People Who Burn You Alive Aren’t Your Friends…

Posted: February 21, 2015 in The Rest of It
Tags: , , , , ,

A wise man once said: “People who to try to crucify and behead you…those people are not your friends.” In fact, when people act this way, it’s best to strap your shit to the top of the old Family Truckster, tie Aunt Ester’s dog to the bumper and high tail it for Wally World. And whatever you do, don’t stop the convoy…for anything.

Thousands of people have been doing this in Iraq and Syria. Except they’re not heading for Wally World and they’re a long fucking way away from the sarcastic humor of Chevy Chase. Orthodox Christians, Kurds, Alawites and Shi’ite Muslims are vacating their homes the same way the middle class abandoned Detroit.

That way is the fastest possible and like I said, just pass the kid a Gatorade bottle and whatever you do, don’t stop the convoy.

All those folks are wise to leave. I’d leave too if I were in their situation, especially given the alternative. The things ISIS does to people are…medieval. I’ve got to admit, I’ve actually found myself a little disgusted at what’s been going on. That’s saying something, considering that I’m of the opinion that atrocities and brutality are entirely acceptable tactics when a force is overwhelmingly outmanned and out gunned. I’ve also got to admit that, until last week, I knew virtually nothing about what was going on with ISIS.

That being said, I predicted U.S. entry into Syria a couple of years ago. I expected it within the Obama years, and so far, it looks like I might meet my spread. Will I be a prophet…I think not…but if I were, I wouldn’t be the only one. Mark Danner predicted what we now understand as the Islamic State back in 2004. In a published essay, he basically outlined how the televised atrocities that emerged as Abu Gharib and Gitmo would serve to crystallize a mindset in radical Islam that would nurture a nationalist movement like the Islamic State.

Danner wasn’t the only one to have this epiphany. Nor was he the first.

In 2003, the thinkers at the Pentagon screened a film called The Battle of Algiers, an Italian film about the Algerian struggle for independence from the French. Often used as a recruitment tool by insurgent leaders, the film depicts how the French utilized tactics of brutality, false imprisonment and torture to extract information about resistance fighters who hid amongst the civilian population. The film was billed thus:

“How to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas. Children shoot soldiers at point-blank range. Women plant bombs in cafes. Soon the entire Arab population builds to a mad fervor. Sound familiar? The French have a plan. It succeeds tactically, but fails strategically. To understand why, come to a rare showing of this film.”

Apparently, what’s happening is only a surprise to the people who haven’t been paying very close attention. There is a South Park episode where Professor Chaos discovers that no matter how ingenious and dastardly his plan, it has in fact already happened on the Simpsons. History is sort of like that. It’s all gone down before.

To understand what is happening now, you have to go back a bit, at least as far as World War I. In those days, the Ottoman Empire encompassed what we now know as Turkey and Greater Syria (Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel). It was ruled by the Ottoman Sultan and he was called the Caliph of Islam. At the end of the war, France and England abolished the position of Caliph and divided the empire into territories and drew boundaries that simply looked good on paper. The kingdoms of Jordan and Iraq were promised as prizes to loyal local leaders. Lebanon was created as a haven for minorities that really didn’t work out too well. Turkey became Turkey and Israel came later.

The point is, the borders of the modern day Middle East were drawn by the French and English and based upon their own interests, as opposed to the natural state of social evolution that had been previously attained. By the end of World War II, when France and England were tired and hungry, they basically withdrew support from these countries and proclaimed, “Happy Independence Day, motherfuckers!” And there has been strife ever since.

ISIS is challenging these borders and, if history is of any indication, has designs on the aforementioned Greater Syria. What we are seeing are the early stages of the decolonization of the region. History teaches us that this process is often, in fact, very ugly. It’s worse, in this situation, simply due to the ugliness that kicked it to life. Assad’s destabilization during the Arab Spring was certainly a prerequisite to ISIS’s grab for territory, but the movement would not in fact exist were it not for the brutal tactics used by Westerners in the last decade. ISIS is an example of violent nationalism fueled by anger, hatred and revenge. And while certainly made up of men hardened from fighting the West and steeped in radical Islam, it attracts outsiders too. They are globally recruiting and enlisting the equivalent of ideological crusaders.

Even in Jersey.

A 74 year old German author named Jurgen Todenhofer spent ten days in Mosul and Raqqa with ISIS forces. Part of this time he spent in a recruitment facility. There, he met people from both New Jersey and the Caribbean. He also traveled extensively through the territory controlled by ISIS. Of course, his interactions were tightly controlled, but according to the Iraqi civilians, ISIS is no worse than Saddam, maybe better even. So far, no one from ISIS had used any mustard gas on anyone. The Syrian civilians he met seemed to prefer ISIS over the Assad regime, at least I got that feeling. But then again, the name Assad is associated with transforming towns to parking lots overnights, the people still inside, blood oozing through newly laid asphalt. Neither Assad nor Hussein ever set the bar particularly high.

Apparently if you’re a good God fearing Sunni Muslim, you are indeed, to use a beloved expression from the American Deep South, shitting in high cotton.

