Does anyone remember the War in Iraq? The Weapons of Mass Destruction? The invasion in 2003 with nearly everyone’s support? The War in Iraq and then subsequent war in Afghanistan was like a 4th of July party that starts out fun but ends with everyone getting food poisoning from the warm potato salad. We were fired up, we wanted revenge for 9/11, we wanted any excuse to right the wrongs. We got emotional. We didn’t look at all the facts. We jumped in blind holding George Bush’s hand. Eventually we would learn that shooting a hornets nest doesn’t get rid of a dangerous problem but rather makes it far worse. We are yet again repeating these mistakes with rhetoric following the Orlando shooting. There is fear against Muslims, ISIS, radical Islam, terrorists, and future attacks in general. Emotions are getting the best of us and leading us to irrational solutions: prevent all Muslims from entering the country, prosecute neighbors who do not call in suspicious behavior, patrol neighborhoods of Muslim-Americans, etc. How will these measures affect human behavior? They will divide Muslims and Non-Muslims even further. They will tell young Muslim-Americans that they cannot be trusted. They will create an “Us vs Them” mentality in targeted neighborhoods-decreasing the likelihood of sharing information. They will foster hatred, anger, and resentment in high risk individuals who are prone to “Lone-Wolf” attacks. They will shake the hornets nest and release even more dangers for America.
As I have previously written, ISIS does not practice anything close to Islam. It is like saying the white-supremacist Dylann Roof, who killed 9 people in a church last year in Charleston, practices Christianity. After that attack we did not bunch all Christians with Dylann Roof; and yes white-supremacists do use the Holy Bible and radical protestant views regularly in their zeitgeist of beliefs. There are over 1.3 billion Muslims in the world. According to the FBI, between 1980-2005, 94% of terrorist attacks in US were committed by NON-MUSLIMS (Source). During that same time period there were more Jewish terror attacks then Muslim terror attacks. Why don’t we ban all the Jews from coming into the country? Nazi Germany anyone? The reason these facts elude us is that most people get their information from the news. The news loves flaming our emotions and nothing gets us more scared or mad then the headline-RADICAL-ISIS-MUSLIM-TERRORIST KILLS AMERICANS!!! Since 9/11 less than 0.0002% of Americans were killed by Muslims (Source); you have a better chance of dying from your TV crushing you while watching FOX News. If we are going to group all Muslims with terrorists then we should group all Christians with members of the Westboro Baptist Church.
So what is the solution? I know that disenfranchising people and stereotyping whole religions will never bring about positive change. I know that jumping into policies based on emotions will never reap the desired results. I know that human nature is predictable and targeting people will make them more likely to fight back. Let’s take a lesson from our current involvement with fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. We are involving the Muslims in the area and empowering them to fight their enemy. The Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites are all helping fight this terror group with US assistance. They are actually winning the battle and will have the proper infrastructure to fight ISIS in the future. Funny how partnering with Muslims is showing positive outcomes. Partnership is our only way of winning this war. ISIS wants us to fight them (see my previous posts below) and would love a hot head like Trump to be president. Trump would be there number one recruiting tool. Remember the past so we don’t have to repeat another Post 9/11 Potato Salad.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Part 1 of 3
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Part 2 of 3
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Part 3 of 3
What an exciting couple of days we have had since the first installment of this series. Donald Trump, on Monday, stated that all Muslims should be banned from entering the United States. This “strategy” is by no means new in American history: the 19th century saw bans against Chinese, during the Great Depression there were movements to suppress Jewish immigration, and most notably during WWII there was forced encampment of Japanese Americans. The US has had a long history of xenophobia and sadly their are still a large number of people who have these same feelings today. Trump’s statement is wrong on many levels but one of its biggest errors is the fact that ISIS (which profoundly motivated the statement) does not actually practice Islam. Almost all Muslim-theology scholars agree that ISIS’s ideology contradicts Islam in almost every way. To understand this, imagine the KKK (a “protestant” terrorist group) went over to the Middle East and committed acts of violence in the name of Christianity. The leader of the affected country would then condemn all Christians as violent-untrustworthy people and ban them from entrance into the country. This seems downright insane, but how is this scenario different then the one currently being trumpeted by Donald? The intricacies of Islam as a religion will be explored in future posts but for now let’s get back to ISIS.
We left off with Abu Bakr al Baghdadi becoming the second leader of the newly formed Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) in 2010. Baghdadi was said to be a quiet boy growing up and was quite scholarly-receiving a doctorate in Islamic culture and law. This all radically changed when he became a jihadist after the Iraq invasion in 2003. Baghdadi would be shortly captured by Americans and put into a military controlled prison camp. These prisons mixed radical jihadists with minor offenders which created a ideal environment for recruitment. The US inadvertently spread terrorist ideology in these prisons and upon release, jihadists would be further glorified (similar to how gang members receive street cred after serving time). Baghdadi did his fair share of recruiting while imprisoned and when released, he was in prime position to take leadership of ISI in 2010. Shortly thereafter, Baghdadi began to attack military prisons which resulted in the escape of many jihadists who quickly pledged loyalty to ISI. During this same time, Baghdadi defied Al Queda and spread his terrorist group into war-torn Syria; hence the name known around the world was birthed, “The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).”
