President Obama’s reaction to the videos of two American freelance journalists getting beheaded by Islamist militants gives me the uncomfortable feeling that the American people are getting punk’d — again.

The same thing happened 13 years ago this week, when a dozen and a half Muslim fundamentalists attacked our financial and political capitals using our own planes. The hijackers got exactly the reaction that they wanted: overreaction.You should never underestimate an adversary, least of all when their remarkable success against difficult odds have demonstrated the wisdom of their tactics. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, like the 9/11-era Al Qaeda from which it split, is not run by stupid people. Stupid people don’t take half of Syria away from its longtime authoritarian dictator – whose armed forces happen to be better equipped and trained – and half of Iraq away from a puppet regime backed by the world’s most ferocious superpower – in two years.

Considering ISIS through the lens of proper respect for their leaders’ intelligence, what were they thinking when they posted those two gruesome videos? Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Abu Suleiman al-Naser and other top officials of the Islamic State had to know they would provoke a political reaction. It has: More Americans (94%) are aware of the ISIS execution videos than any other news event in the last five years.

ISIS’ leaders also must have anticipated a military reaction. After the videos, a war-weary American public’s apathetic stance toward the civil war in Syria flipped toward strong support in favor of the bombing campaign announced by Obama (who paradoxically continues to poll poorly on foreign policy).

Clearly ISIS’ top brass believe they stand more to gain than to lose from the coming onslaught by U.S. drones and fighter jets. This should frighten us.

Put yourself into the mindset of the insurgents. Their enemies are the existing governments of the countries they seek to occupy: Syria, Iraq, possibly Jordan, certainly Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. But – again, like Al Qaeda in the early 2000s – they have a more formidable adversary: moderation.

To survive and expand, radical jihadists don’t need all, or even most, Muslims to join the fight. But they do require the tacit consent of the governed in the areas they control, and the political sympathy that prompts donors to send them the financial contributions that allow them to arm new recruits and hold their territory — factors that fuel legitimacy.

As radicals and fundamentalists, ISIS’ Manichean worldview portrays the West, and especially the United States and Great Britain, and their Middle Eastern client states – obviously Israel most of all – as monsters hell-bent on the oppression of Muslims, the exploitation and appropriation of Muslim lands, using moral corruption and godless capitalism as means toward global domination at their expense.

Until recently, most Muslims – including most Sunnis – didn’t buy it. Hundreds of millions of them drank, smoked, failed to pray regularly, and envied the liberalism and economic power of the West.

The genius of 9/11 was to provoke the United States and its allies into behaving exactly like the monsters Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups had long argued they were. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, brazenly embracing torture and mass kidnappings and opening a gulag archipelago of secret prisons everywhere from Eastern Europe to Guantánamo to jail ships floating in the Indian Ocean, as well as the brazen disregard for innocent civilians demonstrated by Bush and Obama’s willy-nilly drone program, convinced countless fence sitters and former moderates to join the militants, cut them a check, or at least look the other way. By the end of the Bush years, the United States was wildly unpopular, viewed as “violent” and “selfish” throughout the Muslim world.

We got trolled.

The tactics Obama plans to use against ISIS are more of the same. Once again, U.S. warplanes and remote-controlled killer air robots will rain death upon people, the vast majority of whom were innocent and had nothing to do with the group responsible for beheading those poor journalists. Once again, although we will on occasion succeed in killing some #1 or #2 “top terrorist,” we will lose this battle for hearts and minds because (a) the nature of guerrilla warfare is that no leader is indispensable and anyone can and will be replaced, and (b) each civilian death will generate thousands of fierce lifelong enemies – yes, some family members and many friends, but most of all the one group of people American pundits and journalists rarely reference when discussing “collateral damage” – ordinary people, there and in the region and around the world, who react with disgust and rage at our cruelty.

Ironically, disgust and rage are the very same emotions that triggered America’s latest tumble into the Islamist trap.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan,” out this week. Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)



  • Ted,

    “To survive and expand, radical jihadists don’t need all, or even most, Muslims to join the fight. But they do require the tacit consent of the governed in the areas they control, and the political sympathy that prompts donors to send them the financial contributions that allow them to our new recruits and hold their territory — factors that fuel legitimacy.”

    You’ve just described our current system as well. Everyone wants universal healthcare, everyone wants guarantees of pensions in old age, everyone wants better roads and schools, but a small number of people run everything, and specifically go against the needs and wants of the majority, mainly because they have the consent of the governed.

    The fancy-shmancy political term for what al Qaida did — and what ISIS will do — is called asymmetrical warfare. Just imagine if, as I type this, a plane is flown into the World Trade Center. Or the Golden Gate Bridge (so much for reruns of Star Trek IV). The rational response? Well, that’s a whole other discussion, but we all know what WILL happen.

    First, we’ll start rounding up them Muslims. And any other brown people. You know, suspicious types.
    Second, MORE security.
    Third, “your papers, please” will no longer be an ironic comment, but something that’s said to you while a gun is pointed at your face by a Fatherland Security Agent.
    Fourth, “folks.”
    Fifth, more cheerleading by the newspapers because, hey, the editors don’t want to end up being taken into custody by the police.
    Sixth, the stock market will plummet, as fearful investors panic and those with millions and billions just ride it out, buying up things at a song.
    Seventh, Ted… Ted? Where’d Ted go? Hang on, someone’s pounding on the front door. Shit, sounds like they’re kicking it in.

