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“A Crackpot, Deviant Sect”: An Apocalyptic Death Cult Has Its Limits

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”
          —Voltaire

Years before Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden, this column argued that al Qaeda was capable of “theatrical acts of mass murder,” but was not a military threat to the United States.

The phrase infuriated some readers. Back then tough guys talked about fighting “Islamofascism,” supposedly a totalitarian ideology linking bitter enemies such as Iran and al Qaeda (but never Saudi Arabia, where the oil and money are, and where almost all the 9/11 conspirators originated) in an alliance to destroy Western Civilization.

Nobody says that any more.

My point was simple. Fascism was a poor analogy. Pundits’ Churchillian fantasies aside, what made Nazism “uniquely dangerous wasn’t merely Hitler’s hypnotic ideology. It was German militarism and hyper-nationalism run amok. Islamic extremists control none of the world’s 60-odd Muslim-majority nations. They have no army, air force or navy. They pose no military threat to the integrity of the United States or any Western nation.”

Nor does ISIS, al Qaeda’s more flamboyant and equally murderous rival. Last week’s appalling atrocities in Paris, Beirut, and Egypt underscored that reality in the bloodiest possible way. Almost everybody anticipates similar attacks in the United States. We must pray that they fail. However, as President Obama has said, a terrorist willing to die can murder innocents in restaurants as easily as in Connecticut classrooms.

Yet for all the fury and despair these attacks have evoked—I think of a little Parisian girl named Charlotte and her family—ISIS cannot and will not prevail. It’s less a political movement than an apocalyptic death cult, and definitely not an existential threat to the United States, France, or Russia.

Sane leaders would know better than to antagonize three of the world’s most powerful military establishments at once.

ISIS’s self-anointed “Caliph,” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is not that kind of leader. Think David Koresh or Jim Jones with a militia and a Koran instead of a Bible. Theologically, ISIS is to Islam as the Ku Klux Klan is to Christianity, by which I mean they’re a crackpot, deviant sect. But they’re even crazier than that.

Madness, however, has never prevented cult leaders from gaining an enraptured following. If anything, the converse appears true.

It’s a fact of life Orwell recognized in a 1940 review of Hitler’s Mein Kampf: “Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people ‘I offer you a good time,’ Hitler has said to them, ‘I offer you struggle, danger, and death,’ and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet.”

Writing in The Atlantic, Graeme Wood explains ISIS’s hypnotic appeal to dispossessed and humiliated young men:

During the last years of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the Islamic State’s immediate founding fathers…saw signs of the end times everywhere. They were anticipating, within a year, the arrival of the Mahdi—a messianic figure destined to lead the Muslims to victory before the end of the world…. For certain true believers—the kind who long for epic good-versus-evil battles—visions of apocalyptic bloodbaths fulfill a deep psychological need.

It almost goes without saying that you can’t make treaties with such people. They can only be defeated.

The question is how? And at what cost?

Confronted with a newly belligerent press corps in Turkey recently, President Obama spoke mockingly about taking action that would “somehow in the abstract make America look tough or make me look tough.”

“When you listen to what [GOP candidates] actually have to say,” the president said, “what they’re proposing, most of the time when pressed they describe things that we’re already doing. Maybe they’re not aware that we’re already doing them. Some of them seem to think that if I were just more bellicose in expressing what we’re doing, that that would make a difference, because that seems to be the only thing that they’re doing, is talking as if they’re tough.”

Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum went down the list of the GOP candidates’ suggestions, but found nothing new:

There’s a lot we can do to defeat ISIS, and most of it we’re already doing. Airstrikes? Check. Broad coalition? Check. Working with Arab allies? Check. Engage with Sunni tribal leaders? Check. Embed with the Iraqi military? Check. There’s more we could do, but often it’s contradictory. You want to arm the Kurds and create a partnership with the Iraqi government? Good luck. You want to defeat Assad and ISIS? You better pick one. You want to avoid a large American ground force and you want to win the war fast? Not gonna happen.

Yes, Obama’s “red line” in Syria was a strategic blunder; his “junior varsity” remark was cocky and ill-advised. Also, Vladimir Putin’s right: The Assad government’s bad, but ISIS is far worse.

However, ISIS has turned to terror because it’s gradually losing the ground war, and the Caliphate is shrinking.

La belle France is not.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, November 18, 2015

November 18, 2015 Posted by | Adolph Hitler, ISIS, Paris Attacks | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Forgetting A Little Detail Called… His Brother”: Jeb Bush Is Even Nuttier Than Trump Now

Donald Trump’s remarks about Megyn Kelly still make him the most vulgar of the Republican presidential candidates.

