Tag Archives: Islamic State

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Clinton Attacks Trump’s Lies…with Lies

Hillary Clinton’s strategists have identified Donald Trump’s innumerable lies as a major weakness in his campaign for president. They’re smart. Trump does lie a lot. He often gets caught lying. Voters want their next president to be trustworthy.

What the Clintonites and their allies in the media don’t seem to understand, however, is that if your attacks on your rival’s truthfulness are themselves based on lies, your efforts are doomed to failure.

In a recent op-ed column for the New York Times, Charles M. Blow wrote that Trump “is prone to making up his own set of false facts.” (Let’s leave aside the fact that, by definition, facts are true.)

“[Trump] wildly exaggerated the number of immigrants in this country illegally and ‘inner city’ crime rates,” Blow wrote. “He said President Obama founded ISIS and that the Obama administration was actively supporting Al Qaeda in Iraq, the terrorist group that became the Islamic State.”

I like Blow and often agree with him — though, for the life of me, I will never understand why he was so hard on Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaries and so willing to excuse Hillary Clinton’s dismal record on issues of concern to African-Americans and LGBTQ people. Now he appears to have embraced the two-party trap, using his platform to bash Trump. That’s his right, of course. What I find fascinating is Blow’s willingness to resort to untruth to make his case for Hillary. Is it really so difficult to focus on Trump and his well-documented lies?

Consider the above quote, for example. It’s true that Trump said that there were 30 million illegal immigrants in the United States. (The real number is closer to 11 million.) Follow Blow’s link, however, and you find that he said that in July 2015 – well over a year ago. Nowadays, he acknowledges the widely accepted 11 million figure, albeit with the caveat that government statistics shouldn’t be trusted because they are compiled by incompetents. “Our government has no idea. It could be three million. It could be 30 million,” he said recently.

Trump is right. It’s impossible to know for sure, although the range is probably narrower than his example. The point is, the Times and Charles Blow willfully misrepresented Trump’s position by dragging up an ancient quote, since corrected. It’s the kind of thing Trump does, and it’s sleazy.

Similarly, it’s a stretch to say that Trump “wildly exaggerated” inner-city crime rates. Politifact has backed away from their previous assessment that he had lied about an uptick in urban crime. It’s pretty clear that Trump was referring to the widely reported rise in crime in cities like Chicago. The media has seized upon his use of the modifier “record” in the phrase “record high”; while crime has indeed been higher historically, shootings have spiked in places like Chicago.

The Islamic State claim is particularly unworthy of a storied newspaper like the New York Times. When Donald Trump called President Obama “the founder of ISIS,” it’s obvious to everyone what he meant. He was being colloquial. He was speaking like a normal person. Obviously Obama wasn’t literally at the founding of ISIS. Trump meant that Obama’s policies – namely his financing and arming of the radical Islamic fundamentalists in Syria’s civil war, a faction of which became ISIS, and the drawdown of U.S. troops from Iraq which created a vacuum of power — effectively created the group as the monster that we know it as today. Many Middle East experts agree with this assessment, as do mainstream political observers, including some who oppose Trump. Blow’s nitpicking is unbecoming, inaccurate and so transparent as to be totally ineffectual.

Another Times columnist, Frank Bruni, recently repeated the oft-cited claim that Trump treasonously “encouraged” Russian hackers to steal U.S. government records and interfere with the election when he sarcastically suggested: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Hillary Clinton State Department] emails that are missing.”

Give me a break. I’m not going to vote for The Donald. I think he’s dangerous. But everyone knows exactly what he meant. He wasn’t encouraging Russian hacking. He was making a point in a humorous way: that it’s ridiculous and frustrating that Secretary Clinton got away with deleting so many public records.

Why are Hillary’s people resorting to the exact same style of lying that they claim to criticize? I don’t know if it’s because the truth of some claim is of little concern to them compared to it possible effectiveness, or if it’s because they believe that the numerous legitimate criticisms of Trump — his breathtaking ignorance of history and politics, his glib encouragement of violence at his rallies, his inexperience in government, his authoritarian tendencies — are unlikely to get much traction.

What I do know is that, unlike Trump, they aren’t fooling anyone.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form.)

 

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First They Came for the Chairs

The media went crazy over false reports that Bernie Sanders supporters threw some chairs at a Democratic convention in Nevada. They deplored the burning of Make America Great Again hats at a Trump rally. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton personally destroyed several Middle East nations…yet the media doesn’t have anything to say about that.

