FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Different Story, Same Futile War

Kayla Mueller was a hostage held by the Islamic State (ISIS) when she was killed. Ironically, it may have been an air attack on ISIS that killed her. Yet the US has no plans to investigate how she was killed, preferring instead to use the death as an excuse to ramp up the war against the Islamic State. (The Islamic State, meanwhile continues broadcasting its particularly grotesque murders.) While Obama introduces a plan to intensify the air war and various ground attacks by Special Forces troops, the warmongers in Congress (primarily from the Republican Party) are demanding he go in with every gun blazing. In other words: stepped up air assaults, Special Forces and regular ground troops. Beyond the fact that there is no military solution to the conflicts of the Middle East, the idea of returning with ground troops is just plain bullheaded and stupid. With all due respect to this young woman’s memory, we should not fall for the “white girl mutilated by the scary dark men” narrative being used here. ISIS exists because of US policy in the Middle East. Continuing to use pointless military means in a vain attempt to change the situation the US did so much to help create in that part of the world has never worked. It won’t now, either. Instead of one or two Americans dead, there will be hundreds, not to mention the innocents killed who are not white or from the US. Her murder is being manipulated by those who profit from every war—the defense contractors, politicians and generals.

It seems safe to assume that the members of Congress, the President and his staff, and the rest of official Washington have very little true understanding of what the Islamic State is. Instead, like their constituents, they rely on poor intelligence, minimal historical knowledge, a misguided view of the effects of the last thirty years of war on the Muslim peoples, and a general ignorance couched in an Orientalist mindset. This actuality is ultimately self-fulfilling, in that it ends up creating the very enemies and troubles it describes. Furthermore, it repeats this scenario over and over, each time resulting in an ever more complicated situation. If the US is to find a way to deal with the Islamic State, it must first expand and alter the way it understands it. Yet, in a time when the military solution is usually the only one presented, this need becomes even more difficult, although not impossible.7S-Napoleoni-Islamic-Phoenix-comps-D-1-214x300

Recently, economist and journalist Loretta Napoleoni released a book titled The Islamist Phoenix: The Islamic State and the Redrawing of the Middle East, which attempts a new understanding of ISIS. Succinct and clear, the text is an attempt to explain the Islamic State phenomenon in relation to the history of Salafism, western colonialism/imperialism in the Middle East and the seemingly endless war on the Muslim people by the nominally Christian west. She is careful to explain, however, that the religious aspect is not the fundamental cause of these wars. Instead, like the wars between Protestants and Catholics in Europe around the time of the Reformation, the underlying reasons for the war are power and conquest. Never denying the ugly brutality of IS methods and what she terms its genocidal war on adherents of the Shia wing of Islam, Napoleoni also points out a basic difference between the strategy of the Islamic Sate when contrasted with its predecessors/contemporaries like Al Qaeda and the Taliban. In regards to the genocidal aspect of the Islamic State’s war, it is more akin to the genocide ravaged upon the indigenous peoples of the Americas than more modern genocides, especially if one considers the fact that ISIS does not kill those “infidels” who convert.

In numerous ways, ISIS is a modern phenomenon. Its goals are not a return to a time before modernity, at least not when it comes to communications, industry and other contemporary economic phenomena. The Islamic State’s sophisticated use of social media proves this. Indeed, their understanding that media can create perceptions not born out by facts is essential to ISIS’s public relations effort. In addition, its corralling of and profiting from important natural resources are also evidence of this fact. Women and girls are treated slightly different, too. Even though girls are usually allowed to attend school, the Islamic State’s misogynistic interpretation of Islam makes females’ freedom to move about incredibly difficult and even dangerous. Music is heard in towns and villages recently incorporated into ISIS territory.
The crucial difference between the Islamic State and other jihadist organizations is its emphasis on controlling territory. This essentially certifies their intention to create an actual state. In order to create this future state—a state based on a religious/cultural identity—it is considered necessary to destroy the existing Arab states, who in the eyes of the Islamic State are illegitimate because of how they were created and because they have become servants of the West. By taking advantage of political and other differences between the various factions and states of the Arab world, IS has been able to consolidate territory at a rapid pace.

