Tag Archives: ISIS

On The Perils of Being No. 2 at ISIS

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

Used to be “Al Qaeda’s number two” man was constantly getting killed, or reportedly getting killed, by the United States. Now the same pattern is repeating itself, but with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the crosshairs. How will this affect the internal office politics of ISIS?

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Military Service is for Suckers

Monday was Memorial Day, when Americans are supposed to remember military veterans, particularly those who made sacrifices — lives, limbs, sanity — fighting our wars.

As usual, rhetoric was abundant. People hung flags. Some placed flowers on military graves. There were parades, including one in which a reporter got hit by a drone. President Obama added an oddly pacifist twist to his annual speech, noting that it was “the first Memorial Day in 14 years that the United States is not engaged in a major ground war.”

Excuse me while I puke.

Talk is nice, but veterans need action. Disgusting but true: when it comes to actual help —spending enough money to make sure they can live with dignity — talk is all the U.S. has to offer.

It isn’t just last year’s scandal at the Veterans Administration, which made vets wait for ages to see a doctor, then faked the books to make itself look responsive — and where a whopping three employees lost their jobs as a result. The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that more than 57,000 homeless veterans, some just poor, others suffering from mental illness, sleep on the street on any given night.

The Pentagon can easily afford to solve these problems. But vets aren’t a spending priority. New wars are. For example, we’re fighting a $40 billion-a-year air campaign against ISIS, although the Islamic State can’t attack the U.S. $40 billion is enough to buy every homeless veteran a $700,000 house.

What you might not know is that this isn’t new.

The U.S. has consistently and ruthlessly screwed vets since the beginning. At this point, army recruiters should thank the heavens that American schools don’t teach history; if they did, no one would enlist.

During the Revolutionary War, officers had been promised a pension and half pay for life. After the British were defeated in 1783, however, Congress reneged on its pledge and issued checks for five years pay, period. “If officers felt cheated, enlisted men felt absolutely betrayed…the common soldier got a pat on the back and a shove out the door,” wrote the historian Andrew C. Lannen. “Some soldiers were given land warrants, but it took many years before they became redeemable. “Impoverished veterans in dire need of cash sold them for pennies on the dollar to investors who could afford to wait several years to collect at full value.”

For more than half a century after beating the British, veterans of the War of 1812 got nothing. Finally, as part of a payout to vets of the Mexican War of 1846-1848 — who themselves were made to wait 23 years — the 1812 vets received service pensions in 1871. By then, many had died of their injuries or old age.

Union troops won the Civil War, but that didn’t stop the government from cheating them out of their benefits too. By the end of 1862, the military was only making good on 7% of claims filed by widows and orphans of the fallen. At least 360,000 Union soldiers were killed, leaving close to a million survivors. But 20 years after the war, the pension office only acknowledged receiving 46,000 applications — less than 5% of those eligible.

Though fading from historical memory, the “Bonus Army” was perhaps the most famous example of the American government’s poor treatment of its war heroes.

Repeating the Revolutionary War policy of “I will gladly pay you a thousand Tuesdays from now for your cannon-fodder corpse today,” Congress awarded veterans of World War I service certificates redeemable for pay plus interest — in 1945, more than two decades later. The Great Depression prompted impoverished vets to form a proto-Occupy movement, the Bonus Expeditionary Force.

In 1932, 43,000 Bonus Army members, their families and supporters camped out in Washington to demand that Congress issue immediate payment in cash. Two generals who’d later become notorious hardasses during World War II, Douglas MacArthur and George Patton, led troops to clear out the camps, shooting, burning and injuring hundreds of vets, whom MacArthur smeared as “communists.” Eighteen years after the end of World War I, in 1936, Congress overrode FDR’s veto and paid out the Bonus.

Even those who served in the so-called “good war” got cheated. “According to a VA estimate, only one in seven of the survivors of the nation’s deceased soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who likely could qualify for the pension actually get the monthly checks,” reported The Charlotte Observer in 2005. These nearly two million survivors include those whose spouses and parents served in World War II, as well as Korea and Vietnam.

Remember this the next time you hear some politician or their media allies claim to “support our troops.”

