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JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: ISIS 101 – What’s really terrifying about this threat   2 comments

 

ISIS 101

What’s really terrifying about this threat

John Chuckman

 

ISIS certainly is not what a great many people think that it is, if you judge what they think by what our corporate press proclaims incessantly.

Judging by what ISIS actually does and whom its acts benefit, its clandestine associates, and the testimony of some witnesses, ISIS is a complex intelligence operation. Its complexity reflects at least in part the fact that it serves the interests of several countries and that it has more than one objective. Its complexity reflects also the large effort to reinforce a false image with disinformation and staged events such as a video of a beheading which could not have been a beheading unless they’ve discovered a bloodless method until now unknown to science.

The subject of ISIS is not without brief glimmers of humor. The image of bands of men, swathed in Arabic robes and bumping their way around the desert in Japanese pick-up trucks with Kalashnikovs raised in the air for every picture has elements of Monty Python. The idea of modern, trained and well-armed military units turning and running from them resembles a war scene in a Laurel and Hardy comedy such as the one with Hardy stuck upside down in a WWI tank turret kicking his legs the whole time Laurel drives towards the German positions managing accidentally to round-up a whole trench-full of prisoners with some wire fencing that becomes snagged on the tank.

Despite the tiresome stupidities we see and hear about it, ISIS unquestionably does kill people and destroy things, that being its purpose, and there is no humor in that.

ISIS appears to have served several tasks so far. First, it frightened Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, out of office in Iraq, a man America and Israel grew very much to dislike owing simply to his good relations with Iran, one of the unintended consequences of America’s invasion of Iraq being expanded Iranian influence in the region. No doubt al-Maliki was terrified not so much by ISIS approaching in their pick-up trucks as he was by his own military’s tendency, as if on cue, to turn and run from ISIS, often leaving weapons behind. The message was clear: you won’t be protected.

Second, America’s highly selective “air war” against ISIS somehow manages to attack infrastructure targets inside Syria with the feeble excuse that they are facilities helping ISIS. We’ve seen what American bombing can do when it’s undertaken seriously, and somehow I have a hard time imaging the men in Japanese pick-ups lasting long when faced with what hit the Taleban in Afghanistan or Gadhafi’s forces in Libya. The air strikes are partly a show for the world – after all, how can America be seen not to be fighting such extremely well-advertised, super-violent terrorists, guys putting out videos regularly from a studio trailer they must haul around with one of their pick-up trucks?  The air strikes’ main purpose appears to be a way of hurting Assad and assisting those fighting Syria’s army without coming into conflict with Russia, as they would with a large, direct campaign. They likely also punish elements of ISIS which have exceeded their brief and serve as a reminder to the rest of what could happen to them if they stray too far from their subsidized purpose once the war comes to an end.

Three, in some of the ground fighting in Iraq where we’ve read of Iraqi units fighting ISIS, the units are often Kurdish, and sometimes the press uses expressions like “Iraqi and Kurdish troops.” But the Kurdish region is still part of Iraq legally, although it has been given a good deal of autonomy by the central government. The Kurdish region of Iraq is the country’s prime oil-producing area, and in the estimation of many observers, an area both the United States and Israel would very much like to see severed from Iraq in the way Kosovo was severed from Serbia after America’s devastating air war there. This would not only permanently assure Iraq’s weakness, it would create a rather grateful and more willing oil supplier.

Where does ISIS get its technical equipment and the know-how to produce videos and run Internet sites? These are not qualities commonly found among fanatical fundamentalists anywhere; indeed most true radical fundamentalists tend to eschew technology. A supply of advice, technical assistance, and equipment comes from somewhere. Where does ISIS get the money for food, gasoline, clothes, ammunition, and Japanese pick-up trucks? And I wonder, did one of those wild-looking jihadi types just show up one day at an Iraqi car dealership and order a fleet of Japanese pick-ups? Were they delivered out on the desert or did a gang of jihadists march in, waving their Kalashnikovs, to drive them away?

The effort to destroy the Syrian government, whether by means of ISIS or anyone else, is warmly and generously supported by Saudi Arabia and its buddy Qatar – another oil-rich, absolute monarchy where political parties are banned – both these counties’ primary interest being the defence of their immensely privileged situations against creeping threats of all progressive developments such as equal human rights or democracy or indeed against revolt led by external forces. The payments we now know the Saudi royal family long made to Osama bin Laden before 9/11 were simply bribes to keep him and his anti-establishment work out of the country. They really didn’t care a lot about what the money bought elsewhere, but since 9/11 and its many Saudi connections – 15 of the perpetrators plus the past financing plus the many members of the royal family and bin Laden family secretly flown out by American officials at the time – the Saudi authorities were genuinely fearful of how America might respond and have become far more responsive to what America wants in the Middle East and now apply their money to such projects. What America wants in the Middle East is, invariably, what Israel wants, so there is now extensive, secret cooperation where once there was complete official hostility.

