2016-03-17

Once more: “Obama and Trump both inadvertently helping the Islamic State through rhetoric”

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by Neil Godfrey

The dust having only just settled on Barack Obama and Donald Trump are both wrong about Islam what do I wake up to read this morning . . . ?

One wouldn’t call them bedfellows, strange or otherwise, but President Obama and Donald Trump are both inadvertently helping the Islamic State through rhetoric that is either too cautious or too rash.

This time the critic is not Will McCants but another author whose book I have also posted about and highly recommend in Another study of ISIS. This time it’s Jessica Stern who co-authored ISIS: The State of Terror. The Washington Post report explains:

Obama, through his studious avoidance of explicitly calling terrorists or the Islamic State either Islamic or Muslim, is “silly,” perhaps “cowardly” and likely unproductive. And Trump, with his other-izing approach to problem solving — targeting adherents of Islam for special scrutiny — contributes to recruitment and radicalization by marginalizing Muslims.

he’ll “scream and pull [his] hair out” if he hears one more time that Islam is a religion of peace.

Stern wasn’t the only speaker in the news report. One has to grin at this scene:

Antepli was also critical of moderate Muslims who feel the need to defend Islam even in the wake of terrorist attacks. A jovial fellow whose students have nicknamed the “Turkish Delight Imam,” Antepli said he’ll “scream and pull my hair out” if he hears one more time that Islam is a religion of peace.

It is and it isn’t, depending on which text one uses for one’s purposes. Just as the abolitionists used scripture to end slavery, the Islamic State uses the Koran to resurrect slavery.

No religion, said Antepli, is one thing. Every religion, especially those that are centuries old, is many things. Understanding requires familiarity with what Antepli identified as the three main categories of all religions: history, people and, last, theology.

In other words, religion is only part of the terrorist equation, but denying it altogether is a mistake, both agreed. 

The article concludes with an interesting approach to deradicalising a youth wanting to join ISIS.

Child Soldiers

Also in this morning’s reading is DEPICTIONS OF CHILDREN AND YOUTH IN THE ISLAMIC STATE’S MARTYRDOM PROPAGANDA, 2015-2016 by authors I am not familiar with but is from the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point. It’s an ugly read. ISIS has a distinctly untypical use of child-soldiers when compared with other military groups who recruit them. Concluding paragraphs:

When considered in the context of the child soldiers in other conflicts, this is somewhat counterintuitive. Historically, when militant organizations enlisted children, they did so surreptitiously, a pattern that emerged with the release of the Machel Report on children in armed conflict in 1996 and the UN resolutions against youth recruitment that followed.[6] The Islamic State bucks this trend brazenly by boasting about its young recruits, something that is indicative of the fact that it is using them differently than the child soldier norm. The data suggests that the Islamic State is not recruiting them to replace lost manpower— children and youth only constitute a small proportion of its battlefield losses overall—and they are not engaging in roles in which they have a comparative advantage over the adults. On the contrary, in most cases, children and youth are dying in the same circumstances as adults. Additionally, existing research argues that children and youth will be used more to attack civilian targets among whom they can blend in better. However, the data shows that Islamic State’s children and youth have been used to attack civilians in only 3 percent of the cases.[7]

It is clear that the Islamic State leadership has a long-term vision for youth in its jihadist efforts. While today’s child militants may well be tomorrow’s adult terrorists, in all likelihood, the moral and ethical issues raised by battlefield engagement with the Islamic State’s youth are likely to be at the forefront of the discourse on the international coalition’s war against the group in years to come. Furthermore, as small numbers of children either escape or defect from the Islamic State and as more accounts emerge of children’s experiences, there is an urgent need to plan and prepare for the rehabilitation and reintegration of former youth militants.

I wonder if this is partly a sign of ISIS’s gradual losses of territory in Syria and Iraq, but on the other hand we have been reading about involving children closely in the participation of their gruesome activities for some time now.

Threats to UK

From the same source but this time from another author I have learned much, Raffaello PantucciTHE ISLAMIC STATE THREAT TO BRITAIN: EVIDENCE FROM RECENT TERROR TRIALS

While the nature of the threat in the United Kingdom is different than in France in certain respects —for example, there is easier access to heavy weaponry and ammunition on the European continent—the Islamic State itself has made clear that the United Kingdom is a priority target. Until now the public threat picture has been dominated by lone-actor plots. Going forward, however, with the Islamic State appearing to pivot toward international terrorism and around 1000 British extremists having traveled to Syria and Iraq, half of whom are still there,[49] there is a growing danger of Islamic State-directed plots against the British homeland.

One holds one’s breath to see which way ongoing losses of ISIS territory might play out in the U.K. and other Western countries.

