The Islamic State wants to be a full-service nation-state. What would ISIS look like if it governed like a legitimate nation-state like the United States? Let’s take a look.
Originally published by ANewDomain.net:
The guy who took the video that caught a South Carolina cop shooting Walter Scott in the back is telling news outlets that they’ll have to cough up $10,000 to post or broadcast it.
Good. Good for him.
For the record: Passerby Feidin Santana, who took the cell phone video that shocked the nation and landed the police officer in jail awaiting a murder trial, gave it away for free to the family so they could pursue legal remedies, and to media organizations in the immediate aftermath of the incident.
“Now they will have to pay,” Max Markson, the publicist, said.
Let’s get one thing straight: News is big business. The CEO of NBCUniversal makes $31 million a year. Last year – which relatively sucked – brought in $91 million in operating profits to The New York Times. So it’s not like major news outlets can’t afford to shell out a few bucks.
As long as I can remember – in other words, too long – American news organizations have raked in handsome profits and paid exorbitant salaries to their executives, while monetizing video footage and other news assets created by ordinary citizens who gave them away for free. They claim that their refusal to “pay for news” is motivated by the purely noble desire not to allow money to corrupt the process.
The truth is, they’re just cheap. Newspapers, magazines and broadcast outlets all around the world routinely pay for interviews, photos and videos; there’s no evidence that the ABC in which the A stands for Australia is any less trustworthy than ours. I have some experience with this: When I agree to an interview with a non-American news organization, it is not rare for me to receive an honorarium to compensate me for my time. Believe me, those foreigners aren’t getting anything different from me than the outfits based here in the good old U.S. of A.
In 2002, two French brothers sold the rights to their exclusive footage of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center on 9/11 to CBS for $1 million. They caught a lot of flak for profiting from tragedy, but CBS got 35 million viewers to tune in to their riveting documentary of the attack on New York City. You can be damned sure that CBS made a handsome profit on that.
To reiterate, I would come down on the other side of the argument if we didn’t live in a world of corporatized mass media that keeps thousands of fat white guys, and a few fat white women, in penthouse apartments and Hamptons vacation homes. As long as they’re making money from news, why can’t the rest of us?
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The death is, as reported elsewhere previously, gruesome and horrible.
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.’”
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.
A New York City grand jury decided not to indict a NYPD officer despite videotape that clearly shows Eric Garner, an African-American father of six about to be arrested for selling untaxed loose cigarettes, being strangled to death by the cops. Takeaway: symbolic changes like an African-American president won’t change the system itself.
I am one of several cartoonists who contributed work to a new video called “Cartoonists Demand Action,” which calls for increased gun control in the wake of the Newtown shootings in Connecticut. Organized by the brilliant Ruben Bolling, the other cartoonists who participated include Tom Tomorrow, Garry Trudeau, Mo Willems, Lalo Alcaraz, Steven Brodner, Peter Kuper, Stephan Pastis, Lincoln Pierce, Mike Luckovich, Mike Peters, Jerry Scott, Dan Piraro, Roz Chast and – get this – Art Spiegelman.
This is definitely the first-ever joint Spiegelman-Rall appearance.
My participation may come as a surprise to readers who know I am a strong advocate of the Second Amendment. History teaches us that revolutionaries and those to seek to resist foreign invasion rely on guns that were in circulation before the conflicts they fought against oppression and tyranny. This is why I believe that it’s important for Americans to have the right to own weapons.
Guns, it hardly need be said, are dangerous. So I believe that they need to be controlled and regulated the same way cars are. Motorists are required to receive training before they are allowed to drive. They must carry insurance to cover people they injure or kill with their car. They must take new tests, such as vision, to ensure they are qualified to drive. And of course cars are regulated. No one would suggest that cars be unregulated.
Like a car, guns can kill and maim. So people who buy guns should be required to pass a safety test, receive proper training, register their firearms and carry insurance in case they shoot someone or something they shouldn’t.
There is an argument that regulation is a first step toward government seizure. If they know who has guns, they can take them away. Which is true.
I don’t trust the government. No one should. But I’m counting on the fact that, if and when the time comes for armed resistance, it will be possible for patriotic Americans to keep their weapons out of the hands of government agents who seek to take them away. The situation will likely be chaotic and anarchic.
Moreover, we have to live in the present. Right now, as things stand, we have hundreds of millions of firearms in the hands of anyone with a couple of hundred dollars. That’s madness.
I believe in cars. But I also believe in regulation of cars.
Guns are no less lethal than cars.