Support? They don’t even pay them enough to let them sleep inside.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

Militarize Climate Change!

Since Americans don’t seem to care much about climate change, President Obama is trying to recast global warming as a threat to the one thing they DO care about: national security.

If ISIS Kills Me, It’s Totally Barack Obama’s Fault

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

Supporters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are plotting to assassinate Australian and American cartoonists, Foreign Policy magazine is reporting.

As an American cartoonist who prefers not to get assassinated, I believe this is an extremely worrisome story.

As you can probably imagine, I have been giving a lot of thought to the possibility that Australian and American cartoonists might get blown away à la Charlie Hebdo, and even more consideration to the possibility that I might be one of them.

As a result of said thinking, I have this to say: If some ISIS asshole kills me, it’s totally Obama’s fault.

Since at least a year ago, the Obama Administration has pulled out all the stops to stop wannabe jihadi American citizens and residents from traveling to Syria, typically via Turkey, to join the Islamic State.

In October, the FBI arrested Mohammed Hamzah Khan, 19, at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. He faces 15 years in prison for trying to go to Syria to join ISIS. They grabbed Adam Dandach, 20, at Orange County California’s John Wayne airport, of all places, for the same thing. This past February, it was three guys from Brooklyn of Central Asian ethnic descent, this time at JFK. In April, four Somali-Americans in Minneapolis. Scores of Americans have been arrested by federal authorities while trying to join ISIS.

To which I, possible future dead cartoonist, ask: WTF?

Why not let them leave?

As I wrote recently, the legal basis for these arrests is skimpy. But never mind the morals or the law. What about common sense?

I thought the idea was to fight them over there so we wouldn’t have to fight them here, right? So, about these self-radicalized guys — why not let them go to Syria?

The word is already getting out among ISIS fans that it’s getting hard to travel from the U.S. to Syria, and that you might get slammed with a “material support to a terrorist organization” charge if the feds learn about your plans. Those who are stuck here in the States will naturally turn to Plan B: carrying out attacks here in the — yuck on this word — “homeland.”

Before he was accidentally blown up by an American drone this past January, Al Qaeda spokesperson Adam Yahiye Gadahn, a.k.a. Azzam the American, advised English-speaking would-be terrorists to think globally, kill locally:

“America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle without a background check and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?”

I’ve followed politics and U.S. foreign policy my whole life, yet I can’t imagine the rationale for this policy of apprehending Americans for wanting to join ISIS. If they want to go, let them — hell, give them a first-class plane ticket.

Jihadi Art Critics Circle

Garry Trudeau, creator of the comic strip “Doonesbury,” gave an acceptance speech for a Polk journalism award at which he criticized the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists for creating work that was insensitive to Islam, crossed the line, and thus brought a “world of pain” upon France.

Why Would Anyone Want To Join ISIS?

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

They slash innocent people’s throats. They hew off heads. They rape children, sell women into slavery and vandalize ancient museum pieces. Why would anyone want to join ISIS?

That’s the big question Americans and people in other Western countries are asking — because thousands of their citizens, many of them well-educated and reportedly of sound mind and body, are doing just that.

Unfortunately, mainstream media outlets seem unwilling and/or unable to explain the attraction of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Even when the topic is broached, as it was recently on syndicated talk host Diane Rehm’s NPR radio show, so-called experts can’t or won’t answer the question, instead repeating the usual ISIS-is-incomprehensibly-evil memes we’ve already heard a zillion times.

“I think one characteristic that we see from ISIS is that they pursue every avenue. They have a specific recruitment for women, they have specific recruitment for different countries, different languages. They’re really unusually large for a terror group ,” Jessica Stern told Rehm.

Others say ISIS recruits are thrill-seekers or alienated youths searching for meaning in otherwise empty lives, as The International Business Times argued recently.

If ISIS is America’s enemy, or at least a phenomenon it would be in our interest to weaken or destroy, it is not in our interest to dismiss its adherents as fools, lunatics or alienated losers. Underestimating your adversary plays into his hands. They’re not crazy, and they come from all walks of life: “Four decades of psychological research on who becomes a terrorist and why hasn’t yet produced any profile,” John Horgan, director of the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, told The Guardian.

