- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2007

Just when it seemed many Americans and even the Bush administration had lost the will to resist the enablers of our terror-wielding enemies — nations like Iran, Sudan, Syria and North Korea — a national phenomenon has become unmistakable. U.S. investors have begun to recognize money is the lifeblood of the regimes that sponsor the killers; cutting off their cash-flow is not only prudent but a matter of life and death; and every one of us can help by investing terror-free.

A press conference at the National Press Club today will make clear that terror-free investing is an idea whose time truly has come. Americans have been horrified to learn that their money — in the form of public pension funds, mutual funds, college and university endowments, life insurance portfolios or their personal investments — is being invested in publicly traded companies that do business with U.S. government-designated, state-sponsors of terror.

The magnitude of the sums involved was first suggested in a study issued more than two years ago by the Center for Security Policy. The Terrorism Investments of the 50 States (https://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/modules/newsmanager/center%20publication%20pdfs/divestterror_report.pdf) provided a revealing snapshot in time. It indicated that as of August 2004, roughly 100 of the leading American public pension funds alone had some $188 billion invested in companies that partner with terrorist-sponsoring regimes. Thank goodness, not all that money was flowing to our enemies. But the Center’s study indicated roughly $73 billion was at that juncture.

Today, in the halls of Congress, in a growing number of state legislatures and on the agendas of several influential national organizations, divesting terror has become a formidable new weapon against the state-sponsors of Islamist and other terrorists. Such initiatives are gaining momentum partly due to strong public sentiment. According to a dramatic new poll by Luntz Maslansky Strategic Research conducted for the Center’s DivestTerror.org initiative (which will be released at this afternoon’s press conference), the American people — investors and noninvestors alike — overwhelmingly want to see terror-free investing, once they are aware of the facts.

Several of the initiatives now in play — while welcome — simply do not go far enough. For example, some believe the focus of terror-free investing efforts should be confined to the relative handful of companies helping the Iranian energy sector with projects worth more than $20 million. This “targeted” approach would leave unaffected the roughly 325 mostly foreign-owned and -operated companies also helping Iran’s regime build its infrastructure, develop dual-use (that is, military and civilian) industrial capabilities, heavy manufacturing, etc. It would invite companies to play games with their bookkeeping to allow them to assist Iran’s energy programs while remaining, nominally at least, below the threshold.

Worse yet, this narrow approach to terror-free investing would give a pass to the government of Sudan, even as the United Nations reports it is indisputably behind the genocide in Darfur. The Syrian regime would also be unaffected, notwithstanding its ongoing efforts to kill Americans and Iraqis in neighboring Iraq, its continuing predations in Lebanon and, according to the Defense Intelligence Agency, its outfitting of missile warheads with biological weapons.

In addition, under the restrictive, Iran-energy-only approach, the opportunity would be missed to use terror-free investing against Kim Jong-il’s kleptocracy in North Korea. That would be particularly unfortunate — not to say reprehensible — since it comes when the Bush administration is promising, as part of its doomed nuclear deal with Pyongyang, to lift financial sanctions on banks that help the North Korean regime circulate untold millions of dollars worth of counterfeit U.S. currency.

Divesting North Korea’s business partners like the South Korean conglomerate Hyundai may be the only way left to counteract Mr. Kim’s regime and the economic warfare it is waging against our currency. The gravity of this problem was underscored by California Rep. Ed Royce who noted in a powerful op-ed article in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal that, “Alarmingly, some countries — such as Ireland, Taiwan and Peru — have temporarily refused accepting our $100 bills” because of the high quality of the North’s fraudulent “supernotes.”

If demand for terror-free investing is surging, instruments for doing so are not keeping pace. The only certified terror-free mutual fund at the moment is the Roosevelt Anti-Terror Multi-Cap Fund. It is offered on an increasing number of investing vehicles, including Nationwide Financial’s 50,000-client 401(k) platform.

Still, there is as of this writing no terror-free index. This is shameful as Wall Street has developed countless indices in response to investor demand on other subjects, from the environment to tobacco to guns to Myanamar. What is more, when the State of Illinois last year adopted legislation barring its public pension funds from investing in companies doing business in Sudan, the Sudan-free index offered by Northern Trust garnered as much as $8 billion in a remarkably short period.

Terror-free investing is a godsend for Americans who understand the stakes in this War for the Free World and who wish to do their part in helping it come out right. If their elected representatives and Wall Street respond by offering what will, hopefully, be the broadest possible options for investing terror-free, the vast sums Americans have in the capital markets can become a strategically vital, morally sound and fiduciarily responsible tool for hurting terror’s friends and our enemies.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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