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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?

Trt83ISISNumber2

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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Good Enough for Goverment Werk

An analysis of intelligence agency website pages found that 32% of the CIA site pages contain serious grammatical and spelling errors. Gives a new meaning to counterintelligence, but it also explains the agency’s accuracy in their covert drone program.

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Wannabe ISIS Fighters Arrested in NYC: Chickens Coming Home

Originally published by ANewDomain:

As a frequent traveler to and author of several books about the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, I was surprised by the news that the FBI arrested a citizen of Kazakhstan along with two men from Uzbekistan for attempting to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Although Kazakhstan has a majority Muslim population, it is a highly secular culture where radical Islamism has had less success attracting adherents than in neighboring countries. Walk the streets of major cities like the capital of Astana and the intellectual center Almaty and you will see casinos, bars, men smoking and drinking beer and vodka, and countless women in miniskirts and tightfitting blouses.

These troubling arrests – they practically fit the dictionary definition of entrapment, the federal government’s definition of “material assistance to a terrorist organization” is overly broad, and anyway, why should it be illegal to go and fight for a foreign army that isn’t legally at war with the United States? – are still a developing story, so what follows necessarily relies upon speculation.

Akhror Saidakhmetov, 19, is the youngest of the three. The feds intercepted him at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City early Wednesday morning, while trying to board a flight to Istanbul. Turkey is a typical transit route for would-be ISIS recruits trying to get into Syria.

My off-the-cuff assumption was that his radicalization must have been influenced by his fellow suspects, both of whom are from Uzbekistan, particularly his roommate and former fellow restaurant worker, 24-year-old Abdurasul Juraboev. But that may not be the case.

Saidakhmetov is from the southern Kazakh city of Turkistan. He left for the United States at age 16 and has not been back.

According to the Kazakhstani Foreign Ministry, however, he is listed as an ethnic Uzbek.

The third man, Abror Habibov, 30, was arrested in Jacksonville, Florida.

FBI ISIS ARREST -Ted Rall NYDailyNewsdrawing-nydailynews.com

If the Uzbek connection turns out to be a central thread in the three men’s desire to join the Islamic State, a Taliban-style attempt to reboot the caliphate eliminated at the end of World War I and establish a medieval interpretation of sharia law in the Middle East, it would not be surprising to those of us who pay attention to Central Asia. When I heard that the three were all ethnic Uzbeks, I immediately thought:

Fergana Valley.

Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

Islam Karimov.

The Fergana Valley is a mountainous geographical knot connecting Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Long a hotbed of Islamic extremism, particularly among ethnic Uzbeks, Fergana is the center of power of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The IMU, whose members attended Afghan training camps during the Taliban era in the late 1990s, is dedicated to the overthrow of Islam Karimov, the authoritarian dictator of Uzbekistan.

Given their ages, it’s unlikely that any of the three men, including Habibov, were members of the IMU. In the age of radical jihad, however, self-radicalization is inspired by the ideology in the air around you. If you’re fundamentalist and Muslim and radical in Uzbekistan, or still have ties to that country, the IMU comes with the territory the same way that growing up Irish and Catholic in the 1970s, and resenting the British occupation forces, necessarily leads one to embrace, if not join, the IRA.

All of the Central Asian republics are seriously screwed up, and all of them are run by authoritarian despots, but none are nearly as heinous or universally despised by their citizenry as Karimov.

Karimov, a Communist Party boss who kept his job after the fall of the USSR, runs one of the most violent and corrupt dictatorships in the world. Among other atrocities, he has personally supervised the massacre of hundreds of peaceful demonstrators and ordered political dissidents to be either boiled or frozen to death. Central Asia watchers have long expected Karimov-related blowback.

When I traveled in Uzbekistan, everyone I met – secular or religious, regardless of ethnicity, wherever they stood on the spectrum of political ideology, young and old, male and female, rich or poor – despised Karimov, and wished for his speedy painful death. Unfortunately for the people of Uzbekistan, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. That’s because he is one of America’s best friends in the so-called global war on terror.

It is not difficult to imagine three young Uzbek men, struggling to make their way in New York City, feeling resentment against the West and in particular against the United States, which has long propped up a regime which has looted spectacular amounts of wealth from and abused their countrymen. Was this a case of chickens coming home to roost, or simply three guys who were led astray?