ISIS was technically a branch of al Queda but Baghdadi would soon take on a whole new ideology of radicalization. Baghdadi began to split from al Queda when he resumed Zarqawi’s mission of targeting Shiite Muslim with gruesome killings. Eventually, ISIS would declare themselves the “true” Islamic State and claim that all nations must bow to them-including al Queda. ISIS is attempting to bring about the end times by fulfilling several prophecies: certain manuscripts predicted that preceding the apocalypse their would be…sectarian war, slavery, a battle in Dabiq (a town that ISIS controls), and the eventual control of Constantinople (to list a few.) This apocalyptic mentality is critical to understand because it shapes ISIS’s gruesome behavior. Apocalyptic groups are not concerned with worldly matters or politics which makes it much easier for them to commit barbaric acts. “ISIS’s stated goal is to purify the world and create a new era, in which a more perfect version of Islam is accepted worldwide.” The interesting thing to know is that the Quran, the holy book of Islam, says very little about the end of times. To summarize, ISIS is extremely violent because they desire to “purify” the world and they want to create sectarian violence among Muslims because war between Sunnis and Shiites is predicted in the end of times. Again, these apocalyptic beliefs are not tenets of Islam but rather created by prior scholars in an attempt to rationalize negative circumstances of their time (many were written whenever a foreign power took control). ISIS wants the United States to fight them and occupy their territory because this is yet another prediction of the end of times. Knowing this, we will continue to part 3 to understand how ISIS is so effective at recruiting and what we need to do to prevent their advancement of terror.
ISIS is front and center in the news and the acronym itself is now synonymous with fear. This terrorist organization is extremely violent, radical, and is responsible for many recent attacks which resulted in a multitude of innocent deaths. Where did ISIS come from? What do they believe? Are they any different then previous terrorist groups? I wanted answers to these questions so I read ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger. This book was published prior to the Paris and San Bernardino attacks but it eerily predicted that events like those would occur. Let’s take a journey in time and look back at the birth and development of the worlds most famous terrorist group.
Our journey begins in 2003 when former President George W. Bush commanded the United States military to invade Iraq. Bush said “We’re taking the fight to the terrorists abroad, so we don’t have to face them here at home.” This statement proved to be half true-we brought the fight but instead of decreasing the number of terrorists, the invasion became a lighting rod for jihadists. Before the invasion, Jihadist’s had a difficult time operating in Iraq and were in severe decline after the destruction of al Qaeda’s primary base in Afghanistan. Jihadists used the American presence in Iraq as a recruiting tool and Abu Musab al Suri, the jihad’s most prominent strategist, said that the war in Iraq single-handedly saved the movement. Numbers wise, following the invasion, terrorism within Iraq rose exponentially; “There were 78 terrorist attacks in the first twelve months…in the second twelve months this number nearly quadrupled, to 302 attacks. At the height of the war, in 2007, terrorists claimed 5,425 civilian lives and caused 9,878 injuries.” The US occupation would also rekindle fighting between Sunni and Shiite Muslims (think different theological beliefs like Protestants and Catholics). This created a civil war and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a little known jihadist who would use this sectarian violence to his advantage. Zarqawi would found Al-Qa‘ida in Iraq (AQI) which was responsible for several attacks on Shiites and Iraqi civilians. Osama bin Laden would chastise Zarqawi for these attacks on fellow Muslims but Zarqawi believed in a very strict interpretation of Takfir. Takfir is the pronouncement of someone as a nonbeliever and gives jihadists the permission to kill subjects as apostate (no longer believers in Muslim). Zarqawi (who hated Shiites) believed that all Muslims which did not support his beliefs were fair game to kill. This radical ideology was beyond al Queda and even bin Laden thought it was crazy.
Zarqawi’s philosophy was influenced by a few key works. The Management of Savagery, which was created by the research and analysis division of al Queda, outlined stages of jihadist struggles: Disruption and Exhaustion (keep the US fighting to destroy its image of invisibility, Management of Savagery (carry out highly visible violence intended to send a message), and Empowerment (establish regions controlled by jihadists to re-create the caliphate). A Call to a Global Islamic Resistance, cited the need for leaderless resistance and effectiveness of lone wolf attacks. Furthermore, it extensively spoke about apocalyptic prophecies (many of which supported Shiite hatred), which needed to be fulfilled. Zarqawi’s library was seriously twisted but his reign of terror would end in 2006 when the US killed him in a targeted airstrike. The Defense Department would soon post a picture of the Zarqawi’s corpse, which turned him into a martyr, and led the leader of al Queda to post a eulogy in which he encouraged the AQI to establish an Islamic state. Within a few months, a group of AQI insurgents announced the formation of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). The new leader of the ISI was Abu Omar al Baghdadi who was eventually killed in 2010. Enter, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the second leader of ISI and the current leader of ISIS. Stay tuned for more on Baghdadi and the continuation of our fascinating story.