The civilians left in ISIS controlled territory are almost exclusively Sunni Muslims. If I’m mistaken, it’s only because some minority groups have thus far failed to leave and have not yet been exterminated. What’s happening is natural. It’s normal. Think back to the dissolution of Yugoslavia back in the 90s. I saw and smelled that shit firsthand. The Serbs needed Serbia something terrible but they had to pay for it. Same for the Croats and the rest. Think even further back to the fall of the USSR. Or look at Africa. Any of it. Places like Somalia have never even begun to recover.

The Sunni Muslims need a place to be. So do the Shia. And the Alawites. And the Orthodox Christian Arabs. And the Kurds. The thing is, these guys have to work all this shit out for themselves as it was devilishly mishandled outside intervention that formed the genesis of the problems we, and especially they, face today. The atrocities and ethnic cleansing we are exposed to in the media is simply the result of availability of media. This behavior is not out of character for what is occurring and only seems worse because we are able to see more of it on our computers and big assed 52″ flat screen televisions. Displacement is a consistently occurring effect of decolonization. You don’t separate previously integrated groups by sending invitations to refugee camps. You motivate unwelcome parties to flee by fucking them up. Like I said, everyone needs a place. As an unofficially Christian nation, however, it’s hard for people not to somehow take it personally when the news reports that ISIS has “beheaded 21 Orthodox Christians.”

That, in itself, makes me ask if someone wants us to take it personally. And why. But that’s another thing altogether.

Americans also seem to be as terrified of the concept of Sharia law as they are misinformed about it. The fear is righteous. Sharia is decidedly unfriendly to non Muslims. It is, however, a necessary element in social hierarchy of Islamic culture. Islam, fundamentally, is legalistic and lends itself in many ways to theocratic forms of government, which is how the Islamic State is trying to present itself. Arabic culture not only fails to place the value on democracy that westerners do, but they also fail to draw the sharp line between government and religion.

On a side note, I find it side splittingly funny that no one seems particularly bothered by the fact that the Saudis implement Sharia or by the way they go about it. The Saudis are, in fact, known for having a poor reputation regarding human rights. When a women’s school in Saudi Arabia catches fire in the night and the fleeing women are not appropriately covered, exit is barred by authorities. It’d be awful to burn to death because you couldn’t find your ninja mask when the smoke woke you in the night and the Jesus police barred the doors. We still trade with these savages. Does that make my sense of humor twisted?

If it weren’t for my twisted yet well read sense of humor, you’d never have known that really happened. And not so long ago. So there.

I’m curious to see how the events unfold this year. Much is at stake, on all sides. Western interests seem to be gambling on ISIS doing some or all of the heavy lifting when it comes to ousting the Assad regime and establishing a friendly government, essentially a sort of recolonization itself. The gamble is based on how hard it will be to control or oust ISIS after and if ISIS is able to rout Assad completely.

ISIS is, essentially, placing all of their eggs into one big ass sandbox and hoping like hell that sheer numbers do the trick when the bigger richer boys show up to play and bring tanks and trucks.

Again, this not the first time this has happened. Back in the first century BC, about sixty miles south of Rome proper, a gladiatorial training center was overrun by about 70 enslaved gladiators and all the Roman citizens involved in the operation were slaughtered.

For a year or two, this group looted and pillaged Roman towns, killing Romans and freeing slaves. Slaves jumped at the opportunity to join this small movement, which swelled to a force of over 70,000 by 71 BC. Up until this point, Rome had utterly refused to take seriously an uprising of slaves, deeming it only worthy of being handled by poorly trained and equipped local militias. A steady stream of victories against the poorly lead local forces bronzed the egos and courage of the resistance. And they actually thought they had a chance against Rome.

At that point, enough was enough. A rich asshole named Crassus was appointed to deal with the uprising. He engaged the army of slaves with a force of 40,000 highly trained, highly experienced Roman centurions and the army of Spartacus was wiped away forever like a turd on a wet wipe.

The moral is…you don’t fuck with Rome. Because Rome will fuck you up.

The fighting force that, essentially, is ISIS, seems to have evolved much in the same way as the army of Spartacus. ISIS is primarily lead by men freed from coalition fingernail factories. Guys who were dangerous and pissed off before being tortured and humiliated. Gladiators and slaves. Both groups utilize(d) similar personal demographics, those of people with a basic ideological need to resist what they perceive to be injustice.

Furthermore, they grew battle hardened and emboldened through successful military engagements against inferior forces, like the Roman citizen militias and the Iraqi army. In addition to increasing territory and available resources, shortsighted victories such as these boost morale and when human resources are available, recruitment numbers.

For Spartacus and his army of slaves, victory was in fact short lived and defeat was spelled out across the Roman countryside by men stapled to wooden crosses driven into the ground by their inevitable conquerors. So far, the only occupied crosses have been driven by ISIS themselves, but the new war is still young and Rome has not yet mobilized it’s more effective methods of extermination.

The only protection ISIS has, fundamentally, are the millions of non combatant civilians that they hide amongst to eat and sleep, and the fact that Rome has not yet been able to convince its citizens to foot the bill on a flat out Caesarian cleansing of the proverbial slate.

Not since Hiroshima at least.

This foul new year will indeed be a fine one for those who like to observe history as it happens, especially when it’s through a magic porthole in a living room, several thousand miles away. I can’t say that for those who see it first hand, but I’m sure they’ll be just as engrossed as I am.

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