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Can you enlist evil to fight evil? Could Mafia gangsters assist in fighting terrorism? ‘Let me out and I will crush Islamic State’, Sicilian boss Toto ‘Shorty’ Riina has sworn from his cell. Makes your flesh creep. Preposterous and unacceptable. Still, for the hell of it, let me consider it.

The objections. First, the Mafia is not a unified organisation. Octopus-like, it has many far-reaching tentacles, but no single head. Rather, it has several. Shorty cannot command all the power he boasts. It is just a stratagem to get out of prison.

Second, would you trust Riina and his ilk to fight terrorists? They could just as well make a deal with ISIS and agree to share the loot. Jihadis already run their own system of robbery, extortions, kidnapping and blackmail, not unlike the Mafia. In Sicily collusion already exists between the local bosses and foreign gangs. Mafiosi’s sense of honour is strictly criminal. Let Riina out and you could have not one but two fiends tearing society apart.

Third, the firepower of the Mafia, lethal as it is, cannot compare with that of the Caliphate armed units. The swaggering hoods familiar from movies like The Godfather, Goodfellas and so on are no match for the massive killer apparatus of ISIS.

Fourth, morally the idea smells. A democratic state is not supposed to employ bloodthirsty criminals as police force or Army. Bandits do not obey the laws of war. They do not respect prisoners or abide by human rights, as the state does. The latter would destroy its ethical credentials if it bestowed its blessing on the Mafia as an arm of the Law.

Powerful points but…the pros? First, there are precedents for this. America in 1943 did actually use the Mafia, boss Lucky Luciano being the notorious example. He prepared the local ground for the Allied invasion of Sicily. The aim was to destroy Mussolini’s regime. By abolishing parliamentary elections and by adopting ruthless police methods fascism had previously suppressed the Mafia. As channelling votes to Mafia-backed candidates was the chief source of power and influence (it still is), the criminals were left powerless. The Mafia came back on the points of US bayonets. Squalid but…The end justifies the means, no?

Second, do not underrate the Mafia’s power and money. Financially, they could afford to hire legions of well-trained mercenaries, armed to the teeth with state of the art hardware, weapons and technology. ISIS is said to pay foreign Jihadis a few hundred dollars a month but the vast funds of Riina’s associates would allow them to recruit many skilled hands to do the job. And Mafia’s hired killers would not feel bound to respect the Geneva Conventions on POWs and the like

Third, ‘necessity knows no law’, a tough maxim runs. The menace of the Caliphate head-cutters is spreading from the Middle East to Europe. What is to be done? Turkey, a NATO country and putatively an ally of the West, laments that it cannot stem the flow of Jihadis into Syria. (Why not? Because it does not want to.) And Britain cannot, or is unwilling, to stop dodgy fighters from coming back. From across the pond hapless President Obumble whines that he will degrade and destroy terrorism. Huh! You might as well believe in the man in the moon. The truth is that Western states are unable effectively to beat determined terrorists. Democracies are trammelled by too many laws and rules safeguarding individual rights. Excellent stuff in times of peace but less so now when it comes to defeating the ravenous wolves of al-Qaeda & Co.

The Mafia of course shows no such reverence for laws. Its agents are pitiless, murderous thugs. They would proceed with ferocious brutality to terminate the enemy. As ISIS does not scruple daily to kidnap hostages and carry out executions, so would the Mafiosi. They might even threaten retaliation on the relatives of the Jihadis. As the French say, ‘a la guerre comme a la guerre’. To war you can only reply with like war. And in extreme circumstances, for the wellbeing and protection of the whole body politic, normal constraints on the use of force can be suspended or overridden.

Repellent imagery? Immoral conceptions? Maybe, but moralising, ideals and fine words alone will not stop terrorists. The Caliphate lot have had it too easy so far. (Although I suspect whenever they fall into Shia’ hands they are not exactly handled with kids’ gloves.) Time they should be given a dose of their own medicine, perhaps?

Enough. It is a fantasy. No Western nation would risk tainting its hands with the Mafia. The enormity would be too much. Moreover, Shorty is shifty, devious and unreliable – his offer won’t be taken up. More realistically, the Kurds might do it. The ancient race of Saladin, a proper and better Caliph, have just thrown out the warriors of this ramshackle Caliphate from the Syrian city of Kabbani after months of siege. Looks promising.

What about also driving the Mafia out of Sicily? Alas, the Italian state lacks the cojones to do it - it is a democracy without balls. Besides, these things cannot happen in a vacuum. On the day when an ethical revolution sweeps away the parasitical and inept political class that leeches on the nation and Italy is reborn…Yep, only then will the bastards get their comeuppance.

Revd Frank Julian Gelli

Last modified on Friday, 30 January 2015 21:46

Frank Gelli I am an Anglican priest and cultural critic and commentator. I have BA in Philosophy, MA in Christian Ethics, MA in Islamic Studies, PGCE in Religious Education and Oxford Certificate in Theology. I have been a journalist & drama critic in Italy and England.
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