We have reports from plane-spotters in the region of daily flights of mysterious planes from Israel to Qatar. We have several eye-witness reports and photographs of supply bundles dropped from unknown planes into ISIS territory. Maybe ISIS has its own air force now? We know Turkey has served both as an entry point for countless terrorists into Syria and as a place of retreat and refuge when fighting with the Syrian army becomes too hot for them, the volumes of such activity having been too great to keep secret. We have reports of Turkish supply flights. A Jordanian official recently told a reporter that ISIS members were trained in 2012 by American instructors working at a secret base in Jordan.

If ISIS is what our corporate news pretends that it is – a fanatical Muslim extremist group that sprang suddenly from the desert sands much like Jack’s bean stalk – one blindingly obvious question is, why does it not attack Israel or Israeli interest? Isn’t that what one would expect from such a cast of characters? But it has not done so, undoubtedly because Israel is an important covert benefactor and supplier.

We might equally ask why ISIS has not attacked Saudi Arabia or its interests, for although the Saudi royal family officially professes a strict and conservative form of Islam, Wahhabism, in fact many of them are very worldly people who spend a good deal of time and money at the world’s great pleasure palaces. Perhaps even more damning for a genuine fanatical fundamentalist, the Saudis now often secretly cooperate and make plans with Israel where mutual interests exist.

No, there is something highly suspicious about Islamic fundamentalist terrorists who avoid such interests while managing to brutally kill poor Syrian soldiers just doing their jobs along with the odd foreign journalist or aid worker who may just have seen something they shouldn’t have seen. Of course, we have Edward Snowden himself having described ISIS as an operation intended to protect Israel. Despite the fact that some news sources have said the interview in which this was revealed never took place, my instincts tell me it likely did. Snowden has never refuted it, and the news sources saying it did not are highly suspect on such a subject.

The way ISIS serves Israeli and American interests is by providing a focus point for extremists, attracting them from various parts of the world so that they can be recorded and kept track of. Also the tracks back to the various countries from which they come provide security services with leads to places where there might be some festering problems. In the meantime, ISIS serves the interest of helping to bring down President Assad, a goal dear to the hearts of Israelis. Please remember that black operations, even the ones about which we know, show little consideration for lives or property. Just think of Israel’s attack on an American spy ship in the Mediterranean during the Six Day War, its pilots knowingly shooting up and bombing for two hours the well-marked ship of its ally and benefactor, no explanation worth hearing ever having been offered.

Just read conservative mainline sources (pretty much a redundant pair of adjectives) about the harm Snowden has done: claims of everything from his revelations about American intelligence having served to help ISIS avoid detection (!) to his revelations having set up the United States for another 9/11! You might think intelligent people would be ashamed of making such asinine public statements, but, no, there are almost no limits to trying to discredit those revealing murderous, dark operations.

We’ve had many reports of officials in various countries, including Canada as I write, concerned about the odd individual or small group running off to join ISIS. Now why should that be a concern? A few flaky people going abroad just removes them from your country, something I should have thought was a complete gain from a security point of view. Even if they were ever to return in future, you would know exactly who they are. Where is the basis for serious concern? But the psychological advantages of noise and hype to scare people about obscure dangers and “lone wolves” and “home-grown terrorists” outweigh completely good sense and intelligence.

Finally, there are numerous reports that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (a nom de guerre, not his real name), the leader of ISIS, is a Western intelligence asset. What little we can learn about him makes that entirely plausible. The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, has said that the man is a Mossad agent, a claim supported supposedly by documents revealed by Edward Snowden. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is by all accounts a secretive man who speaks directly with few people, and even his birth place, given as Samarra, Iraq, is not sure. Records of his past, as those from his period of American captivity (always a great opportunity to “turn” someone to serving two interests), are not available. He was once reported killed but is still alive. He is said to have received intensive training from Mossad and the CIA, and some sources give his real name as Simon Elliot (or, Elliot Shimon), but few details can ever be certain in such dark operations.

The truly terrifying aspect of ISIS and other forces fighting with it in Syria is that the United States and Israel have approved and supported such wanton destruction in so beautiful and formerly-peaceful a place as Syria. Millions of lives destroyed and countless historic places damaged as though they were all nothing more than a few pieces moved on a geopolitical chessboard. I think it fair to describe that as the work of psychopaths.

