The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Yuppie vices — and global terrorism

June 29, 2005

First, the administration explained in a famous advertisement featured during the 2002 Super Bowl that buying drugs abets terrorism.

Then, in 2003, Arianna Huffington’s “Detroit Project” ran ads claiming that owning an SUV indirectly aids terror; buying lots of gas provides lots of cash to the Iranians and Saudis.

Now, apparently, it turns out that feeding your baby fosters global terrorism. This link is explained by FBI Director Robert Mueller (quoted by Bradley C. Bower of AP) in today’s Christian Science Monitor:

“Middle Eastern criminal enterprises involved in the organized theft and resale of infant formula pose not only an economic threat, but a public health threat to infants, and a potential source of material support to a terrorist organization.”

Don’t snicker, stolen infant formula is apparently a major criminal enterprise:

Theft of baby formula from store shelves has risen over the past decade, costing retailers billions of dollars. Formula was the fourth most-often-shoplifted item last year, according to a survey by the Food Marketing Institute, a Washington, D.C., trade group….

Calling it “a serious security issue” for retailers, the National Retail Federation unveiled its 200-page report highlighting “organized retail theft” of infant formula. At least seven of the report’s 10 case studies detail fencing operations run by citizens of Middle Eastern origin.

“The rings I identified dealing in stolen infant formula are operated mostly by Middle Easterners,” says Charles Miller, a loss-prevention consultant and author of the report. They typically organize the rings, pay the shoplifters (who are mostly from Latin America), repackage the formula, and resell it. Out of $30 billion in annual retail theft, about $7 billion of infant formula is stolen and resold for a tidy profit, Mr. Miller estimates.

Who knew? Bower points out in his story that Ebay had over 1000 offers for Enfamil baby formula this Monday.

The story quotes a number of skeptics about the terror link and the officials acknowledge that the connections to terror are largely unproven. They trace the cash to the people of Middle Eastern origin, then to their home countries…but the money trail is ultimately lost. Who knows what happens to this cash?

It’s not for lack of trying. The CSM story references an alleged terror-related baby formula bust that coincidentally occurred on 9/11 in Texas, so this is something that state and federal officials have been following for years.

Of course, it could be that this illegally obtained money is simply used by family and friends back home to pay their bills. This is from a VOA story a few weeks ago:

About 80 percent of worldwide remittances are used for food, goods and services. Much of the rest goes into building better housing or buying properties.

Annually, tens of billions of US dollars are funneled out of the country by immigrants, temporary workers, and illegal aliens. Typically, these remittances are more significant than foreign aid or direct investment. It’s a lot of cash to track.

Still, next time you need formula, you might want to buy from a regular store, rather than a private seller on Ebay or at the flea market.

Filed as:

+ posts

Rodger A. Payne is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville. He serves on the University’s Sustainability Council and was a co-founder of the Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice program. He is the author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters and coauthor, with Nayef Samhat, of Democratizing Global Politics: Discourse Norms, International Regimes, and Political Community (SUNY, 2004). He is currently working on two major projects, one exploring the role of narratives in international politics and the other examining the implications of America First foreign policy.