H/T http://intelwire.egoplex.com/

12 Comments

  • Paxton Marshall
    2016-03-17 22:37:40 UTC - 22:37 | Permalink

    Why, when Islamic terrorism is mentioned, is western terrorism not juxtaposed with it? Muslim murders of westerners are almost insignificant compared to Muslim deaths caused by westerners. The US/UK invasion of Iraq and Israeli invasion of Gaza killed far more than any Islamist terrorism and destroyed their infrastructure to boot. Why aren’t Americans, Brits, and Israelis called upon to renounce their terrorism the way Muslims are constantly being asked to renounce theirs. And we bear more responsibility for ours because it was, and is being, committed by our elected governments, not by a bunch of radicals.

    • 2016-03-17 23:45:12 UTC - 23:45 | Permalink

      “Muslim murders of westerners are almost insignificant compared to Muslim deaths caused by westerners.”

      -Shows how much Muslims are generally able to defend themselves.

      “Why aren’t Americans, Brits, and Israelis called upon to renounce their terrorism the way Muslims are constantly being asked to renounce theirs.”

      -Most Americans accept some form of situational ethics, with their government generally seen as being in the right.

      “And we bear more responsibility for ours because it was, and is being, committed by our elected governments, not by a bunch of radicals.”

      -Often, it’s both.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-03-18 03:21:16 UTC - 03:21 | Permalink

      If we are talking about Muslims on one side why not talk about “Christians and Jews” on the other to get some realistic perspective here?

      Or if we want to keep “US, UK and Israel” then how about we name the opposing entities or groups correspondingly?

      • paxton marshall
        2016-03-18 16:04:15 UTC - 16:04 | Permalink

        The assymetric nature of the warfare makes it difficult to discuss the two sides in the same terms. Western terrorism is carried on by states. Individuals participating are acting at the orders of their nation’s authority structure, although some may exceed the bounds of these orders and become individual terrorists. The motives for western terrorism are similar to the motives for any terrorism, primarily greed, and lust for power, but also religious, identity, revenge, thrill seeking and status seeking. Peoples around the world have been the targets of western terrorism, at least since da Gama and Columbus. Many western states have participated, but the most active at present are the US, UK, and Israel. Their victims have been of many religions, ethnicities, and nationalities. but at present, the victims are primarily Muslims.

        On the other side, what is usually referred to as Islamic terrorism, is sometimes committed by states, such as Saudi Arabia’s slaughter in Yemen, but more often by ad hoc organizations or proto-states, such as ISIS, al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah. Sometimes by “lone wolves”. Their victims are sometimes westerners, mostly Christians and Jews, but more often other middle easterners, primarily Muslim, but also Christians and Jews.

        Any honest assessment of terrorism must include both state-sponsored and non-state-sponsored terrorism. Understanding the reasons for terrorism must include not only the motives of individuals, but the motives of the groups that sponsor them. The whole discussion of terrorism in the west is profoundly dishonest, because we do not consider our own acts as terrorism. As you said below “States claim a monopoly on violence and the legality of their own acts of violence.” They can claim what they want, but that doesn’t make the slaughters in Iraq and Gaza any less terroristic to the victims than the Paris attacks were to their victims. Until the US and other western countries forego terrorism as an act of state policy, we have no moral authority to condemn those who strike back.

    • Bob de Jong
      2016-03-18 08:09:46 UTC - 08:09 | Permalink

      The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank. It publishes a report (Global Terrorism Index) that quantifies the level of terrorism per country*. The report provides a detailed analysis of the trends in terrorism since 2000, for 162 countries. You may find some of its conclusions relevant for the ongoing discussions here:

      – Terrorism remains highly concentrated with most of the activity occurring in just five countries — Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. These countries accounted for 78 per cent of the lives lost in 2014.

      – only 0.5 per cent of all deaths have occurred in Western countries in the last 15 years.

      – Statistical analysis has identified two factors which are very closely associated with terrorist activity: political violence committed by the state and the existence of a broader armed conflict. The research finds that 92 per cent of all terrorist attacks over the past 25 years occurred in countries where
      state sponsored political violence was widespread, while 88 per cent of attacks occurred in countries that were involved in violent conflicts.

      – There are different drivers of terrorism in wealthier countries than in poorer countries.

      – Palestine territories would have ranked as the 30th country most impacted by terrorism, between Greece and Uganda.

      *:http://economicsandpeace.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/2015-Global-Terrorism-Index-Report.pdf

      • Neil Godfrey
        2016-03-18 09:05:54 UTC - 09:05 | Permalink

        The 2015 report includes citations of two of the authors behind the post above: John Horgan was a contributor to the article on ISIS’s use of child soldiers and Raffaello Pantucci is a specialist in radicalisation and terrorism in the UK.

