Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Young Carlos and Young Osama

According to a program on the US Cable TV network A&E (see Court TV on-line biography here), the infamous terrorist "Carlos the Jackal" was born to a super-rich Venezulean plastic surgeon.

Carlos' father sent Carlos to London to be educated, only to arrive to find Carlos living the life of a playboy under the supervision of Carlos' divorced mother.

Carlos' super-rich father was determined the Carlos would amount to something in life. "You will become a terrorist!" Carlos was eventually sent to a university in Moscow, where he majored in terrorism. (A colleague of mine, prior to finding work in the U.S., had studied at prestiguous Moscow State, where his father was a professor. After hearing of this biography some years ago, I asked my Russian colleague whether any universities in Moscow offered undergraduate degrees in terrorism. "It's possible," he said, but it would be a secret major and not something you would find in the course description booklet.)

Carlos then went to Palestine, where his post-graduate work consisted of training the PLA in terrorism. Ultimately, of course, Carlos would wind up in a French prison. Court TV has an excellent on-line biography (here) that goes into more details than the television program.

A&E showed an interview with Carlos' father years later, in which he praised his son's invovlement in terrorism. (By contrast, Osama's family has disavowed him, although, in keeping with Arab culture, some of them continue contacts. Nevertheless, the parallels are striking.)

While their earlier likely won't be the subject of Hollywood movies (a la a Young Bess), it seems that both young Carlos and young Osama (related debate thread) came from extremely wealthy families that unfortunately had more money than sense.

The Court TV biography makes clear that his family's wealth helped buy Carlos protection from authorities on more than one occasion. This might be the real crux of the link between the two family's stories.

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