Ultimately, the leaders of ISIS hope to truly create a modern nation state based on the Salafist Islam understanding of the world, not the understanding of European colonialists, US imperialists or their ideologies. Challenging those who refuse to accept the idea that such a state is either justified or possible, Napoleoni asks the reader if it wasn’t a similar concept—the retrieval of land historically claimed by a people who once lived there—that informed the creation of Israel. Continuing the Israel analogy, she points out that Israel, too, was created through a campaign of terror.

Napoleoni boldly asks if officials of the US may one day be shaking hands with officials of a recognized Islamic State. Although the current political situation seems to indicate this scenario will never happen, the only military solution that could end ISIS’s existence is one that would likely kill thousands of innocents. Military solutions have never worked in the long-term (and rarely in the short term) in the Arab world. There is nothing to indicate that this has changed. Napoleoni ends her short book with a call for all parties to attempt consensus, no matter how difficult it might be; no matter how repulsive each party finds the other. The likelihood of negotiations is currently quite remote and growing more so with each day. There exists little will on any side of the conflict in Iraq and Syria for talking, much less consensus. Napoleoni’s book is but a small contribution towards a potentially different future. One wonders how much bloodshed it will take before those in a position to consider the ideas in her text will do so. One also wonders if by then it will be too late.

As for those of us who are not in officialdom elected or otherwise, our best choice is to oppose the attempt to sell a military solution to a situation that has repeatedly shown there is no military solution. If there is one theme that runs through The Islamist Phoenix, it is that ISIS understands the nature of the current world disorder, perhaps better than any other organized entity, state and non-state. Their manipulation of the media, approach to jihad and battle, and their ability to take advantage of virtually every twist and turn of the Middle East wars indicates this. The response of Washington, its allies and Muslim clients is more of the same—a seemingly endless cycle of war and death. Israel, meanwhile, operates behind the scenes sowing its own discord. This is not in any way a rationalization of the murderous tactics of ISIS, nor is it an expression of support for their war or goals. What is needed is a new way of looking at the challenge that is the Middle East in all its manifestations; a way that considers the fact of ISIS and the sentiments it is tapping into as equal to every other fact present. Dismissing them and other jihadists because of one’s distaste for their tactics or beliefs is guaranteeing more of the same.

Ron Jacobs is the author of a series of crime novels called The Seventies Series.  All the Sinners, Saints, is the third novel in the series. He is also the author of  The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground . Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden.    He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. His book Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies will be published by Counterpunch. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
Robert Fantina
Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections
Joseph Flatley
The Fascist Creep: How Conspiracy Theories and an Unhinged President Created an Anti-Semitic Terrorist
Joseph Nevins
Twitter: Fast Track to the Id
William Hawes
Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds
Bob Wing
Toward Racial Justice and a Third Reconstruction
Ron Jacobs
Hunter S. Thompson: Chronicling the Republic’s Fall
Oscar Gonzalez
Stan Lee and a Barrio Kid
Jack Rasmus
Election 2018 and the Unraveling of America
Sam Pizzigati
The Democrats Won Big, But Will They Go Bold?
Yves Engler
Canada and Saudi Arabia: Friends or Enemies?
Cesar Chelala
Can El Paso be a Model for Healing?
Mike Ferner
The Tragically Misnamed Paris Peace Conference
Barry Lando
Trump’s Enablers: Appalling Parallels
Jasmine Aguilera
Beto’s Lasting Legacy
Ariel Dorfman
The Boy Who Taught Me About War and Peace
Yves Engler
Ottawa, Yemen and Guardian
Michael Winship
This Was No Vote Accident
Binoy Kampmark
The Disgruntled Former Prime Minister
Tracey L. Rogers
Dear White Women, There May be Hope for You After All
Faisal Khan
Is Dubai Really a Destination of Choice?
Arnold August
The Importance of Néstor García Iturbe, Cuban Intellectual
James Munson
An Indecisive War To End All Wars, I Mean the Midterm Elections
Nyla Ali Khan
Women as Repositories of Communal Values and Cultural Traditions
Thomas Knapp
Scott Gottlieb’s Nicotine Nazism Will Kill Kids, Not Save Them
Dan Bacher
Judge Orders Moratorium on Offshore Fracking in Federal Waters off California
Christopher Brauchli
When Depravity Wins
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail