatribe against “America and the Jews,” they cheered him. The contempt towards my country only a few weeks after thousands of people lost their lives in terror attacks was so palpable that I left before the conclusion of the conference.
As I tried to understand this French enmity, it occurred to me that the speaker might have had a personal reason to be so openly venomous. It did not take long to discover that, indeed, this French official was seated on the board of a Saudi bank that the U.S. Treasury Department had listed as supporting terrorism. It was this discovery that cemented my decision to further explore the reasons for the West’s complicity in the financing of terrorism.
It was hard not to conclude that despite President Bush’s repeated demands to stop the funding of terrorists worldwide, we are far from identifying all the sources that fund terrorism and the methods employed in raising those funds. Even when we know that the Saudis, for example, have paid for schools, mosques, and Islamic centers that are used to recruit the foot soldiers for the global Islamist terror movement, it is really political — and possibly, oil — considerations that are preventing the administration from fully practicing what it is preaching.
Clearly, unless we demand and enforce methods to stop all funding to all terrorists by all countries, organizations, institutions, and individuals that support terrorism, we are perhaps inviting another terror attack, possibly worse then September 11.
— Rachel Ehrenfeld is the author of Funding Evil; How Terrorism is Financed — and How to Stop It , released today. She is also the director of the Manhattan-based American Center for Democracy.