But he is no longer the nuttiest.

That distinction was claimed by Jeb Bush in a speech at the Reagan Library, when he declared that President Obama and Hillary Clinton are to blame for the rise of ISIS.

Jeb being the brother of the guy who used 9/11 as a pretext to invade Iraq in the first place, a venture that then-Senator Barack Obama opposed.

Six weeks after the opening “shock and awe” bombardment, President George Bush declared in a speech from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln that the “major combat operations” in Iraq had ended in victory.

“Mission Accomplished,” read the big banner in the background.

Thousands of deaths later, the war was still raging and proving to be unwinnable.

In 2008, President Bush signed what was officially called an “Agreement Between the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq On the Withdrawal of United States Forces from Iraq and the Organization of Their Activities during Their Temporary Presence in Iraq.”

The agreement required us to withdraw our troops from Iraqi cities by June of 2009 and from the country altogether by December 31, 2011.

The schedule was already set in place when Obama took office in 2009. That included the 2009 closing of our biggest POW facility, Camp Bucca. The prisoners who were released from Bucca included Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

As has been reported in The Daily Beast, al-Baghdadi uttered some parting words to the camp’s commander.

“He said, ‘I’ll see you guys in New York,’” Army Colonel Kenneth King recalls.

Al-Baghdadi went on to become the head of ISIS and to announce the creation of a new Islamic State.

Obama did try to renegotiate the so-called “SOFA agreement” in order to allow U.S. troops to remain in Iraq past 2011, but he could not get the deal he wanted. Critics say he could have taken a more aggressive stance in the years after 2011, when the descendants of al Qaeda in Iraq began a murderous comeback.

But, of course, al Qaeda in Iraq would not have been a force of any consequence if President Bush had not smashed the Iraqi state in 2003.

In the meantime, we spent billions training Iraqi government troops who fled seemingly whenever they were attacked, leaving behind billions more in U.S. supplied equipment.

None of that was Obama’s creation.

All of it was a consequence of what President Bush so rashly set in motion.

And now his brother Jeb is trying to pin it on Obama as a way of going after Hillary Clinton. Talk about nutty. Not to mention offensive.

Trump is supposed to be the nutty and offensive one, but when it comes to ISIS he seems mainly to be woefully uninformed.

“Believe it or not, Iran is funneling money to ISIS,” Trump said on CNN.

Jeb could no doubt tell you that Iran is in fact battling ISIS by proxy and, in some instances, directly.

Something other than ignorance is at work when Jeb tries to pin the ISIS mess on Obama and Hillary.

Yes, as senator, Hillary did vote in favor of invading Iraq. And yes, as Secretary of State, she failed to make Iraq a top priority. (Though she did push Obama to keep American troops in Iraq after 2011.)

But she can hardly be faulted for what was all but sure to follow when Jeb’s brother gave the orders to invade Iraq.

And Obama is even less at fault.

Jeb is only able to claim otherwise because the people who truly are to blame have never been held accountable.

That includes not just Jeb’s brother but also former Vice President Dick Cheney, who promises to be even nuttier than Jeb when he makes an appearance of his own at the Reagan Library on September 9, two days before the 14th anniversary of 9/11.

Cheney and his daughter, Liz, will be there to sign copies of their new book, Exceptional: Why the World Needs a Powerful America. The library’s website says, “Dick and Liz Cheney explain the unique and indispensable nature of American power, reveal the damage done by President Obama’s abandonment of this principle, and show how America can and must lead again.”

Never mind that between the war in Iraq, the loss of focus on Afghanistan and the CIA torture scandal, the elder Cheney probably did more to weaken America than any other single individual in recent history.

The website goes on, “The Cheneys do what no one before them has done: chart a path forward to restoring American power and strength, explaining what must be done to reverse course, to fight and win the war on terror, to rebuild our military and reassure our allies that they can once again rely on American leadership.”

Neither parody nor irony seem intended as the website concludes, “A critical, frank, and much-needed touchstone, Exceptional should stand as a guiding principle for the potential presidential candidates in 2016—and for policymakers today and beyond.”

Talk about beyond nuts.

Perhaps if some of the other candidates do use Cheney’s book as a guiding principle, they too can prove to be even nuttier than Trump, who seems unlikely to read a book or anything else.

All anybody who wants to sound wackier than The Donald need do is begin a sentence with, “Well, Dick Cheney says…”

Meanwhile, Trump remains not just the most vulgar of the candidates, but also the front-runner.

 

By: Michael Daly, The Daily Beast, August 12, 2015

August 14, 2015 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, Iraq War, ISIS, Status of Forces Agreement | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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