Thanks to ground-breaking journalism at the New York Times, we now know that Al Qaeda has been funded to the tune of over $125M by European diplomats. Supposedly for humanitarian aide, the money was actually used to pay ransoms for German and other European nationals held captive.
Why should we care? For one thing, this is totally against the rules. ‘You don’t negotiate with terrorist’ must have become passe – left only to movies and Americans. But more importantly, it has made travel by foreigners far more dangerous. Remember the old adage, “When you give a mouse a crumb, he’ll want the whole cookie?” When I was a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar in 2008, I felt no qualms traveling by land through Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo, and Ghana. Other than a few folks interested in a donation or selling me a good, the local people usually kept to themselves. Now, a determined minority sees foreigners as huge dollar signs. Because these kidnappings have been so successful, businessmen, Peace Corps volunteers, and missionaries are now at a much higher risk of falling into this dangerous business of Al Qaeda. It is quickly turning MENA into a zone off-limits for safe travel by Westerners.
Finally, I wonder what nasty toys these terrorists can buy on the black market for $125M? I shudder to think about how frequently these items will go off against innocent civilians or how it might strengthen ISIS’s hold in Iraq/Syria.