Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Dogs of Hell: An Original Jihadi Trashes ISIS

In my last post, I treated ISIS as a phenomenon that serves imperial interests—the latest character in an ongoing tragedy of the opportunist use of jihadi players by hegemonic powers, which went into production in Afghanistan in 1979, and which has been on the road throughout the Middle East since, with the script frequently re-written as some members of the original cast and crew drop out, and new faces take on the challenge. One of the keys to its long run is the improvisational skill with which the producers adapt to the new talent that jumps on the well-financed and outfitted stage they have provided.

Thus, I have argued that ISIS, like other jihadi groups, has been effectively armed and nourished by American interventions in the region, and that its dramatic appearance and antics are of the If-they-didn’t-exist-we’d-have-had-to-invent-them genre—particularly, at this particular conjuncture, in regard to the grand plan for Syria. I am not, however, arguing that it was deliberately created by any particular country to do so. That’s not impossible, but I’ve seen no dispositive evidence of that. ISIS is just as likely, and no less perniciously, the product of the benign inadvertence of those who set and supplied the stage.

I do find it understandable, however, that many in the region, who doubt the possibility of coincidence—especially serial coincidences, especially serial coincidences that always end up promoting the urgent necessity for imperial powers to intervene in a particular group of Arab and Muslim countries for ostensibly non-imperialist reasons—will tend to favor notions that ISIS in Syria (and Iraq) is a deliberate creation of the foreign powers meddling in the region.

To get a glimpse of the kind of thinking that is prevalent in the region, and prevalent even among fellow jihadis, about ISIS, I strongly suggest that you look at the remarkable interview with Nabeel Naiem on Syria News below. (Bear with the rocky translation from Syria News.) I don’t endorse his theories about ISIS, or anything else he says, but if you’re interested in the dynamics of jihadism and jihadi thinking in the region, and of how even the most militant Islamists detest ISIS, you’re unlikely to find anything like it.

Friday, September 5, 2014

America, ISIS, and Syria: We have to bomb the jihadis in order to save them

Does it take more than one full minute of thought to see what’s going on here?

The short version:
  • ISIS is the product of years of American military intervention in Iraq, Libya, and Syria. ISIS is the creature of an imperial enterprise—a global effort to bring down the Syrian state using jihadi proxies that included the U.S and its allies--Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Turkey, and Israel, at least—that could only have proceeded, “at the bidding of,” and managed by, the imperial center. It was by surfing the American-directed “cataract” of weaponry and funds directed against Syria that ISIS became an international jihadi movement surpassing Al-Qaeda itself. Without that American intervention, there would be no ISIS.

  • In this regard, ISIS is only the latest in a series of worst-ever takfiri groups that has been cooked up in the stew of jihadi proxy fighters the U.S. and its allies have been serving up since the its holy war in Afghanistan in 1979—the one where Zbigniew Brzezinski told Bin Laden’s jihadis, “God is on your side.”1 As Gilbert Mercier quipped, “Just like al-Qaeda, ISIS is the secret love child of United States imperialism and the kings and sheiks of the Gulf states.”2
  • An American (“coalition”) military attack on Syria will not destroy ISIS, and will not have the primary purpose of destroying ISIS; it will target and degrade the Syrian military, and its primary purpose will be to destroy the Syrian state’s capacity to resist the onslaught of jihadi rebels, including ISIS—a “rebellion” which hasn’t been going so well recently. The Obama administration knows, and says, that an American military attack will not defeat ISIS. It also knows, and says (sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly, depending on the audience), that its main objective will be to help the jihadi onslaught succeed. “A­ssad must go” is still the prime directive; the jihadis are still the most effective instrument for that. ISIS changes nothing, except to help sell military intervention to the Western publics. In a number of ways, ISIS has intervened to save the jihadi rebellion from defeat. It’s the reverse of the Vietnam rule: We have to bomb the jihadis in order to save them.

For those who want the details, the long version:

Thursday, August 28, 2014

"Holy Bejeezus!": I Know What We Did This Summer, In Gaza

We’re now learning that “senior U.S. military officers” were “stunned” at the scale of the Israeli army’s “indiscriminate” shelling that demolished the Shujaiya neighborhood in Gaza on July 21st. A Pentagon report found “11 Israeli artillery battalions — a minimum of 258 artillery pieces …pumped at least 7,000 high explosive shells into the Gaza neighborhood… during a seven-hour period at the height of the operation.“
“Holy bejeezus,” exclaimed retired Lt. Gen. Robert Gard when told the numbers of artillery pieces and rounds fired during the July 21 action. “That rate of fire over that period of time is astonishing. If the figures are even half right, Israel’s response was absolutely disproportionate.” 
Another Pentagon senior officer said: “Eleven battalions of IDF artillery is equivalent to the artillery we deploy to support two divisions of U.S. infantry…That’s a massive amount of firepower, and it’s absolutely deadly.” And a retired American artillery commander, who thought the Pentagon’s report “might well have underestimated the firepower the IDF brought to bear on Shujaiya,” said:  “This is the equivalent of the artillery we deploy to support a full corps...It’s just a huge number of weapons.”

A third senior U.S. officer made the point: “The only possible reason for doing that is to kill a lot of people in as short a period of time as possible.”

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Gaza, Israel, and America: Crime and Demolishment

Shejaiya  Neighborhood in Gaza/Mahmoud Hams (AFP)/Getty Images

The Israeli army is one of the most powerful in the world, usually ranked around fourth in firepower. It can deploy a half a million troops with a panoply of state-of-the-art weaponry—from body armor, integrated electronic communications and control, and sniper rifles, to tanks, artillery, airpower, drones, ships, and submarines—and, of course, an arsenal of nuclear weapons that have been in development over fifty years. It is backed by the most powerful armed force in the world, which continuously supplies it with whatever arms, cash, intelligence, and political and diplomatic support it needs—an effective guarantee of military (though not political) victory.

There are a few thousand militants armed with light infantry weapons and homemade rockets among the 1.8 million people in Gaza, one of the most densely-populated territories on earth. Those 1.8 million people have been locked into that territory by Israel (abetted by its Egyptian ally, and backed by its American patron), which controls the entry and exit of every person and particle, making Gaza what even British Prime Minister David Cameron (who helps to enable this policy) calls a “prison camp.” This siege has been Israel’s way of punishing the 1.8 million people of Gaza for, among other things, having freely and fairly elected leaders that Israel doesn’t like.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Israel's "Human Shield" Hypocrisy

“The conquest of the earth, which mostly means taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look at it too much…”– Joseph Conrad “Heart of Darkness” [h/t William A. Cook]

The Israeli-American (Let’s never forget this is a team effort!) slaughter in Gaza is so horrifying that I’ve been at a loss to find the words to comment on it without letting anger get the better of me. The media coverage of what’s happening, dominated by the ridiculous notion that Israel is “defending” itself, is so grotesquely mendacious, hypocritical, and racist (imbued with colonialist ethno-supremacism) that it is hard to know where to begin critiquing it—without, again, becoming enraged.

For the moment, I’ll focus on one particular, insistent meme, constantly being promoted by Israel and its apologists, namely that Hamas is using civilians as “human shields.” The idea is that for Hamas to place any kind of military personnel anywhere in or near a civilian neighborhood constitutes using all the civilians in that neighborhood as “human shields.” Furthermore, it makes of that neighborhood a legitimate “military” target for devastating Israeli attack, absolves Israel from any culpability for the scores of resulting dead, blown-apart civilians including children, and places all moral and legal responsibility for those victims on the Palestinian resistance fighters who dared appear anywhere near civilians.