Sooner rather than later, I suspect that we will find out. Whatever the case, US foreign policy has contributed to radicalization in a Central Asia that, after 1991, could have easily gone the other way had we simply let their domestic political situations sort themselves out, rather than insist upon supporting a group of ruthless tyrants who were wildly unpopular among their own people, simply to cut deals for cheap oil or natural gas or to lease airfields for American military operations.

“Although Central Asian governments have attempted to crack down on extremism within their borders, analysts suspect that ISIS has effectively targeted Central Asian nationals for recruitment,” reports the Christian Science Monitor. That’s what happens when you alienate people by giving them nothing to lose: the beneficiaries are inevitably the most extreme groups, like the Islamic State. “A report published last month by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group claimed that up to 4,000 recruits from Central Asia had joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Many of these recruits are from the Fergana Valley, an ethnically diverse region that includes eastern Uzbekistan. The Kazakh National Security Committee estimates that about 300 from that country, about half of them women, are fighting in Syria for ISIS.”

Heckuva job.

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Authorization for the Use of Farce

A declining American military empire relies on increasingly flimsy legal justifications to attack foreign countries without provocation. Last year, Obama asserted that the 2001 Congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force authorized him to launch airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, even though the AUMF related to Al Qaeda, an enemy of ISIS. Now Obama wants Congress to give him retroactive authorization, even while claiming he was right last year. Why not go even further to stretch logic?

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What Is ISIS Thinking? Deconstructing the Pilot Immolation Video

Originally published at ANewDomain.net:

What is ISIS thinking? Last week’s release of a video depicting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) execution by the burning alive of a captured Jordanian pilot has many in the West wondering if the self-proclaimed restoration of the Islamic caliphate has lost its collective mind.

Certainly there is something novel about this cruelly medieval killing being presented using the latest modern technology, filled with high-resolution cameras and disseminated via social media outlets backed by billion-dollar corporations.

Furthermore, the political implications have been explosive. In just one week of executions ISIS’ leadership has managed to rile up the populations of two countries: Jordan, whose “Arab Street” had previously been less than wildly enthusiastic about the Hashemite kingdom’s role in the US-led anti-ISIS air campaign and is now screaming for revenge; and Japan, whose citizens were so shocked and angered by the beheading of two journalists that popular opinion is calling for re-militarization for the first time since the Second World War.

But it’s safe to say that ISIS’ leadership, though more than willing to embrace small-scale murder as well as ethnic cleansing, has made a calculated decision in which Jordan, Japan and indeed the Western world are relatively minor considerations compared to their main objective: defining themselves as the world’s leading, and strongest, opposing force to the United States and its allies in what since 9/11 has been dubbed the Global War on Terror.

Western media outlets have limited their coverage of the execution of Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh to the way he was killed: placed inside what looks like a bear cage, soaked in kerosene, a line of kerosene leading out to a spot where, like a villain in an old movie, a masked executioner lights it with a torch.

The camera follows the flame to the doomed pilot, who screams and flails before succumbing to his horrific death.

What these reports leave out is the way that the video frames this dénouement: as righteous, just retribution against a man they describe as a traitor against Islam, a volunteer lackey of the United States and the West, who had rained death and destruction upon innocent men, women and children via bombs dropped from his fighter jet safely soaring thousands of feet overhead.

The video is not a depiction of wanton violence meant simply to terrorize, but rather an indictment, an attempt to lay out the case to justify the execution.

“The fiery death of pilot Muadh al-Kasasbeh is the relatively brief climax in a 22-minute film narrative that imitates the production values of documentaries aired on outlets like the History Channel,” Loren Thompson writes in Forbes. “It is crafted as a morality play featuring an extended monologue by the captured pilot in which he details how the coalition of Western countries and local Arab states wages its air war against ISIS.  After describing the military systems being used and the bases from which they originate, the video shows searing images of civilians who allegedly have been killed or injured by coalition bombs — many of them children.”

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The 22 1/2 minute video opens with the King of Jordan, Abdullah II, being interviewed by Charlie Rose about the anti-ISIS air campaign. (He is described as a “taghut,” an Arabic word that roughly translates to “apostate.”)

“We said to all the pilots, for the airstrikes against ISIS, we are only looking for volunteers,” Abdullah says. “So anybody who wants to volunteer, please step forward. Every single pilot raised his hand and stepped forward.”