Before we attack the Islamic State — OK, it’s too late for that — it behooves us to understand it. Which requires understanding its appeal.

ISIS is a Nation-State.

Corporate media outlets like NPR call ISIS “the self-proclaimed Islamic State” or “self-described Islamic State” as if the predicate weakens ISIS’ legitimacy. Ridiculous! You could apply the same lame undermining modifier to any nation: the self-described United States of America, the self-proclaimed Republic of Ireland, whatever. Nations exist until they don’t; ISIS has no less de facto legitimacy than, say, Panama.

No one knows whether ISIS will survive, but it is the first serious attempt to carve out an Islamist nation-state in memory.

ISIS isn’t like Al Qaeda and its spinoff groups, or Abu Sayyaf, Al Shabab and Boko Haram (which recently pledged fealty to ISIS). Those are underground insurgent organizations. They carry out attacks against government and private targets in territory that they do not control. A closer analogy is the Taliban, whose formal name during their rule ISIS echoes: The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — but it’s not a perfect one because, since 2001, “Taliban-held” areas of Afghanistan have been partially held and transited by troops loyal to the Kabul-based central government.

ISIS is trying to build a full-fledged nation-state with all the trappings: discrete borders, coins, stamps, its own monetary system, ministries, control and expansion of infrastructure, educational curriculum, a standing army, social programs, a judiciary, and not least — a cool flag.

“This is more than just fighting,” an ISIS recruit explains on an online video. “We need the engineers, we need doctors, we need professionals … There is a role for everybody.”

ISIS’ message — join us! we aren’t thinking about building a fundamentalist Muslim society, or trying to transform an existing Muslim country, but we’re actually making one now excites Sunni purists currently living in Western countries or in Muslim nations like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, whose leaders and values have been corrupted by Western and American influence. France, Germany and other countries with large populations of young Muslim immigrants have marginalized them in ghettos with high unemployment, subjecting them to racial profiling and harassment. They haven’t been made to feel at home. ISIS promises them they will be with them.

Ironically, it’s an appeal familiar to Jews who emigrate to Israel.

ISIS is a Caliphate.

Western commentators as well as some Muslim scholars scoff at ISIS’ claim to have reestablished the Islamic caliphate eliminated along with the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire after its defeat in World War I. ISIS’ caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is a shadowy Iraqi religious scholar turned jihadi who did time as a U.S. detainee — so what, they ask, is the basis of his legitimacy? Al-Baghdadi probably isn’t, despite his claims, a direct descendant of the prophet Mohammed, which according to classical scholars is required to be named caliph.

The naysayers are missing the point. “All that the Islamic State lacks is the legitimacy derived from mutual international recognition by other states, which it never sought in the first place. It also realized that states in the Muslim world resist its declaration of the Caliphate. Its legitimacy emerges from declaring a Caliphate and a state apparatus to sustain it, thus deriving legitimacy from a small, but devoted core of Muslims around the world, willing to leave their lives behind to travel and become citizens of the new Islamic State,” says Cal State historian Ibrahim al-Marashi.

To echo Nike, this is a “just do it” thing — you’re the caliph if you say you are, and enough people believe you to back you up.

The demise of the caliphate in 1924 stripped Islam of its centuries-old central governing body. Imagine, for example, how Roman Catholicism would be affected by the end of the papacy: new sects would break off, splinterism would rule, no one would agree on what a real Catholic believes or does. The desire to reestablish cohesion — under, of course, radical Sunnism — motivates Muslim fundamentalists who, such as Osama bin Laden, have long called for its restoration.

A caliph, however, is not a pope. He is a religious, military and political leader, all wrapped up in one — and God’s representative on earth. By definition, all Muslims are required to swear allegiance to a caliph and follow his dictates, or be branded apostates, and face death.

ISIS Kills Its Enemies. A Lot.

For ISIS, violence — slave markets, ethnic cleansing, mass slaughter, even of fellow Sunni Muslims — is not merely an unpleasant but necessary tactic, but an end in and of itself.

