The Magazine

The Axis of Terror

Carlos the Jackal pledges alliance to Osama bin Laden.

Nov 24, 2003, Vol. 9, No. 11 • By AMIR TAHERI
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Carlos does not say why it is good for mankind to destroy the United States. His method is religious and admits of neither doubts nor counterarguments. The West is evil, and the United States is the leader of the West. Thus the United States is evil. At one point he says the United States is an incarnation of Satan (Shaytan) and should, therefore, be hated without question, just as believers hate Satan without asking why.

Carlos urges Islamist groups to conclude alliances with all radical elements, including Maoists and nationalists, in a joint campaign against the United States. He wants all radicals to rush to Afghanistan and Iraq to kill Americans, while hordes of "volunteers for martyrdom" organize suicide attacks inside the United States.

And he makes a number of forecasts: The United States will reshape Iraq, Syria will disintegrate, and Lebanon will fall apart while Hezbollah is destroyed. Kosovo will become independent, and Sudan will be carved up. Libya will surrender to the United States. Even France will be divided into smaller countries, according to what Carlos claims is a secret American plan worked out by Henry Morgenthau in the 1940s. Carlos believes that, in the medium-term at least, only two states--North Korea and Iran--will be able to resist the United States, thus representing "the last hopes of mankind." The war against the United States, then, is going to be a long one, and the Americans will win the first rounds.

One question worth exploring in all this is whether Carlos is really a Muslim. Since Islam has neither baptism nor excommunication, we have no grounds for saying he's not. But neither is there reason to think he has any authority to speak on behalf of Islam. He is an individual with a peculiar view of the world that has nothing to do with what Islam has taught for 15 centuries. Moreover, his knowledge of Islamic doctrine, theology, history, and political philosophy is almost nonexistent. He thinks the first four caliphs were members of a dynasty known as the "Rashidis," and he confuses Hajjaj Ibn Yussef, the brutal governor of Kufa, with Mansur al Hallaj, the mystic who was crucified for blasphemy.

At one point Carlos presents himself as "the voice of Islam and history." At another point he poses as an authority on theology (fiqh) and offers a plan for "reforming the faith" under which "obligations" such as prayer, fasting, and the pilgrimage to Mecca become secondary. Instead, the number one duty of Muslims becomes "fighting the United States by any means" available. He dwells on the necessity for all Muslim men to grow beards and all Muslim women to wear the "revolutionary" head-cover (the hijab) invented in Lebanon in the 1970s. He says that beards and the hijab can be used as tools of terror, to dishearten the Americans by reminding them that "their enemy Islam" is in their midst.

Carlos tells us little about the Islamic utopia that will cover the globe once Islam is established as "the sole religion of mankind." At one point he praises the Khomeinist system of rule by a mullah or group of mullahs. At another, he presents the "emirate" created by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 1998 as the model. Carlos is not interested in Chechnya, Kashmir, the Philippines, or Myanmar, where Muslim minorities are in conflict with non-Muslim states. Nor does he care if Muslims live under corrupt or even genocidal rulers, as long as those rulers are unfriendly toward the United States.

Where Islamists are fighting regimes that Carlos favors, he brands them "bandits" and "murderers." In this way he condemns Islamists who are fighting the Libyan regime. He is especially harsh on Algerian Islamist terrorists, whom he labels "gangsters." The reason is that Carlos was for years protected by the Algerian secret service.

A name-dropper, Carlos makes his own terrorist career out to have been something of historic significance. He pretends that many Arab leaders, from Muammar Qaddafi to Hafez al-Assad to Yasser Arafat, were his friends. He also claims to have known former Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto "very well," though he does not say in what circumstances.

Carlos mentions the names of the seven men he most admires. Oddly enough, five are Palestinian Christians: George Habash, Waddi Haddad, Nayef Hawatemah, Kamal Nasser, and Naji Allosuh. Two are Muslim Arabs: the Algerian president, Abdul-Aziz Bouteflika, whom he calls "my beloved brother," and fugitive terrorist Osama bin Laden, upon whom he bestows the title of "sheikh."