The implication is obvious: the lieutenant we are about to watch being immolated wasn’t drafted. He wasn’t just following orders. He voluntarily agreed to be part of an air campaign that, to date, has included at least 16,000 airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, which have killed and wounded an unknown number of fighters as well as civilians. He is thus responsible for his actions.

This is justice, they imply.

what-is-isis-thinking-burning-pilot-video-ted-rall

Next we see a series of quick cuts of war, some apparently from Hollywood film productions. Then we move to an image of King Abdullah next to President Barack Obama.

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This is part two of ISIS’ indictment: against Jordan as a nation, for aligning itself with not a non-Muslim country, but one that has invaded Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and waged bombing campaigns against Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Syria, not to mention kidnapping and torturing Muslims at Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, and elsewhere. This reminder, it is safe to assume, plays well among many Muslims.

We see images of Jordanian generals and other members of the armed forces palling around with their American counterparts, firing missiles and dropping bombs and shooting at Muslim civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 12.20.21 PM

what-is-isis-thinking-burned-pilot-video-ted-rall

As a narrator continues to read calmly, the pilot makes his first appearance in a series of newscasts pulled from throughout the region, subtly noting the panic in those descriptions of his crashed plane, lost in ISIS-controlled territory.

what-is-isis-thinking-burned-pilot

As usual, the ISIS captive is forced to wear an orange jumpsuit reminiscent of those that became famous because detainees captured by the Bush administration were forced to wear them at Guantánamo Bay and other extrajudicial detention facilities. Make no mistake: this is a direct attempt at equivalence. More to the point, for the Muslims they are hoping to recruit using these videos, they are extolling the virtues of revenge: After 14 years of repeated humiliations by the US against Muslims, they are finally striking back, an eye for an eye, a jumpsuit for a jumpsuit.

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At length and in great detail, Lt. al-Kaseasbeh describes his target, the mission, the specific laser guided bombs he was charged with dropping, and the other countries – the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia – that participated in that sortie.

His “testimony” accounts for almost half of the video. What follows is a series of images interspersed images: videotapes of bombs being dropped as seen from in-flight computers, a severely wounded Arab child, more bombings as seen from above, another wounded child, over and over again. The message is clear: this Jordanian pilot is guilty of wounding and killing innocent children.

Finally, seven minutes before the end of the video, we see the lieutenant walking by himself past a line of masked ISIS fighters. Lest you miss the point, this last walk is interspersed with images of bombs falling on civilian targets, pilots climbing into their jets, rubble, civilians being pulled out from shattered buildings. The impression is of the condemned man experiencing his sins through flashback as he prepares to meet judgment.

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Things get quiet. Aside from random background noise, wind, there’s no talking. Cinematically, the video’s producers slowly bring up the sound of a beating heart, faster and faster. He’s already covered with kerosene. The executioner lights his torch.

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The death is, as reported elsewhere previously, gruesome and horrible.

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Afterwards, an earthmover dumps soil and debris on top of the cage and the charred corpse, and pushes them into the ground and covers them up. The video’s producers are crystal clear in their message: Just as the anti-ISIS bombing campaign is reducing buildings in their territory to rubble, and killing people, they’re doing the same thing to the pilot that they captured.

Finally, the narrator notes that ISIS has the names and photographs of pilots and declares them wanted men, going so far as to offer an award of “100 gold dinars to whoever kills a Crusader pilot.”

Abu Ibrahim al-Raqqawi, a member of an anti-Assad militant group inside Syria told the International Business Times: “Today when I saw the video I was really, really shocked. I didn’t imagine ISIS would do that. There is nothing like this in Islam and the ISIS say they are just living under the rule of Islam. But they judge you like this: ‘If someone bombs your families and women and children and burns them with these bombs, you must burn him.’”

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No matter where they stand on this issue, Americans should understand that ISIS sees itself not as aggressors but as victims. In the territory that it controls, yes, they have carried out numerous atrocities. But they have never attacked the West. There has never been an ISIS-backed terrorist act anywhere in the world.

As they see it, the West is attacking them for challenging corrupt secular regimes in Syria and Iraq, and for trying to restore a fundamentalist caliphate that returns Islam to its pure original form.

While it is easy to dismiss ISIS as wild-eyed extremists for whom violence is its own reward, as many Western commentators do, that’s neither the way that they see themselves or – more importantly – the way that they seek to be portrayed to their target audience, Muslims are angry at the West but have not yet undertaken the path of radical jihad against it. This execution video is merely the latest entry in a propaganda war that, like it or not, ISIS appears to be winning.

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