Monday, November 21, 2011

Carlos - The Jackal

It may come as a surprise to some of you, but their really is a Carlos. The mythetical figure of many spy pictures is alive and in captivity.

According to news reports from Paris, Carlos the Jackal, one of the most dreaded terror masterminds of the Cold War, is on trial again accussed of four deadly attacks in France nearly three decades ago.

The defiant and smiling 62-year-old Venezuelan, whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, appeared before a special Paris court on terrorism-linked charges Monday. He is already serving a life sentence handed down for a triple murder in 1975.

Ramirez, who sowed fear across Western European and Middle Eastern capitals during the Cold War, is charged with instigating four attacks in 1982 and 1983 that killed 11 people and injured more than 140 others in France.

Ramírez Sánchez joined the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in 1970, when recruiting officer Bassam Abu Sharif gave him the code name Carlos due to his South American roots.

After several bungled bombings, Ramírez Sánchez achieved notoriety for a 1975 raid on the OPEC headquarters in Vienna, which killed three people. This was followed by a string of attacks against Western targets. For many years he was among the most wanted international fugitives. Carlos was dubbed "The Jackal" by The Guardian after one of its correspondents reportedly spied Frederick Forsyth's novel The Day of the Jackal near some of the fugitive's belongings.

Arrested in Sudan in 1994 and flown to France, Ramírez Sánchez is now serving a life sentence in the Clairvaux Prison for the murder of two French agents of the DST (counter-intelligence) and an alleged informant.

He is the subject of numerous films as reported by Wikipedia. The most recent film is the French mini-series produced in 2010. Carlos won the 2010 Golden Globe award for the 'Best Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television.

Intrigued by the background information, I decided to download the 5-hour miniseries from Netflix.

The story presents Carlos as “terrorist rock star.” A charming ladies man, who dialogues with his captives trying to explain his motives while assuring them that they will be killed. Carlos embraces political ideologies more as a matter of expediency than of well-thought out examination. His activities seem more an attempt to advance his career as an assassin than martyrdom in the cause of a Palestinian homeland.

The fictionalized account blends news footage with dramatic recreations and invented conversations to present a vivid account of Carlos’ twenty-year reign of terror. Twentieth-century history geeks, like me, will find the mini-series fascinating. We see the multinational connection of the terrorist community with Japanese, German, Iraqi, Libyan, Sudanese, and Syrian working together to advance their own schemes. Carlos is protected by these same nations who give him carte blanche to carry out his missions as long as they are not in their country. Sheltered by these countries, international authorities appear impotent in their efforts to arrest him.

The story reveals how European nations cave in to pressures by Socialists and Communists. The appeasement like behavior foretells the sad state of European economies especially Greece and Italy.

Unfortunately, the details, while appealing to history geeks, make for a confusing and slow moving drama. Adding to this problem is a series of semi-pornographic scenes involving Carlos and a series of earnest female terrorist groupies that add little to the story. This leaves us with a central character that is neither tragic, heroic, nor committed. The mini-series reveals Carlos as a vain, morally bankrupt killer dedicated to his own image rather than a noble or evil cause.

We rate the series as two out of four stars.

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