Carlos the Jackal (and boring teenager)

Posted by Alexander Hay

As the infamous terrorist's appeal nears, it's worth reminding ourselves how silly he actually is. For example, he calls himself 'Jackal' and wears a cravat...

The Jackal, back when he was last fashionableThere is much to dislike about Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, also known as Carlos the Jackal. For example, he is a terrorist. But more to the point, he's also embarrassingly naff, which can be blamed quite firmly on his parents:

...Ilich was born in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, in 1949. He was one of three sons of a wealthy Marxist lawyer, José Altagracia Ramírez Navas, and each was given a revolutionary name: Ilich, Lenin and Vladimir...

One is immediately reminded of council estates being named after Leon Trotsky or rumours that Ken Livingstone named one of his newts Lenin. Which is embarrassing enough, but Carlos was also a total square:

..."We were raised to cherish the family above all, and because Ilich was the eldest he was always my guide, a figure to admire … He was the one who enrolled me in school or told me off, not for smoking, but for doing so without knowing how to," said [the Jackal's brother] Vladimir, who recalls an unconventional and sheltered upbringing.

"My brothers, who were only a year apart, had been home-schooled by communist tutors. We had a pool table at home and were allowed to play only games that encouraged discipline and precision. Playing outside with balls was considered to be a total waste of our time," Vladimir said.

In the 1960s, the family moved to London. "Our father's plan was that we'd spend nine years in Europe, divided between England, France and Germany, acquiring linguistic and cultural tools that would give us a more comprehensive view of the world and enable us to best contribute to the revolutionary processes of the time..."

No adolescent worth his or her salt would have put up with such parental nonsense. If Carlos were ever worthy to have '-teen' at the end of his age, he would have joined the Young Tories, embraced monetarism and been arrested for underage drinking at a fox hunt. Instead, he focussed on being a total ideological spod at university:

...Ilich's transformation into an international terrorist began at Moscow's Patrice Lumumba University [groan!], named after the first legally elected prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who was assassinated in 1961.

Famed as a training ground for leftist revolutionaries and guerillas from across Latin America, Asia and Africa, the university was apparently not radical enough for Ilich. He was expelled in 1970...

Yes, Carlos was kicked out of university not for something worthwhile, like slagging off the Vice Chancellor in a amusingly libellous letter sent to the local newspaper, or seducing his Economics Lecturer in the middle of a seminar or even keeping a hamster in clear contravention of accommodation rules. No, he was ejected because he thought a Soviet university wasn't left wing enough.

Naturally, this was his cue to start killing people:

...Ilich moved to Lebanon and adopted Carlos as his nom de guerre. He became increasingly involved with a patchwork of global terrorist organisations including West Germany's Baader-Meinhof Gang or Red Army Faction.

Then, in 1975, his reputation as a poster-boy for the revolutionary left was cemented when 11 oil ministers were taken hostage during a meeting of the Opec oil cartel in Vienna. He was said to have helped plan the attack from Beirut.

Among the other crimes to which Ilich has been linked is the 1976 hijacking of an Air France flight from Israel to Paris.

"I'm a professional revolutionary," Ilich told a Paris court during his last trial, in 1997, when he was sentenced to life for killing two French policemen and their Lebanese informant. "The world is my domain..."

Now his conviction for murder is up for appeal. Whether he is a victim of gross human rights abuses, as his brother claims, (regardless of the irony of him being a loud and proud terrorist), is for the courts to decide. Even absurd terrorists deserve justice, after all.

But it's hard not to see Carlos' last court appearance in 2000, sitting there with his silly Terry Thomas tribute pencil moustache and wearing a cravat - one of the internationally recognised signifiers of being a total prat - and not be reminded that all terrorism, ultimately, is about the nihilistic self-aggrandisement of ridiculous little men.

[SOURCE: The Guardian]

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Alexander Hay

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