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Chris Hedges and Loretta Napoleoni Analyze Spread of Jihadism, Kidnapping and Refugee Trafficking

Posted on Sep 21, 2016
(Screen shot via YouTube)

To many Americans, Europe’s refugee crisis may seem like a recent development, but the origins of the crisis can be traced back to years of conflict spanning several continents. In the newest episode of “On Contact,” host Chris Hedges sits down with Loretta Napoleoni to analyze the factors behind the rise of refugee trafficking and kidnapping of foreigners, as well as the spread of jihadism.

Napoleoni, an author and a counterterrorist adviser, says that “criminal jihadists” are making billions of dollars by trafficking migrants into Europe and that this phenomenom is linked to earlier forms of extortion practiced by warlords and militants throughout Africa and the Middle East.

The drug trade (particularly involving cocaine) between South America and northern Africa initially subsidized various jihadist groups, Napoleoni says. The American invasion of Iraq in 2003 prompted a new form of business: kidnapping and ransoms. “This is a business they control 100 percent,” Napoleoni explains, whereas smuggling drugs was not. “Kidnapping was more profitable.”

Jihadist groups began by kidnapping local elites but quickly moved on to the more lucrative business of kidnapping foreigners. For many poor families, the only option was to join the jihadist movements, because the infrastructure of their states began to crumble under local gangs. “You either become a criminal jihadist, or you become a refugee,” Napoleoni says.

“The [foreign] governments, interestingly enough, instead of being tough on this business, they went along,” Napoleoni says. “They decided to pay—in secret.”

The “front is ‘we do not pay, we do not negotiate,’ but we know that the money [is] actually paid,” she continues. Foreign governments, like that of Germany, pretended these kidnappings weren’t happening because “it was too embarrassing to admit that the world was a more dangerous place.”

The arrival of U.S. troops in parts of the Middle East encouraged jihadist efforts. “The presence of U.S. troops in Iraq was fundamental for the spread of jihadism,” Napoleoni argues.

Hedges brings up several highly publicized cases of horrific executions, like that of U.S. journalist James Foley. Napoleoni states that this is an essential recruiting tool for jihadism. “Some hostages are worth more dead than alive,” she says. Foreign troops only justify the jihadist presence, and U.S. military intervention became “a way [for jihadists] to consolidate their own consensus.”

As U.S. and European efforts against Islamist State continue, Napoleoni believes many people don’t realize how much radical jihadism has begun to spread. “The Islamic State may be geographically smaller in Iraq and Syria, but it’s all over the world,” she declares. “We have Boko Haram, we have Al Shabaab … all under the umbrella of religious nationalism.”

This rise in anti-imperialism and religious nationalism creates untold numbers of local militias that profit from destabilization. The “migrant crisis becomes even more lucrative financially,” Hedges acknowledges.

“It’s a very profitable business,” Napoleoni agrees. “I would say we’re talking about billions. ... ISIS, for example, last summer, netted half a million [dollars] per day.”

“Where do you think this is headed?” Hedges asks, as the interview wraps up.

“I think this is headed for war,” Napoleoni replies. “War between Europe and Russia.”

Watch the entire interview below:

—Posted by Emma Niles

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