on our westerm watch
THE BIRTH OF ISIS
chairs the Political Science Department at Moravian College
in Bethlehem, PA.
self-proclaimed Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is
a savage, heinous entity whose origins remain largely unknown
to Americans. I suspect this can be clarified by linking ISIS
to policies adopted by Saudi Arabia and United States.
why have elements within Saudi Arabia's ruling elite provided
financial backing to ISIS?
Crooke, a British expert on political Islam, believes part of
the answer is that ISIS ideology is virtually identical to the
worldview embraced by many Saudis. In 1741, the Ibn Saud clan
joined forces with Abd al-Wahhab, the founder of an especially
fanatical version of Islam. Together, they brutally gained control
over most of the Arabian Peninsula and judged all non-Wahhabist
Muslims as apostates. In 1932, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia declared
itself a nation with Wahhabist Islam as the state religion.
Today, Saudi sources spend over $100 billion promoting the Wahhabist
brand within the Islamic world.
additional motive for helping to bankroll ISIS is fear. According
to Crooke, ISIS is convinced that the modern Saudi Kingdom has
strayed far from its original path of "an armed, proselytizing
Islamic vanguard movement . . . " and has abandoned jihad.
ISIS is also enraged that Gulf oil oligarchies are flagrantly
corrupt, engage in opulent indulgence and welcome decadent westernization.
Therefore, it's plausible to assume that some anxious members
of the House of Saud (net worth $1.4 trillion) and other private
donors are paying a sort of ransom in exchange for ISIS staying
out of their countries. Reliable estimates indicate that 100,000
ISIS fighters receive $350 to $500.00 per month from various
this mean that movements like ISIS are inherent within Islam?
Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, a world-renowned expert on
ISIS, is unequivocal in his response: "No . . . ISIS is
a product of very contingent, contextual factors. There is nothing
predetermined in Islam that would lead to ISIS." Among
these factors I would argue that ISIS is largely the product
of conditions generated by the "shock and awe," U.S.
attack on Iraq in 2003. A series of terribly ill-advised occupation
decisions followed which totally shattered the country, creating
a power vacuum. Al Qaeda in Iraq quickly morphed into ISIS and
eagerly filled this void.
Syria, the CIA midwifed the ‘Free Syrian Army’ (FSA)
into existence which immediately attracted a flood of radical
Muslim fighters from al-Qaeda and soon, from ISIS itself. CIA
military assistance to the FSA fell into ISIS hands and readers
may recall recent photos of smiling ISIS soldiers perched on
U.S. military hummus, brandishing rocket launchers and M-16
recently, Washington helped overthrow Col. Muammar Gaddafi's
secular government, thus pushing Libya onto the list of failed
states. President Obama supplied $1 billion in weapons, funds
and air strikes to militant Islamists and Libya is now a magnet
for jihadists. There was no ISIS presence under Gaddafi but
local militias have begun declaring their fealty to a now flourishing
ISIS franchise. Incredibly, Obama actions have actually made
the hated, repressive Gaddafi look better in hindsight.
to do? ISIS true believers won't be bought off but other potential
joiners need to see viable alternatives. As Prof. Haykel suggests,
marginalized, disenfranchised, humiliated young Muslim men (and
now, women and professionals) find in ISIS "a ready-made
ideology and packaged movement to express [their] sense of rage."
And even if ISIS were to disappear " . . . .the underlying
causes that produce ISIS would not disappear." The solution,
if one exists, lies in economic security, peace, personal safety,
jobs and hope.
our government opts for fomenting chaos, drone killings of civilians
and supporting barbarous regimes only provides ISIS with recruiting
posters. And this behaviour raises troubling questions: Is current
policy, as political analyst Tom Engelhardt asserts, less about
U.S. "national security" and more about offering a
pretext for protecting the "security" of the military-industrial
complex? Is it about the need for a terrorist threat du jour
to justify increased domestic surveillance? Finally, has any
of this been morally justified, made us any safer or been worth
a single pair of boots on the ground in the past or in the future?
Thank you America. You gave
us shock and awe, which created a favourable atmosphere for
jihad, you refused to intervene at all against Assad in Syria,
which might have deprived ISIL of a cause, and now you have
failed to defeat them with air strikes. You allow Israel to
continue building settlements in Palestine by doing nothing
except lip-flapping, and you continue to support corrupt regimes
in order to satisfy your desire for more and more oil. You kill
civilians with drones, and you perpetuate the profits of arms
dealers. Expect more of this, whoever wins the next US election,
and expect Canada to continue its lap-dog role, especially if
Harper is returned. He might even supply free cement for those
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