It is fair to say that the invasion of Iraq helped to form ISIS, or ISIL, as some insist on renaming it. ISIS statements, both for Paris and the Russian airliner atrocities, are very explicit: you bomb us and you will suffer the consequences.
And what of ‘our’ side?
David Cameron strides the European stage as if auditioning for the next James Bond film in the Pierce Brosnan mould. Propaganda flies off newspaper front pages to force us to consent to endless war, and be content our taxes are squandered on war machines and bombs, banks happy to be let off the hook.
We are told ISIS seeks the materials to concoct a nuclear bomb. We are not told how they can put one together without all the industrial machinery required, the sort we saw spread over miles of arid land, and in tunnels under mountains, in aerial photographs of Iran’s nuclear industry. Presumably all ISIS need is an empty tin can, a few hairpins, some string and an alarm clock.
Terrorist groups historically lie low, living and working among the community for years before striking, yet we are told they can strike in less than forty-five minutes flat from a sand dune in the Middle-East because they have a bomb ready and primed. Or perhaps its just a small rocket.
Readers are justified sensing a familiar ring to all this rage and revenge.
I recall the moment George W. Bush, aided by a fawning Blair, decided they wanted to be revered as joint lion tamer supreme of the Middle-East. I’m sure Bush and Blair’s gross exaggeration of the destructive arsenal Saddam Hussein was allegedly hiding aided grandiose dreams of the history books recording them as protectors of western civilisation. But Bush prompted by his neo-con business friends had an alternative agenda, the harnessing of oil, and oil prices.
It was a depressing moment. We had entered a new millennium full of hope and idealism shattered in one fundamentally mad, vainglorious move.
The sectarian conflicts that are tearing the region to shreds now are substantially a result of the Iraq invasion. I share that opinion with many others, but it was made by Middle East specialist Graham Fuller, a former CIA analyst.
“I think the United States is one of the key creators of this organization.”
Distasteful in the extreme as it is, ISIS appears to have established itself pretty firmly in Sunni areas of Iraq and Syria. We can only assess the situation from filtered news given out by our side. Nevertheless, if we judge matters by ISIS statements they are engaged in a process of state building that is extremely brutal, and unfortunately fairly successful.
The curious thing is, ISIS attracts the support of Sunni communities. The answer might lie in Sunni groups seeing ISIS as better than the alternatives, even if Sunnis think ISIS as barbarian as we do.
The one major regional power that is opposing it is Iran, (yesterday’s enemy of the west out to create a nuclear bomb) but Iran-backed Shiite militias are reputed to be as brutal as ISIS. If true, it is no wonder some inspire support for ISIS.
Killing unarmed civilians is a war crime. These reprisals are often justified in times of war, Churchill’s annihilation of Dresden is a good example. ISIS does not have the war machine to indulge in carpet bombing but they are a monstrosity just the same.
I hesitate to use the biblical ‘evil’, but it’s clear they mean to conquer by sheer brutality, which, when you think deeply about it, was exactly what our intent was by raining ‘shock and awe’ on Iraq. Thus Fuller’s perception seems a sharp truism.
As our elected leaders rant and rave, and statesmen and women fall into the same error demanding greater powers to ‘wipe out’ the towel wearers, we are left feeling powerless to stop them doing something stupid or reckless that inflames the situation.
Though work offers an eventful life, I am only an ordinary person, (we’re all ordinary people) trying to make sense of this turn of events, but that is no reason to stay silent.
Assad has stated he will step down. He won’t simply walk away, of course, he has conditions. He wants to see a strategy (his words) that holds Syria together. The Russians want that too, though they are continually portrayed by our propaganda press as wanting Assad to stay.
The best outcome would be if ISIS were destroyed by local forces, but it requires Turkey agree to that. Turkey has just complicated matters by shooting down a Russian jet fighter, a serious error of judgement, when all they needed to do was escort it out of their air space. (If it was in their air space.) Historically the west has courted Turkey as a bulwark against incursions by the former USSR. In any event, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (since 2002) will be tested to the utmost to see if he can defuse the situation.
That aside, I can’t see how the outcome could be good if Turkey supports the jihadi elements fighting ISIS, that is, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. Those states are not exactly paragons of democracy.
The most favourable outcome is a negotiated settlement of the kind being discussed by the main powers now, combined with ISIS defeated by local armed factions. However, by the example of Syria’s protracted tragedy that outcome is a big uncertainty. To quote a phrase, the future seems orange, which is the garb ISIS forces its unfortunate prisoners to wear before beheading them, a uniform imitating that of prisoners in the USA’s infamous Guantanamo.
If we resort to military intervention – the ‘boots on the ground allusion – (no one mentions dead soldiers on the ground) it is likely to end in another Iraq or Afghanistan, our leaders withdrawing after years of battle fatigue proclaiming they leave an elected government and a trained army in control, or worse, we are told the vainglorious “mission accomplished”.
If we stand back we can see the hand of the West smeared all over the mess. What is unravelling is an unstable, fundamentally corrupt, state system imposed by French and British imperial might in the early part of last century, with no concern for populations under their control.
Our elected leaders will never tell us that, but we know it just the same.
The emotional logic born of manic frustration over events is to jump from that humanitarian chaos to a loathing of Scotland’s No voters who were so blind as to remove Scotland’s sovereign ability to protest itself against all warmongers, or to help mediate. We watch the hypocrisy of Westminster’s feckless politicians ‘standing firm’ with France, a country they happily ridiculed since World War II, only unlike Scotland they can’t accuse it of bad nutrition.
The hard thing is to step back and try to find the chinks of light, to stop our side buying more arms and dropping more bombs, repeating ugly history. Then again, our anger might well be justified for if we do not find a negotiated settlement, even an interim one, our children are likely to be the next recruits maimed or dying in another far off land.
What we desire is time for ISIS fighters to grow old and weary.
And in life they will.