Jackal: Finally the Complete Story of the Legendary Terrorist, Carlos the Jackal By John Follain

I had seen documentaries on Carlos and read some other books about Carlos but I don’t think I ever had read what the eventual outcome was for Carlos. This book provides that information. I hesitate to call it an ending because although Carlos is currently incarcerated in France, he will be eligible for parole in 2020.

Ilich Ramirez Sanchez a.k.a Carlos the Jackal, is a Venezuelan national who inspired by all of the student uprisings and nationalists movements in the 1970’s, joined Palestinian terrorist training organizations in order to foment what he called an International Socialist Revolution.

What was most surprising was how little success he actually had – he caused a lot of injury, death and havoc without achieving much in the way of personal or political change. I guess given the legend, I expected so much more. It seems like a life wasted since he spent almost all of it on the run.

In the end, much of the book shows how political machinations and considerations behind the scenes play such an important role in how terrorists are handled. For example, while Carlos was in Khartoum, France wanted to extradite him or grab him but due to considerations and relationships with the Sudanese government, it took quite some time to happen.

Carlos also was sheltered by East Germany, Syria and Libya during the Cold War years but as the Iron Curtain fell and relations thawed between East and West, he found it increasingly more difficult to find places to hide. It is amazing that he managed to evade capture while at the same time living a jet setting lifestyle.

A good, easy to digest book that provides insights into terrorism and the reasons why individuals choose to involve themselves in it.  It also gives succinct answers to why releases of hostages and political negotiations take so long and are so complicated.  What really hit home for me is how little value is placed on victims and how difficult it is for victims to get any justice. The book outlined how utterly devastated victims ended up: economically, physically, mentally and emotionally.

For those interested in this topic and this individual, this book is a great, easy, succinct biography. I enjoyed it and it did provide me with some new insights and the story….so far.


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