ISIS and the West: A Clash of Savageries

Once again, the West is using heart-wrenching scenes of loss and sorrow to win support for its misguided war on terror.

By Lamis Andoni

November 22, 2015 “Information Clearing House” – “Al Jazeera” – It is all deja vu; a repeat of the post-9/11 scenario that led to the bombing of Afghanistan in 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Both interventions wreaked havoc and destruction and unleashed gross violations of human rights in the name of a “war on terror”.

Once again, most Western governments are making use of the heart-wrenching scenes of loss and sorrow to serve this misguided war, which benefits only its military contracts and industries.

Most observers lament the devaluation of Arab and Muslim lives, or the life of “the other”. What I see is a total devaluation of all human lives, including the bloodshed of innocents in Paris, to serve the purposes of Western governments.

The inclusion of the Burj el-Barajneh massacre – mostly ignored by the Western media – and the downing of a Russian plane over Sinai in some Western statements after the Paris attacks, was also aimed at mobilizing public opinion for reinvigorated war efforts and not as an expression of empathy with Russian, French – or, especially Arab – victims.

The problem is that Western governments, especially the US, do not acknowledge that the perpetual process of destruction that they unleashed through bombing Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq did not stem al-Qaeda-inspired terror but, rather, widened its scope and recruitment.

Exploiting fear and grief

In the post 9/11 days, the US unabashedly exploited fear and grief to unleash its own sophisticated campaign of terror, replete with all that military technology can offer, providing a “civilised” cover for what are essentially mass murders of innocent populations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

Unlike al-Qaeda and the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), Western civility rarely includes on-camera beheadings or burning captives alive in cages, but relies on the comfortable process of burning people through the simple pressing of a button – disassociating the murderer from the murder.

That does not exactly include Israeli criminal acts against Palestinians, often caught on camera, but “Israeli exceptionalism” absolves it from accusations of savagery.

In the West and according to Israeli political lingo, savagery is a trait confined to other nations who fall outside “shared values of democracy and freedom”, a propaganda concept that is used to camouflage – even whitewash – all Israeli and Western government crimes.

Make no mistake; ISIL does not only commit savagery per se but it is part of its publicised doctrine. In fact, what experts view as the main guideline for ISIL is an online book aptly named “management of savagery”.

The book, written by a person who calls himself Abu Bakr Naji, stresses the need to commit savagery and plant fear to ensure victory, as “softness” would be interpreted as weakness and hesitation by others.

It is horrifying to even imagine the evil mind behind the manuscript. But I really don’t see much difference between such a crime manual and the US-led “war on terror” and the “shock and awe” doctrine.

They are all based on the notion of planting fear in the hearts of the wider population, partly to strip them of the ability to think clearly and push them into total submission.

The underlying thinking behind all these terms is “exclusionary and dehumanising” of those deemed as “the other”. In the ISIL mindset, all of those who don’t totally agree with its outlook, goals and interests, whether Muslims, Christians, Arabs or foreigners, are “infidels” and are legitimate targets for its cruelty.

The Western war rhetoric may not be as openly savage but the “war on terror” and the “Either you are with us or with the terrorist“, as declared by former US President George W Bush, is as barbaric in its implications.

Destroyed two countries

In practice, the “war on terror” destroyed two countries: Afghanistan and especially Iraq, not through carpet bombings only but, in the case of Iraq, by dismantling the state along with two of the best health and education systems in the Arab world.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban, against whom the war was waged, is still alive and waging attacks, while al-Qaeda metamorphosed and expanded into a string of more fanatical versions including ISIL.

Al-Qaeda barely existed in Iraq, but thanks to the US-led “operation freedom”, and the alienation of the Sunni population by both the US and the sectarian Shia ruling parties, its offshoot ISIL gained momentum that enabled it to control a sizeable portion of Iraqi land.

Granted, regional states played a pivotal role in nurturing and funding, but it all started with the full support of the US government and intelligence in the late 1970s.

History as well as the present doesn’t exonerate Arab regimes from their own culpability, not only in helping to create extremist movements in the name of Islam to counter dissent and communism, but also in that tyranny and political and socio-economic marginalisation push Muslim youth into the lap of ISIL and company.

But in the end it is all about interests, and the French state is not innocent as it has become a main beneficiary of the arms trade boosted by the Western wars in the Middle East and its own intervention in Mali.

The identities of the perpetrators of the Paris massacres show that most are drawn from French youth from disenfranchised neighbourhoods who are more vulnerable to ISIL recruitment methods as they feed on their despair and anger.

The French government has no interest in recalling how it quelled and then ignored the repeated  protests in the French banlieues between 2005 and 2014, betraying the once revered French revolution slogan of liberty, equality and fraternity.

Instead the French jets moved to bomb the Syrian town of al-Raqqa, which has become the emblem of the besieged Syrian nation between tyranny, ISIL’s murderous gangsters who control the town, and the fire coming from fighter jets from the sky.

Thus the clash of savagery and war continues, ushering an apocalyptic era of lost freedoms in the West and East alike, the trampling of human rights, and a rain of death and destruction.

The author, Lamis Andoni, is an analyst and commentator on Middle Eastern and Palestinian affairs. She can be reached at @LamisAndoni

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