        Page 73 of the report supports the points being made in past posts on the motivators of radicalisation. See the posts on Friction and the discussions on Identity (do a word search on terrorism and identity here), Grievance, Status seeking, Adventure seeing — they’re all there:

        motivators

        (For some reason religion or the Quran or Islam are not listed there. Many readers would on that account no doubt scoff at the bias and uselessness of the report or even claim it is making excuses for Islam.)

        Unfortunately if inevitably the institute chooses to define terrorism as something only carried out by non-state actors. States claim a monopoly on violence and the legality of their own acts of violence. Where that monopoly breaks down — often the result of over-extending the use of “legal violence” – then opposing groups are defined as illegal actors and hence terrorists.

        The GTI therefore defines terrorism as ‘the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non‐state actor to attain a political, economic, religious, or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation’. This definition recognises that terrorism it not only the physical act of an attack, but also the psychological impact it has on a society for many years after. In order to be included as an incident in the GTD the act has to be: ‘an intentional act of violence or threat of violence by a non-state actor.’

        But looking at the point about correlation between state violence and terrorism I am reminded again of the point made in recent posts:

        For many individuals, the path to radicalization is blocked by prior routines and responsibilities. Supporting a family, building a career, and attachments to friends and neighbors are all jeopardized by committing time and energy to political activism; joining an illegal and dangerous organization costs even more. But what if everyday commitments and attachments are lost? . . . . . Or civil war ravages the country, destroying families, jobs, and social networks; streets become dangerous, and fear follows people home. Disconnected from everyday routines and relationships, an individual becomes an easy prospect for any group that offers friendship and security. If the new group comes with an ideology, new ideas may be embraced along with new friends.

        McCauley, Clark; Moskalenko, Sophia (2011-02-02). Friction: How Radicalization Happens to Them and Us (Kindle Locations 1585-1592). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

        And again from http://vridar.org/2016/02/29/unfreezing-gateway-to-radicalisation-comparing-cults-and-terrorist-groups-once-more/:

        Another kind of fear and experience of threats and violence is found in failed state environments. Think of Colombia, Somalia, Bosnia, Chechnya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria. Joining a group with guns in such states can give one a feeling of greater safety than trying to get by alone. But even strong states can produce their own terrorists by over-reacting and leading otherwise innocent suspects to fear incarceration or murder, and who then find safety by going underground and siding with radical extremists.

  • 2016-03-17 23:41:01 UTC - 23:41 | Permalink

    “Once more: “Obama and Trump both inadvertently helping the Islamic State through rhetoric””

    -Well both are (or at least once were) fine with allowing the Islamic State to expand as a tool for regime change in the Middle East, with Trump proposing to use it against Syria and Obama actually using it against Iraq. Shouldn’t that be the rhetoric you should be concerned about?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-03-18 00:06:19 UTC - 00:06 | Permalink

      When did “Obama use it against Iraq”?

      • 2016-03-18 01:52:12 UTC - 01:52 | Permalink

        Mid-2014.

        “The reason, the president added, “that we did not just start taking a bunch of airstrikes all across Iraq as soon as ISIL came in was because that would have taken the pressure off of [Prime Minister Nuri Kamal] al-Maliki.””

        You don’t remember? It was less than two years ago.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2016-03-18 02:59:37 UTC - 02:59 | Permalink

          Oh, I thought you wrote Obama used ISIS “against Iraq”. But your source says he had nothing to do with ISIS and wanted it defeated and was wanting to strengthen Iraq by putting pressure on a corrupt and partisan PM to bend a little so as to work towards an Iraq where the Sunnis and Shias would be able to work together. You have apparently not had time to read the rest of the article which continues:

          ‘We don’t actually have to make compromises. We don’t have to make any decisions. We don’t have to go through the difficult process of figuring out what we’ve done wrong in the past. All we have to do is let the Americans bail us out again. And we can go about business as usual.'”

          The president said that what he is telling every faction in Iraq is: ‘We will be your partners, but we are not going to do it for you. We’re not sending a bunch of U.S. troops back on the ground to keep a lid on things. You’re going to have to show us that you are willing and ready to try and maintain a unified Iraqi government that is based on compromise. That you are willing to continue to build a nonsectarian, functional security force that is answerable to a civilian government. … We do have a strategic interest in pushing back ISIL. We’re not going to let them create some caliphate through Syria and Iraq, but we can only do that if we know that we’ve got partners on the ground who are capable of filling the void. . . . ‘

          Sounds to me like Obama was trying to pressure the Shiite sectarian Malaki to learn to get along with Sunnis (after all, Sunnis and Shias all got along in common neighbourhoods, often intermarrying, etc before the 2003 invasion and then Zarqawi’s bloody plan to start a civil war between them).