It’s not just rule by fear, though ISIS leaders use that too, as when they execute deserters by crucifixion. Like the Hotel California, ISIS is a place you can check in but never leave.

The brutality turns off some fighters enough to prompt them to flee, but for many others, it’s a major attraction. Slaughtering Shias, secular Sunnis and non-Muslims serves a double purpose: purification and revenge. For as long as most Muslims can remember — and this goes for liberal-minded Muslims too — they have been on the receiving end of violence: Israel, created by the U.S. and European powers from stolen Palestinian land. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Yemen and countless other Muslim nations oppressed by U.S.-backed tyrants. After 9/11: secret prisons, kidnappings, torture, drone assassinations, multiple invasions, constant bombing.

ISIS offers humiliated fighters a chance to lash out…even if swimming in the blood of a captured Yazidi woman is a poor substitute for an American drone operator, or a congressman.

It will take more than intercepting recruits on their way to Syria and arresting them, or cheesy, hollow appeals to patriotic sentimentality, to counter these powerful motivating forces.

“Born and raised in the United States, allegedly turned his back on his country and attempted to travel to Syria in order to join a terrorist organization,” said Loretta Lynch, Obama’s nominee for attorney general after the arrest of a Florida air force vet charged with trying to join the Islamic State. “An American citizen and former member of our military allegedly abandoned his allegiance to the United States and sought to provide material support to ISIL,” said assistant attorney general John Carlin.

There will be more like him.

Reunited and It Feels So Good

Secretary of State John Kerry has signaled that the United States is reversing its policy of supporting the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad because the opposition became dominated by ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Now the U.S. wants to keep Assad in power as a bulwark against the (previously) US-backed rebels.

The Traitors Within

Shockingly for patriotic Muslims, thousands of naive young Muslims are committing treason against their own people, rejecting their homeland to travel to the United States, where they join the terrorist military. Why would anyone join a group responsible for horrific atrocities, which have been documented on video?

Jeb Bush is a Devout Catholic

You may be surprised to learn that Jeb Bush is Roman Catholic. What’s even more surprising is that the media calls him devout, considering his enthusiastic support for capital punishment, preemptive war, and screwing over poor people.

A Closer Look: Why ISIS Is Destroying Historical Treasures

Originally published by Breaking Modern:

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has turned its destructive attention against archaeological treasures – and it’s partly our fault.

This week the United Nations called ISIS’ destruction of the 2,000-year-old Parthian city of Hatra a war crime. This follows reports that ISIS blew up the ancient Assyrian capital city of Dur Sharrukin and Nimrud, “known as Calah or Kalhu in the Bible … capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, which flourished under King Ashurnasirpal II in the First Millennium BC.”

1st to 2nd Century CE Hercules statuette, Hatra, Iraq: Wikimedia Commons

 

The group released a video of its members taking sledgehammers and electric drills to antiquities on display at the museum at Mosul, currently under ISIS rule. Looting of archaeological sites is rampant.

The cradle of Western civilization is losing buildings and artifacts that have survived countless invading armies. The loss is staggering, incomprehensible and irreplaceable.

There are several motivations behind what the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) calls “cultural cleansing.” 

One is economic.

“ISIS is said to be encouraging civilians to plunder historic sites, and charging a 20% tax on anything they sell. Intelligence officials say looting is the terror group’s second largest source of income after oil,” according to New York Magazine.

If we are to take ISIS at its word, there is also a religious motivation. According to at least one video released by the group, the destruction is an attempt to carry out Islamic law. “A man in the video says the Prophet Mohammed ordered to get rid of statues and relics, and that the objects are idols for Assyrians and Akkadians,” reports RT.

But there is a deeper underlying reason that radical Islamists have declared war on historically significant relics under their control – one that most Western journalists are too deeply embedded within their own culture and political paradigm to discern.

Cornell archaeologist Sturt Manning speaks for many when he tells CNN that the problem is ignorance.