    • … seventh, they’ll retaliate. Again.

      Is a reference to Charlie Brown, Lucy, and a football too dated?

      • In our seven-second attention span world? It’ll be seen as new.

        Just wait though, we’d better be a LOT smarter in our response to the next 9/11. A LOT smarter because the first one struck this country a crippling blow.

        If we act the same way the next time, we won’t recover; we won’t even have a hope of it.

  • Hundreds of millions of Muslims may well drink, smoke, fail to pray regularly and envy the liberalism and economic power of the West.

    However, this hardly precludes their oppression, the exploitation/appropriation of their lands and resources by the West “using moral corruption and godless capitalism as means toward global domination at their expense.” They are merely collateral damage whether killed or “merely” forced to flee their homes like 5 million Iraqis.

    This applies EVEN IF the vast majority of Muslims weren’t endlessly equated to the “radical jihadists***,” by the West’s co-conspiratorial media/propaganda machine.

    Consider our perpetual “interventions” in Latin America, from Mexico to Chile. Not many Muslims there and most of the populace envying the liberalism and economic power of the West to which they belong, geographically, at leas, if not economically.

    Also, we simply use the plight (we have caused) of non-Muslims in the Muslim countries we have decided to destroy as further camouflage for our actual intentions. (A link follows of an interview with Wesley Clark in which he claims the DoD had a list of 7 Muslim countries to destroy about a week after 9/11: )
    We are down to the last three of those countries: Lebanon, Syria and, the really interesting one, Iran.
    Don’t forget …. Ukraine and that really exciting opportunity for WWIII !!!)

    Only twenty percent of the world’s population can operate at the standard of living to which we monstrously insist we are entitled. Coincidentally(?), this is roughly the proportion of the global population comprised of that of the US and Europe. the main purps in the exploitation/domination mayhem.

    *** our own creations as in al Qaeda, ISIL and which ever, it is deemed necessary to stampede, yet again, the terminally terrified and gullible US citizen.

  • After repeated ‘enhanced interrogations’ the prisoners all confessed. The American voters accept as irrefutable fact that the most reliable and irrefutable proof of guilt is a confession obtained by ‘enhanced interrogation’ heard by trained experts (who don’t speak a word of Urdu or Arabic or Pashtu, or any language other than English, nor do they need to speak any other language, after all, they are experts who clearly understood the prisoners saying, ‘Yes, I confess. I was responsible for 9/11, 7/7, sinking the Maine, killing those young women in Whitechapel, and starting that fire in Rome.’)

    And given the heinous crimes to which they confessed, they deserved their ‘enhanced interrogation.’

    And now they deserve the US bombing their villages (and also villages with which they have no connection). The USAF is not responsible for killing those women and children, the members of the DA bear 100% of the guilt of murdering their own families by giving the USAF no other choice. An argument that convinces a large majority of Americans, even if it doesn’t play quite so well with the men whose wives and children and elderly parents were killed by US bombs.

    And the answer is?

    • > And the answer is?

      The Jews, Christians, and Muslims all worship the same god. Seems that god told each of ’em to kill off the others. Maybe that is His answer.

      I just wish they’d find some other planet to do it on, I’ve got plans for this one.

  • Ted;

    You’re still swallowing the story that a bunch of yahoo cavemen from Afghanistan orchestrated — in the most haphazard of ways — the commandeering of four airliners, aimed them at four superstructure buildings, and caused them all to suffer catastrophic damage when only three of those airliners hit their targets? Now, THAT is a dumbass conspiracy theory.

    Building 7 brings the lie to it all. The airliner that was supposed to be its excuse for imploding went down somewhere else, but “they (a true banker’s brew)” still had to pull that fourth building because it was already wired to implode. That preparation could not have been undone without a lot of real “truthiness” spilling out of its false-flag pot.

    ISIS is about as Islamic as most things created by the CIA and MOSSAD, that being, not very.

    You really should quit trying to make the evidence fit the “official” conspiracy-theory “facts.”


  • It should be clear to everyone by now that the purpose for cutting these men’s heads off their bodies is for one reason: to goad the United States into attacking.

    Eisenhower said it decades ago: every bomb, in the final analysis, means less money is available for schools, food, hospitals and so on. 9/11 cost a fortune and it wasn’t the military contractors who lost out. The public library down the street? Used to be open on the weekend. You know, when people could actually use it. Not anymore. It costs money to keep a branch open on the weekend.

    When a gang of maniacs blows up the Golden Gate Bridge or something similar happens, we will, collectively as a nation, behave just like they want us to, just like we did last time. We will go nuts. The stock market will plummet for NO REASON. We will arrest a bunch of people who are innocent of anything related to the war. We will invade a country. The president will tell “folks” something idiotic and patronizing. Sarah Palin will be given air time for some reason known only to God and whoever else understands the insane people who run the media. And we’ll all go broke together.

    • Alex,

      It’s not a “We’ll all go broke together over an optional war” moment, instead, it’s more like a We’ll all get economically enslaved by an even-more-evil-Bankster-class-evolving, rapidly-expanding, vicious police-state-while-fucking-your-children-in-the-asshole” event. It’s GHWB’s ongoing “Worthless Eaters” genocide on bio-nuclear meth.

      Our best victims are located closest to US.\

      The Terrorists is US (or at least, our government).