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How the War on Terrorism is Bankrupting the World

By: U. Mahesh Prabhu
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(Author is Editor-In-Chief of upcoming apolitical and illustrated family magazine FOLKS and Fellow of Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, London (UK))

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Book review by U. Mahesh Prabhu

TERRORISM AND THE ECONOMY: HOW THE WAR ON TERROR IS BANKRUPTING THE WORLD | Author: Loretta Napoleoni | Publisher: Seven Stories Press | ISBN: 978-1-58322-895-1 | Pages: 170 | Price: $10.46

When President George W. Bush assumed office in 2000, his administration inherited a small budget surplus. President Barack Obama, today, faces a national debt of $10 trillion - about 70 percent of the country"s gross domestic product (GDP) or 18 percent of the world economy. So where did all that money go in a span of eight years? Answers Loretta Napoleoni, author of TERRORISM AND THE ECONOMY: HOW THE WAR ON TERROR IS BANKRUPTING THE WORLD, "Two wars, still underway, and an extremely ambitious - albeit inconsistent and inefficient - security system have drained American finances and pushed the United States into the ranks of the nations with the highest public debt."

The book intends to "trace the finances of the war on terror and the global economic crisis, finding connections from Dubai to London to Las Vegas that politicians and the media have ignored." She believes that "While launching military and propaganda war in the Middle East, America overlooked the war of economic independence waged by al-Qaeda." She"s convinced that "The Patriot Act boosted the black market economy, and the war on terror prompted a rise in oil prices that led to food riots and distracted governments from the trillion-dollar machinations of the wall-street. Consumers and taxpayers, spurred by propaganda, accepted crushing global debt." Author presents several strong cases, worthy of our attention, to prove this point.

Among the most important concern presented in the work is pertaining to shell states. For those who are unaware: "A shell state can be defined an embryonic state or a proto-state. It possesses the economic infrastructure of a state, but not the political nucleus of a nation. The shell state lacks the right to self-determination - an example being the PLO and Palestinians in Lebanon during 70s. These shell states flourish in politically unstable environments, such as war zones. After the fall of Saddam Hussein, Sadr City, a suburb of Baghdad, became a Shiite-controlled shell state. Others flourished in areas that had lost a central authority, as in Waziristan, the tribal area of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan; where bin Laden and the Taliban took refuge from 2001 onwards. In Afghanistan, the district of Quetta is a shell state under Taliban control."

"The dynamics that shape a shell state are always the same. A few armed groups conquer a territory by force and destroy its preexisting socio-economic infrastructure, imposing their own. Meanwhile, the population remains trapped inside this territory, submitting to the violence or war economy only under duress. In Sadr City, Shiite militias patrol the streets and conduct ethnic cleansing. They are responsible for attacks against Sunni families that have not yet abandoned their homes. They also run hospitals and schools. In short, they run entire area. Their goal is to compel the population to make them depend economically and socially on the economy of war thus forcing them to become integral part of the war economy itself." Suggests Napoleoni "After 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq became fertile grounds for the incubation and growth of shell states, at times even in areas no larger than a city block." The assertion, however, is certainly questionable.

In June 2006, a report commissioned by the US government showed that the Iraqi insurgency had become financially self-sufficient. The term "Iraqi insurgency" is an umbrella that compromises the militia and private Shiite armies, Sunni armed groups, and jihadist members of al-Qaeda in Iraq. It"s certainly not untrue that the war on terror is hardly seeing any success in dismantling such "shell states".

One of the key reason for poor performance of war on terror, suggests Napoleoni, is because ". even today, countering terrorist financing is given a very low priority. Against this background, many question the effectiveness of increased airport security, which submits travelers to humiliating and tedious rituals before boarding a plane, while the money that will finance the next devastating terrorist attack continues to freely circulate around the world." While she sufficiently provides testimonies to prove the involvement of Islamic banks in funding terror, it"s surprising to see the way in which she hails them.

Though filled with brilliant research and analysis from an economist"s angle the book falls short, completely, with regard to role of Islam in promoting terrorism. By blaming the politicians and bankers - squarely - the author seems to be desirous of giving a clean chit to Islam while stating "In the Muslim world, we find a different scenario. Since 9/11, violence has risen. MIPT-RAND, considered the most reliable data bank on terrorism, confirms that the number of attacks in the region defined at the Middle East/Persian gulf rose from fifty prior to 9/11 to 4,800 in the year 2006. In the same period, deaths from terrorism in the region soared from less than a hundred to 9,800. Therefore, the real primary victim of terrorism is the Muslim world, that which we believe poses a threat, the world the Crusades destroyed." What she fails to take into consideration is that fact that Islamic Jihad has been more persistent than crusades (which ended decades earlier) and have taken millions of lives over the centuries; around the world. If only she could assume the deaths incurred by Jihadists in India and Israel, alone, the figure would be phenomenal. Unless we see the role of Islam in the terrorism facing the world we will never be able to defeat it. Let"s seldom forget that: Terrorism is a symptom which emanates from a disease called Islam.

U. Mahesh Prabhu

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