Manning suggests that maybe the ISIS guys simply don’t understand why history and archaeology matter:

The destruction eloquently speaks of the human folly and senseless violence that drives ISIS. The terror group is destroying the evidence of the great history of Iraq; it has to, as this history attests to a rich alternative to its barbaric nihilism.”

isis-hatra

Never believe people who tell you that other people’s behavior has no rational explanation, that they are “senseless” or nihilistic. People do things for a reason. Just because you don’t know what it is doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. In the case of ISIS, many of its members are Western-educated and highly intelligent. They know what they are doing.

Manning’s conclusion that “Providing educational opportunities and empowering communities to learn more about their cultures and histories, and those of others, is one of the best ways to eradicate destructive hatred and violence,” is facile and lazy and in no way explains what’s going on in Iraq and Syria.

In addition to the religious and financial motivations, these acts – like the 2001 bombing by the Taliban of the giant Buddhas at Bamiyan – are cries for attention by people who have been completely marginalized from the international system.

We were smarter before 9/11.

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Writing in USA Today in March 2001, W.L. Rathje noted that Sunni Islam’s strictures against idolatry turned against statues that had survived centuries of Muslim occupation in large part as a way of getting the attention of the West:

Probably most important, the Taliban government for more than a year has been requesting international humanitarian aid for a country ravaged by drought, earthquakes, and war. No aid is forthcoming as long as the Taliban harbor international terrorists such as Osama bin Laden, an anathema to key voting members of the UN Security Council, including the United States, Russia (where the Taliban are working with the Chechnyan [sic] rebels), and China (where the Taliban are active among Muslim separatists).

As the Taliban see it, the UN and others (such as New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the British Museum, Taiwan’s National Palace Museum, and even such Taliban friends as Iran, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) will give millions of dollars to save un-Islamic stone statues but not one cent to save the lives of Afghani [sic] men, women, and children.

It is not America and the West’s air war against the Islamic State that is prompting its attacks against archaeological treasures. It is the way that it is being carried out: using remote control drone aircraft whose downing cannot hurt a single pilot, laser-guided missiles fired by high-altitude fighter jets far out of reach of antiaircraft guns — not really a war at all but a one-sided onslaught in which the US-led coalition brutalizes an adversary that has 0.00% chance of fighting back.

Like the Taliban in 2001 at the time of the Buddha bombings, ISIS has nothing to lose.

As Machiavelli wrote hundreds of years ago in a book that ought to have been read by the signers of the Treaty of Versailles, nothing is more dangerous than an enemy backed into a corner. It is always wise, he counseled, to allow a graceful exit – and to be willing to negotiate. Especially when you are going to win.

Arrogance and technology are merging to create a post-democratic America accountable to no one, not even its own citizens, and thus impossible to talk to.

As Chamayou writes in A Theory of the Drone:

A sovereign, given that he never places himself in danger in the war, ‘can thus decide on war, without any significant reason, as a kind of amusement’ or hunting party … in a republican regime the situation is different” since “the consent of the citizens is required to decide whether or not war is to be declared.”

Chamayou argues that the “dronization” of American warfare – riskless attacks using unmanned aerial vehicles in distant lands – undermines this fundamental precept of representative government, that a United States that fights wars without the consent or even discussion of its citizens is no longer a democracy.

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If you think that’s terrifying, and I do, imagine how it looks on the ground in Iraq and Syria. Like them or not – and I don’t – the leaders of the Islamic State know that they cannot and will not ever have a seat at the table with a mega-superpower that demands unconditional surrender and refuses to negotiate with terrorists.

That was the situation in 2001. The Taliban controlled 95 percent of the territory of Afghanistan, and had been in effective control of the vast majority of the nation since 1996, yet the United States and therefore the world refused to acknowledge them as a legitimate government.

They weren’t stakeholders in the international community. 

They were outlaws, outliers, rōnin. Like North Korea today, they were an isolated regime whose only way of getting headlines and attention from Western leaders was by lashing out.

It may well be that economic and trade sanctions and a unilateral air war designed to completely isolate ISIS is the correct path to drive them out of power – though it didn’t work against the Taliban in Afghanistan. But, until that happens, don’t be at all surprised if these policies contribute to the decision of radical Islamists to take bulldozers to the world’s most precious archaeological artifacts.