I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return
--September 1, 1939,
W. H. Auden
Everyone is in agreement that ISIS must be destroyed. Everyone except Ranger.
To be clear, this is no apologia for the Islamic State. Rather, it is a down-and-dirty perspective on why the United States should not set its sights on destroying the group. The reason for this lies in the group's genesis.
The origin can be traced to the Battle of Fallujah, an action which was more punitive than military. There, the U.S. wanted to prove a point to the Sunnis: U.S. forces can destroy the city anytime they want to.
Then the U.S. left the theatre.
Enter the new Iraqi leadership which alienated the Sunnis from influence in the Shia-dominated government. Add in the Iranian influence and the Kurds and the Sunnis were left with few options. The logical result? The disaffected Sunnis formed their own power structure, ISIS. When your back is against the wall, there is little to lose; possibly, there is gain.
The U.S. totally ignored its usual pretensions to being culturally sensitive and politically correct in almost all actions taken. Going in with no clear mandate other than retribution, we were left to fumble for one. Nation-building, American style, against which the disaffected said, "No thanks".
Not being stupid (if not atrocious), ISIS marshaled all resources at hand. NGO's swanning about the wreckage? "News people" sniffing about to satisfy our need for salacious images? Contractors with a myriad of agendas and loyalties? All fair game for ISIS target practice, and their OWN shot at media platform fame.
You want gore (they correctly divine)? We got gore (they say). In fact, they say, we will out-gore you (a pretty tall order against The World's Biggest Military.) Orange is the new black, and Leni Riefenstahl could not have scripted ISIS's images any better.
ISIS may seem rusticated to our refined sensibilities, but they have television. They see our Guantanamo Bay prisoners (= "themselves") in orange jumpsuits, so they put their prisoners in the same. As Wilde wrote, "The vilest deeds like poison weeds / Bloom well in prison-air."
They play the great Mohammedan warrior swathed in black, the ur-Outsider in our Bad Guy-Good Guy construction. They are the outsiders and the outlaws. It is Hollywood perfection, and George Lucas could not have done better.
In Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, the black-clad Darth Vadar tells white-clad Luke, "I am your father." In a nutshell, that is this morality play, and the players may swap costumes. Destruction breeds destruction, ad infinitum.
Ask yourself: if you were a Sunni in Fallujah, what good options would you have? ISIS became a militia that became an army that everybody swore to destroy.
The U.S. has bombed them, assassinated their leadership and killed 26,000 of them. Then we wonder why they conduct operations in Europe.
Every action has a reaction. This is all perfectly understandable.
Yet every night before the news we pull a disingenuous Captain Renault."Shocked!", we collectively mumble, as we consume voraciously the snuff films before us. (No one even need risk jail time for watching these state-sanctioned violence porn grotesqueries presented to us on the evening news with the furrowed brow of the news person trying really hard to convey a personal sense of gravitas.)
Shocked, we are . . .
--Jim and Lisa