          That sounds very “PRO-Iraq” (to the extent of wanting to avoid an Iraq vulnerable to extremism) to me (wanting a peaceful Iraq that was not dominated by Shia Iran if possible) and opposed to the corrupt government that opposed US interests by facilitating Iranian influence.

          We have seen through history that when the U.S. lacks “partners on the ground” it usually fixes that lack with costly subversive campaigns to get the partners they need (Ukraine, Iran, Chile, etc etc etc) — Malaki was put on notice that his time was up unless he started to bend a little — which he attempted to make a show of doing to save his neck.

          • 2016-03-19 19:32:15 UTC - 19:32 | Permalink

            “Oh, I thought you wrote Obama used ISIS “against Iraq”.”

            -I did.

            “putting pressure on a corrupt and partisan PM to bend a little so as to work towards an Iraq where the Sunnis and Shias would be able to work together.”

            -That is fantasyland. Obama successfully overthrew Gaddafi (directly) and al-Maliki (indirectly) in a matter of months. The Islamic State is still there after three years. The only reasonable explanation for this is that Obama wants it there. If Gaddafi recaptured Benghazi and took Derna nine months after Obama promised to get rid of him, that would strongly indicate Obama did not want a rebel victory in Libya. But none of that happened, despite the fact the Libyan government was infinitely more capable and equipped than the Islamic State. Instead, the Libyan government was defeated in under nine months.

            We’re not going to let them create some caliphate through Syria and Iraq

            -Except that’s exactly what Obama did. After he spoke this, the IS expanded to take Palmyra, Ramadi, and the remnants of rebel resistance in Deir ez-Zor province. Words are only useful at explaining a person’s actions when they are consistent with that person’s actions. The Kurds, both Syrian and Iraqi, and, to a lesser extent, the Iraqi and Syrian governments, were perfectly capable of “filling the void”.

            Everyone claims to be against ISIL. We know from both their actions and lack thereof that Obama, Erdogan, and the rest of the so-called “anti-ISIL coalition” aren’t. Russia is, though, as well as the Iraqi government (though both are beset by serious weaknesses).

            “We’re not sending a bunch of U.S. troops back on the ground to keep a lid on things.”

            -After he spoke this, Obama proceeded to send a bunch of U.S. troops on the ground to Syria and Iraq to help the Kurds and the Iraqi government keep a lid on things (as military advisors, not combat troops).

            “That you are willing to continue to build a nonsectarian, functional security force that is answerable to a civilian government.”

            -Iraqi security forces since 2003 have never been known for their functionality, lack of sectarianism, or answering to a civilian government. And there’s really no easy way to make them so. Same goes for post-Gaddafi Libyan security forces. Yet, Obama supported the Libyan rebels to victory, while he did nothing of the kind for the most viable anti-ISIS fighters (except, recently, the Syrian Kurds).

            The Libyan analogy is devastating to any claim that Obama ever supported the defeat of ISIS.

            “That sounds very “PRO-Iraq” (to the extent of wanting to avoid an Iraq vulnerable to extremism) to me (wanting a peaceful Iraq that was not dominated by Shia Iran if possible) and opposed to the corrupt government that opposed US interests by facilitating Iranian influence.”

            -Opposing international Communism, and Stalin in particular, in August 1941 would not have been very “PRO-Russia”. Just the opposite, in fact.

            As for al-Maliki, given his sectarianism (not entirely fictional), he was wildly unpopular among the Iraqi Kurds, less so among Sunni Arabs, and extremely popular among Iraqi Shia. Despite this weakness, this was a sustainable combination for anti-ISIS victory in months, given sufficient U.S. support, especially if the Kurdish Regional Government and the Iraqi Government worked to accomplish their goals independently. I’m sure a lot of Ukrainians and Baltic people opposed Stalin, too, but that didn’t lead to the USSR being ridden with regional schism between the 1940s and the 1970s.

            “We have seen through history that when the U.S. lacks “partners on the ground” it usually fixes that lack with costly subversive campaigns to get the partners they need (Ukraine, Iran, Chile, etc etc etc)”

            -At least you acknowledge this.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2016-03-19 20:02:38 UTC - 20:02 | Permalink

              I don’t know where to begin. This reads like bizarre Mad Hatter Tea Party analysis tripping on LSD — completely oblivious to any serious analysis from on the ground, totally in a banana-land of Conspiracy Theory lunacy without any grounding in reality. Presumably Obama is the Anti-Christ in league with a UN plot to destroy American democracy and take over the world.

              So logical but so, so, completely oblivious to what has been going on in the world. Only from out of America, as we say. Your comments are a risible illustration of why Americans have such a bad reputation for ignorance of what is happening in the world and around them, really.

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