 

 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: POLICY THROUGH ROSE-COLORED PILOT’S GOGGLES   Leave a comment

POLICY THROUGH ROSE-COLORED PILOT’S GOGGLES

John Chuckman

Everyone, not attached by threadbare ideology or plain old war profiteering to President Bush’s War on Terror, knows that even on its own terms, it can only fail miserably in a great waste of lives and substance. You cannot fight a war against religious faith and opposition to injustice unless you are prepared to be as utterly ruthless as Stalin, and even then, when you lie pickled in your tomb, the roots you missed destroying will grow hardy new plants, as they have in contemporary Russia. But I would never have expected stark evidence for failure to come so quickly.

Massive explosions in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, just before the arrival of Colin Powell for talks, have left a smoking mass of blood and charred bodies.

Before this, only hours after talks in Israel about easing restrictions on the Palestinians, Mr. Powell was rewarded by Mr. Sharon’s sealing Gaza. Already Sharon had dismissed the new peace plan, and already he has publicly broadcast that Israel will continue to build new settlements.

Seeking stability for America’s Middle East policies was the central purpose of the Iraq invasion. One might think Sharon would show some gratitude for the monstrously-costly invasion of Iraq, but instead something like “Well, you can’t take back the invasion now, so it’s not going to change what I do” seems to be his response.

These signs follow others. The American Proconsul for Baghdad has been sacked for incompetence as chaos still characterizes life for a city of five million souls. Reports by independent journalists – that is, those not tied to America’s propaganda consortium of major networks and newspapers – indicate a growing fierce resentment towards the liberators. My, such ingratitude.

And in a move strikingly reminiscent of Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1979 triumphant return to Iran from exile in France, last Saturday (May 10), Ayatollah Baqir al-Hakim, a noted Shia cleric and fierce opponent of Saddam Hussein, returned after twenty-three years of exile. He was greeted in Basra with far more enthusiasm than anything seen by America’s kevlar-clad warriors for peace, justice, and the American way – especially the American way. The cleric has made statements both about a widely-based elected government and an Islamic state – goals that are not entirely inconsistent since Iraq is about sixty-percent Shia.

How that will be reconciled with Iraq’s more modern elements is not clear – many Americans being unaware that Hussein was a rather secular ruler and women, for example, in Baghdad lived a more modern life than those in most other Arab capitals. Of course, there’s still the angry demands of the Kurds in northern Iraq for autonomy, a people previously betrayed by American foreign policy. Who knows what they’ll be up to if betrayed again?

The Kurds’ demands are accompanied by a background roar from Turkey against any such thing happening, but then Turkey is in the dog house for failing to permit a second front against Iraq from its territory, even after being offered billions in bribes. Still, Turkey is a key ally and is trying to join the modern world as quickly as possible, so it can’t be treated as badly as Bush is determined to treat France and Germany.

Such are the rewards of rudely elbowing your way into the intimate affairs of others. If only America’s great power were ever actually used against the world’s great injustices or to protect the weak, but all evidence since the end of World War II points the other way. It is used only to defend narrowly-defined interests, fight superstitious fears such as those it feels around communism or now Islam, and lay low anyone who seriously gets in its way. Any end to an injustice along the way is strictly coincidental.

Of course, one can only be glad the murder in Iraq is largely over, despite receiving notice of the fact from an odd man in an Armani suit and pilot’s goggles on the deck of an aircraft carrier. The likelihood of Bush understanding what he has actually achieved in Afghanistan and Iraq is not high. So too the likelihood for success of his limp effort to control Israel’s bloody excesses.

And what of the longer-term results of Mr. Bush’s mismanagement? Additional attacks against American interests will bring further suppression of American rights and freedoms, and I believe this may be supported by the almost childish fears and lack of understanding of many Americans. “Heavens, there was a terror alert while we were buying ice-cream cones at Disney World!” Of course, there will be more violent, hatred-inducing incursions abroad.

At the same time that Mr. Bush increases repressive and intrusive measures at home and destruction abroad, he insists on massive, economically-obtuse tax cuts as voter bait. This is a formula for re-creating the economic chaos of Israel, only there is no one out there able to bail the United States.

The combined effects of massive American security restrictions, secrecy, retaliation against otherwise-friendly states opposed to its destructive acts, national deficits, trade deficits, war and the resentments it generates may well depress the growth of international trade seen in recent decades, imposing still a further cost on the world.

The first part of the twenty-first century looks promising indeed. Let’s hear it for Commander Bush, giggling in goggles, while he launches us all into darkness.